Archive for mars, 2010

Green Paper on Culture

There is a unison tone on the European Forum on Cultural Industries in Barcelona. Cultural and Creative Industries are seen as the driving force of economy in Europe. It’s among the top priorities. Figures presented show that this field employ 15% of Londoners, between 2000-2005 creative industries grew by 10% in Europe which is more than other industries, and holds 3,1% of GDP in Europe. Everyone is here; ministers and bureaucrats from all around Europe and from all levels from European Commission to state, region and local level. Civil servants, University lecturers and professors, and representatives from cultural companies to the business field. And they all agree. Creative Industries hold a potential of economic growth in Europe. This has to be part of the European 2020 strategy.

Spain holds the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2010. And they have chosen to organize the Forum in cooperation with European Commission and Chamber of Commerce in Barcelona. Perhaps it’s not so surprising. Barcelona has fostered many famous Artists, as Pablo Picasso who grew up here as young, and of course the home of Gaudi, the famous architect and foremost Artist in Art Noveau tradition. Around the city you find Gaudi’s architecture, but also sculptures and Art works done by many other Artists in a mix of modern and traditional. The Catalonian State has put culture high on the agenda and are proud of their Artists.

Perhaps significant of the Forum is the lack of insight among the ministers and bureaucrats of what the creative industries consist of. What it is. The risk of EU putting money into the wrong incentives, and in all good intentions write new declarations that never reach the actual field is large. The expected evaluation of Mike Coyne, Director of Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Services, might be helpful in throwing some light on who all the creators are and their effects on local and regional structures. Also the expected survey by Giep Hagoort, Professor of Art and Economics at Utrecht University and Utrecht School of Arts, this spring is promising. His message being, which is also our experience from the work we have done at Nätverkstan and backed by several reports of this field from among others UK; it’s a field run by Artists within in different Art forms, organized in small-scale, micro and nano businesses and freelancers who work in networks and informal structures. When putting forward incentives and supportive structures in the cultural field, these have to be as complex as the field is.

Also significant is the lack of small-scale Artists in panels and as keynote speakers. They are there, but not as many as you would wish for.  Instead you find some of them outside in an alternative forum, campaigning for the freedom on Internet, led by well-known comic Leo Bassi. Government is promoting a ”download law”, which many Artists are protesting against. Inside, at the Forum, several of the Cultural Ministers and other representatives on the contrary put forward the necessity of strong Intellectual Property Rights.

The Forum ended with six of the Cultural Ministers (we missed the Swedish Minister) giving their comments from a parallel meeting where creative industries has been discussed and with the aim of presenting a Green Paper on Culture. A Green paper released by the European Commission is a discussion document, which hope to stimulate debate and be a process for consultation on a topic. It usually comes before the White Paper, which is a more formal document. This was never presented; it was still too unready, but expect the Green Paper coming during spring.

And outside business were going on as usual among our cultural entrepreneurs; street musicians, living sculptures, painters, and other Artistic professionals.

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31 mars, 2010

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Culture as model in Gullspång

If you take highway E20 from Göteborg towards Stockholm you will, after around two and a half hours, drive through the Municipality of Gullspång and the small city of Hova. If you happen to sneeze right there, look down, or don’t pay attention, you will have passed the turn into Hova and also the significant sign of the city: The small tourist office looking like a knightly castle on the left hand side.

Hova has quite a few things they are very proud of. It’s well known for the medieval week, with the largest knight parade and tournaments in the Nordic Countries celebrated in July in memory of the Battle in Hova in 1275. It was also the town where the songwriter, manager, composer, and the launcher of Abba, Stikkan Andersson, spent his youth, and where famous Swedish soccer player Andreas Andersson was born.

The Municipality of Gullspång has a total of 5300 inhabitants and one of Sweden’s smallest municipalities. When the present Mayor, Hans Andrén, took over a few years ago the municipality was completely bankrupt. With thirty years of experience working as a Mayor in different municipalities, this was the first time he could not pay salaries to people in his staff. Other struggles are a changing base for employment from agriculture and industry to more self-employment and small-scale entrepreneurs, inhabitants of a high middle age (in Hova we find two undertakers, but only one pub), and a daytime life without young people as youngsters from around 14 years spend there days in the larger city of Mariestad where school is.

