The cocktail of challenges of disadvantaged in crisis
Ruth Daniel, CEO of In Place of War and Honorary Research Fellow at University of Manchester; Teresa Ó Brádaigh Bean, Leader of research activities at In Place of War and Honorary Research Fellow at University of Manchester
The cocktail of challenges of disadvantaged in crisis
Making the case for the civic role of the creative and cultural ecosystem in a Renaissance
The ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has had a devastating impact on communities around the world. Whilst in Europe many have enjoyed the cushion of working from home or social protection mechanisms (special benefits and unemployment protection), disadvantaged communities in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East have been left vulnerable on all fronts. Operating in mainly the informal economy or in precarious employment, living in overcrowded housing, lacking access to information or PPE (personal protective equipment), and enduring some of the strictest and militarised lockdowns in the world presented these communities with a cocktail of challenges. This piece builds on the work of In Place of War in sites of conflict in the Global South for over 17 years working with grassroots arts-based peace-building as well as 120 cultural leaders and gives witness to the role of community arts organisations in civic engagement, using the arts to mobilise communities to make positive social change.
Picture above: break dance performance in a sports ground, Medellin, Colombia. Copyright: Leonardo Jimenez
COVID-19 was a further catalyst for community arts-based social mobilisation and civic engagement to tackle immediate issues of food insecurity, lack of sanitation, wellbeing, and public health awareness and school closures. Many of these challenges faced by communities were not a consequence of the virus per se; rather COVID-19 has exacerbated critical issues the communities were already facing. Working in partnership with our network of change-makers, drawing on their local knowledge, existing community relationships and understanding of how best to respond to the pandemic, we supported them in delivering direct, bespoke assistance, determined and led by those located in beneficiary communities. These locally-led processes resulted in a range of responses from the creation of community kitchens to mobile sound systems and online fundraisers and concerts to provide economic assistance to artists and the wider communities. Despite the array of projects, they all reaffirmed our understanding that art can be key in fomenting civic participation and positive societal change.
Despite or because of COVID-19: a new role for social enterprises
This process also demonstrated how, with a small amount of funding, informal, grassroots organis-tions rooted in communities that are often underrepresented in the cultural sector and who can’t normally access funding can lead to long-term positive outcomes. This included the development of sustainable social enterprises. Thus, this invites reflections in the European context and beyond about the importance of embedding participatory grant-making for grassroots arts organisations as a strategy to create a more inclusive and diverse creative ecosystem that supports arts-based sustainable development.
Hunger isn’t in Lockdown: COVID-19 in the Global South
As COVID spread, and lockdowns were imposed globally, our network of change-makers provided grim insights into the impact of COVID-19 on some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities. Here is a snapshot from artists and cultural practitioners on the ground in Latin America, Africa and Asia in April 2020.
MC Benny, Hip Hop artist, Northern Uganda: “People are living in fear, many are testifying that this is worse than a physical war. Our team has already seen that government forces have been using excessive force to enforce lockdowns”
Nathalia Garcia, Elemento Illegal, Medellin, Colombia: “Communities in El Faro, an informal neighbourhood on the outskirts of Medellin where many displaced families forced to flee violence have been severely affected by COVID. The area is home to 400 vulnerable families living in dire conditions, working in informal and precariousemployment. Lockdown has left them unable to generate income and 98% of them are struggling to cover their basic needs with hunger being the most pressing issue. Preventing the spread of COVID in the area is further compounded by lack of basic sanitation and hygiene products.”
Vijay Kumar, India: “There is simply no support from the government, some families are on edge of starvation during these days.” Our team notes, “India has some of the most extremely high-density urban populations, social distancing is simply not an option for most of these people, and the consequences of lockdown are costing lives through hunger and lack of medicine.”
Robert Mukunu, Mau Mau Arts, Kenya: “A young boy was shot by police on the balcony of his home in Kiamaiko, Nairobi, because ‘he was out during the curfew’ which seems like a dark irony that a citizen was killed by police who were ensuring he was indoors to protect him from COVID. Questions still remain unanswered on why the government is charging for treatment of corona-related ailments as well as the use of testing kits and masks donated to the government.”
Re-birth in the midst of lock down? How to leverage support and funding from the Music Industry in crisis conditions
Whilst IPOW’s work has focused on supporting and building networks with grassroots artists in the Global South, the organisation has also developed relationships with commercial music industry partners. During the pandemic, given the devastating impact of COVID on the cultural sector, these organisations were keen to support artists and cultural practitioners. Thus, working in partnership with In Place of War, small grants of $500 to $2,000 were made available to the change-maker network.
Setting up an innovative process for participatory grant-making, locally informed decision-making and implementation.
A call for applications was sent to our change-maker network via Whatsapp in French, English and Spanish, resulting in 45 applications. The application process was open in which applicants had to explain the impact of COVID on their community and their ideas to address these issues. A small panel from the In Place of War Board and team reviewed applications, selected recipients, and funds were distributed promptly, having immediate impact. The overall process took only two weeks, including the due diligence process required to meet charity regulations. Given the geographical spread and diverse contexts in which artists operate, projects ranged from tackling food insecurity through the establishment of community kitchens, bakeries and allotments, public awareness campaigns about preventing the spread of COVID-19 using visual arts, and issuing grants to artists.
Change-Maker case studies
Vijay Maitri is a theatre practitioner from the Kathputli Colony in Delhi, India.
Due to lockdown, this community of 12,000 performing artists (the lowest caste in India, considered to be the criminal caste) who live in slum conditions, were unable to earn money and therefore unable to afford any food or access PPE.
Vijay organised a food and PPE distribution centre in the neighbourhood and using the IPOW grant distributed food and PPE to 12,000 people.
Picture right: Vijay organising food distributions, Copyright: Vijay Kumar
Alejandro Rodriguez is an MC and music producer and part of Old Guns, a hip hop collective from Comuna 13 in Medellin, Colombia.
Comuna 13 is a disadvantaged neighbourhood suffering from high levels of poverty and violent gangs. During the lockdown many residents could not make a living as they work in the informal economy as street vendors, builders, collecting rubbish and recycling. Thus, lockdown left them struggling to access food and essentials.
Picture left: Ciudad Comuna interview, Copyright: Ciudad Comuna
With the In Place of War grant, Old Guns decided to develop a community kitchen and allotment to address the issue of food insecurity in the area. They secured a building, partnered with a local community organisation, got permission from the gang leader who controls the area and enlisted an army of volunteers to work in the kitchen. During lockdown, the kitchen served 750 meals a week to vulnerable members of the community using produce from the community allotment.
Picture left: Kitchen serving meals during lockdown, Copyright: Alejandro Rodriguez
Tiuna El Fuerte is an arts organisation located in El Valle, Caracas, Venezuela.
People living in tower blocks in the surrounding neighbourhood felt isolated and disconnected during lockdown, resulting in a decline in mental health.
Using the grant from In Place of War, Tiuna El Fuerte set up a mobile sound system and radio station, which travelled across the streets playing music and sharing messages over the sound system from loved ones across the community, helping people feel less isolated. They estimated that they reached over 20,000 people in two weeks.
