Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

1. Framework conditions for cultural planning


Human Matrix

Mapping of Cultural resources

Cultural planning



1.0 The framework conditions: overcoming cultural still-stands

1.1 Invisible cities after Calvino

1.2 Framework of values and level of discussions – first analysis

1.3 Consensus seeking method with citizen’s participation – towards cultural agenda

1.4 Model of Cultural Plan and cultural movements


1.0 The framework conditions: overcoming cultural still stand – cultural movements of the 21st century

Cultural movements of the 21st century face difficulties because especially European societies are growing old. Despite all the dynamics in the museum and arts sector to be noted onhand of developments like Tate Modern, the wider social movements are nearing a cultural still stand. Compared to the huge emphasis put on movement and mobility by technology, it appears as if hardly anything moves with regards to real cultural dialogues.

The failure of realizing all kinds of dialogues through a culture linking human aspirations to a truthful life makes itself apparent in conflicts transformed into all kinds of violent acts leading to war. While the production of enemy pictures leading to exclusion of others is fed by hatred or radical forms of nationalism, ethnic assertiveness or just modern forms of crude aggressiveness, culture has to be capable of inspiring people to be true to themselves and creative in finding practical solutions.

Since all this has to be done in a peaceful way, without loosing courage due to the challenges ahead, culture is also a way to circumscribe framework conditions under which solutions of life in the urban communities ought to be sought and can be find. There is an inherent potential in people but the art to draw that out is more than a mere matter of education and socialization. The philosopher Kant stated that it also depends on asking good questions. In cultural terms it means what impulses are given to activate people into doing all sorts of things, including but certainly not only reading poetry, playing an instrument, going to galleries and telling stories.

Definitely solutions in life may be found more easily if the gap between aspirations and realization possibilities can be bridged by using the arts and cultural reflections to describe problems more clearly i.e. in humane terms so as to become resolvable. There are things to be gone through as part of life, including the growing up process of a child into a teenager and then young adult. Love is never free of disappointments nor parenthood perfect as the education of children is always a challenge. But with the ability to inspire and to aspire true greatness then honesty even in the smallest of details counts and that can make in the long run a great difference as to how a cultural life unfolds in cities. Subsequently the framework conditions for planning are set by the people themselves. Hence the term human matrix has to come into play before understanding what cultural planning can do in a city.

Truth has a way of telling itself when people find themselves on an honest path. Only then can people become truly optimistic when they can stay true to themselves and at the same time survive with human dignity. Simone Weil said this is linked to the notion of being at home with ourselves, that is when we experiencing the capacity to root ourselves in what we say to the others. Such honesty is the precondition of culture to stay authentic and trusting in the people a way forward for all to expect positive things from the future. That then can give a city a vital and basic spirit of optimism and vitality so often needed when others may despair and give up hope.

Altogether it should be reminded what Albert Camus said about hope, namely to hope is to resign and to live is not to resign. This then will be a huge challenge to Barack Obama as he departed in his bid to become a successful President of the United States on the spirit called ‘audacity to hope’. A mediation between these two positions has been given by the philosopher Ernst Bloch who would differentiate between unconditional and conditional hope with only the latter enabling people to learn out of failures and therefore not end up being totally disappointed, thereby lamed to do anything worthwhile even if it would help improve their lives. That then raises the question as to the underlying psychology or even mood of people if a culture is to be inspirational and forward looking? No matter how it is looked at culture cannot be discussed so easily in psychological terms, even though positive outcomes tend to be described in such forms as feeling good or replenished in spirit after having seen a good movie or heard an interesting lecture. Hope and inspiration are not then so far apart from one another once the imagination comes into play and people feel free to think about different possibilities insofar as they experience the freedom of having different choices or in not being limited by present circumstances. There is, however, a morality at stake when it comes not to give up a city or as was the case when Constantinople fell, then only because a shout went through the city that the walls had been breached and the city taken by the troops of the Sultan when in fact a side door had been left open by mistake and but a small group wandered through it in surprise to find the door open. There is something about what keeps the human spirit alive and prevents a city from being vulnerable alone out of feelings of despair linked to self defeat. The true prerequisite for citizens not to abandon their cities, and that can happen in many ways, is what Pericles said in his funeral speech many centuries ago, namely that Athens is not protected best by armies, but by people becoming active citizens who participate in the decision making process and therefore give an uplift to political culture by being a truly lived democracy.

