Archive för Performance

Future plans for Slum Drummers

Two of the participants in the latest Creative Entrepreneurship Program run by the GoDown Arts Centre in Nairobi come from Slum-Drummers, a community-based organization that wants to share musical talent to engage and encourage young people in the slum areas.

Many of the ten members of Slum-Drummers are themselves former street children and have been trained in music by an Italian artist since 2005.

They perform and work specifically with activities for street children, the drums they use are designed and produced by the group from recycled materials which are also sold for income; plastic containers, cans of air refreshener, cooking pots, broom sticks, plastic pipes and other things become drums, drum sticks, kalimbas.

The organization has been partly supported by the Italian organization Gruppo per le Relazioni Transculturali (GRT) and now they are phasing out the funding. It is part of their strategy, a representative from GRT tells us, to work away from dependency. From January 1 2015 they are supposed to be standing on their own two feet, generate their own income – an enormous challenge for the group.

Slum-Drummers have identified areas where they need more knowledge to be able to sustain themselves: finance literacy, marketing and communication, entrepreneurship, and group identity as the main training needs.

The GRT says it’s necessary to move away from dependency, and either the group make it or not.

The situation is both complex and difficult.

Firstly, the whole question of the situation for street children is multidimensional and difficult. No efforts have, I am told, been done to try to grasp the full situation: the structural level as well as the individual, the community level and the families.

Slum-Drummers and other such projects take the initiative and do make a difference. In a dance-project some years ago, run by dancer and choreographer Isaac Karanj where they encouraged street kids to join dance classes instead of hanging around the dangers of the street, some of the now grown-up former street kids are performing dancers. In the meeting with Slum-Drummers several of the members point out that the music and the group have saved their lives.

The value generated should be unquestionable. It could be counted as public value, social value, and cultural value. It is definitely a value for  the individual. Or if you will, economic value: the children that get the chance to get off the street and sustain a living are a less economic burden for society.

Secondly, The Kenya government shows low, if any, interest in putting sustainable programs and incentives in place. Corruption is still a problem. Where the state doesn’t take responsibility, civil society and international organizations will.

Thirdly, project money are short-term, and the international community is tied with political decisions in their home countries who follow a sort of ”trend”-budgeting. A project can’t go on forever and GRT in this case is quite conscious and responsible about this and phasing out slowly, giving tools, support, and capacity-building.

Forthly, international organizations do struggle with the dependency-situation. At some point the dependency need to be challenged and cut. At least this is the argument.

But it can also appear cynical. Resources are not distributed equally in this world. Having resources also mean having power: power of economic resources as well as decision-making. Structures and possibilities are different.

An Italian NGO in Kenya will survive. A local organization where the international funding stops have very few other alternatives.

2 september, 2014

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Opera on the edge

The lake Ljusnaren is quiet, laying still, perhaps waiting for the afternoon’s big drama being played right here, in the woods outside the city of Kopparberg: Guiseppe Verdi’s crime passionnel Otello.

People arrive in cars and buses. Some have taken the direct train from Stockholm and step right out on the ground and walk slowly in the warm afternoon towards the entrance of the large wooden saw mill.

”I imagine that it would be like being in the body of a violin” says director William Relton in an interview about the acoustic. It’s a warm and very clear acoustic in the mill, he describes it, and perfect for opera.

It’s also what seems to have inspired opera-singer Sten Niclasson when he ran into the closed-down saw mill. The acoustic was impressive; the place, right on the edge of the lake Ljusnaren in Bergslagen, inspiring; and the mill in all its granduor and size as if made for opera. Not least the train rail connecting the mill directly to Stockholm, was all factors that landed the idea of exchanging wood for opera.

Opera på skäret, a summer opera festival, started in 2004 after long hours of work and discussions with local municipality, the region, and different funders. In 2014 the neighbouring municipality Örebro decided to raise the yearly amount invested in the festival.