Picture right: Tiuna El Fuerte’s Radio Verdura in the streets of Caracas, May 2020. Copyright: Tiuna El Fuerte
Marimbea is a cultural organisation based on the Pacific coast that works to promote Afro-Colombian culture through tours, performances and workshops. Due to the pandemic and lockdown, the community were unable to work and lacked access to basics. Using a grant of $1,000, Marimbea organised a series of online events, performances and workshops, paying the artists to participate and charging audiences to engage with the content. The events generated $2,000 in revenue and led to the development of a new digital content platform offering cultural experiences online.
Picture left: Promotion material for online workshop, Copyright: Marimbea
Reflections: What to learn for the idea of a Renaissance
These case studies provide interesting insights into the civic role of arts organisations in mobilising to address critical needs of local communities during the pandemic. This is hinged on a number of features. These organisations are committed to a place; often taking place in public spaces such as playgrounds, community centres, parks and schools, it is part of and shapes the local landscape. It is rooted in and part of their communities and thus artistic practice is designed by and for those communities. Given this, the art responds to the needs and aspirations of this community, and nurtures and celebrates the talent within the community.
Civic participation and artistic practice can not be divorced
This is a people-centric and local approach using artistic practice to facilitate human development, promoting positive values and social interaction and building communities. Given this, civic participation and artistic practice cannot be divorced: they are enmeshed and develop a symbiotic relationship. Art is a tool to engage communities which through participation leads to new artistic work and a more inclusive and diverse creative ecosystem designed to develop the community.
Indeed, one of the commonalities between these responses to the lockdown was that the organisations improved their standing within their local communities. Their work during the pandemic has elevated their status and visibility within the community and beyond. The creation of Trackside’s bakery and Marimbea’s digital cultural experiences are representative cases of this.
Picture right: Theatre performance about disability in Northern Uganda, Copyright: Mono Grande
Radically nurturing artistic talents—and their aspirational community
We believe that, as in the case of our change-maker network, identifying and nurturing existing talent and projects in communities is key in developing genuine arts projects that respond and evolve to meet the needs and aspirations of the local community. Thus, rather than prescribing themes and agendas, offering support for the evolution of organic arts based community is of paramount importance.
Picture left: Dance class in Medellin Credit_Mono Grande, Copyright: Mono grande
Be innovative about funding social innovation
Similarly, developing more inclusive and open funding streams to enable grassroots, informal organisations to access funds to create civic arts projects is also key. We adopted a participatory grant-making model that allowed art organisations to develop responses that were tailored to their experiences and knowledge of their communities. They were not constrained by our preconceptions of what was the most critical need and this is clearly reflected in the range of responses the organisations developed. Small grants were distributed to informal groups and collectives as well as local NGOs which we were able to award without the need for clumsy and prohibitive due diligence processes, whilst crucially complying with charity commission regulations. Thus, in sum, the pandemic has illuminated the primordial role that local grassroots arts organisations can play in addressing critical issues facing communities, especially in times of crisis. They can be responsive and resourceful, generating immediate and real impact with little funding. This therefore invites us to rethink how we understand community arts projects beyond short-term interventions that respond to fleeting policy agendas and political strategies.
How can the cultural and creative sector foment grassroots, locally-led civic arts that showcase and celebrate talent in towns and cities in Europe both during and beyond the pandemic? How can we create inclusive and accessible funding processes so that such informal groups can develop and sustain their practice whilst generating long-term positive outcomes?
The creation of diverse networks and long-term relationship-building connecting commercial partners, governments, formal cultural institutions and grassroots collectives is key to fostering long-term arts-based social transformation in our communities—a transformation the green and digital transformations cannot do without—like, for example, the New European Bauhaus, the latest initiative of EU President von der Leyen highlights. Learning from the Global South how to empower arts-based social transformation in communities might strengthen a Next Renaissance in Europe while preventing one of its major risks: Of being a Revolution for the Privileged.
Ruth is a multi-award winning CEO, activist and change-maker. Inspired by the transformative use of hip-hop in the drug cartels of Medellin, Colombia, when a young MC said: ‘If it wasn’t for hip-hop, I would be dead. Hip-hop gave me another option and I’m truly thankful for that.’ Ruth believes art has a capacity to make change in the toughest of contex From guitarist at the age of 8 to record label owner, band manager, fundraiser, international cultural activist, entrepreneur, educator, influential speaker (TEDx) to prestigious award winner within a national arena (Social Enterprise of the Year & Manchester Woman of Culture to name a couple), Ruth’s passion to empower people to build their own positive futures through creative entrepreneur programmes, the development of cultural spaces and artistic collaboration shows no boundaries in terms of fields of work.
Picture © Katie Dervin
Teresa Ó Brádaigh Bean
Teresa Ó Brádaigh Bean is head of research and learning at In Place of War, a global charity that works to support grassroots arts based social change processes in sites of conflict. Her research interest and practice has focused on hip hop as a social movement, grassroots arts education, creative entrepreneurship in sites of conflict and community arts based peacebuilding. She has undertaken a number of research project exploring arts based social change processes mostly recently as a researcher on the the Art of Peace led by Prof. Oliver Richmond at the University of Manchester. She has played a key role in developing In Place of War’s education programmes. As a qualified teacher, she wrote CASE (Creative and Social Entrepreneur Programme). CASE was one of the five shortlisted finalists for the inaugural UNESCO-Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Creative Economy Prize in 2021. It was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Widening Participation at the University of Manchester’s Making aDifference Awards in 2017. The programme has been delivered in 14 countries including Bosnia, Uganda, Colombia, South Africa and the MENA. Teresa is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester and a member of the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security (GCYPS) a UN Inter-Agency Network.
Picture © Alexander Butcher
A millenary contemporaneity
Prof. Dr. Christian Greco, Director of Museo Egizio; Luca Dal Pozzolo, Director of Cultural Observatory of Piedmont at Fitzcarraldo Foundation, Turin
A millenary contemporaneity
The Egyptian Museum of Turin as a role model for societal dialogue and design of a desirable future
Archaeological museums have a great potential to express in the contemporary world, in showing how ancient societies have reacted to the challenges of sustainability and of their relationship with the climate, and how they have constructed cultural identities within an immense range of alternative ways of life and modes of thinking. To build an explicit relationship between antiquity and the criticality of the present is the wider task of the Next Renaissance now visible in many civic initiatives, scattered innovations and seemingly unrelated instances. This piece explains how this full vision is assumed by the Egyptian Museum and how it enriches with its cultural contribution of historical heritage the conceptual alternatives for the society at large in the design of a desirable future.
Heritages´ role for the future in crisis
As has been pointed out by anthropologists and sociologists, the present time has taken on an inflationary dimension which tends to overlap with the past and extends into the future, depriving it of its novelty and possible change: a formless and intrusive aorist that hinders the perception of the depth of history and the possibility/need for a different future. In this context, history has lost its role as the privileged key to interpreting society but, at the same time, the pandemic has highlighted the extreme fragility and uncertainty of a present that is anything but stable and predictable, furrowed by sudden fractures that open up disturbing trajectories. Moreover, a sneaking feeling of nostalgia for the pre-pandemic period and a recall to a presumed previous normality are all signs of how difficult it is to look straight at the heart of the current critical situation and imagine a possible new design for the future.In this condition, the crisis that has profoundly affected museums and cultural heritage as a result of the lockdowns runs the risk of being read from a reductive economic point of view, as the loss of an entertainment offer, the downsizing of a decisive asset of tourism, the economic damage by the suspension of activities.
