Memo July 2006


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in July 2006

BO was riding the heat wave.

BO attended the Assembly meeting of the Lab, whose recently launched web site shows youthful vigour: you will find a new entry on the home page each time you visit.  

Besides visiting one more city that managed to convince itself about the eminent use of culture in shaping its post-industrial face, BO could enter the premises of one of the most generous private foundations, as well as one of the most industrious cultural observatories in Europe.

BO then attended a conference in Paris at the Fondation pour l'innovation politique, held on the conquest of new cultural publics in Europe. The discussion soon centred around marketing in culture; then about how to eliminate mercantile technocracy from the emotional world of arts; content-driven sensitive marketing appeared to be the compromise. 

In preparation BO wanted to take an overview of European national practices in audience development and browsed in the Compendium entries for chapter 8.3 on policy initiatives to promote participation in cultural life. The system works well and the material is informative - in at least 18 out of 36 country profiles. Fantasy rarely goes beyond free admission; vouchers, passports, cheques (or "sekken") show more creativity; once again the UK seems to be the most proactive.

BO then attended the 4th international conference on cultural policy research and regretted that for logistico-technical reasons (euphemism for money) could attend parts only. Which, however, included a paper, a moderating and a commenting.

When the event is over, conference sites often look like a ball room the morning after. But not this one, displaying acknowledgements, photos and so on.

Cultural body building
BO was not alone in its consternation at the inexplicable delay in the decision about the operating grants for 2006 to „bodies active at European level in the field of culture". We have the list of the supported active bodies (sorted in alphabetic order at bottom) from the cultural bulletin board of the Commission.

We know how very hard it is to make granting decisions and how easy it is to criticise. BO greets the Commission's intention to hire an outside evaluator. However, the winning agency is not expected to produce its assessment before mid-2007, and is asked to devote much of its attention to the quasi institutions of minority languages and on martyrdom sites. Before that, one yearns for a little bit of information about what made the 34 organisations in the list look more active (at European level in the field of culture) than all the other bodies?

Intercultural machinery
The intercultural dialogue machinery has been set in motion. Soon we will learn who wins the tender to make a study on national approaches and practices in the European Union in relation to intercultural dialogue. On November 22-23, the European Commission will organise a valorisation conference on the theme. Plus a call has been launched for ideas for promoting intercultural dialogue in Europe: the answer form will be online from the 9th of August.   

Seeing this thrill, Dragan came forward with a few ideas that he sent around to a limited readership. One of those strikes a chord that is particularly dear to BO. The EU campaign should focus on cities of forgotten intercultural glory and seek to revive this memory and experience: Trieste, Thessaloniki, Bratislava, Wroclaw, Timisoara, Riga, to name a few.

This is similar to what I advocated as retrospective intercultural dialogue (based on the respect for diachronic diversity) in the workshop on cultural diversity and urban planning in Bratislava. Today's diversity should capitalise on that of yesteryear.

East European blues
In a meeting arranged under the aegis of the European festival research project (EFRP) in Luxembourg, festival organisers said, among others, that from their point of view the east-west duality is considered by and large surpassed. Europe is not seen in terms of polarities.

Which is true, also if you talk to young video artists or elderly clarinettists from the east. It was true a hundred years ago, when the intelligentsia in the salons of Belgrade or St Petersburg read the latest journals from Paris. The society around was so desperately different.

Survey data released in July say that in the social sphere the duality is not surpassed. Researchers in Leicester found that the least happy Europeans live in the Baltic countries - in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - followed by Slovakia and Hungary. Eurostat adds that the highest suicide rates among 20-44-year-old men were found in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia (in this order).

We stick out in other forms of self-destruction, too. The European average of transport accident of teenage boys is around 9 per 100 000 inhabitants; in Slovakia it is more than double, followed by Lithuania and Latvia.

Different living culture finds expression also in the top lists of heart diseases (men and women, 65-84: Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Czechia and Slovakia) as well (well?) as lung cancer (Hungarian, Czech and Slovak men, 45-64).

All this finds its way to video art and clarinet tune. Also, may have some implications to cultural policies. 

Bodies active at European level in the field of culture

  • Accademia San Felice
  • Association Européenne des conservatoires
  • Banlieues d'Europe
  • Bootlab zur Förderung unabhängiger Projekte
  • Bundesvereinigung sozio-kultureller Zentren
  • Circle: Cultural Information and Research Centres Liaison in Europe
  • Convention Théâtrale Européenne
  • Europa Nostra
  • EuropaChorAkademie - Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz
  • European Festivals Association
  • European Forum for the Arts and Heritage
  • European League of Institutes of the Arts
  • European Music Council
  • European Music Office
  • European Network of Cultural Administration Training Centres
  • European Opera Centre trust
  • European Union Baroque Orchestra
  • European Union Chamber Orchestra
  • European Union Jazz Youth Orchestra
  • European Writer's Congress
  • Network of European Museums Organisations
  • Fondazione Fabbrika Europa per le Arti Contemporanee
  • Informal European Theatre Meeting
  • Intercult
  • International Foundation Manifesta
  • International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation
  • European Youth Orchestra
  • Les Rencontres: Association of European Cities and Regions for Culture
  • Orchestre des Jeunes de la Mediterranée
  • REMA - Réseau Européen de Musique Ancienne
  • RESEO - European Network of Opera Education Departments
  • Trans Europe Halles
  • Tumult Foundation
  • Union des Théâtres de l'Europe