As so many municipalities around Sweden, also Ljusnarsbergs municipality is trying to deal with a declining population, lack of jobs, young people moving to the large cities, and a challenging economic situation. Art and culture, Creative Industries, becomes a light in the dark with hope for attractiveness of people’s interest for living, establishing, and visiting.

The 795 seats are not filled this afternoon, but nearly enough. Many people from near and long away have found their way to the opera on the edge to follow Otello‘s way to his ruin driven by only one thing: jelousy.

Nätverkstan did together with Sture Carlsson an analysis of another opera in Sweden in 2014: Wermland Opera. The book can be found here.

4 augusti, 2014

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High quality opera in small format

During some winter months Nätverkstan, together with Sture Carlsson who is former CEO of the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Performing Arts and more, have dug deep into the situation of Wermland Opera.

On Monday the results were presented for the principals Region Värmland and Karlstad Municipality, and yesterday for the staff and press.

Opera is probably the most expensive art form and operas around Europe are facing the same problem: increasing costs and lowered or stagnant public funding.

In many countries in Europe the tradition is to put a high degree of public funding into opera and concert halls. Today the situation is changing and for Italian opera houses – the cradle of the art form – the situation is acute. The accumulated deficit for Italian opera houses is enormous 300 million euro.

Wermland Opera, a small opera house situated in Karlstad in Region Värmland, is no exception. Although already getting a relatively large amount of the regional cultural budget (72%), the reality is that they have had to cut in expenses (mainly staff and productions).

Wermland Opera has showed impressive artistic results in its productions. In 2011 they put up the full Wagner Ring trilogy – something even large opera houses find challenging – a production that caused ripples far outside of Värmland with Wagner fans from all over the world traveling to the city and the national press praising the effort.

The opera house has managed to show high artistic quality opera in a small format, something that perhaps can be described as a new model of working for small opera houses with relatively limited budgets in Europe.

But they also face challenges. They can’t cut more in the economy without endangering the artistic quality. At the same time, getting such a high amount of the regional cultural budget as they do, leaving crumbles for other cultural initiatives, they also have a large responsibility. They need to open up for cooperations and to a larger degree see themselves a regional cultural resource.

Read articles in Swedish Television Värmlandsnytt, Swedish radio P4 Värmland or download the following articles here: Articles_WO.pdf. Read also the article ”The End of Italian Opera: Will They Wait for the Fat Lady to Sing?” in Newsweek. Read related post here

19 februari, 2014

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In the head of a choreographer

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 hereRead also a related post on an editor’s view on quality and creativity here.

19 augusti, 2012

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Cut off my tongue

The main worry in everyday life of many Kenyans is the election this year. It brings back horrifying memories of the post election violence in 2007, something that is still unresolved.

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 photographic exhibition Kenya Burning will be put up again at the GoDown Arts Centre as a reminder and reflection of what can not happen again.

26 mars, 2012

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Tallinna Linnateater

The stage is like stepping into a living-room. In the center under the lamp a couch, an armchair, a small wooden table with an ashtray, a photograph, a lamp, a rug underneath.

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The audience sit around this centered placed stage. The play is Edward Albee’s drama Who’s afraid of Viriginia Woolf and it’s almost like you are part of the play, as if you are inthe middle of Martha’s and George’s sorrow and cracking marriage.

On another stage we see the play Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones, a story placed on Irland with an Irish filmmaker dreaming of coming to Hollywood. Two actors play all the roles in this comic yet with sad undertones with an amazing presence. The stage is empty, no properties, a black curtain behind where only the light shows that the room is changing. It’s fully booked.

Tallinna Linnateater, Tallinn City Theatre, has seven stages in a building originally from around 15th century. There is the stage in ”Heaven” (up in the attic) and ”Hell” (down in the basement). Each stage with a different character, different possibilities and challenges. Outside in the courtyard a stage is set up for summer theatre.

