By Vladislav Strnad, The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.
Between 13th-16th December, 2012, the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin held an Annual Conference on Cultural Diplomacy “The Power of the Arts & Culture to Promote Democracy & Global Peace”.
The conference brought together current and former heads of state and ministers, as well as celebrities and dignitaries including an interdisciplinary group of participants from all over the world to discuss Cultural Diplomacy in our interdependent world.
‘…obviously, it starts probably with also enjoying that kind of fun yourself, then it comes a point when you must feel really the responsibility that you are not only giving fun to the people, but you are influencing them, strongly and deeply, because that’s the strength of art. At first you do it for yourself, but actually you are influencing people…’
For more information please watch the Interview with ICD Advisory Board Member Ian Gillan, Singer & Song writer of Deep Purple and Marcia Barrett, ICD Advisory Board Member; Lead Singer of Boney M
Heinz J. Kuzdas was born in Kuenzelsau, in South-West Germany. He has been residing in Berlin since 1972 and has lived in France, the USA, Canada and South America. Kuzdas studied Philosophy and Medicine at the Free University of Berlin, has worked as a medical coordinator, as a journalist and photo journalist and has organized and curated several exhibitions abroad and within Germany.
During the “A World Without Walls” Conference held at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin on November 9th of 2010, Heinz J.Kuzdas held a lecture called “1989: The Year that Changed the World” describing the evolution and the fonction of the Berlin Wall.
For J. Kuzdas, “The Berlin Wall was also a unique collective artwork, which changed daily and often overnight – paint actions disappeared the next day by somebody’s new work of art or was modified in new surprising ways. There was of course controversy – some people saw in painting the Wall only disgusting cosmetics, others similar to the historical wall-newspapers in China, a somehow index of “Zeitgeist” – mood index continuum – as one wrote on the Wall. But here we observed colorful, new irony art, misusing and transforming a depressing horrible perfected inhuman and dangerous borderline and turning it into the longest canvas of art. Something came into existence for what we owe recognition and gratefulness to the many known and unknown who participated. So far there was no such intention from the official public. There are so many who only desire to keep alive the memory of the Wall of death and barbed wire.”
His lecture and a short interview (conducted by Mark Warman on 08.11.2010) can be viewed in the following.
An artist recently painted a part of the Berlin wall which sold for €500,000. Why did the Berlin Wall attract so much attention by street artists and why does it still have an allure both for artists and buyers?
You know this was a unique place where people could express themselves, it could not be stopped by the West Berlin police for example. Of course it was also some kind of damaging of property, that’s how people talk about graffiti in general but then this was an open space, a special space where people could go there and express themselves. People from school classes from all over the world came they had in mind they were prepared to do something and also artists from everywhere and groups from China, from Philippines, from everywhere.
Much has been said of the opportunity for expression that the Berlin Wall provided street artists, but do you feel that it ever played the role of cultural diplomacy, not only expressing ideas but also spreading them?
I think people actually came from all over the world to take photographs with themselves and the art at the Wall. I know that Leonardo DiCaprio said that this is his favorite photo, that he was taken in front of the Wall, in front of the heart, and he still likes this photos.
Do you feel that tagging and other forms of graffiti, which can often be considered vandalism, undermine the credibility of those who have something to say through their art?
Well, you know, I have of course, I respect everybody who expresses themselves somehow and I don’t differentiate so much between graffiti and art because the limits are really very opened but I personally am not so much for this king of writings but I consider that so many people like it. I really think art should replace the whole publicity, there is too much publicity in all over the cities and I would like to have it exchanged by either graffiti well done, there is of course less and it is the same with art.
18.02.2011 – Interview of Dr. Yael Reuveny (Documentary Film Maker) conducted by Emma Lough & Ashley Fitzpatrick.
Renen Schorr described The Triangle Project in which you participated as ‘a rich and extraordinarily educational cultural experience.’ Do you consider this a typical example of the use of film as a tool for cultural diplomacy, or an exceptional example?
It is always an issue that when you make films, they are financed by certain sources, which may have their own agendas. For me, the situation was perfect because the dialogue was taken from my own personal life. Last year, I began developing the second part to this film with an institution called ‘Greenhouse’, which is funded by the European Union, and brings together documentarians from the Middle East. We would meet in Turkey, and everyone involved was there developing their own projects. Very often, there is some kind of project that helps finance culture, but as a filmmaker, my interest is a bit different. I am all for dialogue, but it is not my main interest.
