Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

3. Lessons of materials

Human Matrix

Mapping of Cultural resources

Cultural planning



3. Lessons of Materials

Materials: human and cultural resources

Energizing people to do together something meaningful

The problems of Consumption and Commercialization

Cultural Agenda 21 for cultural sustainability

3. Lessons of materials

Ernst Bloch starts his 'lessons of materials' with the sense of touch. Immediately comes to the mind a man about to buy a carpet. He lets his fingers run over the fibres to sense how the carpet has been knit for that determines already its value and more so its authenticity. No any carpet will do. The quality is known of course through the eyes seeing colours and shape, but primarily it is through the sense of touch that some conclusions are drawn.

3.1 Materials: human and cultural resources

There is something of importance to be said about the link between matter of nature and what human qualities are: warmth, smile, even songs. If understood as part of matter, then there is a need to become conscious what are human and cultural resources making life as much possible as both natural and refined materials we use for our living process.

If water is drunk from plastic bottles, then we are speaking already about a culture which utilizes certain developments from natural to synthetic products and consequently alters not merely life styles but the way people can cope with their daily living stress.

Poetic explorations of the urban world can reveal what senses partake in man’s explorative drive while making unusual experiences. The stench one of the barn women can make in a streetcar in Munich reminds how people and animals used to live closely together.

In the Middle Ages streets were filthy and animals roamed freely to eat up whatever rubbish was thrown out of the windows. It was not as disgusting as it was not hygienic with many cities subsequently hit by the pest and other epidemics.

3.2 Energizing people to do beautiful and meaningful things together – the value of collaborative work

Ernst Bloch speaks about ‘cold’ and ‘warm’ streams affecting society and how people move through the crowds, or when they enter crowded buses, train stations and other public transportation hubs. The way people connect to one another if only to disband shortly thereafter gives the movement in the city a certain flux. It may be affected by a certain rhythm e.g. working hours compared to holidays or Sundays. Yet nothing energizes people than learning to work together. A best example of such a collaborative learning process is Kids' Guernica with children and adults painting together their messages of peace on a mural the same size as Picasso's Guernica (7.8 x 3.5 m). This can entail also a type of community learning with students going out of their respective colleges to include in the learning process much younger children from poor neighborhoods which do not send on a regular basis children to college.

The learning which takes place is a way to overcome social barriers and other obstacles contributing to the social exclusion of certain people. Interestingly enough by getting to know each other better two obstacles for a more visionary approach to shaping life in the city can take a hold. There is more consideration of others and their needs while at the same time those on the outside can enhance risk taking as wrong decisions can be corrected more easily and together they can take a stand as to future developments to distinguish between what is desired and what not. That gives energy to these efforts and provides orientation as it allows for a perception beyond immediate needs and therefore in anticipation of things to come a willingness to prepare for the future. That includes education as investment in the future but not only.

3.3 The Problems of Consumption and Commercialization

The problems of consumption and commercialization are inevitably linked to humanity facing a global crisis in terms of sustainability. Rivers are drying up or else end up being polluted so much that it is dangerous for children to swim and no fish able to survive in them. Global warming has become a key warning as icebergs break off the ice shields in the Artic or glaciers melt on mountain slopes at a faster pace than ever conceived possible in the years following the Second World War.

War has not only unleashed lethal destructive forces upon cities, people and nature, but its technology made possible a new power by which resources could be obtained and used. Alone the term ‘second home’ says it how increasing wealth has allowed many families to seek in a second home vacation if not in France, then in Spain or Greece while living for the rest of the year in the United Kingdom, Sweden or Germany. These are not displaced people but the yearnings for traveling to foreign countries has become a widespread need to alter the cultural context linked to climate and other ways of life, in order not to be determined singularly what had been in the past ‘native home’.

Certainly economies of scale has made possible huge shopping malls and a wide spread retail business with people ordering goods over the Internet and entire new shopping havens creating the illusion all what matters nowadays is a good way of life based on linkages between luxury hotels and places to shop. It does not stop there, on the ground, for airlines have caught on a long time ago that business can be made on flight by offering all sorts of items for sale from watches to perfumes and cigarettes. That follows a long trail of consumer behaviors wishing to obtain cigarettes free of custom taxes or to buy a gift in the last minute for a loved one in order not to arrive empty handed.

The recent trend towards large scale supermarkets and large retail shops means the differentiation within a local economic structure will suffer as small and medium sized businesses will be unable to retain themselves. The competitive edge favors large scale businesses even though the social and cultural losses by the reduction of diversity guaranteed by small businesses has yet to be named as severe set back in efforts to link economic with cultural sustainability.

3.4 Cultural Agenda 21 for cultural sustainability

Two things are here of importance: how the debate about sustainability will bring about a more responsible policy and hence an economic development which does not go at the expense of future generations, and especially how through the arts cultural sustainability can be attained? Above all, it means translating the challenges ahead into meaningful answers made possible by wise policies, including cultural policy in the promotion of artistic projects pointing a way into the future. For this are needed “new pathways to communicate sustainability” through new artistic projects. [2]

Agenda 21 for Culture

Led by the Porto Alegre Forum of Local Authorities, through the city councils of Barcelona, Spain, and Porto Alegre, Brasil, the Agenda 21 for Culture is a response to the challenges relating to cultural development that humankind must face in the twenty-first century.

The initial idea has many similarities with the process that was developed for the environment at the end of the twentieth century, when findings showed that the existing development models involved an excessive level of destruction of natural resources and ecosystems, leading to the mobilisation of world-wide public opinion, governments and international institutions. Today, a similar awareness is arising in the field of culture. It is especially important to establish agreements that promote cultural diversity, the openness of culture, as well as the importance of creativity and cultural participation for every human being. These are the foundations that have led the, to draw up an Agenda 21 for Culture.

Local governments currently play a leading role in fostering the need for an open and diverse culture. With the approval of the Agenda 21 for Culture, the cities endorse a document that emphasises the critical aspects of cultural development in the world and makes a firm commitment to ensuring that culture is a key concern in their urban policies.

The Agenda 21 for Culture had been under debate in various cities and cultural networks since January 2003, and the concluding debates took place this month in Barcelona, Spain, within the framework of the Universal Forum of Cultures - Barcelona 2004. For a copy of the final document please go to http://delibera.net/sections/index.cfm?foro=317


[2] See Guenther Bachmann. (2008) “Gatekeeper: a foreword” in ‘Sustainability: a new frontier for the arts and culture” edited by Sache Kagan and Volker Kirchberg. Frankfurt a. Main, Verlag fuer Akademische Schriften, p. 9

^ Top

« 2. Sense perception and Identity | 4. Le vecu - the lived through experiences »