Tallinn has seven theatres in a city with around 400.000 people. Linnateater is fully booked with a yearly audience booking of well over 100%, Ruudu Raudsepp, Manager of Public Relations, tells us. Just in comparison, Göteborgsoperan (Opera in Göteborg) has a yearly booking of 85%, which has to be considered good. This means around 250.000 people visit Göteborgsoperan each year. Another example is Dramaten in Stockholm, one of the most prominent stages in Sweden, that showed figures in 2010 of yearly booking of 85% (a rise from 2009 showing 78%) which means 290.000 visitors.

These figures say nothing of quality; for example urgency of the matter in the plays chosen, or acting qualities. But still, the figures in Estonia are interesting. In a country of around 1,3 million people, it’s said that around 800.000 up to one million people see a play at one of the many theatres in Estonia during a year. This means that nearly everyone go to the theatre, young as well as old, at least once during a year. Any theatre director would look at these figures with envy.

4 november, 2011

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Bodies and more bodies

It’s so quiet. During the whole performance soft music is only played occationally. All focus is on the two bodies on the floor and their movements. Painful imgresmovements, stretching every mussel to its utmost limit, posing the body in positions that confuses the mind. The stage is black, a white half-rolled out carpet or perhaps paper in one end hanging in the air, the other still rolled up. In between the two ends, the two bodies are placed as you arrive. One sitting up with the back to the stage, the other laying on the floor. Two round balls on a table, like eyes intensely watching the two dancers without once looking away.

Choreographer Jeanette Langert is known for her way of exploring movements and very rightly got this year’s Birgit Cullberg Award given by Konstnärsnämnden (The Arts Grant Committee) in a small ceremony right after the performance.

The Committee has published several reports on the economic conditions for artists in Sweden, working environment, type of organization, to what extend you can live on your art and so forth. Overall the cultural field consist of project work, short-term assignments and a working situation of many varied pursuits and multiple income sources. The dancers and choreographers are to a high degree freelancers with volatile and insecure working conditions. Awards like this are so important.

30 september, 2011

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Little Theatre Club and Creative Industries in Mombasa

The white plastic chairs are put in nice rows in the theatre hall, the stage is ready, and the lighting checked. All is ready for tonight’s performance of Independent Woman, written by Ibrahim Chitayi at the Little Theatre Club in centre of Mombasa, Kenya.

We are shown around the one-leveled building, built sometime around middle of 1800s in what were at that time the outer parts of Mombasa. Today the theatre lies in the middle of residential buildings of apartments and small houses. We ask if that means that the local inhabitants also come to the theatre shows, but it seems like the audience is not found around the corner, but rather appeal to people from other parts of town.

The building is a cultural heritage bungalow. The outside of the building cannot be changed or rebuilt due to this. Despite the cultural heritage mark, the authorities have not been interested in restoring it and it’s very run down, we are told. A lot of renovation has been started inside by the organization running the theatre, a slow process relying on short-term project money. The visions are high and the leading team are hoping for a well-equipped hall for dancers and theatre auditorium, dressing rooms, costume storage, and hopefully in the future guest rooms for visitors.

A staircase takes us up to the lighting room, close to the ceiling. We step into a room that takes us back in time. A small opening where you can peek into the auditorium to see that the lighting works is the only opening in the otherwise dark room.  The theatre’s right hand and person responsible for lights shows us how it works, how he handles the control sticks of the fifty-year-old lighting system manually each night for each performance.

We go down the stairs after the demonstration to the next pride of the theatre: The costumes. Money has been put into purchasing a wide range of costumes, characteristic for the time they represent. It is a pride for any theatre to be able to have such storage of costumes. Real treasures are found in the pile of coats, dresses, shirts, skirts, shoes, and three time-characteristic military coats are pulled out. A cloud of dust fills the air as they are dashed on the table on the outside.

We have the days before the visit been part of the conference The Economy of Creativity, gathering around a hundred well-known artists, civil servants, politicians, business people, and representatives of cultural organisations, discussing the potential of the cultural and creative industries in East Africa. The conference was the second arranged by GoDown Arts Centre in cooperation with Mimeta and Swedish Institute.