Although all this is highly critical for the economic sustainability of museums, it is necessary to focus on the contribution and the cultural mission that museums and cultural heritage are able to offer in order to emerge from a crisis that shakes the 20th-century roots of our European societies.
On the other hand, at the international level, the idea that museums are theatres of memory where local and global identities are defined, and where different visions of the past and present meet the future, is now shared. This is precisely one of the central nodes to nurture a new impetus to address the current challenges to their complexity, and museums, libraries and cultural heritage are the privileged places to inhabit, share and structure the crossroads between multiple identities, new constructions of citizenship and paradigms for social, economic and cultural sustainability.The need to recover the perception of the depth of time and of a future that is to be built through the choice of alternatives is today one of the great challenges that museums and cultural heritage can help to address, provided they are radically transformed: overcoming the concept according to which artefacts are exhibited and separated from their historical context, showing them as objects of particular beauty. Isolating them from their original context does not allow us to interpret an era.
All this implies an epochal passage from a logic of relationship with the public centred on the exhibition, to a dimension of producers of content, both for the public in presence and for the public at a distance as the pandemic has shown.
Although there’s no better way to enjoy heritage than in person, not even with the most sophisticated digital technologies available, museums and cultural heritage can no longer be understood primarily as physical containers to be filled with tickets, but as cultural publishers, capable of graduating their reach and disseminating cultural products on all possible supports towards the public in presence, the distant public, schools, universities, civil society, sewing up the past with the dimension of the future.
Innovating the futures´ context for heritage: The Egyptian Museum's commitment
At this decisive point in time, the wider aim is to perceive museums as laboratories of innovation, fundamental for the harmonious development of society, and as reference institutions for the construction of contemporary knowledge that must now face new challenges. Only in this way will we truly give voice to what Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved on December 10, 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, clearly reminds us. Research, scientific and technical innovation, heritage and society are inextricably linked, and from this relationship must spring the collective rebirth that, starting from solid cultural roots, is able to direct the path to a sustainable future.
The Egyptian Museum of Turin is leading in such innovations of the narrative of its contents and experimenting with new ways of relating to its public. Below is a brief description of some of the research guidelines inspired by the approach described above and the related actions that characterise the daily work of the museum.
The alliance between science and archaeology
The places that preserve the vestiges of the past can function as laboratories of innovation, experimenting with new techniques of investigation, through which it is possible to ‚interrogate‘ the objects in different ways. In this field, a real dialogue between humanists and scientists can produce truly innovative results, combining the potential offered by modern science with the questions suggested by objects but still unanswered. The time has come to introduce what we could call a digital humanism in which archaeologists, anthropologists, architects, historians, philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists work side by side with chemists, physicists, and computer experts to arrive at the definition of a new semantics that allows us to understand and process the complexity of reality. Starting from, for example, the exhibition Invisible Archaeology, the Egyptian Museum offers the heritage of questions, acquisitions, hypotheses and problems to be faced and explained to different audiences. The alliance with science for the reconstruction of the complexity of life and everyday life does not only imply a low invasiveness of the investigation and delicacy in the impact on the finds (a factor of absolute importance) but also the sharing of the knowledge and awareness of the public distant eras.
Science and the sacredness of life
The scientific investigation does not only concern objects and findings of material culture, but puts at the centre of its diagnostics life itself through the investigation of mummies and human remains that represent deposits of valuable information on lifestyles, diseases, genetic makeup, and so on. For the Egyptian Museum it is necessary that these investigations and analyses be returned to the public as a positive approach against the objective risk that every exhibition and every museum runs: the evocation of the gaze of the Gorgon that petrifies every object on which it rests. Fighting the dehumanisation of the mortal remains of life, degraded to crystallised relics, no longer worthy of the pietas that was among the reasons for their coming into our presence, is an ethical commitment assumed by the Museum, starting with the debate on the appropriate way to display human remains. Explaining how scientific and genetic investigations with similar methods can be applied today—not only to lives extinguished thousands of years ago but also to the recent deaths of migrants at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea in order to give them back their names and identities—opens novel societal questions, rooted in the distant past and facing our future and that of our children.
The Egyptian museum as part of a living geography
An archaeological museum dedicated to Egypt runs the risk of being placed in a subsidiary temporal sequence—before the Greeks—but in an ancient geography, no longer related to contemporaneity. Precisely to prevent this possible interpretation, the policy of recent years has focused—also with promotional and marketing initiatives—on the relationship between the museum and Egyptian, Arabic-speaking and African communities in Italy and Europe, to allow opportunities for cultural recognition and pride, for in-depth studies of history and for comparison between places of origin and residence. Egypt is not only a region of history, or a place of excavation and scientific cooperation with which the Museum shares intense exchanges, but one of the most influential countries in the geopolitics of the Mediterranean and an inevitable point of reference for thousands of new citizens. An effective reception policy and the construction of an intercultural society are also based on the recognition of the cultural values of others, on their valorisation, on the possibility that cultural heritages can be reciprocally known and shared, negotiated in their implications and underlying values, and not used to build oppositional, exclusionary identity exoskeletons based on the denial of the other.
The contemporaneity of the past.
The commitment to proposing innovative trajectories, in extreme synthesis, is aimed at making evident to the different audiences—with every, narrative, literary and technological instrument available—how archaeology, probing ancient time, contributes to questions about and redefines the present. This is a necessity as well as a challenge to museums if they opt to be a driver for the Next Renaissance Europe: How can museums represent a field of non-partisan cultural confrontation on the great themes that from antiquity to today existentially invest the human race? The most recent one is the overwhelming transformative power of our societies, which puts at risk the sustainability, not of the planet but of the human species in its development trajectories. The Egyptian Museum hopes to be an inspiration and living lab for museums across the globe, extending here and now an invitation to collaborate and co-create the future of museums for the future of a resilient society. In fact, the scientific investigation in archaeology is one of the most interesting frontiers in the challenges of contemporaneity.
Luca dal Pozzolo
Luca Dal Pozzolo, 1956, Architect, co-funder and responsible for Research of Fitzcarraldo Foundation. From 1998 is Director of Piedmont Cultural Observatory and member of the Scientific Committee of CCW, Cultural Welfare Centre and Member of the cultural Commission of the European Institute of Design (IED). He teaches in Bologna Economic Faculty, (Regional Cultural Policies), in Politecnico di Torino (master in museography) and in Lugano, Master in Advanced Studies in Cultural Management.He designed many museum’s exhibitions and cultural institutions and published many articles and books on cultural economics, museums and Heritage, (Esercizi di sguardo, 2019, Il patrimonio culturale tra memoria, lockdown e futuro, 2021), and is directing the book series Geografie Culturali, for the Italian publisher publisher Editrice Bibliografica.
