Archive for maj, 2009

Transformation: From Warehouse to Cultural Center

The debate on how the south bank of the city of Göteborg should transform, has at times been loud. Göteborg, an old industrial city, has had to deal with major changes the last decades. The city is devided by a canal, and as the shipping industry on the north bank had to close down, telecom and media companies grew up. In the beginning of 2000, changes started on the south bank and a tunnel was built to lead traffic under the city, creating new space on ground. After six years, a new tunnel and the heavy traffic going under the city center, the question was raised: How should the new spaces be used? Ambitious plans were made and a large democracy project to involve inhabitants together with experts as architects, cultural and Art practitioners, sociologists, the South Bank Process (Södra Älvstrandsprocessen) took form. Nätverkstan was involved in the process, in the planning and formation. The results presented by the five different groups showed a variety of creative solutions of how to use the space; housing on different economic levels, public spaces, activity areas and lots of green parts. But then it stopped. The results were never taken seriously, the process stopped and was never put into the formal process of city planning in the municipality. Since then articles, among them a series of articles by the journalist Mark Isitt on how bad city planning in Göteborg works and how the suburbs has been exploited has been published.

Situated in the center of the south bank, in the middle of the city close to the river, is the old warehouse (Lagerhuset) where cultural practitioners have been working since 1999. Small-scale cultural journals, publishing houses, photographers, education, medialabs have been housing  in the building, producing culture spread in the whole region. The house is placed in an area, Järntorget, known for it’s entrepreneurial initiatives, specifically cultural entrepreneurs within music, fashion, bookshops, design, film, theatre, dance, coffee shops. It has been possible to find cheap localities and the clusters formed are important networks supporting creativity and drive. But among politicians, it has not always been politically correct. The urge to clean-up the streets (Långgatorna) from unappropriate businesses and renovate buildings, to gentrificate the area, has been strong. It hasn’t happened yet, but is on and off discussed and debated.

The decision made by the Cultural Committee of the municipality of Göteborg yesterday is therefore a break through. The bottom floor of the old warehouse will be transformed to a center for culture, with a coffee shop, restaurant and several stages for different cultural activities and performances. It will, hopefully, become an important center that together with the activities already in the house and around the area of Järntorget will be one key factor to enable the growth of cultural and artistic intiatives.

The transformation has already started and opening is set to January 1, 2010. Read the article of Göteborg in New York Times, published in 2007.

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27 maj, 2009

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Five myths of entrepreneurs

These days, when entrepreneurship is put forward as the solution of the cultural field’s economic difficulties, and when funding bodies on all levels are talking more frequently of Artists and cultural organizations having to be more entrepreneurial, searching for ”sponsorship”, ”alternative funding” and ”market demand”, it might be time to kill some myths.

An issue of the Economist this spring (March 14–20, 2009) with a special focus on entrepreneurship, put forward five myths of entrepreneurs that needs to be put aside if we are to understand and catalyze entrepreneurship.

Myth 1. Entrepreneurs are lonely, socially incompetent geniuses that come up with great ideas. Instead, the article argues, entrepreneurship is a social activity. An entrepreneur might be very independent, but needs a business partner or social networks to succeed.

Myth 2. Most entrepreneurs are extremely young. Some have been very young, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the article lift forward. But a significant amount is also older, like Gary Buller who started the GPS company Garmin at the age of 52.

Myth 3. Entrepreneurship is driven mainly by venture capital. In fact, venture capitalists fund only a very small fraction of start-ups. Majority of money put into start-ups, the article shows, come from personal debts and of the ”three f:s”: Friends, fools and families.

Myth 4. To succeed, entrepreneurs must produce a world-changing product. Instead, experience shows that the most successful entrepreneurs focus on processes rather than products.

Myth 5. Entrepreneurship cannot flourish within large companies. Small start-ups are very important, the article points out, but also large companies are being successful in keeping an attitude of entrepreneurship. The company Johnson & Johnson is put forward as an example.

The personal computer, the mobile phone and internet has made entrepreneurship flourish. Many initiatives has grown since these technological changes were introduced, entrepreneurs come from all parts of the world. Due to falling prices in communication, a global market can be reached instantly.

One interesting initiative is the The Indus Entrepreneur (TIE), started in Silicon Valley in 1992 by a group of Indian entrepreneurs living in the valley. Today they have 12.000 members spread in 12 countries. The idea was to promote entrepreneurship through mentoring, networking and education. A network meeting is held in Stockholm, on 27th of May, organized at the Stockholm-based meeting place the Hub.

25 maj, 2009

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Democracy + Aid?

The relationship between aid policies and democracy is being debated at the moment among activists, donors, scholars and policy-makers. Africa is especially put forward in the discussion. Is it the political landscape in Africa that is the main reason for poor development or is it perhaps external donors that help sustain a status quo of political conditions?