The interest, willingness to engage, and interesting discussions are all in place among participants and speakers. Many memorable inputs are there, not the least on the talk shows where established artists are asked about obstacles and ways forward in their careers. But when it comes to the question of money, how the field of culture is to be funded, it’s quiet. And the main suggestion put forward by authorities is: Engage the corporate world.

There is no lack of creativity at the Little Theatre Club. Nor is there a lack of drive and resolution. There is one major shortage and that is resources, economic resources. To only rely on the corporate world as the solution of how to sustain an interesting artistic and cultural life and to promote cultural industries is naive.

Read more from the conference Economy of Creativity 2009 here.

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5 oktober, 2010

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Entrepreneurs in Bangalore, India

Shiva Subramanian is a cultural entrepreneur. He has a business degree, which he doesn’t use, he says: ”That’s why it works”. His view is that businesses put up so many barriers, so finally you can’t be human.

He has set up a row of different small companies and run different ideas and initiatives. His idea is to just get going, build on a social network and ”no paperwork!” He owns the Sona Towers on Millers Road in Bangalore, and has put up a space on the fifth floor for other entrepreneurs such as internetradio, an architect, a lawyer, graphic designer. What is the key factor for success we ask? The informal setup, his social network and culture.

”This wouldn’t work if it wasn’t within the art.”

Indian Institute of Management, along Bannerghatta Road within a green garden domain, would love an entrepreneur like the ones on fifth floor. On the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning the idea is to work within three areas: Research, teaching and training entrepreneurs, and incubator. In the incubator they look for unique and scalable ideas and a passionate team. During ”punchwhole meetings” they judge and try to punchwhole the idea and see how the entrepreneur respond to this. One challenge is to get the person focussed on the idea; a start-up work seventy percent with other things and not with the idea.

Alternative Law Forum is a collective of lawyers starting in 2000 with the idea that there is a need for an alternative practice of law concerning social and economic injustice. They have run several campaigns for sexual, women and civil rights and questions like: How do minorities get access to their rights?. The eleven laywers connected to ALF cover a large variety of issues, do research, campaigns and publish articles.

Running a perfume business these days is hard. Globalization has changed the market completely, and being a smaller business you just can’t compete with the large ones. The international connection is asked for by customers who would like to order a new perfume, and for a small business it’s just not possible. They have instead accepted to be in the second layer, Mr Vijayakumar explains, when he with love for his profession explains how it works.

The perfumery is one part of what they do at Vijayakumar Farm. The farm is named after the family name, where they have over the past few years planted over 250 species of plants and trees; endangered species, the sainted trees, spices and other things. One part is the breeding of a rare cow, which we are told, is both intelligent and has feelings. We also get to see a wonderful dance performance by Raadha Kalpa and the story behind traditional dance.

One sentence stay in your mind, said by one of the entrepreneurs: ”In India if you don’t succeed you die.”

The visit is part of the exchange program Linking Initiatives, an initiative between Region Västra Götaland and Karnataka in India. Read more under tag ”Bangalore” or category ”India”.

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5 maj, 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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Power of Culture

A stream of people hurries in from the cold through the revolving door. The big staircase in the centre of the Museum of World Cultures is filled to the rim. Everyone sit squeezed together, some stand up in the end of the stairs, others hang around the reeling at the second floor. We are here to listen to the Göteborg-based choir Amanda singing Haitian songs in support of the catastrophe at Haiti.

Culture has the power of gathering people in joy or grief, in hope or disaster. Last week Swedish dailies showed photos of people in Port-au-Prince at Haiti gathering in the streets to sing in an act to find the strength to endure. The event in Göteborg gathered hundreds of people wanting to show their sympathy, solidarity and grief. I wonder at how many places around the world things like this take place right now? Where culture becomes the bridge and channel to get the strength to go on, feel hope, or just mourn.