The challenges were many and the question was: What could be done to change negative trends and again make inhabitants feel proud of being part of the municipality? Reports of the role of culture as a factor for growth had reached the office and in 2006 they started Gullspångs-modellen (The Model of Gullspång) led by the Artist Staffan Hjalmarsson. The idea has since start been to use culture as part of the strategic plan in developing Gullspång as an attractive place to live in. Different projects and events have taken place, both on a strategic level and events like when the mobile exhibition hall from Riksutställningar visited Hova. Artists have been involved regulary, like poet Linn Hansén and now Artist Johan Malmström, working with concrete projects involving people living in the area.

When telling this story, the Mayor and also Staffan Hjalmarsson talk about other values, not measurable, more intrinsic values. But how do you make people understand the value of something so abstract? Staffan Hjalmarsson puts it in relation to life; you can’t describe life, it’s bigger than all we know, it’s immeasurable. Culture is part of this; Gullspångsmodellen is just a small part of everyone’s life. But hopefully it makes a difference. A change that can be measured is that the Municipality now has a plus on their account. And the discussion of what culture is has never before been so debated and discussed.

The visit to Gullspång and Hova was part of a study visit done by the group Art&Politics, set up by the Region of Västra Götaland and led by the Artist Jörgen Svensson. The group is a creative arena and working group of politicians and Artists in the region.

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Categories: Artistic practice Blogg

28 mars, 2010

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Sufism and Peace

A grand literature conference with the theme Sufism and Peace has just been completed at the National Library in Islamabad, Pakistan. About 200 delegates from 35 countries participated. One of the largest delegations came from Sweden, thanks to the fact that Peter Curman last year received the Quaid-e-Azam Award, one of the highest honorary awards you can get in the country. He received the price of 16,000 euros for both his writing and for his work to allow literature to meet across borders. The conference had the aim to investigate whether the Sufi teachings, a spiritual view of the direction of Islam, can contribute to peace in the violence struck country. Sufism has also sought to be advanced by intellectuals in the West as a possible conciliatory force and the way to open dialogue between secular Western culture and Islam.

Sufism became popular in medieval Persia and the countries that today constitute Pakistan and Afghanistan, not least by poets as Rumi and Hafiz. They taught Islam in local languages, and preached a message of tolerance towards other faiths. Mainly, however, Sufism is a spiritual movement that focuses on achieving unity with God. Even today there are active Sufi orders across the Muslim world. Sufism is by no means irrelevant to understanding the subcontinent’s relationship with Islam. In one of the best lectures throughout the conference, Polish Jolanta Sierakowsky-Dyndo described the Sufi influence on the clan-based societies of Khorasan in the Middle Ages. It is expected that there then were about 800,000 active Sufis in the countries we now call Iran, Pakistan and India. .

The conference agreed on a declaration that said a multicultural society was a way to embody the ideals of Sufism. But discussions at the conference pointed in different directions. One of the closing speeches of the Swiss sociologist Patrick Haenni won great approval. He wanted to emphasize that a discussion of religious extremism must also take into account social factors and identified three contemporary phenomenons within the Muslim culture, which he said were at least as important as Sufism to promote dialogue: their own intellectual movement, with names like Samir Kassir and Edward Said, a moderate political Islam often inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, and finally the emergence of an individualistic and modern ”post-Islamism” in the West.

The conference has been widely reported in Pakistani media, not least because all delegates were invited to the presidential palace, where both the education minister, himself practicing Dervish, President Asif Ali Zardari and Peter Curman gave speeches for the participants at the conference, parliamentarians and ambassadors from several countries, including Sweden’s ambassador Ulrika Sundberg..

Here is a link to a report on the conference in Swedish: retrogarde.org

Text by Carl Forsberg, Manager of Medieverkstäderna (Media Workshop) at Nätverkstan. Parts of the article was published in the daily Göteborgs-Posten last week.

