Posts with tag Transformation

Future Encyclopedia in an App

The Cultural Journal Glänta is celebrating 20 years and do this with an App full of future words. Like Deppbägare, Dialogdemonstrant, Öntreprenera, and Öövermod (sorry, an English translation of these words doesn’t exist yet as hardly the words yet exist…).

A few years ago the journal invited over hundred artists, writers, researchers, philosophers, and journalists to add one piece each to the puzzle and the Future Encyclopedia was born. It started as a printed journal and has now become an App for Iphone and Ipad possible to download for free.

Nätverkstan has created the App as part of the effort of together with Cultural Journals find new, simple, and economic sound ways to publish text in print and digital format. Also download the App for the Journal Ord&Bild.

26 mars, 2013

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Digital coordination

The new year and our new cultural strategic assignment kick started with a seminar at Vara Concert Hall, focused on the topic of streamed culture, last Thursday. The Swedish government has marked digitalization as an important way for culture to reach a wider audience (read here). Vara Concert Hall celebrates their 10th anniversary this fall and together with Nätverkstan they are now in the process of implementing technology and procedures to start live streaming their events. Their aim is completely in line with the thoughts from the Swedish government – especially to reach people not able to come to the cultural events, in places such as prisons, homes for the old and hospitals.

The first action in our mutual project was to identify and invite the most prominent organizations in the field to a hearing. Our aim has always been to support the small and independent organizations and we are glad that Vara Concert Hall shares this belief. Together, we also believe that sharing knowledge and solutions strengthens the efforts made, and that this is especially true in the complex field of digitalizations where new technology is introduced almost on a daily basis. The procurement of digital services is an intricate matter and smaller organizations often make mistakes in the process – which in turn means that tax money is wrongly spent on expensive and short lived solutions.

The keynote speakers were Urban Ward from Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Ulrik Flood from Digital Live Arena, Peo Thyrén from STIMand Johannes Nebel from Play Kultur. In the audience were representatives from the Swedish Arts CouncilKultur i Väst, Kultursekretariatet i Västra Götaland as well as people from cinemas and smaller cultural organizations. Moderator for the hearing (and project manager for Vara Live Stream) was Leif Eriksson from Nätverkstan.

Magnus Lemark from the Swedish Arts Council remarked that this hearing is a running start for them, as they have just been handed the assignment from the Swedish Government, to help the Swedish cultural sector over the digital threshold. And Johannes Nebel agreed that this kind of meetings to share knowledge is the best way to get knowledge and tackle new complex investments. He also said that the main problem for digital material is distribution, and that Sweden lacks the kind of marketplaces that focus solely on culture. Play Kultur was started with exactly this in mind, to become the first portal for live streamed and archived material on performing arts.

We hope that Johannes last words from the hearing gives echo and they will certainly work inspiring for our own efforts: ”Västra Götaland now has the chance to be the first region in Sweden to show how coordination of digital efforts works.”

Our cooperation with Vara Concert Hall continues, and knowledge produced within the project will be made public in a conference later this fall. But we are also open to smaller hearings in the region and we especially look forward to the 20th of May, when GSO and Play Kultur are hosting a seminar in Gothenburg. Cooperation makes us stronger!

By Carl Forsberg, Head of Medialab and Technique at Nätverkstan


22 januari, 2013

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Newsweek’s last issue

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.

2 januari, 2013

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The future of print

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.


7 november, 2012

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Snapshots from the 72nd Trans Europe Halles meeting

Trans Europe Halles – meetings that matters

During four days, 27 – 30th October, around 100 people from different Independent Cultural Centres throughout Europe have met in Bordeaux for the 72nd Trans Europe Halles meeting. This network (founded in 1983) gather more than fifty multidisciplinary and socially engaged member centres. Most centres are located in buildings from industrial heritage and have taken important action in challenging the established cultural policy.

This meeting was held at TNT – Manufacture de Chaussures in Bordeaux, France. The theme of the meeting was Neighbourhood / Voisinage. The meeting was organised together with TEH Friend organisation ARTfactories/Autre(s) pARTs and supported by TEH:s three-year network project Engine Room Europe.

