Memo June 2012

A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in June 2012

Message from under a heatwave.

Expectant countdown

In twelve months, on 1 July 2013, Croatia will join the European Union at last. Read thoughts about its impact on culture from Zagreb (commenting also on the peculiar Croatian attitude towards identity).  

Follow up to Bergen

As promised, here is some more on the workshop held in Bergen: a brilliant kick-off presentation on festival audience development in digital times, and some concluding notes on how social media changed the biorhythm of festival organisers – and what has been gained by it. (The medium of the kick-off piece, the prezi is one of the creative innovations in the article of the New York Times, mentioned in the latest memo.)

Follow up to Vienna

Furthermore as promised, a few more words on attending the Vienna session of the expert group a Manual on the promotion of access and participation in culture. In line with what BO usually underscores, I called attention to three things in Vienna:

  • Besides collecting ‘good practices’ in the shape of realised projects, examples of effective innovative policy measures should also be sought;
  • Passive, unaccessed, non-participating non-users are not dead souls in vacuum: their habits deserve focused attention;
  • Beyond analysing social functions of cultural operations, it would be a gross error to omit institutions that are primarily dedicated to socio-cultural pursuit.

Helsinki trilogy

This is not about a Finnish response to this or this Stockholm trilogy. The Helsinki trilogy denotes three meetings held in a three-day span (each organised by Cupore and sponsored by the ministry),

Global compendium

The real novelty is WorldCP, a European pride. A nascent global compendium of national cultural profiles following the pattern elaborated by ERICarts for the Council of Europe. Aspects of the cultural scene in Australia can now be directly matched to its European counterparts. Compare for instance the specific Australian cultural issue of indigenous peoples to inclusion policies in selected European countries (or Canada, a long time contributor to Compendium).

Similarly interesting is to see that a fifth of cultural expenditure of the Australian government goes to broadcasting subsidies (in Canada even more), which is usually booked elsewhere in Europe; or that while in Australia and Canada five times more public money goes on heritage than on performing arts, in Europe the gap is smaller. 

Country profiles such as Tunisia or Vietnam are in the making but Zimbabwe is complete, pointing among others at the challenges of describing culture in an African context upon a European template.

Indicators of participation

Indicators and participation were the key terms on the agenda of the CultureWatchEurope think tank session. BO argued for a limited number of key indicators with proven explanatory power about the impact of culture on… whatever a policy hopes to achieve: competitiveness, social cohesion or just better quality of life. Explanatory, not necessarily in the sense of causing such effects, maybe just signalling them.

Also, about the importance of indicating deficits, about non-attenders behind attendance figures. (See ‘non-users’ and the African dilemma above.) I illustrated it with a graph that shows that foreign born youths are more active in a number of creative activities than their US born peers, although they attended performances in cultural institutions over 25% less frequently than these latter.

(The diagram is based on a research in Philadelphia, done in 2005 in the frames of SIAP, the Social Impact of the Arts Project. Besides the 19 creative occupations in the drawing there were only 13 others where US born kids were more active than youths born abroad. More in this book.)

Capital of design

The title of World Design Capital does not have the prominence of the European Capital of Culture. Some of you may not have perceived that currently Helsinki holds the distinction after Torino in 2008, Seoul in 2010, and before Cape Town in 2014.  

Instead of invading the visitor with objects that display Finnish ingenuity, greater emphasis is laid on designing liveable urban environments and on lots of community events. Just as some of the officially prospected benefits suggest.