Downstairs is the last day of the exhibition ”Vodou”, the culture and religion based in Haiti, which was brought by African slaves transported to work for the colonial powers. Haiti was the first of former colonized states gaining independence through slave rebellion in 1804. And then run by former slaves. The exhibition shows Vodou to be one of the strong sub cultural forces from which slaves got their collective power to fight their oppressors. Song and music from drums is a strong element in Vodou. In US, the power African Americans got from gospel and spirituals, music in connection with strong religious ideas, played an important role in the change from slavery to civil rights in the late 1800s. At Haiti the Dictators Papa Doc and Baby Doc to run political terror between 1957 and 1986 used the same Vodou.

Song, dance, music. Cultural expressions and collective power. The people leaving the museum after the concert today felt a sense of hope. It was an act of solidarity. In Europe, our Cultural Departments at all levels are working towards a more quantity-based measurement of the results and effects of culture. Results of people’s cultural experiences are to be shown in economic figures. Effects should be formulated in measurable, long-term incentives; they must be quantified. So, how do you measure the effect of this?

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24 januari, 2010

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Communicating with the other side

At 18.30 Bangalore time, people from three different places in the world; Göteborg, New Dehli and Bangalore, opened a communication with each other. Through shouting into a well.

Mandana Mogghadam, based in Sweden is the Artist behind the project. If you shout down to a well it echoes and sounds like you get a respond. What if someone was on the other side hearing your shouting and responded? What if we could communicate through the soil to the other side? The idea is fantastic and also reminds me of the tail as a child in Sweden that was said when digging in the ground. If you dig long enough you come to China.

In Bangalore the well was built by local expertize at the Jaaga. The gallery is in itself an interesting story. It’s built as a construction-site, open-air, with recycled billboards as walls. The grounds are lent to the Artists running it by the Archtitect V Naresh Narasimham who runs an architect firm near by and owns the land.

At the end of the evening a group of people from the native tribe Adivasis, situated in the central parts of India. They live in poverty and face two different threats, one being they are constantly abused by other groups and don’t get the justice they have a right to, secondly by governement who is trying to solve a growing middle class in India by taken on traditionally farming and forrest land. The performance was part of a round-trip to engage people from all over India in their fight. An interesting mix of Art, global communication, social practice and activism at an open gallery for anyone to drop in to.

The visit is part of the exchange between Karnataka, India, and Region Västra Götaland, Sweden that started in 2007.

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5 december, 2009

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Thinking outside the box…

We need to think outside the box, we are told. Especially in times of crisis. Be creative. You are in a box, just go outside it and you will find new solutions. It’s a statement often presented to cultural entrepreneurs and institutions as an answer to lack of funding. You have to cooperate, look for co- funding bodies, sponsorship. Just think outside your normal structures and you will find new partners, new possibilities and, finally, new money.

The Norwegian Consortium Koenigsegg Group yesterday officially withdrew their offer to buy Saab Automobile with their factory placed in West Sweden. A devastating decision for Saab, who now stands without owner, and for West Sweden, where a lot of people already lost jobs due to the crises in Volvo and Saab. Another 8000 jobs are threatened in the region if Saab has to close down, a figure states in Dagens Nyheter.

”We are in desperate need of fantasy” a comment states in today’s daily Göteborgs-Posten. David Karlsson, cultural journalist and Chair of Nätverkstan, continues, ”Only a vivid cultural life can give us the durability needed to survive when hurricanes are sweeping away the Saab factory and jobs”. The crises affect cultural policy and culture. We need literature, film, theatre and the cultural expressions more than ever when, as in a crises, identity is lost.

Cultural industries are growing, this is where jobs will be created several reports have stated in recent years. Yet, the governement is responding by putting billions of SEK into infrastructure; roads, railways, maintenance.  Isn’t it time to think outside the box?

26 november, 2009

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Non-material values in public spaces?

”Responsibility for non-materialist values in the public spaces: Why, Where and by Whom?” was the title of an interesting discussion on religiousity, spirituality, public spaces and religion hosted by the Museum of World Cultures in Göteborg today.