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24 mars, 2010

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Young Choreographers Platform

Did you know that in India hand movements are an important part of traditional and contemporary dance, expressing abstractions giving another dimension or parallel understanding to a story or performance? In European dance-tradition feet and foot movement have a central part, we are told. In a dance studio on Oskarsgatan in Göteborg today, dancers and choreographers from Bangalore (India) met professionals from Göteborg (Sweden) in a three-hour workshop. After warming up; experimenting with movements, traditions, experiences took place and ended in a twenty-minute lunch performance for invited guests.

The Bangalore-based Centre for Movement Arts, Attakkalari, is in West Sweden for a tour visit, and started with a full-length performance of Chronotopia at Vara Concert Hall. This was followed by a seminar on their research project and short performances of the choreographers and dancers at Museum of World Cultures in Göteborg. Then workshops with young dancers in Vara, with theatre students at the School of Music and Drama. And now they met with professional dancers and choreographers from Dansbyrån, a production platform for dance based in Göteborg run by the three choreographers Moa Matilda Sahlin, Marika Hedemyr, and Paula de Hollanda.

The idea of a Young Choreographers Platform where choreographers and dancers meet to work and build something together is an integral part of the work at Attakkalari in an ambition to continuously explore and experiment with movements and expression. A sort of lab of movements easily set up with dancers and choreographers from any part of the world if you just have a studio to work in. As Jay Palazhy, Artistic Director at Attakkalari once put it: “The beauty of collaboration is that it’s not about rationalizing. You don’t have to speak so much, just do it”.

The visit of Attakkalari is part of the agreement ”Linking Initiatives” between the region of Karnataka and Region Västra Götaland. Read former posts of the exchange project under India on this site.

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23 mars, 2010

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From industry -) small businesses

The two women at Print Design in Lidköping are keeping very busy. They do prints for porcelain and when we visit they are about to start working with gold details, something that takes patience and precision. The knowledge they have is rare and they have kept their aims high. Their small business have had a fairly steady stream of orders since the start in 2006 when Rörstrand closed down the porcelain factory. Now it’s particularly busy. Print Design got a large order to do all the prints to the porcelain for Swedish Crown Princess Viktoria’s wedding in June and also the memory porcelain sold to the public.

The story is not un-known of these days. Rörstrand started their business producing ceramics and porcelain in 1726 in Stockholm. They grew quickly, got well-known for the quality porcelain and from 1936 the main office was placed in Lidköping together with the factory, employing around 1500 people (about 25.000 inhabitants in Lidköping) in the beginning of 21 century. In 2005 the owner, Finnish Ittala, decided to close down the factory due to the heavy investment costs of new ovens and move the business from Lidköping. All employees lost their jobs. For the small porcelain-town Lidköping, situated right at the south end of the lake Vänern in Sweden, this was of course a disaster. The porcelain factory and the shop attracted around 450.000 visitors each year. Closing down meant a catastrophe. The municipality got cold feet and the landlord stood with thousands of square metres empty space.

Gunnar Hansson, who had been working at Rörstrand, got the question if he would try to do something with the empty space and started slowly building on what today is a cluster of small-scale businesses, small production space for ceramics and porcelain, education in ceramics and a porcelain Museum. To have a platform to work from, he started the development company, Rörstrand Kulturforum with the aim of developing Rörstrand’s factory area to an attractive area for ceramic production. They started from scratch where people who had been working for the same employer as long as twenty years, were suppose to become entrepreneurs and needed education in things like how to do a budget, how the selling process worked. They also wanted to start the production of ceramics again, but where was the market for producing ceramics to a reacenable price? If you produce more than 30.000 cups you make them in Bangladesh, Gunnar Hansson tells us, and 30 cups you can produce in your own home-oven. What about producing 3000 cups?

Maybe that’s a market share they could take. In these changes Print Design started, where the two women had a very specific expertise, but had never run a business before. Now they do prints for the Royal Family in Sweden. With a combination of education, creators and Artists, business, small-scale entrepreneurs and new ideas, Rörstrand factory area has managed to keep the attraction. What is the key to success? ”We have lubricated where lubricate is needed”, is Gunnar Hanssons simple reply. One such grease is, no doubt, money.

