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Writing a few words on an empty piece of paper can be the most difficult thing. The choices of words, constructions, meanings are endless. It seems like an impossible act to write anything of meaning. And yet, when you read a text that just flows it seems so easy. The choices of words and how they are put together becomes like a magic formula that touches your soul.
In the daily Dagens Nyheter last spring (27/4 2013), literary critic Åsa Beckman did an open analysis of one of Swedish poet Birger Sjöberg’s (1885–1929) poems: Varje ord skall andas (my translation: Every word shall breathe). The poem is a beautiful text on the meaning of each word and how they should breathe, live, be strong. ”At attention, each phrase!”, he writes.
Perhaps this is when words become so dangerous to some.
Two Persian poets are now in prison in Iran for what they write; Fateme Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi. And they are not the only ones. ”Poets are highly dangerous”, says the Chair of the Swedish PEN Association, Ola Larsmo, recently in the daily Göteborgs-Posten.
In many of the world’s dictatorships writers, poets, journalists are in prison. The situation for writers around the world has worsened, Ola Larsmo states.
Let the new year of 2014 be the year when they are all set free.
Poem by Birger Sjöberg:
Varje ord skall andas
Varje ord skall andas och sin bröstkorg häva,
varje sats skall kunna ränna kring och stå,
skyldra, gå på tå,
svimma, trängta, sväva.
Det är ej så lätt, att liv av prickar väva,
att i typers prassliga små buskar
låta friska kinder sticka fram.
En sats skall ju bli ett träd, som ruskar,
en en fisk, som spritter,
en ett fågelkvitter,
en en sorgehögtid allvarsam.
Nu giv akt, vart ord!
Dra ej med er slarviga soldater.
Samlas på mitt bord,
alla, friska, starka, levande kamrater.
And a try for a quick translation, without any claim of poetic qualities but just for the English speaking readers to get an idea of the content of the poem:
Every word shall breathe
Every word shall breathe and its chest heave/every sentence shall run around and stow/arms present, tip on toe/faint, yearn, leave/It is not so easy, to life in dots weave/to in types’ rustly small bushes/let fresh cheeks stick out brave/Why a sentence shall be a tree, that swooshes/one a fish, that jitter/one a bird twitter/one a mourning sermon so grave/Now, stand at attention, each phrase!/Don’t pull with you careless soldiers/At my table embrace/all, healthy, strong, living comrades.
Kulturchock packed the suitcases with Swedish cultural journals and travelled to Helsinki Book Fair that just took place.
On the airport they met the first (that we have seen) print-on-demand machine for buying periodicals and journals, Meganews. It’s time to check what the deal is and how cultural journals can be part of this very modern way of buying journals.
Sarah Thelwall, a UK consultant on cultural entrepreneurship, took a deep dive into small arts organizations’ difficulties to communicate the value they contribute to society – a value that is rarely counted in profit or money, but in other things.
It’s a difficulty art organizations over the world can recognize.
Put any cultural organization next to statistic measurements, economic outcome, and evaluations with a quantative focus, and culture comes short. So how do you measure intrinsic value?
Many of us within culture are already initiated, we know the value but come short in describing it. It’s like the Swedish artist Staffan Hjalmarsson once said about the lack of measurement methods for culture,: it’s five squares of sorrow. It referred to a report by the Region Västra Götaland where the consultants had evaluated the work within the region’s five focus areas. The other focus areas had facts and figures, but culture glowed all empty and became according to Hjalmarsson: Five squares of sorrow.
Riksutställningar, The Swedish Exhibition Agency, decided to pick up this dilemma of showing the value of culture and has put focus on this during 2013 in seminars and discussions.They have invited Sarah Thelwall to talk about her report and discuss with others in two larger events: Supermarket 2013 in February and now Samtidskonstdagarna in Göteborg on October 18–20.
She wrote the report on commission of Common Practice, an organization based in London and with the aim to focus on small art organizations’ situation.
Riksutställningar translated, in cooperation with Nätverkstan, some of her work into Swedish in a book that just came from the printing presses. Everything to bring light and perspectives on the continuous discussion on describing the value of art for others than those already initiated.
