25 - 26 June 2008
Palais du Rhin, Strasbourg
On the occasion of the Conference on “Intercultural Dialogue : utopias and situations”, to be held in the Palais du Rhin by courtesy of the Alsace Regional Department for Cultural Affairs (DRAC) and with the support of the Council of Europe and the Strasbourg Italian Cultural Institute, Michelangelo Pistoletto will present his scheme to create a Mediterranean Cultural Parliament. The presentation will take place around his artwork entitled “Love Difference Table”, a mirror-table in the shape of the Mediterranean. For several years the Italian artist has been working on art co-operation and the means deployed to implement this particular way of helping European citizens face their social difficulties in different political situations.
Three continents meet together around the Mediterranean Sea, an area of historical mingling and cultural diversity but also the scene of conflicts. The specialists attending the conference will put forward their various assessments and proposals for facilitating the movement of artists between the Meditarranean countries and those of Europe, while improving working conditions through concrete projects involving sustainable development, respect for minorities and cultural specificities and the promotion of dialogue between people by means of art exchanges.
The debates, to be introduced by specialists in cultural activities, from the private and public sectors and European institutions, as well as artists themselves, will endeavour to define the objectives and means of intercultural dialogue in Europe, and more particularly around the Mediterranean, and to put forward new proposals for art and cultural projects based on direct co-operation between organisational structures at all levels and artists.
The debates will be chaired by Daniel Riot, journalist and director of RELATIO, a website specializing in European affairs.
Two-way French-English interpretation will be provided for the entire proceedings taking place in the meeting room of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhin, in the Palais du Rhin.
Palais du Rhin 2 place de la République, 67000 Strasbourg
MY CONTRIBUTION TO THIS FORUM
Before my statement for this forum, I would like to make some remarks on the last moments of the discussion:
Beginning of the 20th century newspapers in over 40 languages were being published. Now, the status quo bans the use of foreign words…Neo-conservatism and neo-nationalism is more present than ever…
· When we talk about culture industry in non-EU territories, we should talk with the names of the cities and not countries.
· The monthly salary of the coach of the national soccer team is 75.000 EURO and he is a pure nationalist. He might be the most powerful person in the eyes of the millions of people. He and his soccer players have no affinity to art and culture. My salary as the visual arts director for Istanbul 2010 is 2000 EURO. The yearly turnover of art in Turkey is 10 million USD including the auctions; and only 2 million of this is related to contemporary art; most of it is being used by corporate art and culture institutions for branding strategies.
· I closed the exhibition space in 2000 and worked in mobility. Last year I was offered a space. I opened again a space with my two colleges with the ambition to resist the corporate culture monopolies that is determining the art and art making in Istanbul. It is an alternative space.
It is always difficult to sum up the developments in art scenes and come up with a definite panorama and to determine the tools of moving forward. The most definite observation is that the content and form of art and art making has changed since the beginning of the 90’s.
The change is very much related to the socio-political and ideological alterations. Alterations and not radical transformations because of the emergence of the one-time political ideologies: Re-nationalization, neo-liberal fundamentalism, re-forming of a lost political territory by being driven by the deterritorializing violence of Integrated World Capitalism (Bourriaud, 101).
While the gradual evaporation of the most solid factor, namely the nation state ideology is being replaced by a pious national ideology, in tune with the neo-liberal freedom and permissiveness, the micro-level socio-political issues of local cultures or marginal cultures float up. These alterations were reflected into the art making as completely free and unrestricted declarations of macro or micro-level individual statements through art works.
As most of the art works of today are far from being hermetic and metaphorical – because they are mostly sociology and documentation based, one can say that art making is serving as a tool of neo-anarchist attitude and proclamation. Evidently this attitude owes its force to the absence of the international market interests in the region, because art market is also manipulating the aesthetics and content of the works that represent non-Europe as Souad indicated this morning.
The dissident individual, the contemporary artist of emerging or developing democracies utilize art making in order to have a visible presence within the socio-political panorama of his/her territory. However, this panorama is on one side shadowed by the politicians and bureaucrats and on the other side by the business people who own the financial resources but in general are not so interested in contemporary art production. The other shadow is: In Turkey advertisement and the media is extremely influential in manipulating the public opinion; every cultural event has to make itself visible in the billboards and the media. This opens for the artist a new arena of struggle.
In the underdeveloped local art markets of the region, the artists are exposed to make extra efforts for their economic welfare. In most of the countries around Turkey the economies are in difficulties and the infrastructures of culture industries are absent or inadequate; or the official culture visualizations and the private one’s do not go together. The art making in most of these countries have been saved by the EU funds and partnerships in the last decade.
Even if the block-buster exhibitions are full of photography and video works, painting is still the most demanded artwork in the local art market, and artists are keen to show their painting skills, because painting- or the handmade art work- is a sign for the public whether the artist is professional or not. Curating has played a great role; even if it is not an established profession yet.
Today’s young generation is reflecting its ideas, concepts, interpretations, criticism mainly through painting, photography and video, but also through artistic and cultural events which they organize particularly without a curating hand in it. Curating as a profession is not yet in demand; a young generation of art managers, culture theorists and curators will be visible only then when the necessary infrastructures (museums, art centres, art institutions) with independent administrations will be established.
Throughout the 90’s the urgency of the artist was “identity” in political, ethnic and gender-oriented locations with references to their origins, traditions or geographical, socio-political state of belonging. Since 2000, while a group of artists of Turkey are running after more global pursuits, producing works for international curators and audiences by following the prevalent concept, form and strategy trends, another group is still dealing with the local issues and problems. Sometimes, the artworks look like newspaper headlines with striking photography or like propaganda posters that deal with daily local politics.
Photography with all its possibilities of true or false representations, with its illusive appearances or with its possibilities of monumentality is being utilized by almost all artists. Documentary photography is the basis of socio-political artworks as well. Yet, the ambiguous issue in photography works is the relation of the image to the conceptual framework of the artist’s manifestation, or the already worldwide consumed criteria that are repetitively being employed for the impact of the photographic image. Convincing and persuasive photography work comes with its theoretical and philosophical background which can only be mapped out in the expanded oeuvre of the artist.
Regional exhibitions or exhibitions that unite artists from neighboring countries that have past and present political and cultural relations are no doubt a fertile soil for new productions and events. As together with Magda Guruli I was making the first comprehensive show of Georgian artist in Istanbul, during the 10th Istanbul Biennale, I indicated that we have to admit the weakness and lack of communication and knowledge in the relationship between the culture and art worlds of Turkey and those of the Soviet world during the Cold War period and that presently we (mostly curators and museum directors) are making a special effort to fill the vacuum created by the apathy between 1950-1990 via cultural and artistic activities.
The same with Middle East; the networking started late 90’s and it is too early to expect solid results.
In the 90’s, when the discovery of the other was the fundamental quest, West European curators and museum directors have united the artists of East Europe, Balkans, Greece and Turkey in eclectic group shows. Looking back to those exhibitions, there is no doubt that they have motivated the artists to democratic openness and the local art scenes to acknowledge international criteria. The encounter of the artists of the onetime polarized cultures created a new synergy in transforming the theoretical, philosophical and conceptual fundaments of contemporary art. The macro-events have prepared the field for in depth encounters or i.e. the empty parts of the macro-picture can only be embroidered meticulously through a more profound collaboration.
The existing network should be sustainable; we have to continue.
Beral Madra © 25 June 2008