Beyond the Obvious: Belonging & Becoming


Conference outcomes

Just prior to the launch of European Year of Cultural Heritage, members, partners and friends of Culture Action Europe gathered in Rome this November to collectively reflect on meaning of "belonging" and "becoming". How can we, as artists and cultural operators, engaged citizens and policy makers, rationalists and visionaries, develop an inclusive belonging? How can we on all levels - local, national and European - create an understanding of belonging based on diversity and inclusion? What is the role of education, participation and citizenship in "active becoming"? This issue of Culture Action Europe newsletter tries to capture some of the main thoughts coming from the Beyond the Obvious gathering.





Opening Prelude

Culture, history and values form the basis of our sense of community. But what can we do to counter the “takeover” of these aspects by populist movements? Katherine Heid's answer to this is to progress and believe in the process of progression, not as utopia, but as a constant sense of imbalance. As Martha Graham put it, in order to move forward, we need to dare to step, accepting insecurity. 

To be able to go beyond the obvious, however, we first need to see what is obvious? "For most of us it's obvious that culture is important, - said Michel Magnier, "another thing that might be obvious to some of us is that culture is not a priority at European level". According to Magnier, we must go beyond the obvious to find something different, to discover grey areas and unknown territories to further this progress. "Convergence" was the key word in Magnier's contribution: the digital shift brings convergence; convergence between heritage and creation, between the digital and the physical, the private and the public, the commercial and the non-commercial.


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Reflect: Heritage & Social Innovation

Heritage and identity are often seen as static and exclusionary. With the approaching European Year for Cultural Heritage 2018, this is the moment to challenge this simplistic view, exposing the nuances of heritage in all its complexity and its opportunities for social innovation. Social innovation models in the cultural field are a challenge, but if we do not make an effort, then we have already lost. We have to be brave enough to try. We should not talk in terms of ‘them’ and ‘us’, but about a united civil area where heritage has an importance but is also connected with modern life and social actions.


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Engage: Social Innovation & Urban Regeneration

This participatory session featured presentations of three urban initiatives. Discussion that followed brief presentations focused on how to prove that these projects are sustainable; as well as, given their significance and sustainability, how they might be adopted at one point by the local administration(s), after the project is officially over.

Nicola Ciancio | Non-Riservato
Saveria Boulanger | ROCK Project
Filippo Lange | Teatro del Lido


Engage: Education for Active Citizenship

Old ideas do not fit new realities. What are the emerging visions and practices linking arts, education and active citizenship? What are main ingredients for creating inclusive communities? Fun, adventure and creativity were the keywords necessary to involve more citizens to be active and to build a community. Be passionate and take the risk were some other messages we took along.
Friso Wiersum | ECF
Linda Di Pietro | RENA
Marco Tabilio, Chloe Melchionne | Friedrich Naumann Foundation

Reflect: Education

Without education, we cannot speak about culture. Understanding and engagement are essential to ensure that culture speaks to a diverse audience, from all backgrounds and of all parts of society. In this way, culture can take the lead, giving rise to creativity and curiosity, reaching outside of the social mainstream, inspiring young people, and exploring new avenues of digital technology.
Looking at the ambition for a European area of cultural education by 2025, this session focused on a capacity of education (from pre-primary to higher) as the means of gaining access to culture, the opportunity to teach cultural literacy, and raise accountable citizens.


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Engage: Heritage, Memory & Contemporary

From religious heritage to the city festival, by means of digital or physical human interaction, this session explored links between our heritage, memory and how it affects the contemporary creation. Collectivo NoMade invited participants to travel in their memories, to ask uncomfortable questions, to remember and to forget...
Zsofia Villegas-Vitezy | Hungarian Institute of Culture
Francesco Dobrovic | Nu Factory
Lilian Grootswagers | FRH