Read also this blogpost on the same book (in Swedish).
Today the Scene for Literature opened, or the Literature House, as Madeleine Bergmark put it in her opening speech of the inauguration in Lagerhuset (Warehouse).
The road to a new literary scene in Göteborg has been bumpy and particularly around where it should be located. Should a new house be built or is it a better idea to let it rest among already existing initiatives? And if so, with which existing scene? Glances were sent to Norway, where an ambitious new House for Literature in Oslo was opened in 2007.
In 2011 Ingrid Elam, a well-known literature critic in Sweden, got the assignment from the Administration of Culture in the City of Göteborg to investigate the possibilities of establishing a House for Literature in Göteborg.
The reason was that the conditions for literature are changing in a rapid pace and establishing a scene for literature seemed like a proper cultural policy action (also on state level this was done in 2012, a public investigation called Läsandets kultur, Culture of Reading).
Ingrid Elam came to four different suggestions, where two of them was weighing pros and cons of building a new house or building on already existing initiatives with focus on the independent and small-scale literary scene.
Lagerhuset (Warehouse), an old warehouse in central Göteborg right by the canal, for many felt like the natural location for a scene for literature. The building is already part of a vivid small-scale and independent cultural and literary scene housing several cultural journals and small publishing houses; a larger membership-based production space for journals; the Poetry Festival; education; and in the ground floor the scene for young creators, Frilagret. It’s a house that since 1999 host small cultural organizations with focus on cultural journals and literature.
It was also one of Ingrid Elam’s four suggestions, although not the main proposal. The Cultural Committee decided to place the House for Literature in an already existing structure: Lagerhuset. The House is organizationally under the City Library, they got two trial years and 1 million SEK (approximately 116000 euro) per year. Then the idea is that the independent scene in Göteborg takes over.
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On a three day seminar in Stockholm at Museum of Modern Art in 2007 to celebrate a hundred years since philosopher Hannah Arendt’s birth, the book on Eichmann in Jerusalem and the banality of evil was not mentioned, journalist and critic Ingrid Elam noticed in her review of the seminar in daily Dagens Nyheter. It was not until someone in the audience asked the key speaker, philosopher Agnes Heller, that this work was discussed. It was all good reasons for this; the focus was on Arendt’s other important work.
Yet, reading Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) it’s difficult not to stay with her theories and reflect on their importance. They not only say something about the times in Europe during the Nazi era, they describe an on-going civil dilemma between bureaucratization and people.
Two things are especially terrifying and still today relevant.
One is the systematic way the in which the bureaucracy was built around, first emigration of the Jewish people from Germany, later the ”final solution” to send Jews to death centers. The language used to describe this wasn’t a mass-murderer’s, Hannah Arendt reflects, it was instead in terms such of ”programs” organizationally put under ”administration and economy”. Hitler and his men managed to build a bureaucracy in which the language around the ”final solution” was not immediately offensive or against people’s normal conscience. Finally, it seemed like a necessity, like an objective question that needed a solution.
The other is how she described Eichmann. He was not a monstrous murderer; he was not even particularly evil. She de-demonized him and he stands out neither as a diabolic character or a fanatic. He is just a dull bureaucrat with no ideas and a complete lack of critical thinking. He follows orders and is trying to do his job the best he can, wanting to climb to more important jobs and positions within the structure.
Since Arendt wrote this book in 1960s, even since the seminar in 2007, the European society has changed.
The economic crisis have had devastating effects in many countries with high unemployment rates and raise of poverty as a result. Art and culture has seen substantial cuts, of which effects for society we haven’t yet seen. Where will critical thinking be practiced?
Racist parties around Europe are filling seats in parliaments, some of them with roots in neo-Nazism. They changed their shaved heads to slick hairstyles and proper suits to better fit in to the political corridors. Their language is changing to not being immediately offensive and therefore suit a larger group of the population. Their main point on the agenda is limiting immigration, keeping a nation ”traditional” concerning everything from habits, culture and people.