About TNT

TNT opened in 1997 in a former shoe factory, and supports artistic research in the performing arts. Originally devoted to the theatre, it opened to other disciplines such as dance, music, visual arts, poetry, etc. These relations can last from a month to two years, through residencies or long-term projects. TNT tries to develop new ways of working, in its programming as in its functioning, in the choice of the artists, as in the working modalities, in the relations with the public as in the economy of the projects.

About ARTfactories/Autre(s)pARTs

The organisation ARTfactories/Autre(s)pARTs is a common platform for reflection, research and action, transmission and solidarity for the development of art centres that organise their practices and experiments around the relationship between arts, territories and populations. ARTfactories/Autre(s)pARTs is based in Toulouse, France.

Kulturverkstan is not a member of TEH but took part of the meeting as a guest. Networking is always a good way to reflect upon what’s possible, get inspired, review your own work and talk with people with common interests. This network is also interesting to us as we always look for interesting internships for our students.

Some snapshots

The meeting was a mix of formal and informal meetings, information and interaction, meeting with artist, brain-gym and artistic work. Among other things we took part in two different workshops:

The workshop ”Cross-Boarder Exchange” set out to explore the relationship between people with common ideas, but different national contexts. In this workshop we discuss challenges and possibilities of these exchanges, starting with two examples from Kulturfabrik in Luxembourg and La Grainerie in Toulouse, France. They both shared their experiences from recent cross-boarder projects and the discussion that followed centred around issues such as regional identity, European funding and the benefits of proper evaluations. The over all outcome was the positive encouragement from the participants with experience in cross-boarder exchange. That even though communication can prove to be very challenging and a lot of the budget needs to be spent on travelling it is still a very rewarding experience that your organisation will benefit from in a number of ways. The workshop leader was Dušica Parezanović from the centre REX, in Belgrade,Serbia.

Another workshop introduced ”Holacracy, a new way of Governance”. The term ”Holacracy” refers to a practice of structuring, governing and running an organisation. One of the interesting aspects of this model was the concept of doing what’s ”workable”. To not spend to much time on finding what’s perfect before you try it out. Inspiration comes from software development and open source where you launch a Beta-version and get immediate feedback to make it better.

Travelling to a European meeting often give you the opportunity to also meet colleagues from your own country. We spent some time with the Swedish members Röda sten, Konstepidemin, Kulturmejeriet, Subtopia, Culturen and Not Quite. Carl-Oscar Sjögren, artistic director for the performing arts company Drift, took part of the TEH meeting to launch, and gain inspiration on, his new project; to open an international art centre in an old abandoned mine. The mine is called Ställberg and is situated in the Swedish forests of Västmanland in a mine district that was closed down some 30 years ago. Since the TEH network constitutes mainly of cultural centres in buildings that was once used for industrial purposes, Carl-Oscar had the chance to meet with a lot of people that had pioneered the same roads he is now about to discover.

In Autumn 2012 the TEH meeting will be held in Gothenburg, hosted by Röda sten and Konstepidemin. Nätverkstan/Kulturverkstan will most certainly take part in some way!


Parallel to the TEH meeting  the second edition of EVENTO in Bordeaux offered a series of interesting exhibitions and art projects. EVENTO2011 has invited Michelangelo Pistoletto and his foundation Cittadellarte as artistic director and brings many local and international artists together under the theme ”Art for an Urban Re-Evolution”. The aim is to encourage us to reinvent the city and how we live together.

We visited some of the interesting spots:

ONCE UPON A FUTURE (STEALTH.unlimited + arc en rêve centre d’architecture Bordeaux) is a fictional account of a possible utopia for Bordeaux in 2030, inspired by citizen’s initiatives. This fictional narrative takes the form of a large mural created by a number of graphic designers and graphic novel artists. We have learnt from history different consequences of imposed utopias, in this work the artist are trying to use the concept of utopia in a ”more pragmatic and less theoretical, more immanent and less transcendent: a hybrid of utopia, somewhere between desire and reality”. Walking along the mural, taking part of all these different ideas and desires my reflection is that the notion of utopia or future at least tells us a lot about the present.