Look also at the small Art and design studio In Every Tree, Stockholmbased, but they also have a studio in the old porcelain factory in Lidköping. See a former blogpost from Biella, Italy, where the textile industry met the same destiny. The visit was part of a study visit with a think tank on creative industries in Region Västra Götaland.

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22 mars, 2010

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Music Industry and new business models

This sunny day in Stockholm, people from the music industry gathered at Hotel Rival for the Creators Conference arranged by Swedish Music Information Center, The Swedish Society of Popular Music Composers and Society for Swedish Composers.

The focus was added value in the digital world, the attempt was to lift the question from Intellectual Property Rights to look broader; which way might we go in technical choices, what new business models might we see in the future, and what is the role of the middleman within the music industry? Mark Fischlock, the moderator for the day, early on stated that we seem to have underestimated the digitalization and we have for a long time tried to impose old models in a new system. He got a lot of agreeing nodding from the eight-headed panel, and American Intellectual Property Law Attorney, Bennett Lincoff, was quick in hooking on to this, saying that we need a completely new business model for the music industry that can deal with the challenges imposed by the Internet.

Other things said was things like ”We have to find solutions where money goes directly to the Artist”, ”People are willing to pay if the money goes to the right thing”, ”How do you get a fair deal between the producer and distributor?”, ”There is no interest in pipes, you are interested in the content they are providing”, ”The real problem is the lawyers who seem to be stuck in old structures”, ”Let’s face it: We are all cutting and pasting, we have to be less focused on IP”, ”It’s a difference between free or feels free on the Internet”. Many points were made by legendary manager Peter Jenner (Pink Floyd, The Clash and others), who stressed that the industry needs to change and money go directly to the pockets of the Artists. The distributors, like the record-companies, publishers, just grab too much of the pie and this will, and has to, change. Another important point made was the lack of political interest in digitalization as a whole in Sweden.

A bit of a sad remark is the reminder that the music industry in Sweden has to take a serious look at the equality question. Are we to believe that the talented, brilliant, famous musicians, singers, composers, and directors of organizations in this field are only men? In today’s Stockholm paper Dagens Nyheter an article put the light on the music industry being very male-dominant, while among the theatre institutions things have changed. A few years ago a survey showed theatre institutions to have almost only men as directors, something that now had changed to a 50-50 percent men and women in top positions. For everyone who read today’s paper and then went to the conference, sadly got the situation in the music field confirmed. In each panel of eight people, only one in each was a woman. Maybe the Internet and new models in distribution may have an impact on changing this male domination, letting young talented women find alternative ways?

10 mars, 2010

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Irritated Material

Surrounded by many of the larger banks in the financial district in London, you find the new non-profit contemporary Art exhibition centre Raven Row. It’s quite anonymous; you easily walk by the low building with the white front, but finding it is rewarding. While the banks and financiers are busy dealing with the recession and building trust, the current exhibition at Raven Row is dealing with other processes in society; the disobedience, subversive cultural ideas, the Art that is often on the edge of what is accepted by society.

”A history of irritated material” is curated by Danish curator Lars Bang Larsen, who explains the title as referring to the relation between Art, and social and psychological reality. Video clips of protest marches, freedom fighters, witness stories, and trials are shown in a set of TVs, works of the New York based Group Material is exhibited together with Artists like Swedish Sture Johannesson. His famous poster from 1968 of the naked woman with a hash-pipe in her hand (Hash Girl) is significant for the exhibition. The poster was done for Lund Art Exhibition Hall (Southern Sweden), but the exhibition was never shown. It was accused of being drug romantic and Sture Johannesson himself stole his controversial posters that made politicians see red from the exhibition hall. The Director at the time, Folke Edwards, was accused of being sex and drug romantic just by showing this work of the well-known Artist. It all ended with the Director leaving his job just after a short time on the post.