Picture © Fondazione Fitzcarraldo
Born in Arzignano (VI) in 1975, Christian Greco has been Director of the Museo Egizio since 2014. He managed a refurbishment of the museum building and a renovation of its galleries, completed on March 31st 2015, whereby the Museo Egizio was transformed from an antiquities museum into an archaeological museum. Trained mainly in the Netherlands, he is an Egyptologist with vast experience working in museums. He curated many exhibition and curatorial projects in the Netherlands (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden; Kunsthal, Rotterdam; Teylers Museum, Haarlem), Japan (Okinawa, Fukushima, Takasaki and Okayama museums), Finland (Vapriikki Museum, Tampere), Spain (La Caixa Foundation) and Scotland (National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh).While at the head of the Museo Egizio, he has set up important international collaborations with museums, universities and research institutes all across the world. Christian Greco is currently teaching courses in the material culture of ancient Egypt and museology at the University of Turin and Pavia, and he is Visiting Professor at the New York University in Abu Dhabi. Fieldwork is particularly prominent in Greco’s curriculum. For several years, he was a member of the Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in Luxor. Since 2011 he has been co-director of the Italian-Dutch archeological mission at Saqqara. Greco’s published record includes many scholarly essays and writings for the non-specialist public in several languages. He has also been a keynote speaker at a number of Egyptology and museology international conferences.
If there’s to be a New Renaissance, let it be a Renaissance of humanity
Milota Sidorova, PhD, Director of Urban Studies and Participatory Planning Department at City of Bratislava
If there’s to be a New Renaissance, let it be a Renaissance of humanity
(and let’s start with the young ones)
If there is something to connect the renaissance of old with our times, it would be a need for humanism. But what does that mean on a level we could grasp in our personal and professional lives? Let us contemplate the humanism of current times, people living in cities and finally city governance. When I was asked whether it was time for the next European Renaissance, my initial response was laughter—you know, the one where laughter mixes with tears. First, the world seems a very chaotic place to me, literally changing from week to week. Things I had considered certain—open borders, travel, international relationships, job opportunities, even tolerance—are no longer so. Who the hell is running my country, I ask myself? Feelings vary between exhaustion, disgust and resilience. Don’t get me wrong: I am no pessimist. But in order to move forward I often lapse into periods of cynical silence and combat. It seems to me that I dwell in one such period right now—and here comes the question: Is a Renaissance possible and can human creativity foster it?
Picture above: Milota Sidorova, Copyright: Milota Sidorova
Drawing parallels with the Renaissance of old
The Renaissance of the past had things in common with our days. The collapse of feudalism can be compared with the present crisis of capitalism, a system that has evolved for more than four centuries. Just like feudalism at that time, capitalism can no longer meet the demands of modern society and its inherent growth paradigm causes the destruction of the environment. In addition to a socioeconomic shift, the old Renaissance saw a massive growth of education—later on galvanised by the invention of a printing machine. That resulted in a widespread growth of schools. Information was spreading faster, contributing to the emergence of new ideas and thinking. Suddenly, more than ever before, one could access information. Arts, science, medicine, overseas expeditions, technological and urban growth—all of this opened wider horizons to the human world.
Most disciplines only emerged from shared roots of philosophy and later specialised. In this unique time it was possible for a man to become a so-called Renaissance man of significance. I am not sure if a person like Leonardo da Vinci would exist today. Innovative yes, craftsman or scientist, maybe, but probably not. Definitely a businessman rated in some of those global financial magazines. But this is not a question today—although we love the idea of masters, superheroes, winners, talented men (nowadays even women), the truth is, such personas do not have much to do with creativity as I mean it. Oh, and a note to education—it seems that after centuries of specialisation and technological progress, we are at a crossroad once again. For the past decade almost all disciplines have experienced an increasing urge for interdisciplinarity. Daily, we live with a growing need to cultivate a holistic approach towards the complexity of the world. But we may be heading in the opposite direction. Perhaps it is time to bring philosophy back to the game.
The Renaissance of old was characterised by huge social and economic inequalities and epidemics. This seems a convenient resemblance to our times. Yet to simply say, Yes, it is the same story, would be rushed and definitely wrong. Genetically, as biological beings, we humans haven’t changed that much since Leonardo`s time. But as a society we live in a radically different, complex world, enhanced by the internet and by free movement—a world that cannot be compared to those late medieval people.
The new Renaissance must be humanistic
If there is something to be shared with the Renaissance of old, it would be humanism. Not only in the sense of a human-centric vision of the world in emerging disciplines, but also in terms of humanistic ideas that were essential to future democracies and to the progress we have made. So when I am talking about technological revolutions driven by Artificial Intelligence, science revolutions speeded up by the vaccine rush or a green revolution, it is essential we don’t omit humans from the epicentre of these revolutions. If any revolution should happen it should be a revolution of humanism—with technology, digitalisation, scientific progress and environmental protection being the fields in which we operate.This is a fairly optimistic idea—and somehow hard to connect to the reality of our populist politics or bullying on social media, say. How do we want to run our society oriented on humans when there is so much hate and chaos around us, all in such a high speed chase?
So the first revolutionary question to our post-pandemic renaissance would be, Where are we? How have we suffered? How did we get out of touch with others? It is true that most of us remained isolated or in small groups with mostly disembodied connections to the outside world. Other people became estranged at best. I sense that connecting to neighbours and other people would be something of much needed societal therapy. And positive, human and inspiring language from the media and from political leadership would be a requirement too.
Recovery of what?
These days most European countries decide how they allocate and spend funds from the so-called Recovery plan. It seems quite short-sighted and regressive that most of the funds are spent on huge infrastructure projects and so little on humans—education, culture, healthcare systems, the recovery of communities. We have to build strong communities where relationships thrive with the result of increased safety, economic and cultural activities. Let me be more specific. If we are to foster creativity in communities, let us think first of safe communities which are not threatened by a lack of basic needs and rights. You can hardly grow a band like the Beatles out of a burning refugee camp. But you can foster a lot of inventions out of human curiosity. Curiosity is the key to creativity, whether it ends up in artistic production, a company or a happy family life—where a lot of creativity is required! The state of curiosity
is the opposite of being locked down and defined. It means openness to tolerate a new thing to happen and learn from it. And for curiosity to flourish, especially after such a difficult period of isolation, we need to acknowledge the need for relationships (the very essence of humans) and critical thinking (as a compass to navigate through the complex world of information and disinformation).
A friend of mine, a couple therapist, suggested to me recently, If people did not know what depression and anxiety meant before the pandemic, now everybody knows. Such a simple yet powerful thought! We did it all together, in a way: All this shared misery connected us on a human level.
How we are to rise from the bottom to rebuild the world remains a different question. In fact, we did not suffer a destructive war, not in terms of infrastructure. There are no destroyed cities left after pandemics. But we have to rebuild our relationships, trust and political behaviours as democracies have been under pressure. The Pandemic—and the lockdowns and public anxiety that came with it—actually served authoritarian figures to establish their powers and diminish democracies. In countries like Hungary, Belarus, Slovenia,
Poland and the Czech Republic we can witness that the system ensuring public benefits and resources while guaranteeing individual rights—the system that we call liberal democracy—is under threat.
As I spoke to my friend—me, an urban planner, him a therapist—we discussed differences we saw among mayors of cities and national politicians. The truth is, here in Slovakia we could not find even five inspiring, cause-oriented politicians—male or female—on the national level. On the other hand, we spoke a lot about the growing popularity of many mayors—male and female—who did well in the pandemic. They did well because they focused on the reality of human lives and worked for everyone. They completely abandoned debates between left and right, liberal and conservative, that normally fill media space and focused on real things like helping people get tested and vaccinated, providing food delivery and social care for the elderly, and simply informing citizens of the reality of the pandemic. So here is one takeaway: If any revolution should happen, it should avoid empty politicising without action and focus on serving humans. Sometimes words are empty of meaning. These politicians did well because they found a different way of doing politics.