”This is how we came to eat sugar”

Musée d’Aquitaine (Aquitaine is the south-western region of France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain)

This museum with it contents Pistoletto uses as a portrait of the past that help us to prefigure the future: Slavery, immigration and other things that we have built our societies and economical growth upon. Six international artists – William Kentridge, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Marzia Migliora, Michael Blum, Shilpa Gupta and Wael Shawky – create a link between the museum collections and elements of refexion on contemporary society.

Our last stop was at a space-specific art project where an artist has worked together with people living there creating a garden, a stage and a café. Everyone in the neighbourhood has been invited to use it for their ideas.

By: Karin Dalborg & Malin Schiller, Kulturverkstan


1. TNT, and 2-3. Once upon a future


31 oktober, 2011

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Digital Publishing at Malmöfestivalen

dam_m_paddaOn Saturday the 20:th of august Carl Forsberg and Olav Fumarola Unsgaard had a public talk at the city festival of Malmö. The topic was about digital publishing. Our analysis is that we are entering a more complex ecosystem of texts. The traditional printed media is going to be complemented by at least four different types of digital texts:

• The digital book (today usually an E-pug file read in an E-reader)

• The text as an pdf-file

• Texts on the internet (homepages and blogs at the www)

• Applications (small programs read on a smartphone or a tablet computer)

Nätverkstans aim is to help, guide and provide the Swedish journals with guidance and solutions for this complex ecosystem of texts. Our latest project is to develop an iPhone application for the journal Ord&Bild. It is now available for downloading at Apples iTune store:

The aim of creating this application is that the journals need an application based on their needs and economical conditions. Programming an application is still quite costly and no single Swedish cultural journal has the budget doing it themselves. Our idea is that Nätverkstan can lower the cost for the journals by doing a great part of the development work (if you are interested, please contact: The event was visited by 40 persons with quite different knowledge of digital publishing. Some where publishers and some saw an iPad for the first time.

Nätverkstans other work at the festival was mainly concerned about promotion of the different journals. We where present at the café Cacaofoni and at St Petri.

Text: Olav Fumarola Unsgaard

Photo: Helena Persson

23 augusti, 2011

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Back to the future

It may sound like a futuristic, or even slightly crazy project, to travel from Gothenburg to Bangalore in search of a developer that could build a framework iPhone application, a white label, for Swedish cultural journals. But we did it anyway.

Nätverkstan has been providing services like accounting and distribution to cultural journals for over a decade. We were among the first organizations in the cultural sector in Sweden to host our own web server and we have always tried to use new technology to empower the small-scale publisher. It is about time we find a way to get the cultural journals their own applications. And we need to find the right solutions, cheap but still meaningful and user friendly.

Why Bangalore? Are there really no able developers in Sweden? Of course there are, and we have talked to some of them. And we have learnt a lot, especially by hosting our own online bookstore, Samlade skrifter. But through Västra Götaland’s strategic cooperation with the Karnataka region, we have been able to assist in the development of our first international subsidiary company, NamNätverkstan, based in Bangalore. It is our aspiration that the project to develop applications for Swedish cultural magazines could be our first cooperation. Our colleague in Bangalore, Anand Varadaraj, has been immensely helpful in setting up meetings.

And it was in Bangalore that the IT-revolution really started in the 80s. Try googling Infosys, if you haven’t already heard of them. In every nook and corner of Bangalore, young engineers, many of whom started their career at Infosys, now emerge as entrepreneurs of their own. Many of them work in the explosive mobile sector. For an organization looking to learn more of mobile applications and to develop for their clients, like us, it feels like coming home.

After an early morning arrival, some hours of sleep and a late breakfast, we set of to our first meeting with a company, Mobisy.  From what we could learn from their website they had developed a really interesting platform called Mobitop, enabling them to port standard web development script languages to all the major mobile platforms. Impressive indeed! We were equally impressed with their young CEO Lalit, who immediately understood our needs and raised a few interesting questions of usage and further development.