The problem statement as a starting point for reflection was this: ”Modernist theories of development predicted that secularization would eventually lead to the disappearance of religion. Today we are rather witnessing the opposite.” The seminar started with a filmed dance performance, ”Defensa – Tesoro II”, choreographed by Eva Ingemarsson, where the dancers reflected on dialogue and spirituality (look on the clip below). Later during the seminar this was also showed in live performance. Another way of adressing these intriguing and global questions, where other senses are used rather than the rational thinking.

The combination was interesting. As always more questions than answers were raised, which was also the point. One question resting is: How is our public space used for non-material values? Art and culture deal with symbolic value and often request (or just take) a space in the public arena for Artistic expression. Although authorities have a tendency towards more and more regulations of public spaces which makes access difficult.

The Artist Mark Brest van Kempen, in San Francisco, has done a beautiful piece at the University in Berkeley called ”Free Speach Monument” (1991) which puts the light on spaces for free dialogue and thinking. A reaction towards the regulations of public spaces is, for example, the movement Reclaim the Streets. The thought of public open spaces as the arena where people can debate, discuss, reflect and as the base from which democracy is built, need perhaps new oxygen?

Download the programme here: programme-and-background-material.

16 november, 2009

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Cultural Center and Theatre in Heggodu

In 1945 dramatist K V Subbanna and his friends decided to start gatherings to share ideas and discuss politics. After Indian independence in 1947, they deepened their intellectual exchange and reflection, started a library, created the newspaper the Ashoka Weekly to spread news on events around India and, later, formed a local theatre group, Ninasam. In the 70s it grew into several different projects as the film society and in the 80s the Ninasam Theatre Institute with ambition to train young people in acting, lighting and directing. Plays put up can be of Karnataka writers as well as of Shakespeare and Brecht translated into Kannada, the language in the state of Karnataka. Today Ninasam is an active cultural centre, headed by Subbanas son K V Akshara. It’s based in the middle of the jungle, in the village Heggodu with around 1500 inhabitants. The library is still there, with an interesting mix of literature serving as base for research for new plays. The one-year diploma course in theatre work is an important part of the center, as well as set up plays engaging the local villagers, who are mostly farmers, in playwright and acting.

The same critical reflection and activist stance we meet when visiting theatre director, playwright, and poet Prasanna in his house. He is dividing his time between the isolation and quietness in his house, surrounded by a large garden with all different kinds of fruit and herbs and with only irregular electricity in the house, with work in the big metropolitan cities of India. His house is filled with books, the stillness is over-whelming; it’s as if you could hear the silence. And we discuss Swedish playwright, theatre and literature tradition. Culture has an amazing way of travelling across boarders, uniting people.

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18 augusti, 2009

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Bangalore, Aug 13 2009

Schedule, Bangalore on the 13th of August 2009:

10.00–12.00 meeting at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology to discuss cooperation on social and innovative entpreneurship, pedagogical and educational ideas, and young filmers. The meeting was held by Arvind Lodaya and Geeta Narayanan, taking part was members of staff of different positions.

14.00–15.00 meeting with animators, among them the Association of Bangalore Animation Industry, the animation education Toon Skool, animation studio Raydrops and Mediateck, and Asian Institute of Gaming and Animation (Aiga). Discussion around possible exchanges between animators in Region of Västra Götaland and Karnataka.

15–18 meeting at Attakkalari with Jay Palazhy and his colleagues. Several performances are planned to come to Vara Concert Hall in West Sweden in March next year. More possibilities were discussed as perhaps events at Museum of World Cultures. We got an introduction of all different projects going on from ”teachers’ training” to workshops on grassroot level as well as experimenting performances on movement, technology and lightning. We were introduced to graduating students’ work and were generously shown parts of their graduating performance – impressive work.