Last year, the director, Mike Leigh, was publicly criticized for cancelling a planned trip to teach at the Sam Spiegel film school. Given that he justified his choice on political grounds, to what degree do you think the film industry is constricted by choices made on a political rather than a creative basis?
I think it’s a decision that every artist has to make for themselves. I think that it is their decision, and I respect it. I think perhaps one problem is that there is a general trend to make populist statements. Israel does do bad things sometimes, but I think that making such a statement reflects a very shallow view. I think what Mike Leigh did miss is the opportunity to speak with those in Israel who have a different opinion, and to empower them, rather than weaken them. But I still respect his choice, though I don’t know if I would make that choice myself.
It has been suggested that has been bias in the past on certain judging panels against the work of students from the Sam Spiegel School, and some of Renen Schorr’s films have been criticized as irrelevant or controversial. To what degree do you think the personal experiences or political preconceptions of certain audiences can affect the ability of film to be used as a neutral medium of international dialogue?
I don’t think it is really neutral. First of all, the fact that everyone has an opinion on the Sam Spiegel School and their films is important, but I think it is irrelevant. Many incredibly talented people are studying at the Sam Spiegel School, and are telling their own stories. Furthermore, many irrelevant things that are often taken into consideration on judging panels at film festivals, and that is the world we work in. If you in fact look at the individual films themselves, I don’t think they necessarily represent the Sam Spiegel School or Israel. I don’t really think about these things, as it’s hard enough to make films that are loyal to your own vision and standards before considering the views and concerns of others.
Do you think film has any role in solving the Israel-Palestine conflict?
I think the only thing art in general can do is encourage a complex view of the world. When you look at relations between people, whether it is a couple in the kitchen, or two conflicting countries, a complex view of the world is all we can really encourage as artists. Once you have this, it is much more difficult to be prejudiced, as you begin to question your existing opinions and the notion of ‘us versus them’. It is only a start though – before being filmmakers, we have to be socially-responsible citizens, and this is where action happens.
You’ve spoken about art as both a means of promoting individual identities and bringing different groups together. How can one involved in the arts strike a balance in this respect?
I think the core of arts is the balance of commonality and difference. In arts, you find what we have in common, but you also find our individuality. In the former it’s the common human identity, in the latter it’s difference personal identity. When you engage with a work of art, you’re engaging with yourself, even though it’s somebody else’s work of art.
Do you think that relationship is different when you, as an artist, are engaging with your own work of art, than when you are engaging with someone else’s work of art?
Well I think the process of art is a process of enquiry. Like science, art investigates the world. It goes about it by somewhat different means, but the mission is pretty much the same. In asking questions to which you profoundly don’t know the answers, but believe are still worthwhile questions, you do find yourself. There’s a sense of whatever you do being autobiographic, or a self portrait. There comes a moment of real surprise, sometimes, when you find something looking back at you which is actually familiar. You may later have this experience when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a shop window, or look into a mirror unexpectedly and you think “what’s my dad doing here?”
How often do you think that controversial art creates a setback in cultural diplomacy? Or do you always need to shock?
No, you don’t have to shock, but you do have to go across boundaries. Anything that is creative is, by definition new. If it’s new, it can’t be expected – it’s going to have an element of surprise, and possibly shock. So, all good art is going to be a surprise. The only art that measures up to expectations is historic art, and even then, if you engage with it, you will find something meaningful. I firmly believe that all art from all periods of history is contemporary, because you look at it in the present moment. It always exists as art in the present moment.
Do you think, in that sense, that art has been much more political during different periods in history, than during others, or do you think the role of art in politics has remained constant?
Some art has been hugely political – some art which is celebrated in our period is celebrated for reasons other than those for which it was celebrated during its time. The only safe art is dead art.
How do you see the relationship between soft power and hard power? You’ve already talked about how this relationship should not be viewed as a sort of clash.
This is a brilliant topic, with brilliant questions which stimulate discussion. What I’ve been doing is looking at the terms of reference of the questions, not accepting dualism. Dualism is, however, great for stimulating discussion – are you for us, or are you against us? I’ll be giving a talk later on about the work of art – what it does, and how it does it, starting with the question of how art crosses boundaries. The image came to me of ghosts – ghosts walk through walls, even if you don’t believe in them, and they succeed, even if they don’t exist. They do it because they don’t see the walls. If you don’t see walls, you can pass through them. If you do see them, you won’t try.
19.02.2011 – Interview conducted by Emma Lough
Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
The process of globalization is consistently increasing the speed of the development of multicultural societies, and multiculturalism itself is becoming the way of the contemporary world. As a prominent example, contemporary Germany consists of a diverse multicultural landscape of individuals whose origins stem from every continent of the world. Many countries such as France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and other countries are constantly engaging with active multiculturalism policies which are continually being amended and reinvented.