At the website of the network OpenDemocracy, you can find articles on this burning topic, among them Democracy and aid: the missing link, written by Anna Lekvall, Senior Programme Officer at International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

18 maj, 2009

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Eurozine 2009, 8-11 may 2009. Vilnius, Lithuania

During 4 days one of Europe’s most vibrant and intellectual vital networks met. Eurozine is a network of European cultural journals, linking up 70 partner journals and just as many associated magazines and institutions from nearly all European countries. Eurozine is also a netmagazine which publishes outstanding articles from its partner journals with additional translations into one of the major European languages. The theme this year was European histories. As described in the conference- reader:

Under the heading ”European Histories”, this year’s Eurozine conference will explore the role of history and memory in forming new identities in a Europe in change.

Throughout Europe, history is ceasing to be something for historians alone. Instead, it is becoming both a public issue and an instrument of politics. In the West, this progression can be traced from the wilful amnesia of the postwar years, through the mission of the ’68 generation to make the previous generation accountable for its crimes, to the obsession with history of the last two decades. In the East, the imposed history of the liberation has given way to the liberation of history. Nevertheless, highly different ”commemorative cultures”have formed and the comfortable historical consensus long obtained within and among western European countries has been undermined by the eastern enlargement.

Europeans are still far from an all-embracing ”grand narrative”, assuming this is worth striving for at all. But much would undoubtedly be gained by discussing the existing plurality of narratives in a shared space transcending national boundaries. The Vilnius meeting will provide the opportunity for such a debate.

Twenty years after 1989, the conference will also take stock of the dramatic developments since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Meanwhile, most former communist states in central and eastern Europe are members of the EU; others are waiting in line. But the transition from closed to open societies is far from over. Fierce debates on lustration and information surfacing from previously closed archives show that, today, 1989 represents not only an historic moment of liberation but also a political and social dilemma.

The discussions and panels this year where of highest intellectual level possible. The subjects where well chosen and sometimes very provocative and mind-bending. The speakers includes Timothy Snyder, Arne Ruth, Leonidas Donskis, Thorsten Schilling, Martin Simecka, Mircea Vasilescu, Irena Veisaite, Zinovy Zinik and Marci Shore. The Eurozine network is one of very few situations where east and west meet on equal level. We are trying to learn how a common Europe is possible and how we can create a real dialogue where we can speak on equal terms. We may not agree on the agenda, the topics or the war on Iraq- but without Eurozine this discussion never would have taken place. Best regards and very large Thank you to Kulturos Barai, Vilnius Capital of Culture 2009 and foremost the crew at the Eurozine office.

Links:
http://www.eurozine.com
A very interesting article by Timothy Snyder:
http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2005-05-03-snyder-en.html

Written by Olav Unsgaard, Manager at Nätverkstan.

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14 maj, 2009

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Georgian – Swedish Cultural Exchange. Last day.

Art Villa Garikula is a contemporary Art center, placed in a village around one hour drive from Tbilisi. In the lack of infrastructure, Artist unions, and of space for Artistic work in the cities, Artists and curators try to fill this gap by taking initiatives and run projects. Many small projects start, to research, investigate to try to understand how to move in this new era, how to change.

The center is not a small project. It’s a big main building and a smaller one next to it, in constant need of renovation. A lot has been done already. There are bedrooms and studios, and a large garden to use for Artistic work, tenting or putting up exhibitions. And having parties. Art students and professional Artists come from the city to explore work forms and expressions, or for just relaxing. A new Georgian utopia is needed – Art Villa Garikula is where this new utopia will be formed, they tell us.

The visit to Georgia is part of the project EKAE 2009. People from Art, film, literature, publishing, cultural journals, education and crafts in Sweden and Georgia have met during a week in Tbilisi, having working meetings to form mutual project ideas within each area. The projects are planned to run during 2009-2010. Read more in posts May 12, May 11, May 9, and March 10.

Read also the article ”Crunch time in the Southern Caucasus”, written by Ivan Sukhov, Journalist at the Moscow newspaper Vremya Novostei, published at the OpenDemocracy website.

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13 maj, 2009

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Georgian – Swedish Cultural Exchange. Continuation.

”We need a new Georgian Utopia”. Magda Guruli, Curator and Artist, meet us in her  home in Tbilisi. 1970s and 80s was a very artisticly interesting period in Georgia, she tells us. Many interesting initiatives with artistic high quality were taken. After the Soviet period, this infrastructure fell  and everything needs to be rebuilt. A whole new infrastructure is needed. This takes time. Perhaps the gap between systems will allow for new ideas, a transformed artistic scene?  ”In the system of Art, we are still in the mentality of Soviet. We need something completely new”.