Some aspects of an active life are captured when cultural actions like exhibitions and concerts make accessible new forms of expressions. They allow people to look at things afresh. What culture does by creating a medium of informal and formal learning is to prepare the ground for further going adaptations people need to go through if to keep up with changing times. Changes invoke generally speaking mostly fear because there is too much unknown involved. The arts and culture facilitate that people can come to terms themselves with these unknowns. This is especially needed if these changes are linked to a threat that at the end there may not be guaranteed a ‘continuity of identity’. Thus the highest value of culture is to attain consistency over time. For that memory is needed in order to be able to follow the course of events and the adaptation process. People want to know how they remain intact, physically and spiritually speaking, since nothing can be built in one day while a child has to go through many experiences and years before being a mature, responsible citizen capable of making decisions on behalf of the community for the good of all.

City life becomes more substantial once people become themselves active contributors to the public good. This is not the case given present state of affairs. Unfortunately due to enormous pressures and trends towards privatization, each fresh impulse towards the public good and truth is countered by waves of appropriation and acquisition. Even famous art works become objects of collectors who remove these arts from public viewing until they re-emerge in a collection linked to the name of the collector: a way to preserve one’s name by linking it to art works not of one’s own making, but a kind of property due to money having the other art called ‘putting a spell on things’.

There is, for instance, the famous Rau collection which has been awarded to UNESCO, but remains under dispute by the team of former lawyers of the collector. The disputes leave little room for curator Sylvester Verger who wishes to organize exhibitions with the collection both in Paris at the Museum in Jardin du Luxembourg [1]and abroad as was the case in 2005. [2] Such a collection is a huge asset for not only quite successful art exhibitions but can become the key foundation for a new museum. Of interest is when not a single collector engaged himself, but citizens to bring about a novel reflection of artistic expressions valued in their days as was the case in Leipzig. [3]

That concrete aspect does not alter the purpose of arts to give enjoyment and pleasure for everyone to see. However, in view of what artists suffer in their life times compared to what an audience expects as to what it means to enjoy things, it is a contradiction if pain is made to disappear by the aesthetics of sheer pleasure. Some critics would say this strengthens merely hedonistic if not worse inclinations in the human being.  Another way of seeing this recourse to pleasure seeking acquisitions is when museums no longer fulfil their mission but prefer to sell out parts or the whole collection to private dealers since there money is to be made. Given the new financial aristocracy, including Bill Gates who can afford to privatize a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, this privatization of what should be accessible to the public and therefore a pleasure for all transforms the meaning of art in the twenty-first century. It was already a signal understood by all when a Japanese Insurance Company bought Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ for 55 Million Dollars. But to return to a city like Leipzig, most telling is if citizens engage themselves to buck the trend.

Once art and culture is reduced, however, to a commercial commodity, then the intangible aspect of meanings in the arts is lost. Without such meanings societies around the world have less of a chance to restore and to sustain a sense of balance within people’s perception. Once things disappear although a part of the collective memories of mankind then cultural identities and with them diversity are under threat. Life needs to be perceived as a challenge and cannot be lived if under constant threat. Given also permanent war, culture has no answer to this loss of dialogue with the silence of cemeteries over dominating in many places rather than having active public debate.

Moreover, since 1945 and the coming of the car, wild nature, untouched by man and civilization, has virtually disappeared. Cities encroach upon their surroundings as they sprawl out with the incompetence of political authorities to halt illegal construction indicating that there is cultural jurisdiction by which the environment could be preserved and sustained. Roads are built to everywhere as if the consumption of money is the only way to get more money.

Something has to give and in the case of global economy it is above all culture which is hard pressed against the wall.

Insofar as the relationship culture and economy has meant newly pressed demands upon culture risk abusing culture, cultural industries have sprung up and are ascertained by politicians and experts as the new factor of development. One part of that cultural business is to let people discover something very old as if they can regain their lost identities. It is a simple expression of a time consuming everything until no memory is retained as to what role culture played in the past.

Looking to the past for some reminders is like the search for cultural clues in a case hardly to be resolved in the coming twenty-first century. Only vague references to the Agora in Ancient Greek Times can be made in virtual reality.

In reality a distortion of what would be the most important ingredient of culture continues to cement people’s ideas about past, present and future. They seem to forget that the purpose of culture is to foster openness to new ideas. Even less it is self understood that culture reflects the best practice by which people and societies can bring about social and economic cohesion. Furthermore culture gives orientation once comprehended as epistemology and language in which the meanings given to things are no longer arbitrary but form a wisdom and knowledge of things.

Since Ancient Greece active cultural participation meant empowering those seeking a way to combine reform with development. Such a society is based on equality of men and women, children and the aged. Culture conveys the belief that this can be attained peacefully with all accepting the needed reforms, including the rich to give up power. With such basic value premise goes the freedom of speech which is not the same as the freedom of artistic expression, a difference often not adhered to nor understood in its significance.