Engage: Education for Social Inclusion

Sky above us is the same for everybody. Having this in my mind we quickly realise that we are part of one family called humans. What do we want to learn? Whom do we learn from? This session brought forward ideas on how arts, science and education can foster social inclusion. Bring schools to museums, create festivals for refugees, use science as a cross-cultural area it "unify" and learn from each other. 
Serene Huleileh | Arab Education Centre
Anna Codazzi | Explora Museum
Stefano Giovanardi | Planetarium
Tina Ellen Lee | Opera Circus


Memory, Imagination and Fear

Francesco Pacifico is s the author of the novels The Story of my Purity (FSG, 2013) and Class (Melville House 2017). He is a member of editorial board of Nuovi Argomenti. In his talk, Francesco dwelled on two main aspects the fiction writer uses: memory and imagination


what we are (and have been) and what we may become. Memories of the past modify the past. The battle against one’s present inner self, for it not to affect the memory of one’s past inner self, is a battle lost from the very start. Through writing we can re-invent ourselves; or perhaps more aptly, we can re-connect with ourselves.
In his years of teaching creative writing, Pacifico was surprised to discover that the main thing keeping talented people from becoming actual novelists is fear. Concepts of belonging (memory) and becoming (imagination) are political.  Pacifico reminded us, that people who create culture have fears, fears of their own memories, fears of the unknown (people, territories); so do audiences. Acknowledgement of fear brings compassion. According to him, in order for Europe to re-imagine itself, it should first face its memories. 





Recap Day 1


Beyond the Obvious Cultural Agora 15-17 November, 2017, Rome






Beyond the Obvious Cultural Agora | Keynote speech by Vasyl Cherepanyn



Trespassing Europe: Towards the New International

Vasyl Cherepanyn is the head of the Visual Culture Research Centre in Kyiv, Ukraine. Cherepanyn based his keynote address on propositions which support his theory that Ukraine is a new centre of Europe with radical thinking based on recent history and experience that the EU needs to learn from. His initial proposition suggested that there is a new global status quo which is one of war. There is a specific need to move from this nightmare state and move to one more associated with day dreaming - from the now to future aims.


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Spotlight on the Future (of culture in) Europe


Culture as a driver of social innovation, urban regeneration, education and citizenship were central in Silvia Costa’s (MEP, S&D) approach. Culture should be seen as a resource of inclusion, innovation and sustainable development. Turning to the future of culture in Europe, Costa considers that the EU has invested too little in culture in the name of subsidiarity, but since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU is able to make actions in this area, not just in defending linguistic and cultural diversity, but also to support integration of Member State actions to valorise our cultural heritage as common roots and recognising culture as a cross-cutting dimension of all policies.


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Let's Talk Future

What is the role of culture in building a Europe of the future? What is Europe and what are cultural relations vis-à- vis Europe and other parts of the world? The session looked at Europe (both as an idea and as a geopolitical term) as one of the world regions, in a global context and in consideration of its relationships with other world regions.


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Recombining the threads
Wrapping up the conference, Robert Manchin (CAE) wondered if we are preaching the converted and how should we develop a sense of belonging that leads to common action. Forgetting fear and to speak up was the message Cristina Da Milano (ECCOM) sent to the sector. She challenged cultural operators, big and small to be brave and come up with a new narrative. Lars Ebert (ELIA) was not convinced that we are the converted. When proposed models reinforce the debt-finance, loans and a shift from public funding to bank finance, the resulting landscape is one favouring competition rather than collaboration. Is this really the road to unity? - he asked.  Immediate change is needed but change also requires time. According to Simona Neumann (Timisoara 2021) it takes ten years minimum to see change (in cities). Emina Višnić (Rijeka 2020) challenged us to come together,  but also to cross disciplinary bridges, arts and science need to look at issues like the sustainability of tourism. Equally important is to recognise the role of young people. Angie Cotte (RCF) reminded us that citizens are cultural subjects. Artists operate as truth-seekers; when they travel, they look for lost, hidden identities, beyond the dominant political and media discourses. We need writers, translators, poets, histories and her-stories.


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Recap Day 2








The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


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