Many Artist have their own NGO, as the platform to work from. They have their offices at home. The driving force is to do Art with high quality, but also be part of transformation of society.

Human Rights Center is a center working with issues like freedom of speach, discrimination, injustice. Through newsletters, research, workshops, training and projects they want to work for mutual understandning between ethnic groups in Georgia and put the focus on injustices performed by the Georgian government. Informing the public is as important as working with target groups like refugees. They offer services like legal support and counselling in entrepreneurship.

”Through Art you can make the changes otherwise not possible.”

The visit to Georgia is part of the project EKAE2009, run by Natverkstan and financed by the Swedish Institute.

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12 maj, 2009

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Long Live Localism!

The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) is a trade organization dedicated to supporting, nurturing and promoting independent retail bookselling in California. With over 500 members, including nearly 300 booksellers, the NCIBA has been an experienced provider of services for over two decades.

Hut Landon, Executive Director, walks us through the domains of – among others – George Lucas (passing by the Yoda-fountain) to their office in San Francisco. The association is led by a 15-person Bord of Directors, and their main task is to increase the sales for independent bookshops in northern California.

The competition from Internet selling has led to the fact that independent bookshops must be much more proactive in their way of marketing themselves. Localism has become a watchword; people must become aware of the importance of supporting their community stores, if they want a  lively and prosperous neighbourhood. To explain this to the customers, Landon and his staff has made the poster ”Eight great reasons to shop at locally-owned businesses” (http://www.nciba.com/dls/8-great-reasons.pdf), which is now available to all NCIBA-members.

Apart from this, the association also arranges the NCIBA Trade how, produces the Holiday Showcase (yearly catalogue which features new titles), sets together workshops with topics of concern to the members and prints a weekly regional bestseller list.

Landon makes it clear that NCIBA does not regard the big chains, like Borders and Barnes & Noble, as competition. Independent booksellers have something that the big stores may lack: great book-knowledge, devotion and close relations with their customers. Amazon though, constitutes a big threat. The future will tell if David will stand a chance against Goliath, in Californa as well as in Sweden.

Books Inc. in Van Ness St. Sheryl Cotleur, Buying Director, BookPassage Hut Landon, Executive Director, NCIBA Street of San Francisco City Lights Golden Gate Bridge Lilla Gilbrech Weinberger, Readers' Books, Sonoma Wall Painting in Castro Another one + flying books From Natverkstan - Marie & Karin

Written by Karin Lundgren and Marie Johansson, Managers at Natverkstan.

11 maj, 2009

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Georgian – Swedish Cultural Exchange. Continuation.

The heroes survived. They were supposed to be killed after the film was made, but the film maker just couldn’t. The animated dolls were characters, personalities, so how could you kill them? Instead he hid them. After each movie he hid them in his house with the risk of getting caught. Intellectual property rights in the 70s, the government was afraid that the dolls would be used in another movie and they would have troubles with angry doll makers who wouldn’t get paid. Now we are able to watch them in a small, one-room museum. Beautiful hand-made dolls, made in Russia in the 70s for animated film made in Georgia. The most known is Bombora, a character who just wanted to go to school and in his frustration for not being able to sets fire on things. Now this character is posing over the entrance in the newly made amusement park at Tatsminda.

Wato Tsereleti, a well-known curator and Artist is describing the contemporary Art scene for us on a café. A major problem, many Artist tell us is space and funding. There is no space for Art or large events. In October the conference Artisterium is taking place, and a difficult part has been to find where to have it. A wonder, really, since Tbilisi is still very much a city in transition and there are many empty spaces. Wato Tsereleti has finally been able to find a locality, and the idea is to restore it into an Art center.

Many meetings has been taking place among visual Artists and Art education, between colleagues in the literature and publishing scene in Sweden and Georgia, as well as performance and film. Bakur Sulakauri Publishing is the biggest publishing house in Georgia, publishing around 200 books every year. They are meeting with colleagues at the publishing house Tranan in Sweden, together with writers, to discuss on how they can work together. The idea is that each Art form will come up with project ideas for future cooperation and exchange.

And as we walk to all these meetings, have  discussions between colleagues in the Art world, we pass the cells at Rustaveli Avenue and get reminded of the situation in this country. What is it we see in the streets? At Rustaveli, near the Parliament and Freedom Square the streets are filled with cells, small plastic covered boxes where people stay all day, all night in protest of the government. It’s difficult to analyse or understand what the cells stand for. Is it an organized protest of a well defined opposition? Or a more a protest of angry inhabitants showing their miscontent of the president? Or is it a show put forward by a few people with economic resources wanting to overthrow the president and take power? Perhaps it’s an Art show, or an installation? We get different versions, different stories. But it is clear that many people are very tired of the situation, of the threats of war, and long for coming back to a normal situation.

