Productivity of Culture

Cultural Planning

Thursday Oct 18th - 17.00 - 18.30

Chair person: Carin Fisher - General Coordinator Stockholm European Cultural Capital 1998

Introductory Statement by Lia Ghilardi

"I'm not very much into the Olympic project also partly because I'm rarely in London and often doing work in Europe, but there is soemthing interesting which we have completed with Tom Fleming and it is a piloting of a cultural planning toolkit for planners and cultural strategists based in the South Essex sub-region. It would be good to talk to you about this project because it has been so difficult to develop due to the fact that planners are not focused on cultural activity and don't know much about the debate going on about the social impacts of culture. So the problem in doing a toolkit which planners are supposed to use when dealing with culture is that there is no statutory framework and they don't feel they have the obligation to implement (for example good design in public spaces, or public art in new housing schemes). So the tookkit, though it is called cultural planning has been a bit of a futile exercise and in the end had little to do with my notion of cultural planning."

Lia Ghilardi

(Noema Research and Planning Ltd, London)


Speakers of the session on cultural planning

"What can we expect from cultural planning?"

Bart Verschaffel - Philosopher, Head of Faculty of Architecture and Planning, University of Gent, Belgium

further contents - CV

It becomes more and more evident that cultural planning, in the broad sense - cultural policies of cities, the management of museums and public libraries, educational policy, university management - is dominated nowadays by a very specific idea or 'paradigm' of what 'good practice' is. Good practice is productive - from the Latin word pro-ducre: to bring about something. And the products to be produced are results. Results that can be verified, quantified, and controlled. The result of an action or a policy legitimizes, a posteriori, the soundness of the project and the quality of the execution. In this way we immediately dispose of a criterion of rankings. A practice is more successful when that practice is more productive. Applied to the field of our reflections today: a cultural policy is better when more and more people attend theatre performances and visit museums, when they take more books on loan form the library, when the scientists and academics publish more articles, when their quotation index rises, when the academics obtain more projects and bring more money to the university.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with knowing well how to squeeze oranges in the best possible way. There is nothing wrong with knowing how to select the most succulent oranges and developing the technique to squeeze the best oranges in the most productive way. It is, by the way, not very difficult - if you have a lot of money: yuo first need some good 'scouting', and then you buy the best singers, artists, architects, scientists, academics you can find, and you pay them well for good results. There is nothing wrong with this - with having 'champions league football and with having a few East coast top universities.

However, knowing well how to squeeze oranges is something completely different from knowing how to grow oranges. To squeeze fruit is different from irrigating and making the ground fertile. Producing results is very different from producing possibilities. Things go really wrong - I believe - when the princples and the models of 'good practice' of cultural planning are dominated by the 'squeeze' logic - when planning is obsessed with 'results' - and does not know anymore how to create, and be in charge of, possibilities.

This is because a planning policy for culture, for the arts, or for science, obsessed by results is even more problematic than my metaphor suggests. Culture, art, sicence is namely about expectations. The curators, conductors, artists, master thinkers, and scientists we need and look for are exceptional people. And one cannot methodologically or systematically produce exceptions, produce outstanding performances, or raise 'centres of excellence'. One can only create the conditions or a favorable environment for this rare breed to develop and to flourish - unpredictable as to when and how. To make exceptions grow, one has to create possibilities.

The first and the most important factore there is an environment that is capable of recognizing and tolerating exceptions. An environment that is not afraid of exceptions. The best guarantee here is a high 'average', a good intellectual 'middle class', that is smart and generous or a good, general, intellectual culture, spread among a significant group of people. Those 'average' people don't need to be exceptional, but very good or just good. Plain good teachers, good actors, good artists and poets, good university professors, good journalists, good civil servants. Well educated, well introduced in research, interested in the arts and science, who have a feeling for excellence, and who are not afraid of people that know something that they don't know and who can do something that they cannot.

It is essential that once creates 'environment' or 'local intellectual cultures' where exceptions can grow, unexpectedly. The defenders of the result-orientated planning logic, however, forget that man is an anxious animal, and they forget that the 'squeeze' logic is latently about discipline and control. In the 'average' environment - not in the 'champions' league' but in the 'normal' museums and universities and offces where one decides about cultural policy and education, - these result-orientated logic levels down the work. See how nowadays, in all those institutions, everything is mediated by 'procedures'. The first thing young researchers and creative people have to do is to fill in forms, and then wait for means and resources. A 'project' is a good project when it delivers exactly what it promised from the start and when it delivers just in time - when it is predictable and boring. The possibilities, the freedom and the 'play' necessary for the exceptional to develop is limited by a whole system of rules that - automatically - keep everyting within the limits of what was foreseen. Imposing this model of 'good practice' or the logic of results and contol and assessment in the 'average' cultural and scientific institution works contra-productive: it gives mediocre and latently anxious people all the means and weapons to manage their institutions in a cramped and limiting way, and to reduce the 'play' where the exceptional can live.

We have now come to realize that blind economic growth and production without limits exhauts nature and endangers the future of the earth and of mankind. The new, important key-word is, sustainability, and rightly so. I want to make a plea for sustainability regarding to our dealing with knowledge and culture. We should be aware of the basic fact that the production of knowledge and art rest upon and lives from tghe basis offered by what one can call the 'intellectual culture'. Those exceptions that can be 'squeezed' in the select circle of centres of artistic and scientific excellence always come from elsewhere - they grow, unpredictably and inexpertly, in those places the kind of cultural planning inspried by the 'logic of results' transforms into a desert. A sustainable cultural planning, that really cares for excellence and top quality, has to take care of and to invest differently. The proper task of cultural policy is to create and support (also) a broad intellectual, scientific, and artistic culture, and thereby to guarantee possibilities and opportunities.

"Public Spaces for Children in Cities"

Dr. Deniz Hasirci - Ass. Prof. at Izmir University of Economics, Department of Interior Architecture and Environmental Design

further contents - CV

"Cities and Artists: developing cultural projects together?"

Diane Dodd - University of Girona, European liaison and ConnectCP Co-ordinator for IFACCA

further contents - CV


What about the chances of artists reclaiming the city?

Key words: urban dissent, urban screens, advertisement, subtisement

Motive: through use of urban screens allow for artistic interventions in the communication process any city undergoes every day. Due to the new technologies - digital culture - a much more defined way to deliver the message prevails. Language of advertisement seems to dominate everywhere.

Time line: given the general impatience with not reaching results quickly enough, the machinery perfects the squeezing of oranges (Bart Verschaffel)

Problem: there is no infinite space available for endless, equally restless travels who either take high speed trains or else make quick downloads as if only the passing of images gives them a sense of life while the real deprivation makes itself felt in a new 'poverty of experience'.

Concept for further research: new social protest movements linked to urban dissent against advertisement with the aim to rebuild public spaces for real debates in order to appreciate the complexities of identity building processes over time e.g. a child growing up.

Cities and artists usually don't work well together, so what solution and therefore cultural planning strategy could be proposed in answer to such urban dissent?

"Cultural Capitals of Europe and the Identity of European City (Athens, Glasgow, Lisbon, Thessaloniki"

Anastasia Paparis - Architect A.U.Th., Town Planner U.C.L., M. Phill., M.RT.P.I.

further contents - CV

"Urban planning and culture"

Anna Arvanitaki - Poiein kai Prattein, Ministry of Environment, Urban Planner

further contents - CV

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