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Arts and Identity, East Europe, Europe, Middle East, Middle Europe, North Africa

Weekly Theme: Arts and Identity – By Letizia Binda-Partensky, ICD program coordinator

Artistic practices, as cultural products, make a map through which a culture can be read. Visual arts and oral or written traditions pertaining to a specific cultural group allow people to define themselves according to specific reference points. The same cultural products, uprooted and recast in a different context, take on the role of vessels used to define the culture of origin. Traveling cultural products are displayed or showcased through a different set of cultural practices.

In the post-colonial context, two different discourses are created around the same artwork in different geographical locations. At the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in the broadly Tahrir Square, you will contemplate the treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb amid the honking of the cars and the scorching heat, making your way through the maze of artworks are displayed in an overcrowded room; in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, you will be eye-to-eye with a haughty Nefertiti, taking up a circular room to herself; at the Louvre, the viewer will become acquainted with every Egyptian god through an amulet with an explanatory notice held behind a glass case. What Westerners know of Egyptians is laid down on paper, in a highly sanitized environment. A traveler eventually entering Egypt will take this ‘knowledge’ to comprehend the new context he witnesses, sometimes interpreting reality according to preconceived, culturally inscribed ideas.

This week, we invite you to discuss the art forms that make up parts of a cultural fabric, nourishing perceptions of ourselves and others.  Hitler used the division of arts to define the grounding of his ‘future’ Aryan state by contrasting two exhibitions, ‘German art’ and ‘degenerate art.’ As outlined in the movie ‘The Rape of Europa,’ disputes are still unsettled around the artworks taken from Jewish families during World War II. Now, as national cultural expressions are being increasingly protected and defended, we are searching for a shared European identity. Following the late nineteenth century example of the Venice Biennale, nations entrust their representation to one visual artist and one theater company, celebrating diversity collectively in just one mode. Would it be possible to find cultural products pertaining to the Old Continent as a whole, while its boundaries are still undefined? And which cultural products worldwide can we consider to be more valuable, either through government support or by having survived the test of time?

Whether you qualify it with ethnic, global or local—whether you categorize it with mine, yours or ours—choose your angle and join us in reflecting upon how an artform has the power to shape what makes ‘us’: identity.

On ‘The Rape of Europa,’ See our entry in ‘We watch culture’: https://artsasculturaldiplomacy.wordpress.com/we-watch-culture/



2 thoughts on “Weekly Theme: Arts and Identity – By Letizia Binda-Partensky, ICD program coordinator

  1. “Flexible context” instead of identity
    by Giulia Laura Muscarella, ACD Programme Coordinator

    The language of classical or exact music expresses itself through elements universally understandable from a cognitive point of view. For any listener, regardless of nationality, a music developed in a minor mode – the dramatic character- reflects certain emotive feelings opposite from these caused by the major one.

    The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra and the West-East Divan Orchestra demonstrates the power of this universal language. It can spread over the European context, cross boundaries and become a way to organize a community or even create a dialogue between two cultures in conflict.

    This is possible because classical music isn’t the result nor the origin of a certain identity- except from ethnic music – but it shapes itself in a flexible context always transferring a modern message over centuries. I listen to the music of any composer without thinking that his composition is a product of his identity because it’s irrelevant, it could be an ontological error fragmenting its universal language.

    As an evidence of what said before, I put forth a personal experience: the intercultural atmosphere that you can perceive at the Academy of Music of Venice, a city that has formed by connecting the western and the oriental culture. It is natural for a Mongolian cellist, a Serbian pianist or an Italian violinist to perform together the music of a Norwegian composer!

    Music crosses the borders and creates new flexible contexts: beyond Schiller’s words, it is not by chance that the European hymn is taken from the Fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven; in a Europe created prior to a European citizen, only music and a revival of European humanism could connect people divided for centuries.

    Posted by artscd | July 8, 2011, 11:52 am


  1. Pingback: Flexible context instead of Identity – Giulia Laura Muscarella – ICD Program Coordinator | Arts as Cultural Diplomacy: Express Yourself - July 8, 2011

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The London Art as Cultural Diplomacy ConferenceAugust 21st, 2013


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