To be continued…

Text: Carl Forsberg, Nätverkstan

25 januari, 2011

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Frankfurt Book Fair 2010. Digitization, Adorno & Vampire erotic with sex

Iqbal, Pakistan & Knut, Norway

I was invited by The Goethe Institute. They have arranged a trip for journalists, publishers and other persons connected to the publishing world. Our group was a very international with guests from Pakistan, Palestine, Ukraine, Malta, Qatar, Tajikistan, Myanmar and Norway. The persons in the group were very interesting and we learned a lot from each other. With a little bit of luck there will be some cooperations in the future. Nätverkstanwise my main task for this trip was to look at the current debate about the digitization of the bookworld. Some conclusions:

Digitization is here.

It was the main topic of many, many discussions. At the fair they had a special subfair about digitization. It was called Hot Spots and the main theme had the title “Where Content meets Technology”. Before the fair actually started there was a conference in cooperation with O’Reilly media and their annual conference Tools Of Change. The programme was very impressive and many of the discussions where spot on for the Swedish debate.

Two years ahead of Sweden.

The international (mainly the US) development in the book market is two years ahead of Sweden. Here can you have a look at the changing consumer patterns, new devices and other future trends. This does not mean that what’s happening in the US will happen here, but it will give you some indications. The figure about actually selling e-books was probably the most interesting. The expectation for the US Christmas market is that e- books will have a market share of 12% of all sold books. And it’s increasing. The reason is simple: Reading devices.

Ipad is still #1.

At one of the Hot- spots there where an exhibition of reading devices. For a tech- geek it was like Christmas. Many Korean and Chinese companies showed their latest products. Sadly enough they where not so impressive. The Ipad is still #1 in each and every way.

Magazines/ journals for the iPad

This morning my wife woke me up with the question: Do you want the morning paper or the iPad? Of course I wanted them both. But this will not be the question in the years to come. At this year Frankfurt Book fair many of Germanys leading morning papers had iPads at their stand. The result wasn’t too impressive. My main conclusion is that they have not used this new format enough. It’s still the traditional morning paper, but on a led screen. But to be fair, the iPad was released April this year. The future is here, but the very interesting is still yet to come.

But what about the books?

Jonathan Franzen. Freedom was the major book on this fair. After reading the first 200 pages I must say: Believe the hype. It’s like the film American Beauty, but on acid. It has everything that made The Corrections one of my favourite novels. But Franzen is few years older and a more mature writer.

Trends/ hype. The next big thing after Stephanie Myers Twilight epos is “Vampire erotic with sex”. When Myers is a little bit puritanical, the next writers in this genre are not.

But my best buy at this book fair was made outside the gates. Our guide Stefan took us to a small antique bookshop in the centre of Frankfurt. There I bought a signed copy of Theodor W. Adornos Zur Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie. Studien über Husserl und die phänomenologischen Antinomien. Thank you Stefan for showing me the long tail!

Text & photo: Olav Fumarola Unsgaard

Stefan, our Guidemangakids1

15 oktober, 2010

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Wikileaks and the future of media

An over the rim full plenary in the bastion of the trade union Landsorganisation i Sverige (LO) could on Saturday 14 August listen to Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, who invited by Broderskapsrörelsen (Swedish Christian Social Democrats) (!) talked about the latest development around his news agency. Or what ever you should call Wikileaks, which has gotten both Pentagon’s as well as right-wing leading editorials disapproval. Is Assange an archivist, investigative journalist or Internet activist (he has been called many different things)?

He himself prefers to resemble himself with a lawyer in public service: one who publishes documents and let citizens themselves consider the content.

The interest of Assange and Wikileaks is huge, not least thanks to the sensational revelations of 90.000 documents around the war in Afghanistan. It is a paradox that a lot is mysterious both around Assange’s person and Wikileaks. Assange states that the organization only has five full-time and around 20-40 project-based employees. In addition around ten– perhaps hundred thousands people work voluntarily for the organization.