Important is the feed-back people get from culture with regards to their own self understanding. It is as significant as such human self understanding is mostly absent in times of highly selective, equally manipulative grasps of languages, values and meanings. Unfortunately the human reality is covered by highly manipulative acts. It makes it very hard for contributors to culture such as writers or poets to make sense of the reality as it presents itself. If people do not love the life they lead then no writer can give them a better or alternate narrative which would lift their spirits and make them care differently and more compassionately about their fellow human beings and what relationships they can and do enter within different time periods of development.

Briefly said, cultural planning is about creating the proper framework conditions for the receptivity and recognition of the arts while ensuring culture generates a search for new expressions in memory of those having been recognized already as artistic expressions.

1.1 Invisible cities after Calvino

Once streets become strange hideouts, and everything made to appear tupsy-turvy, then there comes to mind Calvino’s ‘Invisible cities’. It is all about disorientation of the mind once in an unknown city. Philosophy is needed, if to follow the imagination. It poses the question but what allows for other streets and buildings to exist in the imagination rather then what can be seen in reality? As a Surrealist technique, this juxtaposition does not want to take things to the absurd as did A. Camus, but use the contrast to address stifled emotions. Dali was a master at that and he copied his methods from paranoia: extracting one thing out of reality, enlarging upon it beyond all sense of proportion and then driving it back into reality. As if a child wishing to face reality and then instead painting a face on the pavement to replace the frightening interface of anonymous houses and bland onlookers. Orwell uses that in his novels and also Huxley. So Calvino is about the absurdity of orientation you can get from a philosopher in such place when he can be found merely in an empty courtyard after wandering through endless corridors. The philosopher does not speak. To make things worse, he just stares at you with bleary eyes when you pose him a question about the whereabouts of a certain street and then points to the naked tree as if those branches could point somewhere. But they point in all and no direction. Utterly confused the visitor of the invisible city leaves without knowing what was made visible in the process.

I am not sure if James Joyce went as far as Calvino when describing Dublin. There was a different motive behind the writings of Joyce. He wanted to break out of Dublin and thus opted for the kind of vision that is a mix of views out of a distance and close-ups especially when you look intensely at teeth grinding away at a sandwich some bloke was just eating in a pub.

So I wonder if Montreal is really in tune with such transformations or what Brecht called conscious alienation so that the real looks surreal and vice versa. At least, this I take from the announcement of a double situation when demonstrators feel empowered and at the same time bewildered. As if the confused mind is a common ground of experience? If yes, it would solidify the apolitical opinion about a world dominated by a kind of politics that is surreal and cannot be affected by anyone’s action. Hyperventilation we call the rescue operation if someone cannot breathe but what do we do if the imagination in the mind is fixed to such stifling experience so that nothing moves? Surrealism did juxtapose the feather against the chain saw: the light against the unmovable. What outcry of pain it provokes, that we know, or at least we did know about it from some time now. There is no dispute except that now I no longer so sure.

1.2 Framework of values and level of discussions – first analysis

Cultural priorities – a European agenda for culture in the making [4]

Cultural priorities - towards a European agenda for culture - as stipulated by the Committee on Culture, Education, Youth, Media and Sport of the Eurpean Parliament in 2000

Progress in parliamentary work, in particular within the scope of this committee, may be realized in certain ways:

  1. raising the level of debate and with it the consciousness of citizens when enabled to reflect upon policy and decision making processes at the European level – quality of debate
  2. by having at each committee meeting a special topic to focus on aspects of culture, education, youth, media and sports, insofar depth of debate comes only with a knowledge based on the feed-back of the citizens and of the special actors in the fields touched upon by the work of the committee – feed back
  3. learn to evaluate impact and outcomes of legislation, including how the factors leading to identity building processes in culture and youth, including children, are affected by legislation on education, media and sport and how this is reflected especially in attitudes towards culture and youth – monitoring and evaluation
  4. bring to the fore the decision makers and institutions involved in this process of formulating cultural policy at European, national, regional and local level, in order to understand – political culture and linkages
  5. relate culture to economic development – cultural sustainability

Within such a scope the role of the Committee within the European Parliament has to be reviewed. As the political landscape – crisis of the Commission after the resignation of Santer and the efforts by Prodi to bring about reform based on new ethical standards; prospects of enlargement; greater focus on the third dimension of European integration, that is after emphasis on economic and political, now on education and culture in relation to the Information Society – changes, so does the specific role. What possible new roles and responsibilities could be fulfilled by the Committee?