Resilient leaders taught from childhood
Poland is on the verge of an ideological political battle, yet a few years ago I noted there were few cities (Gdynia, Wroclaw, Lubin) with mayors winning three or four election terms. These cities have had long-term growth, continuity and it seems that the various tectonic shifts on the national level did not affect them that much. Common features uniting all these mayors were not only that they remained relatively unpartisan, being able to negotiate with different parties, but they focused on solving real issues—housing, greenery, mobility, public spaces, culture—thus gaining the trust of their citizens. But a truly surprising moment for me was the realisation that all of them were members of the Scout movement. Being a Scout myself, I looked around and found more popular mayors and city administrators, male and female, being members of this movement, in Slovakia and elsewhere. Don’t you think this is interesting? I asked my friend Andrej.
I remember that from a very early age Scout leaders taught us teamwork, leadership, public service. And we were constantly outdoors, in connection with nature and cities. From my early childhood, they implanted the idea that without others I would simply not survive or get anywhere. And that in any situation or narrative you have to look for ways to deal with it.
Interesting, indeed, Andrej replied. I recognise the same behaviours among people who were also members of a sports organisation called Sokol.
Sokol or “Falcon” was a youth sports club widespread in
Czechoslovakia during communism. Similarities to Scouts were apparent. Both stressed teamwork, physical activities, being outdoors—and both were affordable.
Interesting, he continued. People spending their youth in these organisations were more likely to maintain focus on the cause, rather than on changing rhetoric. Also, in their relationships they tended not to repeat mistakes from their family behaviours, he added.
Finally, I found something that could answer my need for humanistic revolution on a scale that I could grasp and do something about.
Affordable youth organisations—key players in resilient cities
Now, let’s think about the future. In order to have one, we have to literally work out societal integrity, critical thinking, and resilience against illiberal ideologies. We have to focus on wellbeing and chances for the next generations while protecting the environment. All of these values were taught and practiced by both the organisations mentioned above, while they were widely affordable to children from all social circles—in contrast to exclusive private kindergartens, schools and universities which fostered the same values, except that of affordability, thus creating a future elitist class.
To heal relationships and societal integrity we have to teach generations of people who will naturally live according to these principles. We all know how difficult it is to convince a grownup—so let’s focus on the youth. Besides, young people can also teach their parents a great deal. What if we sought these (and other similarly oriented) organisations actively and as public administrators offered them partnerships, affordable rents for their community spaces (that is what they mostly need) and let them do the job?
Yeah, this doesn’t sound too much of an innovative idea, definitely not like a tech-start-up or creative cluster program—and less likely to attract investors or employers. Because they are involved in lives much earlier, have daily presence, and shape us and our kids for the future. Most of them are on decline as cities become more expensive and lifestyles change. Because they operate on low budgets, they are neither very visible nor prominent. Thus they hardly gain our attention.
But here’s a proposition: Let us find them, help them. Let us integrate them into our recovery plans, helping them to guide people from a young age in the humanistic philosophy we all need. There is no longer room for us to prefer higher economic, political and power interests to people, human interests, needs and rights. A paradigm shift is needed, focusing not on economic output and endless accumulation at the expense of more disadvantageous and future generations. Human relationships with each other and with their environment must be at the epicentre of such a paradigm and that will be a return to humanism—and therefore to what it means to be human.
Rather than being held powerless, the youth can and should
contribute to community readiness, response, recovery, and resilience. While youth vulnerability is well established, their involvement in readiness and response has received relatively little political attention, even though youth who are informed and engaged are better able to protect themselves and others. This goal could become part of community renewal plans and policies, bringing us closer to the future—and through young ones to a hopefully more stable, resilient society and the new emerging economy of care. With such a society I believe digitalisation, environmental protection or any other challenge could be handled in a more equitable way.
We must be a part of the world just like any other organism, as well as part of our own community of people, paying attention to the youngest and most vulnerable. If there has to be a humanistic, inclusive Renaissance for everyone—this I can sign up for! Anything else is an abstract illusion.
Note: This is a free-thinking essay and I thank my friend Andrej Zemandl for sharing his experiences and thoughts with me. He was a great inspiration for writing this piece.
Milota Sidorová, Bratislava, Slovakia Feminist, urbanist and author in service of more inclusive cities
Picture © Milota Sidorova
Renaissance by mistake
Prof. Pier Luigi Sacco, PhD, Professor of Cultural Economics at IULM University, Milan
Renaissance by mistake
Spirit, are you there?
Leonardo da Vinci is probably the most acclaimed creative mind of all time and the epitome of the Renaissance man. His knowledge, talents, vision, and imagination spanned several disciplines that sadly now constitute different cultures: Science and Art. We admire Leonardo so much not only for what he did, but also and maybe even more for what he anticipated: in his notebooks, he figured out ideas and possibilities that would only become a reality several centuries later. And yet, if we think of it, most of what we admire Leonardo for did not work. His tank or his submarine, to cite a few famous examples, are brilliant intuitions, but nothing more. Even an artistic masterpiece like The last supper is in critical condition because Leonardo experimented with a new painting technique of his own invention, a tempera grassa, that would fail to stick properly to the humid wall. A detractor of his time would not have been in a difficult position in depicting Leonardo as a fraud by selectively picking a collection of such incidents. But his experimental, risk-taking attitude was a constant feature of his creative method. This raises an interesting question: Do we admire Leonardo because of his mistakes or despite his mistakes?
Mistakes and the Renaissance Men: then and now
We could be tempted to say, Neither one nor the other. We do not admire Leonardo because he did something wrong, but because he was visionary enough to imagine possibilities that were much beyond the technological standards of the time, and inevitably he could not get them right given the current state of knowledge. At the same time, blaming him for not getting them right would be totally unfair in view of the fact that actually working submarines or tanks would in the first place require engines that were inconceivable at the time of Leonardo. But can we really separate in any way Leonardo’s prodigious ingenuity from the ‘mistakes’ it produced? After all, most of Leonardo’s imagination of possibility comes from a careful and most insightful observation of nature: his machines are distillations of design principles found in animal bodies, and of reflections on the action and properties of natural forces. And like Leonardo’s, such evolved principles have in turn been built by nature on the basis of
constant trial and error, of endless refinement of mistakes: After all, what else are the copying glitches that cause genetic mutations?
In the constant lip service to Renaissance that is so much characteristic of our times—the idea of Renaissance has probably never been so popular as it is nowadays so that practically every day somebody calls for a ‘new Renaissance’ of some kind—we seem to have learnt this lesson in its iconic translation in the biographies and visions of those who are generally reputed and celebrated as the contemporary equivalents of the Renaissance man: self-made digital economy tycoons like Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, or Elon Musk, all of whom have built their fortunes through a relentless toggling between moments of sheer defeat and utter triumph, with the former providing the lessons that paved the way to the latter. Samuel Beckett’s “Fail again. Fail better” quote has become the most famous inspirational quote of Silicon Valley culture (and it is difficult not to feel the irony of all this). We have understood how to make sense of mistakes and profit from them, after all.