Ben Ali K. Marouf morroccan painter and artist shared with us in a short interview (25.11.2010 – Interview conducted by Gwenola Rivoal & Naeem Meer) his personal point of view concerning the role of art in raising cultural awareness and promotiong cultural mutual understanding.
Your work is described as attempting to build bridges between the Orient and the Occident. What role does art play in creating better intercultural understanding in the world?
My job is meant to act mainly as a bridge, aiming to promote Moroccan culture in Germany, but also to expose Moroccans to the German culture. After several years exhibiting my work in Germany, I discovered that people are happy to see so many colours; it’s alive, it warms their body and soul. When I exhibit in Morocco, the reactions are different. I show simple things – things that I find on the floor for example. With these materials, I also make collages. I sometimes take a piece of wood and glue it to a canvas. At first, it makes Moroccans laugh, but it’s also a way for me to get their attention. This type of work has, in the end, a greater effect on the Moroccan public, whereas the colour often captures the German public.
Sometimes art has the ability to communicate things better than facts and divisive arguments. Can you comment on the ability of art to transcend petty and local differences?
I have the feeling of being an international artist. I am part of Germany, of Morocco, and of the world. I am a citizen of the world. With my art I try to distract people from the ugly things, the sadness of war, for example. Ultimately art is highly subjective, and as a result the feelings of the people vary a lot. We cannot explain art because, by definition, it is explained by itself. Therefore the interpretations are diverse, some people may be receptive to my paintings, others are not. Art becomes the vehicle for communication between individuals who come to see my paintings, but it also acts a forum for people to come and exchange views amongst each other.
Morocco is situated between north and south and east and west, with influences coming from Spain, France, Africa, Asia, and even across the Atlantic. How does this fact impact on the level of cultural tolerance in Morocco?
Yes it definitely has an impact. Morocco is very close to Europe, and has long had a very good relationship with the continent. Painters, photographers and filmmakers do make known Morocco through their works. They represent one of the major elements of strong bond that Morocco has with the rest of the world. I for example, also exhibit my work in other African countries and several European countries – France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain. I find items or subjects of my paintings or sculptures all over the globe. I incorporate these things into my work or I give one of my paintings the name of a city that I visited for example. This is how I see the relationship between Morocco and the outside world, existing in a sort of permanent exchange.
How has growing up in Morocco shaped your art and also your world view?
It definitely plays a major role. I was born in Fez, the oldest and most beautiful city of Morocco. Today I live in Marrakech, a more international city. Yet I remain very committed and inspired by my hometown. Manual labour is still of utmost importance with, for example working with sheepskin. That is something I witnessed every day as a child. However, my works are not necessarily traditional. I was raised in a resolutely modern household, and I think my art is also modern. I prefer to take traditional elements and make them modern, not the reverse. Certainly, I integrate elements that are old and used, but the approach is more that of a “recycling” of these objects and the revaluation of the traditional. I wanted to re-use these objects. One of my paintings has a frame made of old car tire. Some others do also the same, as I have seen people use these old tires into making shoes, handbags or mirrors. For me, those are artists. They seek beauty in things that nobody wants, and make bring it to the fore.
As an artist, how different is the reaction of non-Moroccan audiences to your art? Is there a particular difference for those not familiar with the Moroccan artistic tradition?
The German public is often excited by my work. However, when Moroccans come see my paintings, they often smile if I exposed some of the pieces that are here (in Berlin). My work with hair combs for example: most probably some would find it too simple and would not see beyond this. The objects are not perceived as objects of art in Morocco, as Moroccans they often feel they are already living in simplicity. They prefer modern things, technology. We could expose a computer, a television, but it would be very strange for the Moroccan public to consider with interest that bit of old cardboard annotated “5 dirhams”. Although of course I do not want to talk about money but the symbolism of the number 5! The number 5 means the hand that means protection. This small piece of cardboard that seems insignificant protects my work. The sign of the eye, which is also features prominently in my work, watches over the exhibition and guards against evil spirits.
Janice Harrington also known as “The Lady of Jazz, Blues and Gospel is a multi-talented North American artist. Her musical career took-off in 1969 when she started doing tours for the United States Organisation, supporting their troops by performing around South East Asia during the Vietnam War. She has worked with artists such as Billy Daniels, Lloyd Bridges and Frank Sinatra Jr. Famously, she sang for Bishop Desmond Tutu after he received the Nobel Peace Prize, and sang with the Kenn Lending Blues Band as the opening act for a B.B. King concert. As well as being a talented performer, she has written two musicals; Streets of Harlem and What My Eyes Have Seen.