By 2005 the shift in focus upon culture is remarkable since it follows the model of the European Cultural Capitals as one of the most successful projects of the European Union. Despite all criticism and doubts about the sustainability (see the Robert Palmer Report), the project begins to convince in a new way. Individual cities are no longer hand picked by politicians but instead a competition between cities for the designation has given the European Commission a real meaning for the otherwise elusive term of ‘competition’ as required by any free and open market. Competition in the cultural field seems to guarantee gains without having to pay extra money for it. In the case of the competition for the German city to be cultural capital in 2010 ten cities competed and in the final round Essen and Goerlitz made their respective bids. The discussion in the Cultural Committee reflects therefore a way to move ahead with culture not only within recognized fields but to alter the entire European agenda as the link between economy and culture becomes as important if not more so besides the link between education and culture. It should be noted that within this context terminologies and political jargons in use reflect what debate in Europe about the role of culture can provide a proper context to convince politicians and experts about the need to upgrade policy actions to have a cultural component.

The EU Cultural Policy in 2010

By 2010 EU cultural policy is split between Northern and Southern EU member states and their municipalities. While the former focus on "economy of experience" as direct outcome of discussions about the cultural sector having become either the cultural industrial or creative one, the Southern ones link culture to tourism (both in Turkey and in Greece these two Ministries have been formed into one to underline this tendency).

1.3 Consensus seeking method with citizen’s participation – setting of agenda

a) Culture: making connections to become creative and productive

Culture means connecting the dots and creating linkages were before there was no awareness of the other as much as culture bridges differences to let various life forms exist side by side.

It is crucial to know that without culture there cannot be found any social and economic cohesion in any given space which falls under the jurisdiction of any particular type of administration. It is time to ask such administrations to take the reality of culture into consideration before planning any further intervention in the physical and socio-economic environment. The fact that the environment although a huge resource is more mistreated rather than that political decisions exemplify good environmental protection is itself an expression of following mere economic need without being anymore integrated into the cultural field.

Martin Jay speaks about ‘force fields’ leading on to what can express itself over time. If only highly consumptive activities spill over the various borders and limitations of any urban environment then a city without culture or at best a problematic relationship to culture will have many more costs and unresolved problems to face than what is basically the need for a functioning economy.

Today’s crisis in human relationships is such that the radical looser is threatening to overwhelm any civic behaviour and who will manifest his looses in a way that others will suffer the subsequent even greater losses as humanity will bleed and children will be traumatized by the violence which erupts once the radical looser uses rage to unify his motives to overstep any boundary drawn to safeguard and honour life. With the radical looser threatening the cultural sanctuary silence will be broken only in a violent way and this eruption with bombs denudated by suicide bombers will re-entry into society the question about human sacrifice and the preconditions of valuing life with an ethos that is akin to love of life of not only the present but of future generations. If the shooting of 32 students in an American college in Virginia April 2007 says something after “Columbine” or Erfurt have already been discussed for what this stands for and especially in light of 9/11 in New York or the July 5th bombing in London 2005, then Derrida did mention a crucial aspect about the meaning of city life then and now as much as for the future. It has always been the belief in the city that there anyone is safe from violence lest violence comes then it shall be answered by the laws of the city capable of disarming anyone coming with ill intentions.

As much as Rodin’s sculpture of the citizens of Calais ready to hand over the key of the city to the conqueror so that the city may be saved by not putting up a fight. Cultural development would mean doing away with such sacrifices while still being able to safeguard the city. As Periklis said not armies are needed but active citizenship to protect a city.

In history cities have been saved by finding the correct interpretation of what challenges lie ahead in order to know how to move ahead. There is to remember the advise of the oracle of Delphi to the Athenians when they were about to be attacked by the Persians. The Oracle said ‘flee behind wooden walls’ but by this the Athenians were puzzled for a long time since hiding behind wooden walls as they ran from Athens to Piraeus would mean burning to death since they knew the Persians would shot at them their burning arrows. Only once the interpretation was found that wooden walls could mean seeking to safeguard the life of the Athenians on board of ships, then a solution was found. Remarkable was one comment which Karl Marx added to this saga or knowledge on how to interpret rightly so specific advices, namely the Persians did come and destroyed the city but they could not the memory of the Athenians who returned to their city once the Persians had left again and thereby could rebuild the city.