A culture of making mistakes is not a mistake in culture
But is this really the case? It is true that, retrospectively, mistakes can be good and are seen under a different light once one recognises how they prepared the condition for later success. But when mistakes are made, it is much more difficult to take them cheerfully, especially when one is moved by an enthusiasm and sense of possibility that clash with sudden, sometimes brutal denial. Being mistaken may sometimes sound like being treated unfairly in terms of lack of responsiveness to something that deserved more attention and consideration, and it really hurts. What is or is not a mistake does not depend only on objective conditions but may also reflect social circumstances. A good idea can become a mistake when it is proposed ahead of the time and is basically not understood by others—but is it then a fault to see things long before others do, as
Leonardo did? Or can it become a mistake because it conflicts so much with the incumbent vested interests that it becomes a threat that needs to be eradicated? To change a mistakenly good idea into a success, sometimes you do not need to change the idea, but the environment. And this is, ultimately, what the Renaissance largely did (to be fair, not in opposition to a supposed, previous Dark Age as it has been long contended, but through a seamless development of
long-baked previous ideas). It created a social milieu that was welcoming and favourable enough for creative minds that would have been out of place and out of context in most other societies, and whose ideas would have been refused as mistakes in different circumstances—as it would become clear a bit later in the gloomy times of the Counterreformation.
Todays Paradoxes trapping a Next Renaissance
So, the question becomes: Are we prepared to take the responsibility of what it means to invoke a new Renaissance? Are we prepared to set the context for good ideas not to sour into bad mistakes? The same society that celebrates Renaissance genius is keen to embrace an educational model in which only STEM disciplines matter (“Leonardo, stop wasting your time painting and try to make that damn plane fly!”). This same society seems to be willing to cut funds for basic research to reallocate them towards ‘useful’ applied research (“Leonardo, stop wasting your time with that tank thing and come up with a practical idea!”). It is easy to see how our current choices are turning into ‘mistakes’ the same attitudes that we retrospectively celebrate. Paradoxically, what attracts us to the idea of Renaissance genius is that we leave our trust to the creative vision as a way of maintaining our own need for assurance and risk-aversion (‘the genius will do it right, even if I do not understand how and why’). However, what makes it feasible is exactly the contrary: Responsibly embracing collective risk-taking is the only viable context for successful creative ideas.
So, what does a ‘new Renaissance’ mean today, concretely? It means being able to create a social attitude of openness toward the weird and the unfamiliar. Weird, unfamiliar things can be very irritating, and we are generally not very good at managing irritation. Truly new ideas are often refused not because they appear too complex, but because they appear too stupid—largely because we are not able to appreciate their real depth and complexity. Weird, unfamiliar things call for cognitive and emotional effort. But we live in a world in which we are much too keen to simplify things to people. And perhaps not accidentally we witness an unprecedented flourishing of spurious or entirely fabricated knowledge (‘conspiracy thinking’) whose only real appeal lies in its nodding to our need to understand the world through ideas and categories we are already familiar with and require no real learning or cognitive effort. We are often suspicious of anything that challenges our prejudices and intuitions.
Recovering the Renaissance spirit
The road to a ‘new Renaissance’ is long and tortuous, and it passes through an unprecedented mass flourishing. To turn mistakes into good ideas we need societies that are ready to venture into the unfamiliar with grit and curiosity, and that have the patience to absorb delusions and the generosity to overcome partisan thinking. But this sounds exactly like the opposite route to the one pursued by the business models of many of those digital giants who, ironically, we celebrate as the modern incarnations of the Renaissance spirit. These are businesses that profit from the increasing polarisation of the public opinion and from the formation of echo chambers that commodify people’s prejudices.
Recovering the Renaissance spirit is about turning the tide. Digital culture can become the platform for a new Renaissance if it does what the Renaissance once did: creating a social platform for an unprecedented form of collective intelligence. And Europe can play an important role in this process exactly because it does not have such an incumbent interest in the extraction of value from the status quo as is the case for the Silicon Valley giants. Europe can pursue different possibilities because it has much less to lose—and much more to gain. But to do so, we need to recover the true social dimension of the Renaissance whose locus is not the studio of the solitary genius, but the square: the centre of community life, the
theatre of exchanges and encounters. The Renaissance square is inclusive, it is a public space that everybody can inhabit as a peer, and it is pertinent that the square as the centre of human-scale community life is a typically European urban phenomenon.What is the public space that we may inhabit in our ‘new Renaissance’, and where is it? What are the conditions for access, and who controls them? What ensures that it is diverse and inclusive enough to welcome mistakes and turn them into good ideas? These are the questions that we need to credibly answer if we want to take a new Renaissance seriously. And not to do it would be a mistake—one that would be difficult to turn into a good idea under all circumstances.
Pier Luigi Sacco
Pier Luigi Sacco, PhD, is Senior Advisor to the OECD Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions, and Cities, Associate Researcher at CNR-ISPC, Naples, and Professor of Economic Policy, University of Chieti-Pescara. He is also Senior Researcher at the metaLAB (at) Harvard. He has been Visiting Professor and Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, Faculty Associate at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University, and Special Adviser of the EU Commissioner to Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. He is a member of the scientific board of Europeana Foundation, Den Haag, of the Advisory Council on Scientific Innovation of the Czech Republic, Prague, of the EQ-Arts Foundation, Amsterdam, and of the Advisory Council of Creative Georgia, Tbilisi. He regularly gives courses and invited lectures in major universities worldwide, published about 200 papers on international peer-reviewed journal and edited books with major international publishers. He works and consults internationally in the fields of culture-led local development and is often invited as keynote speaker in major cultural policy conferences worldwide.
Digital transformation as a second renaissance?
Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Julian Nida-Rümelin, Staatsminister a.D., Director of Bavarian Institute for Digital Transformation and Vice-Chair of German Ethics Council, Munich
Digital transformation as a second renaissance?
Towards digital humanism
The European Renaissance began first in Italy after a period of exhaustion by plagues, misery and wars. In the mid-14th century, the plague had plunged Europe into one of the worst catastrophes of mankind, an incurable disease that brought great pain to those afflicted and usually a quick death. Even before the plague, a long-lasting famine had taken hold, for which climate change in the form of significantly falling temperatures probably played a decisive role. The structures of social order eroded and everyday life became brutalised. The population declined markedly, with the paradoxical effect of a valorisation of human labour and an increase in productivity brought about by new technologies. The European Renaissance was preceded by a creeping decline in the authority of clerical and princely authorities, and was characterised by a return to ancient thought, especially that of the Greek Classical period and the Roman Empire. Aristotle was disposed of—prematurely—because the Thomasian worldview, unlike patristics, was based on his writings and had made them the authoritative source alongside the Holy Scriptures.
The young intellectual Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), born into high wealth and highly gifted, published his writing De hominis dignitate (Rede über die Würde des Menschen EA: 1496) and ensured that it was discussed throughout Europe by intellectuals and eventually also by ecclesiastical authorities. At the centre was an image of God that endows man with artistic creativity, technical innovation, and scientific research; indeed, one might say that in this writing Pico della Mirandola anticipated the thesis of the analytical philosopher Roderick Chisholm that man, like God, is an unmoved mover (Die menschliche Freiheit und das Selbst (1964), S. 82). Human creative spirit completes the work of God. Humans as rational beings are authors of their own life. They are free and therefore bear responsibility for everything they do. Only Immanuel Kant thought the consequences to the end in his practical philosophy of autonomy.