As Ingrid Elam writes in her article (DN 15/1 2007), If Arendt had lived today she would have written about how today’s stateless people and refugees are handled by very ordinary people.
Hanna Arendt wrote the book ”Eichmann in Jerusalem” in 1963 and it is a collection of a series of articles written when she was covering the trial on Nazi Adolf Eichmann for the journal The New Yorker in Jerusalem in 1961. The book is translated into Swedish and published by Daidalos in 1996.
Article by Ingrid Elam in Dagens Nyheter (DN) on 15 of January 2007 can be found here.
In this year’s Göteborg International Film Festival (January 2013) they showed the film on Hannah Arendt by director Margarethe von Trotta.
American artist Andrea Geyer did an interesting piece on the trial with Hannah Arendt’s book as main base, Criminal Case 40/61: Reverb, 2009, which was shown, among other places, at Göteborg Konsthall in 2010.
The 31st of December was a historic day. The very last printed issue of Newsweek was published and distributed. From now on the only way to read Newsweek is on the web.
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine, published since 1933 in New York City and with US and international distribution. I
n October 2012 the editor Tina Brown announced that the weekly would end it’s eighty years of printed publication to go only digital. It’s an historic change and follows a period of changes within in printed press due to changing reading habits. Read more of the challenges and future of print here.
Nätverkstan managed to get the hands on a copy of the very last issue. And as the historic winds of change are blowing around us we continue our work to help small cultural journals and publicists to face the digital challenges and find solutions that are cost effective. This year the project Literature and digitization will take further steps in this direction with funding from Region Västra Götaland.
Ghanian writer Kojo Laing talks softly but with emphasis. Every word comes from the heart and touches the heart of the audience. It’s the most generous and honest presentation I have heard in many years.
It’s like a curse, he says about writing. He can’t stop. He has tried to stop, but he just can’t.
Coming from a Christian family in Ghana, his father was a priest, and with all his five siblings working within the church, he is the only one being a writer and also in pressing doubt in faith, something that is also topics in many of his books. He leans forward in his chair, looks over the audience, hitting his chest with his hand and asks, insisting on the honesty of this question: Am I a fool? Am I crazy having this doubt? Can anyone in the room say that they are anywhere near the doubt I have?
His writing is anything but a simple process, he tells us. One of the books took eight years to write. He wanted to write Ghanian and English, not for the sake of it, but because he wanted to squeeze out the English from the Ghanian languages. With his hands he shows us the guesture of thoroughly and hard squeezing water from wet laundry. And that took time. He picks up the book, shows it, and looks at it, exhausted. And goes quiet.
He answers each question posed by Kwani Trust Chairman Tom Maliti sometimes with a big smile of a question that he founds on the spot, then continues with a story and sometimes ends abruptly. The room gets quiet a short second before a new line of thought is unfolded.
Kojo Laing is like a ghost in his own country, he describes his situation. His books are mainly published outside of Ghana. But on the question if he would rather write something else, if he got the chance to re-do things, something less controversial that sold many, many copies of his books and made him more famous, his answer is distinct and clear. He couldn’t write anything else. This is what he writes.
A young woman raises her hand and asks what he suggests a young writer should think about pursuing a career as a writer?
Be yourself, is his first answer. Read as much as your brain can contain. The more you read, the more complex you become. And it applies to experience as well. Paradoxical experience. Encourage many identities. It will be needed as the world goes smaller.
And he adds and laughs: And when you get advices you reject them.
Kwani? Litfest 2012 is a yearly literature festival run by Kwani Trust in Nairobi. This year the theme is Conversations with the Horn. Writers, artists in exchange.
In Copenhagen it is called ”the book happening of the year”. This is also why Kulturchock made the decision to participate at the event that during the years has expanded in favour for both dedicated readers and the book industry in Denmark.