Undoubtedly Wikileaks represent a new phase, not only in the history of journalism but also in actual public life. The question is how long the operation can go on in protection of (not least Swedish) Principles of Public Access? There is no doubt many states as well as security and intelligence agencies which would like to see Wikileaks close down. Will established media jealously guard their information monopoly and submit to mudslinging Wikileaks, or will they let themselves get inspired and cooperate? What position will citizens, civil society and their organizations take?

Wikileaks raises a lot of exciting and fundamental questions. We hope to be able to discuss these with Julian Assange in a big seminar coming up in Göteborg shortly.

So keep eyes open!

Written by Mikael Löfgren

Mikael Löfgren is journalist and cultural critic, and also colleague at Nätverkstan. Translation from Swedish by Lotta Lekvall. Read former posts on digitization, public sphere and IPR herehere and here.

14 augusti, 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.


22 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?


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.


5 december, 2009

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Nairobi Workshop • The Art of living on Art

Expectations were high when we started the workshop on ”The Art of living on Art” with visual artists, theatre people, a writer and dancers and choreographers in Nairobi, Kenya. How do I do to be able to do what I like most? How do you as an Artist to balance the business and the artistic side? How do you find ways to sustain your artistic work? How can you find the missing link between production and the market? Open a window to see new things?

We start quite frankly. We don’t have any answers. There are not any quick fixes you can follow that will solve all the obstacles or solve how to live on Art. You have the answers yourself. What we do is putting up the room for reflection and a structured way to reflect and think of where you are, your obstacles, how to get past these, your future ideas, how to deal with changes.

Eleven professionals within the Artistic field gathered to go through this process for two intense days. It’s interesting to see that Artist from different contexts as Sweden, Turkey, Georgia, India and Kenya have so much in common. The obstacles, difficulties and challenges put forward are very much the same, although the contexts are so different.

The workshop in Nairobi was organized by GoDown Art Center in cooperation with Nätverkstan. Read more about ”The Art of living on Art” under the catogeory with the same name.


8 september, 2009

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The Future of Culture – Creative commonage and commercial desert?

The discussion on the consequences of digitalization for example music, film, literature, cultural journals is like an undulating ocean. It goes up and down but never stops its movement. Each of the Art forms has their own discussion.

Publishing houses were horrified of Google, the scanning of literature to make the first gigantic digital library. The Google deals made publishing houses furious and should these be signed or not? Did they have a choice? Are they mainly worried of the payment to the author or of their own position?

Music has fought fiercly against free downloading. In Sweden the new Ipred law aim to hunt those down that download for free. What does new business models look like on the Internet that make music available and the user pay for it? Examples like Spotify has grown up as new initiatives. Film is the same. Free downloading or sites like youtube, where films are uploaded to be viewed by anyone, is a big concern. The quality in screening is not good, but it’s for free. Chris Anderson says in his new book ”Free” that with Internet everything goes towards zero in costs. The business model, or how to earn money, will look very different in the future.

And what happens to the Artists? In the end, as most of the time, they are without income. Perhaps this development could actually be positive for the single Artist as money and power of distribution will be in the hands of the producer?

There are many questions and processes overlapping and crossing each other. The different industries; film, music, publishing worry about their future. But stay within their own field. Very few in Sweden have tried to get an overview, looked across the different specific fields to see the larger trend. This is the ambition in the pre-study done by Mikael Löfgren, Swedish Cultural Journalist, in cooperation with colleagues at Nätverkstan this coming fall. The study is funded by The Foundation for the Culture of the Future. Hopefully it will be the beginning of a learning process ending with a large Hearing in Göteborg where these issues will be discussed.

2 september, 2009

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The Green City

On the 25th floor at the Department of Environment we get a good view of the City Hall rooftop garden. It was planted in 2000 as a demonstration project to show how a green rooftop improves temperature and air quality. 20.000 plants were planted, more than 100 different species of native prairie plants known to grow in the Chicago area, to make sure they would endure the climate and the rooftop conditions of being exposed to sun and wind.