Ms. Harrington is renowned as an ambassador of music and culture, bringing her programs of Authentic American Music and Learn English With Music to children around the world. She is the creator of a non-profit society which organises workshops and master classes in schools for children off all ages in different countries such as Romania, Israel, Bulgaria, Larvia, Thailand. In Germany, Mrs.’s Harrington activity has been concentrating more on working with school children and people with disabilities.
Mrs Harrington kindly spoke to a member of the ICD news (06.11.2009 – Interview conducted by Holly Perman Turnbull) about the important role music can play in cultural diplomacy and the triumph of rock ‘n’ roll and jazz music in crossing the Iron Curtain.
First of all, I would just like to ask you what you are singing about this evening, what is the project about and what is your concept?
I would really just like to get the audience involved. My work shops mainly focus on children, as I go to schools and teach them about the history of black American music from an African perspective, for example about enslavement, the auction block, the crossing and the plantations, so I sing a few freedom and spiritual songs about things they already know, to get them involved. This is soft diplomacy, and this is what the congress is all about. It is what I do at the cultural envoy for the United States Department. We go to places like Israel, Palestine, Thailand, Bulgaria, Romania and we talk about Black American history, because normally when I do this program, on that level, it is during Black History month, which is February. Through the year I go to different kinds of schools. This week, I just came from a Gemeinschaft Schule in Schleswig Holstein, and we had 400 children from the ages of 10-17 who were really unruly and by the time we finished, they were singing so well and they really gained confidence and had fun.
What do you think it is about music that makes it such a powerful tool to bring people together?
It’s the international language. You may not be able to speak the language, but when you sing, people either know the song, or are willing to learn it.
We have spoken about the role of the Jazz Ambassadors during the Cold War and how Jazz brought people together who had different political ideologies. What do you think Jazz represents that people appreciate?
Those days you had Louis Armstrong and he was playing pop songs, which were basically the New Orleans songs. All the pop music that he sang, was feel good music, it is a feel good music. You can relate to it as it touches everyone.
Another important genre of music was Rock and Roll in the Soviet Bloc, for the role it played in freeing peoples’ minds. It has also been said that ithelped in bringing about the people’s revolution. How do you see the role that it played?
It played a big role. The people were just ready to rock and get out of that iron curtain and of course they were listening to that music in secrecy for years. It’s sort of music of freedom for that generation.
I’m thinking about the title of the congress, World Without Walls and the fact that the Berlin Wall was torn down 20 years ago. However, if you look around today walls are still being built, for example in Rio de Janeiro and Palestine. In your opinion what is the way forward?
Cultural diplomacy touches my heart because I think that is the way forward.
However, all this change has to come through children, their parents have to start teaching them. The politicians keep making the problems, with their greed and power, which basically means there is no chance and so we must come together as a group and hope that we can force change.
Ian Gillan and Marcia Barrett sharing ideas about the power of music, and the power of influencing people through their music, messages, ideas… This interview gives some insights in their opinion about the responsibility they have in creating mutal understanding between cultures through art.
An Interview with Ian Gillan, Singer & Song writer of Deep Purple & Marcia Barrett, Lead Singer of Boney M
Moderator: Amb. Katalin Bogyay, President of the General Conference of UNESCO
A1: This is a very broad question. Cultural diplomacy is a very vague term and we all have different perceptions of what it means, so I cannot answer your question briefly. Books have been written on the subject with different points of view. It is interesting and complex.
Q2: Turning to the role of art in cultural diplomacy, do you think that some types of art are better suited as instruments of cultural diplomacy than others?
A2: I think it depends on which period we are looking at. In my presentation I tried to show that fine arts, craftsmanship and later design have been important in the early period of cultural diplomacy in Finland. But if you look at the same issue today, the role of fine arts and design are less important. Today, Hip Hop can serve as much better tool for certain nations. I think it is related to time and to changes in society.
Q3: Do you think that Finland is a forerunner in cultural diplomacy? Is there anything that other countries can learn from Finland?
A3: There is always room for improvement, but what we can be proud of is that we have been able to focus on creating new art forms, first with fine arts and music and then design and also architecture, which is very important. So we have invested in certain areas. We have not spread everywhere, when were not a rich country. You need to focus, you need to have a strategy, and that is missing in so many countries today. But we are not yet an example. In the future I would like us to invest more in strategic thinking, so we do not waste the opportunities we have ahead.
