Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Strategic Cultural Planning - a study for Volos by Hatto Fischer


        Bird on Argonaut boat - sculpture in Volos    Photo: Dora Gyarmathy




Cultural planning necessitates the mapping of resources which are mostly unknown until certain factors are brought together. More than anything else, it involves the art of bringing together people. Synergies created through the interaction between artists and audiences mean that events, venues and types of performances can be planned. Still to gurantee freedom of artistic expression within these given spaces, that requires still another level of consideration. The same applies to creativity for without an ethics it cannot be truthful enough to facilitate an understanding of how man can face reality. To Shakespeare's famous saying "all the world is a stage" can be added the qualification that not everything is just a play. Life is more than people just acting out a predetermined script, in order to make their stories become real. Naturally ancient Greek drama showed the need for measures since there is always at risk that people go too far. However, the poet Zbiegniew Herbert is said never to have played any political games but he was an imaginary witness of many things going on. That includes injustices being inflicted upon poets and intellectuals. That says a lot about life and what it takes to become human. Culture can bring about what Karl Marx stated is requires if people are to address one another in such a language that it touches upon their human self-consciousness. This understanding of culture includes the 'imagined reality' by people who probe, juxtapose and provoke as many elements as are available. They do so or even rail against all kinds of visibile and invisible dependencies. It is a matter of freedom if they are motivated to go just a step further and around the corner, in order to understand human reality. The latter is not a part of their imagination but one formed by all the others. In this sense cultural planning is not so much a way of wishing to influence developments as it is much more a king of open ended reflection of possibilities to bring about as much creativity as change. In being reflective, it stresses the need to listen to local society. Only then can be known in which direction a city like Volos in Greece wishes to develop in. No doubt, there are many tension fields which put the local space of development under pressure. At the same time, that local world perceives the global world as conveyed especially through tourism as something to be exploited but also to be excluded. Preference is to be given solely to the local people. That makes any inter exchange of ideas and resources difficult and puts the economy under severe strains since not really open in offering opportunities to those who could set different standards. But that is not the only reason why cultural planning in terms of local economy has to deal with many more unknowns. For the local population is not homogeneous and at the same time they speak in a coded language no outsider can really understand. There is as well an inter exchange between earning and spending money often in a way that it appears to the outsider as a squandering of resources when things are said to be tight. What is not observed in that case is the participation in evening entertainment well past midnight is a part of this code to have fun in life, and not to take work all the time serious. Here then the formal and the informal meet as never will do day and night. Thus for any successful cultural planning strategy such agreements are needed beforehand that something can be worked out without loss of local identity and the semi rituals which go with such an identity. At another level, there needs to be clearly defined the problems arising out of conflicts of interests, whether they are of economic, political, social or personal nature. They cannot be resolved if not clearly named or defined. It has to happen within a context of an authentic culture to ensure honest deliberations. As Bart Verschaffel shows, authenticity as a value criterion should not be taken at face value. Rather local culture should be taken serious when it claims to be authentic even though this precisely the problem. In response to that challenge such tension fields have to be crossed before some agreement can be attained as to where the entire development should lead to. Here is of interest that the basic premise for future development strategies has been identified by Vasilis Sgouris, director of DEMEKAV, as most suitable platform for deliberations about what potentials exist to take things to the next higher level. The restoration of Tsalapatas brick factory serves here as an example. Not so successful have been the attempted cooperations between archaeologists and city officials since the latter have been dominated by engineers with little or no knowledge of how to discuss with archaeologists in order to take their concerns serious. This conflict means archaeologists tend to be much more specific, location wise, while the planners and city officials seek to integrate the city in the wider region so as to reattain the regional power Volos used to have in the past. The expansion of territory, administratively speaking, may be at first only a sign of imagining what would be the case if. Translated into political power, it would require quite another basis for governance which right now only culture can offer in a wider sense. Thus to overcome the restrictions imposed by an economy functioning only in a certain way, and here harbour people differ from the fishermen and they in turn do not mingle necessarily with the university people, there have to be some further going reflections. They can only be maintained by providing an overview of cultural planning, in order to see how this quest for (or claim of) authenticity can be linked up with new efforts to organise, manage and plan for the development of cultural resources and to make them become accessible, useful and inspirational through specific cultural planning methods.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 2007

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