The project was a success and the green roof has been shown – and proven – to serve many benefits to the city and the building: It improves air quality, conserves energy, reduces stormwater runoffs and is a sort of self-sustained heating system. When it’s cold it has an isolating effect and a hot summer day it’s cooler inside. But only on the City Council side of the building. In the other half of the building is the County Council and they have decided to not join the project. The rooftop is divided in two halves, one with the green roof, the other without. And the effects are direct. Measures have been done showing the direct benefits for the working environment inside the building of the half with the green roof. One half is the future, the other is left behind.

The initiative has now spread and around 400 rooftops in Chicago have green roofs, Mr Larry Merritt, Public Information Officer at Department of Environment tells us. And also the private sector see the benefits. More an more private firms install green roofs.

Chicago was once called the Green City and during the time Mr Richard M Daley has been Mayor of Chicago (elected 1989) 300.000 trees have been planted in the city. By the end of the decade, the park district each year sowed 544.000 plants, 9.800 perennials, 156.000 bulbs, and 4.600 shrubs (Kotlowitz, 2004). The Mayor has put a sustainable environment high on his agenda and perhaps the largest green project could be said to be Millennium Park. The Park took six years to build, finished in 2004. and is built on top of railway-rails and several parking garages, hiding the still active railroad under a 24.5 acre (97 124 square meters) large green roof. The green gardens, together with a concert hall designed by Frank Gehry, several art works like Anish Kapoor’s ”The Bean” is attracting tourists and has made Millennium Park to be the second largest tourist attraction in the USA, we are told (Las Vegas still holds number one).

An article of  green roof projects can be found in the latest issue of the Swedish edition of National Geographic. Also read National Geographic News about the Chicago green roofs. In the book ”Never a city so real. A walk in Chicago” (Crown Journeys 2004), written by Alex Kotlowitz gives both facts and insights of the city.


15 juli, 2009

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On the train-trip from O’Hare Airport into Chicago a young man steps into the train and sit down in front of us. His eyes are covered with shades, he speaks loudly in his phone, holding another, an iphone or perhaps it’s the ipod, in his other hand together with a bottle of apple Snapple drink. As we confused try to figure out where to get off, he overhears or feels, our confusion and turn around to help out. ”So, where are you guys from?”, he asked when our end-station was figured out. ”Sweden”, we reply and he turns a bit more towards us: ”Oh, that is so nice! I hope to be able to travel there one day…”. ”What do you work with?”, I describe that it’s about Art and culture. ”So, you are more driven by passion, than money?” he looks at me, lean back and smiles: ”That’s so amazing!”. And as the train moves to the city he starts talking, telling us his story.

On the fortyfive minute trip a story unfolds of a young boy climbing the fence between USA and Mexico with his family (”Do you know what that does to you, seeing your mother climbing that fence?”). They tried several times, got caught and sent back but finally, when he was the age of 12, managed to get into the States. They moved around a bit, he went to some schools but it didn’t work out. He didn’t know the language and was not treated well, he says. They were illegally in the country and for that reason had no rights, or didn’t dare to pursue their rights. He is still, at the age of around 25, illegally in the US. And the price for this is high, he told us.

”You have no rights. I can’t do anything, but I don’t want to end up where most Mexicans do: doing low-paid jobs at a factory or as cleaning staff with no hopes of ever getting a change. I am not doing that. I have a job, it’s ok, but the personal price I pay is too high, I think. I don’t like it. It’s haaard. I have to go to all these parties, and you drink and there are drugs you have to take…If you don’t, they think you are weak…The drugs I can handle, but the alcohol…mmm…”, he gives a crocked smile, ”It is hard, you know. I really want to get out of this shit, but you have to socialize. You just have to”, he takes a sip of what I now realize is not apple drink, but alcohol hidden in a Snapple bottle. ”Sometimes you just want to cry, but I can’t cry. Never show weakness. Just deal with it. You just don’t talk to anyone. I have never told this to anyone.” and he looks at me through his shades and asks ”What do you think? What should I do?”

