From 9th to the 11th of October in Newcastle Gatesheadl, will be celebrated the annual congress of Culture Action Europe (CAE), the organization representing the European cultural sector. CAE, is made of 80,000 organizations in twenty-four countries in Europe with activities in almost all cultural and artistic disciplines. Each year it organizes a conference for its members and, in some ways, it’s also a public meeting.
The title of this year is important and meaningful: “Beyond the Obvious – from producing things to nurturing social capital”.
Three days of meetings and incentives which could be of great help to “overcome” concepts and ideas and reflect on how culture can improve the current social, economic conditions at a local, national and European level.
“Beyond the Obvious” will also be the title of this new space run by Marina Caruzzo. It’s a long time, infact, that Creativoshoy.com wanted to dedicate a particular space to the culture as a transformative engine of society, from a point of view eminently European.
Consequently it will be a trip between movements, experiences and communities that at different levels and in different languages in Europe, are already contributing to a new urban development, the upgrading of the outlying areas, the promotion of shared creative spaces, cohesion social, a new citizenship and overall an improved quality of life of the individual and the community.
The cultural and creative industry played an important role in the transformation of various areas and territories in Europe and, increasingly, is the key figure for building a better future for all of us.
It opens with an interview with Luca Bergamo, Secretary-General of Culture Action Europe in connection with Brussels, and we will speak about history, aims and the main areas of action in this organization.
Therefore to have Luca Bérgamo with us, from Brussels is a great pleasure.
Hi Luca, thanks for your availability and to wish us Good Luck for our space in Creativoshoy.com
M.- Luca Bergamo is the Secretary- General of Culture Action Europe (CAE), the organization that represents European cultural organizations. Am I correct, Luca?
L- Thank you.Yes you are, although I prefer to say “give voice” to cultural organizations, rather than represent, because representation would require a level of formality that NGOs don’t possess.
M.- Thanks for your clarification. Let’s step back, CAE was founded in 1992. Why did Europe decide to create this organization? Which route was covered during these 22 years?
L.- This organization was born in 1992 called “Euopean Forum for the Arts and Heritage”.
It was called like this for 15 years, I can speak without doubt, about the work done in recent years, because it’s the period in which I developed my work. CAE was created until professionals and cultural organizations had a way to express their own views on the role of culture in the construction of the European project. So much so, the statute spoke of the role “… on the building block of european project”. Obviously during this period many things have changed. In 1992 there were no social networks like an organizational form; maybe they existed in the form of “Freemasonry”, but not as civil organizations as we understand them today.
A few years ago the European Commission decided to recognize the existence of these structures, support them and distinguish their role in the dialogue with the Commission itself.
M.- How many organizations are associated today?
L.-Today we “give voice” to 80,000 active organizations (in nearly all artistic disciplines from 24 countries in Europe). We do this through an indirect relationship because we have 110 partnerships between national and local networks.
Recently what we are trying to do is modify this structure because with the current system, a disconnection is created between Europe and the bases.This is negative because with this structural form, the existing mechanism is favoured. A mechanism in which the decisions correspond to professionals who are disconnected from the rest of the world
M.- This is a delicate and very important aspect; in fact the perception is that the various agencies whose purpose would be to represent the experiences, the realities present in a territory not always obtain their aims.
L.- It’s true, and it is a general problem of democracy. Our systems are systems of decisions that have been built in a particular historical period. A period in which there were very specific collective identities and where political forces were structured to represent these collective identities. Nowadys it’s different, infact we identify ourselves with many things, and with more realities without having anything to do with political forces or pressure groups.
The problem is that political organizations and decision systems have failed to manage this transformation of society and today we assist a break up between a society that has advanced a lot and systems of decision very simple and very rigid.
One of our responsibilities – as subjects who have an important role in the formation of policies at an European and national level our role, I said, is to build a relationship with the people, through a different way of working and understanding these organizations.
A very difficult task due to a real complexity, and also because a huge gap was created between the sensitivity of people in general and the political content of their performances. There is a rejection of politics because it is perceived as contaminated and people fail to connect with the public decision making mechanisms.
M.- And more specifically how is CAE structured? Who can adhere to your network?
L.- We are an association and therefore we have partners. After transformation of our statute, registration is now possible for individuals, organizations of various kinds, companies or local entities that previously couldn’t to do it.
In the last two years we have made a very profound change which is reflected in the statute and has redefined our plans and our behaviour.
CAE is not presented as a representative of a sectoral interest, but as an organization that in Europe wants to give political weight to cultural development of individuals and communities, as a central appearance in the development strategies of European countries. We are not only people working with culture (as it were), we opened our doors to people or organitations who share this aim and this mission.
M. A very interesting and open objective, Luca. What is the relation with the realities that do not fall within the classic patterns of cultural associations? .. For istance the experiences of “busy theatres”, or cultural groups that have such a strong social impact.