It is this that matters most: the ability to rebuild the city out of memory people share as their common home and it is such common knowledge that constitutes the culture of any city. It can be sensed the moment you step off the train and walk out of the train station into the streets.

b) using the consensus method

City centres and Consensus Conferences

Across Europe, the urban regeneration of city centres has been a key feature of the past two decades. Or at least that’s what we have seen in the cities we have been helping via Support for cities. We should nonetheless note that all of these operations to voluntarily breathe new life into old city centres are frequently in parallel, but not always concurrent, with urban spread.
Moreover, studies carried out on urban policies in the United States have shown that the value of city centres is renewed by recreating specific functions, although these functions rarely give rise to new social mixture. Indeed, a city centre’s functions are primarily emblematic and historic, offering emotional roots for all those who feel harried by globalisation.
Consensus Conferences
Scientific and medical communities have already been using the "Consensus Conference" method for many years. But what does it entail, exactly? Basically, a set of expert reports summarising the current state of knowledge on a given subject are publicly presented, and then a jury puts forward its recommendations. By critically analysing the literature that is available to them, the experts are able to come up with solutions to pre-defined questions. This public meeting takes the form of both a scientific conference and a democratic debate, and each participant is given the opportunity to express his or her point of view. At the end of the session, a multi-disciplinary and multi-professional jury makes its recommendations.


Source: URBACT Newsletter [5]

c) setting of agenda of the city

“Practical agenda which Hatto Fischer always seeks, we could in the short term at the level of Civil Society, Market Institutions and Political Institutions seek to achieve the following” [6]

He stipulated any agenda must take care of simultaneous priorities across the board. As verified by the implementation process connected with Agenda 21, nothing can be advanced if not accompanied by political, social and economic reforms at the same time. To bring about such an agenda, it should include following priorities:

An agenda in the Making

Civil Society:

Market Institutions:

Political Institutions:

Michael D. Higgins adds two important premises in need to be taken into consideration when attempting to implement such an agenda:

“In the end it is always about Power. Power has not been dissolved in the process of globalisation. The taking of power into a democratic accountability is necessary if we are to substitute an ethical universalisation for a globalisation of misery.”

“We have the right to ask that European Union’s version of us and our children be one as active agents of diverse narratives rather than well fed European dreamers of the collective fantasies of informational capitalism.”

1.4 Model of Cultural Plan and cultural movements

Cleary any cultural plan for a city depends upon what movements are currently putting their stamp on life within the city. This follows the analysis by Juergen Habermas who says civil society, and therefore artists, creative individuals etc. has only a voice to the extent that its resources are derived from such movements. They guarantee that they have a voice within decision making bodies which do and can shape the city. This aspect needs to be taken further into consideration to understand what cultural movements as being distinct from other kinds of movements can succeed in upgrading the quality of life and give access to culture to every citizen but also newcomer to the city.

The cultural plan for Linz is an outstanding example. Drafted in 2000, it was designed to qualify the city of Linz for the designation of European Capital of Culture which it became in 2009. In the process the involvement of social movements, in particular affecting but also coming out of civil society and the free art scene, can illustrate that circumstances do not allow for a further going artistic and therefore cultural articulation. Instead of allowing the city to show its true identity by letting that develop further, cultural industrial techniques take over and promote more the image of the city as sales pitch to tourism and standing in the rankings of cities which are successful in attracting inward investments. It leaves the city exposed underneath its official level to a deeply rooted cynicism which is worse than pessimism for any cultural development. [7]




[1] http://www.sylvestreverger.com/pol_culturelle.php?lang=EN

[2] The masterworks shown in Dayton represent just a small selection of the 800 works of art acquired by Dr. Gustav Rau (1922 – 2002) over more than 40 years. Half of the works on display are Old Master paintings from the 15th to the early 19th centuries; the other half represents Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early modern art from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries. http://www.daytonartinstitute.org/rau/rau_exhibition.html

[3] Leipzig's Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1837 by the arts association Leipziger Kunstverein. Donations by arts foundations and generous individuals facilitated the building of a collection of about 2,700 paintings (from the late Middle Ages to the present), 750 sculptures and more than 55,000 drawings and graphic reproductions. Its extensive collection of Cranach paintings is unique in the world. The museum also places great importance on the presentation of contemporary arts.http://mdbk.de/start.php4

[4] For further developments of the European Agenda for culture see http://poieinkaiprattein.org/europe/european-agenda-for-culture-2007/

[5] URBACT Newsletter, #40 18.4.07 http://urbact.eu/index.php?L=0&id=2657

[6] Michael D. Higgins, One Response or a Multitude of Stories – Creative Society or Knowledge Economy? Issues for the Cultural Space in an era of Globalisation. (Note: this speech he gave during the Day of Culture conference organised by Spyros Mercouris and the ECCM Network, Athens, May 5th and 6th, 2000).

[7] For a first response to the Final Report of Linz 09 by Hatto Fischer see http://poieinkaiprattein.org/europe/european-cultural-capital-cities/linz-2009/

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