On the plane over to Chicago I read a tribune to Barack Obama and the election promises that are now slowly coming true, the magazine proudly presented. Words of Hope. Change. American Dreams come true. The young man on the train had a dream, but no hope and few possibilities for change. The story follows me several days. What could he do to change his situation? He himself saw no ways other than the track he was following. A lot, of course, due to his illegal status.

The other morning we visited the House of Blues and listened to gospel so strongly sung that the rooftop nearly lifted. You could sense the enormous power generated among people in the room, the sense of hope, the strength to change a difficult situation. The power people got from gospel and spirituals played an important role in the change for African Americans in the USA, from slavery to civil rights.

One man without hope. A president urging people to believe in hope. A gospel choir singing their hearts out of hope. How is it related?

Nätverkstan is in Chicago, USA, to be part in the conference ”Creative Entrepreneurship and Education in Cultural Life”, arranged by Colombia College Chicago and Encatc. More to come about this. Read also this post of the Mexican–American border.


13 juli, 2009

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The funding gap • Project work in Kenya

As we in the project team pursue the question of interaction between business and cultural field during our sessions, several things emerge. And as we get in to the thought of investors investing in cultural businesses to make profitable returns, a few more things get clear.

Many of the people we meet talk about the potential of creative industries in Kenya, people from both business and cultural side. There is an opening, a collective thought is, a potential, which should be addressed. But how? How would you do to catalyze this potential and at the cost of what? What are the trade-offs?

Samuel Muvelah, at Zimele Asset Management Company Limited, has long experience of project work in different parts of Kenya, venture capital and is now a money manager for those who put in around 50 dollars and want their savings to grow. ”The reason the creative field is not seen, is that it’s lacking sufficient institutional organization to integrate with formal capital structures”, is his major point. ”The field is disorganized, so how do you find talent? How do you begin to cooperate with creative industries?” ”To catalyze the potential you need an entry point!”

Muthoni Udonga, on the other hand is musician and a real entrepreneur. She runs festivals with a variety of the top East African Artists, run workshops, and she does this with the perspective of both doing excellent music events, and do activities that develop the field. All this at the same time as she runs her own music career. ”Film, tv, music are really taking off here in Nairobi. On small budgets and very entrepreneurial”, she says. Together with producer Robert Wawawei, they describe a growing and bubbling music life with many upcoming new Artists. It’s a growing field, but one also struggling with skills gaps. ”Artists have to think like entrepreneurs, but that doesn’t happen here”, is Muthoni’s point. Together with few funding bodies, lack of investment money and an unpredictable audience, it’s hard to come forward. Hard – but not impossible.

So how could this funding gap between investors wanting to invest in creative industries but don’t know how, and a creative field wanting to be able to live on their content be resolved? How can bridges be built? In September the first meeting will be held in Nairobi putting these partners together to find concrete suggestions to come forward.

But in such a complex project there are many things to consider, and the team of Godown Art Center, Mangowalla Ventures and Nätverkstan, have been digging deep in to these discussions. A few things has emerged, perhaps not so new, but still very evident.

1. Investors expect an economic profit in their investments. Considering the creative field, which consists of a wide variety of activities from the Arts to design and media, only a few will be in consideration. Only a very small portion of cultural businesses and organizations has the chance to make these sorts of profits. They exist, of course, and there is a point to build bridges so they can meet, but for the cultural field as a whole, this will not be a solution.

2. Majority in the creative field are single Artists, small-scale cultural entrepreneurs and organizations that run not-for-profit entities. These might not be in the viewpoint of the investors, but are important as job creators. Here future jobs will be created.

3. Content production and symbolic value are becoming more and more important in the business world. The business field needs the creative field to be able to sustain the value of their products in a world in fast transition.

4. The Artists and investors have one common denominator: they both live on taking risks. The Artist takes risk to create meaning, the investor to create returns.

5. What are the trade-offs? For the investor one such is perhaps the relation between the higher expected returns, the less quality of the Artistic work, if you in the ”quality”-word also put in the aspect of uniqueness. This relation might not be binding, a film production selling very well and generating a large profit might also be of high quality. But for most cultural entrepreneurs striving in the field, there will not be large amounts of money to be made, unless you put less amount of time into increasing quality or your Artistic talent or do something else.