The visit is part of the project EKAE 2009, run by Natverkstan and financed by the Swedish Institute.

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11 maj, 2009

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Independent Bookselling – Will it Survive?

Michael Tucker, president of Independent Booksellers, Books Inc., really believes that there is a future even for the smaller, independent bookstores. That is if they are willing and capable of adjusting to the fast changing conditions of today.

The reason for going to San Francisco, when Svensk Bokhandel decided to arrange a trip for Swedish booksellers, is that this area has met up the challenge from the Internet bookshopping. Books Inc., with 10 stores and more that 200 employees, serves as a shining example that independent bookselling can not only survive, but also prosper – even if they ”must dance among the elephants”. However, the elephants set the rules and the best you can do is being as flexible and innovative as possible.

Kitty Clark, manager at Books Inc., Vann Ness Ave., lets us in on her recipe for creating a successful bookstore: Focus on customer service – by engaged and trusted employees – make sure that the interior and selection appeal to your clientele, arrange author events, book clubs, book launch parties, seminars led by writers etc etc.

During our tour to four of Tuckers’s stores we could see exactly what she ment; they were all Books Inc. shops, but completely different. Neither orientation, nor design, looked the same in any of the places. It’s all about fitting into the context. Tucker also stressed the importence of events. Even if you have the most amazing store, you can not be sure that the books alone will stand the competition from the Internet commerce. You need something that makes you special, something the digital world lack. Above all, that’s eye to eye contact and interaction.

Can these advice be applicated to the Swedish independent book stores? Surely, the conditions are in many ways quite different, but here’s defenitely every reason to be inspired by the Book Inc., and the San Francicso way of finding ways to reinvent the traditional book shop.

Written by KarinLundgren and Marie Johansson, Managers at Natverkstan.

10 maj, 2009

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Georgian – Swedish Cultural Exchange. Tbilisi Day 1.

”Meeting can sometimes be more dramatic than showing a Bergman-movie.”

We are at the Swedish Embassy in Georgia, Tbilisi, talking about the project Exchange of Knowledge and Experience (EKAE) 2009 just starting in Tbilisi. Johan Öberg, from Faculty of Art at Göteborg University, describes the importance of combining working with events with meetings, working with processes is a working method for the project EKAE 2009. Today, Saturday, four intense working days start where a delegation of thirteen people from literature, Art, Art faculty at the Göteborg University, publishing houses, and film in Sweden has travelled to Tbilisi to meet colleagues within these areas to discuss future exchange and a possible event in Sweden 2009–2010.

A pilot group travelled to Tbilisi to prepare and met with visual Artists, textile Artists, Theatre and Film Instute at the Tbilisi University, publishing houses. Beyond the geopolitical situation and the internal wrestling in Georgia, cultural practitioners meet and continue their work over boarders. We listen to the textile Artist, Nino Kipshidze, working with the new flow of immigrants from South Ossetia in Gori, visual Artist Anna Riaboshenko from the network Tram, planning projects with the neoghbouring countries and North Caucasus to raise the status of Artists, and Levan Khetaguri at the Film and Theatre Institute on educating young filmers.

The project is run by Nätverkstan and financed by the Swedish Institute. More posts will be put up on this blog as the project continues. The project is a continuation of EKAE 2004, read more here.

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9 maj, 2009

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Unemployment rates for Artists in US

National Endowment for the Arts in the US recently published a research done on unemplyoment rates for Astists since the financial crisis. The findings are not surprising, but still sad news in a field where income levels are known to be lower than the rest of the working force.

The study put forward several findings:

• Artists are unemployed at twice the rate of professional workers, a category where Artists are put since their high levels of education.

• Unemployment rates for Artists have risen more rapidly than for US workers as a whole.

• Artist unemployment rates would be even higher if not for the large number of Artists leaving the workforce. Some decline may be Artists’ difficulties of finding job prospects.

• Unemployment rose for most types of Artist occupations. High unemployment rates are found in performing Art (8.4%), fine Arts, art directors, and animators (7.1%), writers and authors (6.6%) and photographers (6.0%).

• The job market for Artists is foreseen as unlikely to improve until long after US economy starts to recover.

At the same time as these discouraging news are put forward, another report by National Governors Association recognized that the Arts directly benefit states and communities. This is done through job creation, tax revenues, attracting investments, invigorating local economies, and enhancing quality of life. Figures are put forward by Americans for the Arts, that there are 100.000 nonprofit Arts organizations that support 5.7 million jobs and return 30 billion dollars in governement revenue every year.

Read more of the study here.

5 maj, 2009

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Authors

Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

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