Perhaps less subversive, but definitely not mainstream were two concerts at Union Chapel the previous night. Two Swedish bands played in the church, built in 1876 to 1877, from 1991 used as a venue for cultural events (combined with worship, baptism, weddings). The two-people-band The Tiny, and then First Aid Kit, two young women of 17 and 19 years old, inspired by the hippie and country movement of the 70s combined with new sound. Both wonderful bands that manage to form Artistic talent into their own music, their own thing. Funny we have to go to London to see them.

A walk by Tate Modern also leaves traces. The Polish contemporary Artist Miroslaw Balka and his piece ”How it is” is both overwhelming and scary. The work is a gigantic container placed in the big open hall at Tate. Walking around the container you feel small, yes, tiny, and in one short-end you enter at a large ramp and walk towards the darkness inside. A chill along the spine as scary film-clips of Holocaust where people in masses walked in to uncertainty come to mind, yet when we are walking we are safe. We know that, but still…What will we meet inside? The exhibition keeps itching and irritating the mind the rest of the day.

And among these visits, we do study visits to discuss social entrepreneurship with Ian Baker at School for Social Entrepreneurs, cultural leadership with Venu Dhupa and Nicola Turner, and the development of the workshop ”The Art of living of Art” together with Sian Prime.

Read this text by Lars Bang Larsen on social liability. Some links in relation to School for Social Entrepreneurs are found here, here and for reports and evaluations here. Most photos are taken by Helena Persson, a few with Iphone.

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7 mars, 2010

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A new era?

We sit right above the swimming pool, in a former swimming hall, for our meeting with Kate Oakley at City University London (UK). The changing lockers are still on the side, but now used as storage of books and documents. It’s nice, somehow. Nothing can be changed in the hall, Kate Oakley tells us. So if you remove the floor the swimming pool is still there. Now neatly covered and transformed to one of the meeting points and reading rooms for students. Kate Oakley is a writer, policy analyst, and now visiting Professor at Department of Cultural Policy and Management. She has followed and written a lot about creative industries and the new British independents, i.e. the small-scale entrepreneurs. We meet her to talk about the Cultural Leadership Programme at the City University and also creative industries. Where is it going?

UK is the cradle of cultural and creative industries, introduced about a decade ago by the Blair Labour Government and their Creative Industries Mapping Document. But what will happen now with the notion of cultural and creative industries? Kate Oakley says, after some thinking, that she sees a division in argument between on one hand ”creativity”, and the other ”innovation”. This means that you will find those who argue stronger for the Arts and Arts Policy, and those who enforce innovation in the more narrow sense where aesthetics are used to raise value in more traditional businesses. The creative industries managed to show the practice and everyday life of culture and cultural entrepreneurs, something that tends to get lost in this division.

So, where is the question of creative industries in UK nowadays? 2010 is election year and it’s always a time when not much will happen. And it does seem like the question has slipped from the Labour’s priorities. The Conservatives, on the other hand seem to show more interest in cultural heritage than creative industries. Maybe the recession has forced other priorities in focus, maybe not enough advocacies and lobbying from cultural politicians on fellow politicians in other areas has been done? An experience from a project in Western Sweden with Artists and politicians show that many cultural politicians feel a lack of arguments in relation to other political areas.

We also meet Nicola Turner at the Arts Council and discuss Cultural Leadership and the Cultural Leadership Programme. Quite interesting.

At Creative Choices website you find After the Crunch, a book trying to put light on these issues, and also thoughts about ”So what’s next”. Terry Flew and Stuart Cunningham wrote the book Creative Industries after the First Decade of Debate, and in 2008 you could listen to many of the leading researchers within cultural and creative industries at a one-day symposium at Milton Keynes, ”The Creative Industries: Ten Years After”. Nätverkstan was there, read about it here. This facts file from UK Department of Culture, Media and Sports from 2002 might be useful: ci_fact_file.pdf.

The visit to London is part of a study visit done by Kulturverkstan, the two-year Project Management Training Programme, run by Nätverkstan. Photos taken with Iphone.

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6 mars, 2010

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

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

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