The Renaissance was an epoch of impressive innovation. And like other innovative periods in human history, it was characterized by the breaking up of schools and conventions, by interdisciplinarity, and by the fluid transition of philosophy, science, technology, and art. Education was no longer the learning of preconceived patterns of thought and practice, but self-education with the goal of life-authorship. Leonardo da Vinci did not know whether to see himself as a scientist, technician or artist. The Renaissance cities became documents of impressive design in the combination of technology, craftsmanship, art and science.Are we on the threshold of an era of comparably far-reaching innovations, shaped by the potential of digital technology? To be able to assess this, we first have to face a sobering fact. The third wave of digitisation has not yet made a significant contribution to either labour-hour or resource
productivity. The platformisation of the economy has reshaped it to some extent and created large tech giants, but it has not stimulated growth, or at least not noticeably. In a ranking by the World Economy Forum a few years ago, Germany landed in first place among the most innovative countries in the world—probably to the surprise of the authors—while at the same time being one of the most digitally backward. Working hour productivity in Germany is almost a third higher than the EU average while almost all European countries are outstripping Germany in terms of digital transformation. The productivity of the German economy is just behind Norway and Switzerland, but well ahead of France, Canada, the U.S. and Japan (which leads the East Asian countries). The productivity boost that digitisation triggered with the introduction of personal computers and the use of the Internet in the 1990s has not been repeated in the third wave. At the same time, however, the world is in dire need of a technologically-driven increase in productivity in the face of resource scarcity, ecological depletion and climate change.
All the inadequate efforts to cut CO2 since the 1990s have been far outweighed in Europe by the additional CO2 emissions of the Chinese economy. Meanwhile, the Chinese economy is polluting the atmosphere with climate gases at a higher rate than the US and Europe combined—even though China’s economic output ranks only third after the US and after the EU. If other current and future boom regions such as India or sub-Saharan Africa follow the development path of China, the climate catastrophe in large parts of the world cannot be stopped. The digital transformation must enable other development paths and use human and natural resources far more sparingly without stifling economic momentum in a development phase where the demographic dividend pays off in the global South.
Inventiveness, interdisciplinarity and creativity—the human ambition to master the existing challenges and not to be driven by apocalyptic fears into helpless protest or resentment-laden apathy—are required. A rapid changeover to climate-neutral and ecologically sustainable economic activity, first and foremost in the highly industrialised countries, the treading of new technological, economic and social development paths in fair cooperation between the world’s regions and the mobilisation of human resources in order to overcome the major challenges facing humanity will only be possible with the massive use of digital technologies.
Not data thriftiness, but protection of personal rights and use of data for humane progress in medicine, natural science and education, in state administrations, small and medium-sized enterprises, the efficient and effective organisation of social cohesion, are indispensable for this. The humanistic ideal of human authorship, self-education and creative power must experience a renaissance under digital auspices.
Responsibility remains solely with human actors. Software systems, highly developed so-called „autonomous“ ones as well as those which are called „artificial intelligence“ (AI), are not actors, not people. Man does not become God, who creates other individuals in his image to use them at will for himself. They are merely technical, albeit highly sophisticated, tools that we should use individually and collectively, legally framed and politically shaped, for the good of humanity. This is the central message of Digital Humanism: machines are not people and people are not machines. The currently fashionable AI animism is unscientific mumbo jumbo, a projection of a familiar type that animates the unsouled and gives satisfaction to the swashbucklers. And man is not a machine, not an algorithm-controlled software system, but a freely responsible actor of his actions. Digital technologies will not relieve him of this responsibility, but neither will they take away his freedom to individually and collectively shape life and its conditions.
The renaissance of digital transformation is based on the empowerment of human authorship, on the development of human creativity, on the targeted, intelligent and measured use of new technologies for human purposes. It aims to humanise the world of work through sustainable production and the establishment of fair practices in the global economy, while the current development path has established monopoly structures in the form of large tech giants, shifted greater parts of economic value creation to platforms and made a successful business model out of the skimming of user data from digital service offerings for marketing purposes. This humanistic form of digital transformation will not be feasible without a state framework in the form of digital infrastructures, without an independent European path of „human centred AI“ and transparent uses while safeguarding informational self-determination rights, without a European legal framework of digital dynamics. But the chances are good that the humanistic form will ultimately prevail over the commercial model of Silicon Valley and the state control model of China and other autocratic and totalitarian states.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Julian Nida-Rümelin, Staatsminister a. D.
Julian Nida-Rümelin teaches philosophy and political theory at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.JNR was a member of the first Schröder cabinet as Minister of State for Culture and Media. He is a member of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin and the European Academy of Sciences, director at the Bavarian Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt). In 2016, the Bavarian state government awarded him the medal for special services to Bavaria in a United Europe. In 2019, he received the Bavarian Order of Merit. Since May 2020, he has been a member (as deputy chairman) of the German Ethics Council. In 2016, Humanistische Reflexionen (Humanistic Reflexions) was published by Suhrkamp. In the fall of 2018, he published a monograph on Digitaler Humanismus: Eine Ethik für das Zeitalter der künstlichen Intelligenz (Digital Humanism: An Ethics for the Age of Artificial Intelligence) (Piper Verlag), for which he received the Bruno Kreisky Prize in Austria for the best political book of the year. In spring 2020, edition Körber published Die gefährdete Rationalität der Demokratie (The Endangered Rationality of Democracy) and DeGruyter Eine Theorie praktischer Vernunft (A Theory of Practical Reason). Picture © Diane von Schoen
Design is an attitude
Forbes Top 50 Women in Tech, Strategy Advisor to European Commision and Parliament and Founder of ElectroCouture, ThePowerHouse and FNDMT, Brussels
Design is an attitude
The renaissance of an interdisciplinary mindset
This article pays homage to the legacy of artist and Bauhaus professor László Moholy-Nagy and calls for a renaissance of his mindset, a mindset that incorporated new and revolutionary ideas about technology, education and attitude.László’s mindset is perhaps best encapsulated in maxims that abound in his prolific writing and which are pithy, catchy and easy to adopt as principles of design. Design is an attitude. Everyone is talented. László’s ideas about design were—and still are— democratic and inclusive. Everyone who can get involved in the design process should be involved—and that’s especially true when confronting the complex issues we face today such as sustainability. László was relentlessly experimental, but he was also very practical and his ideas very practicable. He documented his work fastidiously and he wrote prolifically, meaning his ideas, his guidance could be put into practice.
What is design?
So, what is design? Wow, we could talk for 10 hours—for 10 years!— about this. But what we can say for certain is that design is always an opportunity to improve. And for the designer, opportunities abound—it’s just a matter of seeing them. Looking, for instance, at discussions around sustainability, we need to find new solutions and new ways to tackle problems in order to build a better world. We need to solve problems created by old systems. (Though imagine that we had actually tried to avoid the problems before they had turned into the big issues they are now…)The sort of design I’m interested in is inspired by the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus was not just a school of design—it was away of working, of living, of being. One of my favourite aspects of the Bauhaus, a school of which László founded in Chicago, is the training that all of the students had to go through. Every student needed to know all of the machines in the workshops—not only how to use them, but also how to maintain them and how to repair them. Isn’t that wonderful? When you know how things are made, how machines work, it gives you power and freedom at the same time.