So for the Artist on the other hand, the relation between Artistic value and survival are true. Will you be able to live on your Art? If you want to earn money, is there a trade-off on your Artistic value?

The project is a project funded by the Swedish Institute and Strömme Foundation and run by Pratik Vithlani at Mangowalla Ventures in cooperation with Godown and Nätverkstan.


27 juni, 2009

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The Art of living on Art

The summer academy ”The Art of living on Art” started this week and we just got back from three interesting days of work in Steneby, Dalsland. The academy is started by Göteborg University, Academy of Music and Drama, in cooperation with Nätverkstan, and turns to those who are, or aim to be, professional Artists. It’s about Art and entrepreneurship with a bearing thought that Artists know more about entrepreneurship than they (and others) believe they do. One of the aims is to make Artists aware of the competences and resources they have and catalyze these by reflection, discussions, good examples and guidance. It’s about taking power of your own lives. If you want to make a living on your Art – what do you need to do? What actions do you have to take? What hinders are there on the way?

There are no easy solutions or quick ways. On one hand report after report show that creative industries are a growing field, this is where you will find future jobs and new entrepreneurial ideas. At the same time other studies show that the income level among Artists is very low. So how do you do if you want to live of the income from your Art? The idea of the summer academy is to create a room for reflection and to start look at the resources you have; ideas, competences, skills; and to look at your network and relations. And ask yourself ”What do I lack or what is stopping me from doing what I want to do?”

The models used are workshops for self-reflection. The Artists have the competence; the teachers are  putting up the framework and leading the process of reflection. Many of the workshop-themes and models have been done in cooperation with Sian Prime, who was one of those running the incubator Creative Pioneer Programme at Nesta in London a few years ago, an incubator specifically within the Artistic field.

Three intense, hard working and fun days. Now the course continues with group and individual coaching. Next gathering with the whole class is July 10.

The Summeracademy is running over the summer and in August each student will have a three-year action plan on how to live on their Art. Read the Swedish website Att leva på sin konst (The Art of living on Art). On this website you can find many reports of creative industries and the incomelevel of Artists, look under the category ”Reports, articles and books”.


17 juni, 2009

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Community Art Lab

On a café in San Francisco close to Union Square, in a rest between meetings with cultural organisations and Artists, the Artist Jörgen Svensson together with a few of us from Nätverkstan started a discussion on how Artistic competence could be an asset for city development. It was June 2008 and the European Commission were assigning the coming year as the year of creativity and innovation. The question intriguing us was: What boosts creativity? And how can an Artist’s competence be used in real life challenges, not only as an Artistic project, but as an asset for city developers? The project Community Art Lab took form.

The idea is simple: Put together people with different competencies to create a creative process which will enable new perspectives and ideas to form. This will become a resource for city development and innovative ideas. In this project we want to have local authorities, Artists, Art University and other expertise working together. The process is led by an Artist, and starts by the city authorities presenting a real challenge they are dealing with. All participants in the process are equally important for creativity to take form; the working method is to work in a genuine and long-term cooperation in a group of the different competencies, and through the process created catalyze ideas and find alternative solutions to challenges.

The project start with a five day Lab in the city with the partners involved. The starting point is the presentation by city authorities and where the invited group are seen as an asset to find alternative solutions and action plans. An intense five working days in a Lab-form starts. The process continues over time, between three to six months. A process leader leads the Lab and is a guide and mentor in the continuing work. The Lab-form is flexible and new competence and expertise can be added as the work proceeds.  Read more of the project in the outline: community-art-laboratory_090603.


To read more of the study trip to San Francisco, look under Category with the same name. A quick look can be done on ”Thought on the road” and ”Public art and entrepreneurship” . The democracy project the South Bank Process in Göteborg, can be found on ”Transformation: from Warehouse to Cultural Center” and ”Democracy projects”. Read also about the Encatc Working Group ”Creative Entrepreneurship and Education”. Also read about the Artistic group Berlin, working with process as a method, and also the project Art and Politics in Västra Götaland.

4 juni, 2009

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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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