18.30–20.00 (we arrived late to this meeting) meeting with filmmakers, film critics, film association, writers, activists to discuss the film scene in India and the set-up of a Film Directing School in Bangalore. Among the participants was well-known Karnataka filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli, giving an idea of the filmmaking in India and Karnataka. Parallell to this, a discussion on how to start a new organization in Bangalore inspired by and in cooperaton with Nätverkstan.

20.00 – all participants from the former meeting continued over dinner.

00.30 Bedtime.

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13 augusti, 2009

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More traces of Chicago

Little Black Pearl, situated in Bronzeville south of Chicago, is a nonprofit organisation with ambition to create opportunities for young adults through Artistic and cultural work. In the Centre they can work in one of the many studios with wood, glass, painting, ceramics, run workshops or put up shows. Gwendolyn Pruitt, Director of Product Design, shows us around and tells us the story of this community based organisation with enthusiasm and passion. It’s both about what they achieve with the students, she shows an example of tables they did with beautiful mosiac cover on top, which they sell to customers. It can be anything. Their mission is to deepen the creative involvement through Arts, and learn how to run things. It’s also about the struggle of getting the budget to sum up in the end and the constant search for funding bodies, she tells us with a sigh. ”I found that I don’t have the time to teach them that personal component”, she tells us with referral to the young students. She finds it’s a great need to also teach teachers ”It’s a gap between the structure and the student”.

In 1974 a group of classmates at high school got together to set up a theatre play by Paul Zindel. Since they only had one semester left, it was not until they came to Illionis State University that the idea formed and they looked for a place to set it up. Their first production was played in a Church in Chicago, and since they at the time was reading the book ”Steppenwolf” by Herman Hesse, they named the theatre the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Today the theatre is a prestigous one on Halsted Street, with the ambition of advancing the vitality and diversity of American Theatre .

We see the play ”Up” by Bridget Carpenter of the man who once reached the sky, the clouds, in a chair with balloons, and could not let go of the idea of doing it again. In another machine he would build. His vision held him alive, this was his passion, while everyday life and the reality of having to pay bills at the end of the month was taken care of by his wife. Until the situation changed and the pressure of supporting the family came closer.  After the play there was an interesting discussion with the audience, reflections  showing how differently we interpreted the play. The discussions at the conference of Artists and entrepreneurship become very real in this beautiful and sad play of having dreams and struggling with reality.

The Art Institute in Chicago is impressive in many ways, but mainly and mostly of two things. The collection of Art they have is impressive, to say the least. In this institute you can see everything from American contemporary Art to the Impressionists, African to Asian Art, photography and industrial design. You can stay days in there. Secondly it’s free for the public after five pm Thursdays and Fridays. The Institute and its collections are open and accessible for the public, something that seems in line with the attitude of giving Art and culture a central role in Chicago.

The study to  Chicago is part of the conference ”Creative Entrepreneurship and Education in Cultural Life”, held in Chicago on July 16–18 2009, organized by Columbia College Chicago and Encatc.

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19 juli, 2009

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Trans-Racial Institute

Maybe you are actually white, even if your skin is black? Maybe you were born Chinese, but come to think of it you are really a Swede? Perhaps the color of your skin deceives your real identity? Are you who you think you are?

The Trans-Racial Institute is a project, a workshop, an Institute, working with issues of race and identity. You get a chance to become the race you actually are, through a workshop find the real you. As they put it themselves ”Your desire – our mission”. The project is developed by Max Valentin, an inventor and entrepreneur, and Yolanda de los Bueis, a Basque video Artist based in London. Max Valentin is also running the consultancy firm Fabel, based in Stockholm. Their mission is to help organizations to develop and design methods and processes to put light on and affect people’s attitudes and values.

The next Trans-Racial Institute workshop will be in Israel in August. Have a look at these two clips from Shanghai (China) and Graz (Austria).

10 juli, 2009

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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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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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Authors

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

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

On this blog we would like to explore entrepreneurship from a cultural and social point of view. Or rather put forward entrepreneurial initiatives within these two fields.

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