For Kulturchock it is not only the purpose to improve the distribution and visibility for the Swedish cultural magazines within the country. It is also a beneficial opportunity to overbridge borders both internationally and linguistically to show the multifaceted goldmine that we possess. The 100 culture magazines that we represent impress many of the book fairs visitors, and the question is not why the swedish magazines are there, but why the danish aren´t? Ivan Rød, head of the organisation for danish cultural magazines, tells us that the granting for these magazines har been withdrawn and that they can not afford participating. Nevertheless, the danish literature magazine Standart was elected this year´s cultural magazine in the Nordic countries.
The showcase for cultural magazines at the book fair in Gothenburg this year was a collaboration between Kulturchock at Nätverkstan and Tidskriftscentralen in Finland. In addition to the Swedish and Finnish magazines you could also find Danish and Norwegian ones. Maybe this concept can evolve and be used at future events?
Thank you for this visit, BogForum, see you again in 2013?
Post by Helena Persson, Project manager at Nätverkstan
Etiketter:Bangalore, Creative Industries, Cultural economy, Cultural Journal, Cultural Policy, Democracy, Development, Digitization, Distribution, Economy, Globalization, Literature, New economy, Transformation
Since 2009 large and small newspapers around the world have been facing difficulties with drop in profit, drop in sales with job cuts as a result.
The latest in the line of newspaper cuts is Newsweek announcing earlier this fall the end of printed publication, and only going digital. December 31 is the last printed issue being distributed changing an eighty year chain of printed publications. The Independent as another example of a troubled newspaper and in the US the newspaper scene has changed drastically with papers like The Seattle Post-intelligencer, The Detroit News, and The San Francisco Chronicle and more severely being reduced and some closed down.
The Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter has seen a drastic cut among employees and the latest news is that the other large daily Svenska Dagbladet has to save around 40 million SEK leading to cutting off it’s cultural pages and having around 50–60 employees are loosing their jobs.
Smaller newspapers are facing the same future. Nerikes Allehanda and Vestmanlands Läns Tidning, who both have the same owner, are cutting with 75 people during this year (read more here).
Times for newspapers and journals are dramatically changing. What is the future of printed press? Will heaps of printed books, journals, newspapers just be stored in piles collecting dust while the readers are elsewhere?
Cultural critic Olav Fumarola Unsgaard addresses this challenge and the future of print in an article at A-Desk Critical Thinking. He writes:
To understand the media landscape of today we must change our point of viewpoint. The world of printed media is today going through very rapid changes. To make it simple all these changes are in one way or another connected to digitalisation and the Internet. First of all we must understand that these changes have an impact on the entire sector of print. This means newspapers, journals, magazines, books and comics. It will affect the worldwide media conglomerates as well as the small fanzines. In the words of Joseph Schumpeter is there a massive creative destruction going on. Someone will lose and someone will gain.
Read the full article here.
Olav Fumarola Unsgaard is cultural journalist, book editor and project manager, also a former project manager for the long tail-project at Nätverkstan. Today mostly working with the Swedish publishing house Atlas and the journals Fronesis and Ord&Bild.
Etiketter:Artistic practice, Creative Industries, crisis, Cultural economy, Cultural Journal, Development, Distribution, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Globalization, Literature, New economy, Transformation
Waiting for the big load of cultural journals filling Nätverkstan’s newly painted space at the Göteborg Book Fair starting tomorrow!
Try to describe dance and choreography in words or text and you are bound for a challenge. To catch the essence of bodily movement and the artistic process and thought behind a dance performance is difficult. What you see is what you get, so to speak. Dance is best felt and experienced when it happens, it’s a direct contact between performer and audience. It’s therefore often difficult to try to describe dance experiences in project plans and evaluation documents.
In the newly published book 100 Exercises for a Choreographer and Other Survivors, a way around this difficulty is somehow found. You not only get practical exercises to try on your own, but each of these exercises quite informally also catches the artistic thought and process in choreography. Reading them, each ending with the sincere request ”Do it.”, exposes the experiments of action that can be translated into movements and dance. Quite shrewd, actually.
Perhaps something for policy- and decisionmakers? Trying these small experiments might raise your awareness and understanding of the artistic process. And it’s not complicated. Just do it.