L.- Well, one of the partners whom I appreciate more (although I shouldn’t say it) is Trans Europe Halles (TEH) an association of European cultural centers that arose, in part, from the true reality of “squatting”, and in part from the initiatives of their own local administrations. Today in Europe they have become a reference for many, also for the universe of people who are looking for ways and opportunities of participation that otherwise wouldn’t have manage to find. The secretary of this network is in Sweden. And as TEH, there are many. However, regards to Italy, there is a very limited presence in international networks, also because there is poor internal organization of cultural actors in Italy.
There are old traditional institutions, doing their job, I know, but unfortunately there are no appropriate national organization forms, which examines this world. This determines that there is a fragmentation of the Italian participation in European life. Moreover, there is a language problem due to the fact that people who receive commissions from a certain level are still unfamiliar with English.
L.- This is about Italy. What happens in Spain?
M.- The Spanish situation is very similar, because also the Spanish speak little English. Here is a real problem of language barrier. I think I can say that there is a general problem with regard to the presence of the Southern European countries. I do not know to what extent may depend the fact that the enlargement of the European Union has been given more weight and priority to Eastern Europe, even for what may concern topics and arguments discussed.
M.- What experiences within your own network look particularly interesting to you ?
L.- I find work very active in the Balkans, Croatia, Slovenia. Some who are still lagging behind are Albania and Bosnia, but Slovenia and Croatia we must say are very dynamic.
What interests us most at this time are the manifestations and experiences that build bridges between cultural activity and citizenship. We are interested in everything that is related to cultural production and the life of people, not so much the representation of something concrete, but the experience that people have with this cultural production. We observe a profound change that should be adopted as a fundamental paradigm of life of cultural organizations, ie: the most important element is not the product but the experiences that people have with this production.
We live in a society that has invested heavily in the development of some abilities like to compete, to be rationally logic (without much success) to the detriment of others like to cooperate, stimulate curiosity, empathy, and not to be alone , ie, factors that have been removed from the background to encourage more training of people to a particular economic model. For current and future generations, there is a real problem. We must refocus and develop the cultural activities because they are somewhat atrophied. These capacities are developed through experience, not in an abstract learning. Participation in cultural activities can play a key role because generally they are experiences with which we are involved and they have an impact on our emotional realm and our creative dimension.
The museums of Northern Europe, for example, all science museums are not born without a purpose.They born with the experiences of people and for this reason the North European museum world has provided very interesting insights. We can find many experiences regarding this. If you want, this is the contribution regarding the called like “well being” , which isn’t only the growth, but a different model of thinking about development and welfare. The difficulty lies in putting all it together.
M.- About this speech, I don’t think it’s spoken about enough…
L.- Yes, indeed with this perspective and with this speech we changed our organization. It is a discourse whose strategy maybe can not be fully understood but we can perceive it and intuit it.
It is very difficult to talk with institutions. Though sometimes very strange things happen because you can find partners where you don’t expect them, such as in the European Commission. I doubt in sudden changes but the myth of economic growth, consumption growth as the key to solve all problems is obsolete.
Incidentally I leave this video, …
M.- And in your opinion, what are the main obstacles that have this change of perspective? Like we say a ‘well being’ (attitude of welfare) which is not necessarily growth, is the quality of life of people who need new indicators and overall development strategies on which you have been stressing.
L.- Mm!, I guess it’s a number of factors.
Firstly political decisions are taken in short term. This coincides with the fact that those same people have stopped being intellectuals, whereas until recently those taking these decisions were also intellectuals. Now, on one side there are only political decisions and on the other the intellectual who is oblivious to the reality of the facts. I think this is a relevant limit.
I guess there are also great interests to continue in this way, because disintegration of the collective dimension, common welfare, open to space for a huge profit. For example, the entire American system works with subcontractors in a variety of fields, from education, health, information security, transport … and thus becomes a commercial competition, but there are things that in my opinion can not be so. It cant be solved in this way. Besides this, another problem is that there is a citizenship that is not able to demand change; in a profound sense I mean.
M.- Well Luca, this has been a very interesting conversation, I’d go back to the beginning remembering your annual conference.
“Beyond the obvious – From producing things to nurturing social capital”.
L.- What can I say?
Congresses are another tool to achieve our ends. We organize one every year. This conference is a continuation of the previous. Last year, we began to introduce the idea that what happens in Europe is not a crisis but a transition. It’s the end of an era that has lasted five hundred years and necessarily brings us to another point. We reflected on the role that culture has or should have in this transition and also how far we can take this transition. With the conference this year we want to enter more deeply into some other aspects and further exploit this Congress as an instrument of cooperative / collective work. Not too similar to a classic congress but more like an organized laboratory. There will be a small area reserved for members only. Otherwise, it is a public meeting open to all. You must enroll. The fee is €80 and of course, Congress will be in English.
M.- Thank you so much for your time, we wish you the best result for this important event and also for your future projects. See you soon.
L.- Thanks to you, it’s been a pleasure and I hope we meet again.
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