Q4: “Sauna diplomacy” is said to be a special feature of Finnish politics. Can you elaborate a bit on that?
A4: The Sauna has been very important in Finland. People have been born in saunas. But also within politics and diplomacy we used to say that all the big decisions are made in saunas. And this sauna culture still exists. It is easy to talk in a sauna. You are very close to people, and there are no protocols, you cannot follow protocols when you are in a sauna.
Interview conducted by the ICD News Team
Q1. How can music and jazz and swing music in particular influence and strengthen intercultural relations?
One of the important things about intercultural communication is that it can be used to help understand different cultures and how they think. In order to integrate various traditional means of performance, part of it is letting people know that these traditional forms are relevant. Therefore it would be helpful to encourage workshops and classes and allowing people to explore traditional forms of music.
Q2. How have technological advances and innovations influenced, impacted and shaped the possibilities of using music as a tool of cultural diplomacy?
How can technology be used as a tool? I believe that wide distribution of music can help this through mediums such as I-pods, I-tunes, and internet, which help disseminate art. It is a powerful mechanism to connecting people through music. Yet live performances are still important since the virtual world can only show so much. You will never have the same experience from the virtual world than from a live performance and feeling the music resonate through you. So I think the two should be complimentary.
Q3: What is the role of music, art, and culture, in this globalized world?
From my own experiences I can say for certain that the biggest challenge is seeing whatever performer I want. This is a bigger challenge for our generation that globalization has created.
I think art is every important, as it allows us to expand our imaginations and explore imaginative possibilities. Music also encourages people to think creatively. In particular, music allows people to listen and then think about how they would use a particular sound, what it means to them or even how it makes them feel. So it allows them to explore their feelings then find ways to articulate that. The different ways of articulating this can through political action, writing a song, essay, singing a song. To how we treat our friends or while forming relationships with colleagues. I think music and art are so important that it binds all humanity in allowing us to explore imaginative possibilities
Q4. You wrote book on the historic cosmopolitan drive of jazz, can you explain your work in this area a bit further?
Well the book explores in depth what I talk about topically. I look at the blues and blues based jazz in areas where jazz has not been typically explored. So I look at higher education and I look at government and global governance, business strategy and corporate culture, performance and technology. By doing this we can look at these areas where we don’t typically find the influence of art and music. The book allows me to go in depth by demonstrating its pervasiveness in our culture.
Q5. You mentioned global governance. Would you mind saying a little bit more in this area?
What I am talking about are the hierarchical systems which are typically what see today. Through blues and jazz what we see a breakdown of this hierarchy. We see multilateral dialogue and communication emerging. This is because there is no hierarchy in a jazz band. Since all the instruments have an important role to the overall sound of the band in such a way that it models multilateral dialogue. This is what I mean by global governance. From organizations to nations they all need to move toward listening in a multilateral way with other partners while dismantling the hierarchy. It also has to be more than the bi-lateral conversation we had during the Cold War. There are regions and nations that have expertise, influence and specialties in certain areas. If we listen like musicians listen to each other in a band then each country has something to contribute about how to get along with each other in the world.
Q. How accessible/relevant do you think the arts are as a form of cultural diplomacy?
A. I think there are various strands to both arts and cultural diplomacy. I think cultural diplomacy can too often only use ‘high art’; it is common for paintings to be used as gifts but I think the strength of cultural diplomacy in terms of art is when you can use the art of the people, art as a mass movement like street art where people use it to share positive messages about educational projects but it can also be very powerful in terms of protest songs.
Q. what role does art play in fostering and encouraging multiculturalism?
A. I think building links between different communities is extremely valuable. But I don’t believe in the word/term ‘multiculturalism’, I think it is a term that is very flawed and I think it has been misused in a number of different countries. I do believe that people have different cultural influences but ultimately if we are seeking to understand each other then we have to focus on trying to understand people and their multiple identities.
Q. What role does culture play in the world of development?
A. I think art plays an enormous role in development and is used by a number of different organisations, from grassroots civil society organisations right up to UN agencies. And there are certainly lots of examples where UN agencies have either written comic books without any words in them, using street art or other artistic techniques to try to get across message, whether it is about education, women’s rights or healthcare. So art is used a lot in development but I think the challenge moving forward for those who are interested in the connection between art and development is how artists can be engaged to try and tackle the problems that we know are coming but which we cannot see as yet. Some of the issues about the food, population and water prices that we are expecting to hit this planet in 2030 and what can be now how can artisits depict some of the problems that are yet to come.