Efva Lilja, choreographer, Professor of Choreography, and Vice-Chancellor at DOCH, the University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm, and author behind this, has just published two books with the aim to in a practical and poetic way offer strategies for active presence and bodily knowledge in your daily life.
The two books: ”100 Exercises for a Choreographer and Other Survivors” (both in Swedish and English) and ”Förstår du vad jag inte säger? Om dans som samhällsomstörtande kärleksförklaring” (”Do you understand what I am not saying? Dance as a subversive declaration of love” – in my translation) can be found here. Read also a related post on an editor’s view on quality and creativity here.
Many put their hopes to the International Criminal Court in Hague, where four Kenyan leaders are put to trial with charges of crimes against humanity and for their active role in organizing the mass violence that took place.
”Something just must be done! They have to be charged. Everything else is inhuman and wrong” someone tells me.
In Breaburn Theatre in Nairobi poet Sitawa Namwalie addresses the consequences, fear, and worry in a very warm, partly humours, and self-critical way in her poetry-read and performance together with Alice Karunditu and Shan Bartley on Saturday evening.
”Can you trust your neighbour?” she asks, looks around the audience with her sharp eyes and authority. And she opens the read of Cut off my tongue.
The verdict fell heavily yesterday on the two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, in prison in Addis Adeba, Ethiopia.
They were charged and convicted by Lideta Federal High Court for being terrorists, the most severe of the charges they were accused for. It’s no doubt that the conviction was political, and so the trial.
Johan Persson and Martin Schibbiye are not terrorists. They went to the Ogaden-province to document and inquire about the multinational oil companies work in the area and the consequences of this. It’s a completely closed area, and word is that people live in the most severe circumstances and in complete absence of human rights as well as international law.
The verdict is a clear statement to journalists to keep out, and of course a large threat to freedom of speech and the journalists task as critical observers and reporters. We have seen many examples of this, just recently artist Ai Weiwei’s as well as many other political writers and journalists imprisonment in China. On December 15 Nätverkstan arranged Imprisoned Day in Lagerhuset, an arrangement together with the PEN club, to put the light on imprisoned writers.
Read other posts on Ai Weiwei here, and Imprisoned Writers’ Day here. Also related reflections from an article in New York Times in April this year by Salman Rushdie here. Read todays daily Göteborgs-Posten (in Swedish).
Yesterday, on November 15, Nätverkstan commemorated The Day of the Imprisoned Writer – this annual, international day intended to recognize and support writers who resist repression of the basic human right to freedom of expression and who stand up to attacks made against their right to impart information.
In Lagerhuset, Göteborg, the editor in chief for the magazine Filter, Mattias Göransson, explained the situation for the two imprisoned Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson. After that we listened to a discussion between the Palestinian/Syrian poet Ghayath Almadhoun and the freelance journalist Mikael Löfgren on the topic literature and politics in Syria. The evening ended with a poetry reading of Almadhouns recently published poems translated into Swedish (Asylansökan, Ersatz förlag, 2010).
Ghayath Almadhoun, describes himself as he ”doesn’t exist”. Being of Palestinian and Gaza heritage but born in Syria, which he later left, he doesn’t have any certificate or paper acknowledging his national status. No papers and no passport. This of course is a dilemma from the Migration Office in Sweden, where he is applying for asylum, who wants to see his birthcertificate to be able to decide on his heritage and by that also if he is allowed to apply for asylum or not. ”I am not learning Swedish until they accept me”, he says with a smile. ”I accept this country, and this country has to accept me.”
If you enjoy star-spotting, Göteborg is the place to be in at the moment. The exhibition hall at Svenska Mässan is filled to its rims with well-known authors, writers, journalists, publishing houses, book-stores and others involved the art of words.
The Nordic Book Fair just started, this year with the theme Three countries – one language, that is the german speaking literature is in focus.
Nätverkstan is there with an exhibition place for the over hundred small cultural journals that we work with. This is probably the most important event for these journals. Tonight at a glamorous party at Storan, the Cultural Journal of the Year will be nominated.
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