"Everyone is talented"
Back then it was the sewing machine. Today it’s the computer. Both have generated an impact beyond their intended purposes. I call this potentially extended impact #reprogramthemachines, because every machine can do more than the purpose it was originally designed for. It’s the same with our brains. We can do so much more than what we’ve been trained for before. And everyone is talented. László argued that, so long as they are interested in and dedicated to their work, people can tap into their natural creative energies. That means everyone can get involved. And in the case of the complex issue of sustainability, everyone—every possible angle—should be involved.We also need to look in from the outside. The fashion industry, for example, is an industry which was siloed for a very long time, relatively protected from outside opinion and criticism. A t-shirt requires around 25,000 litres of water in order to it. There is something very wrong with this picture but sometimes it takes an outside view to see this wrong.
Looking at other industries which have been disrupted in the last 10, 15 years—transportation, music, movies—the startups that disrupted them didn’t emerge from the traditional industry. Spotify, for instance, didn’t emerge from traditional radio. Instead, these companies were founded by people who were frustrated with the status quo and who dared to question it, asking, Why don’t we try things differently? They used tools to fix the problem, digital tools, and involved people from across disciplines. When everybody is talented, everyone can get involved. No elite, no club, just an equal playing field.
"Designing is not a profession but an attitude”
I love the emphasis on attitude in the Bauhaus. Everybody can have an attitude, it’s a totally level playing field. It’s about lifestyle, it’s about seeing opportunities everywhere. Everyone should and can have the attitude to change and to design. And everybody can and should have the opportunity and attitude to be sustainable.
That means it is the designer with the right attitude who brings everything together.
The problems we have to solve now—and the problems we need to avoid in the future—are very complex and very diverse. They’ve been created because industries have been trapped in silos with no communication between them. So, for me, it’s the designer with attitude who can bring everything together—and we are all designers. We are bridge-makers, traversing industries, silos, technologies and mindsets to bring everything into a coherent and intelligible picture.
"The illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen”
Remember László’s telephone pictures? Those pictures started a whole new discussion: What if, all of a sudden, a designer uses technology to create art? Is he still an artist?. Back then, photography was a new technology and László completely embraced it. But let’s not forget the pen which was, at some stage in history, a new, super smart piece of technology. The camera is to us now what the pen was for László. For us, the camera is a standard, familiar tool, like the pen. Perhaps new technologies like algorithms and artificial intelligence perhaps have a similar novelty for us that the camera had for László. The question is how we work together to use these tools. So, ladies and gentlemen, how do we do this?
Work. Go and travel. Go and talk with other people if you’re an architect or builder, in the loosest sense of those words. Or if you’re a writer, a musician, a content creator. Explore space, explore our oceans. Have you ever talked with a programmer, a software engineer or a data architect? I highly recommend it because a great piece of code can be as exciting as a novel and as impactful as a symphony. So, wherever you go, whatever you do, do something different. Talk with other people. Make things better, together.
Lisa Lang has gained recognition as one of Forbes Europe’s Top 50 Women in Tech, and has been listed as one of the 50 most important women for innovation & startups in the EU.She founded highly recognized companies like ElektroCouture, ThePowerHouse and FNDMT who are dedicated to push innovation within the creative and innovative industry eco systems. Lisa Lang is a direct adviser for creative industries, digitalisation and entrepreneurship for the European Commission on several high-level advisory boards, including Pact for Skills, Industrial Forum and the US/EU Trade & Technology Council.
Lisa Lang is on the advisory board to the Zurich university of arts as well as a policy advisor for Fashion Innovation Centre Sweden. She regularly teaches business and innovation strategies at the Porto Business School and has been given guest lectures at TEDx Athens, KryptoLabs Abu Dhabi and Oxford University.
Picture © VOGUE Greece
Poetics in the Remaking of Europe
Writer, cultural activist and Emeritus Professor of Literature at University of East Anglia
Poetics in the Remaking of Europe
In 1951 the German philosopher, Theodor Adorno, published an essay called ‘Cultural Criticism and Society’. One remark in it, often taken out of context, made the essay famous: “After Auschwitz to write a poem is barbaric.” Whatever controversies it provoked, and however much Adorno subsequently changed his thinking about the relation between poetry and society, his comment remains emblematic of an important intuition. Language, and its expressive potentials, are not immune from historical events. Language has a distinctive life and social being, a life which can be enhanced, damaged or, in some of its forms, made obsolete. Violence threatens the life of language as it threatens other forms of life.
It is worth recalling the context that provoked Adorno’s remark. The holocaust remains at its dark centre, but, between 1939 and 1945, 36 million Europeans lost their lives in war related deaths. Many of the dead were civilians. The loss of life amongst Russians was greatest and more people died in eastern than in western Europe. But, however you analyse the numbers, what happened was probably the greatest act of human self-slaughter in history.
We may live in ignorance of these numbers and their implications. Or we may know about them and choose to ignore them. Or we may remember them in terms of certain images that we think are very much of the past: ruined cities, vast numbers of refugees, the dead and the scarcely living bodies of the Holocaust. That was Europe then and we live in a different place now. Wasn’t the post-war European renaissance precisely to do with the construction of a political order expressly designed to keep the peace? Hasn’t this been its most durable achievement?
We can answer those questions in different ways. One response might acknowledge that Europe had to come close to annihilation in order for that peace to be constructed at all. The memory of violence had to stay vivid for political energy and ambition to be directed towards the creation of a peaceful order. Now that memory has diminished, an important question for the next European renaissance is how the impetus for peace-making will be maintained. Another response, amongst the many causes of the violence that led to the slaughter of 1939-45, was a way of talking about the world that emphasised a wounded nationalism, that identified threats in alien others, and sought solutions in authoritarian leaders. Different media and different contexts were involved from films to newspaper articles to informal conversations.
These diverse means of communication created a multiplier effect. Xenophobia, racism and authoritarianism became the focal points of a collective imagination. Whatever else may have changed since this period, the thought that these ways of talking have been overcome in a new peaceful Europe is clearly false. If anything, they are on the rise, but in a way that still seems oddly oblivious to their possible consequences. A new European renaissance needs to take account of this fact: the way we talk to each other is consequential. It’s one of the many ways that we make the world we live in.
Some commentators at the time of the European conflagration were sensitive to this linguistic dimension. The English writer, George Orwell, was one. He saw that the totalitarian regimes that caused such havoc needed to control language and, by their control, to gaslight whole populations in order to maintain power. Albert Camus, Hannah Arendt, and Ceslaw Milosz all shared a similar sense of the importance of the way we talked to each other and our capacity to treat each other humanely as ends in themselves and not just means to an end.
Adorno was concerned with the violence that could be done to language, Orwell with the violence (and control) that certain kinds of language enable. For both, this heightened their sense of the conditions in which language might live or become dead and
deadening. Orwell valued a plain clear style as the condition of language’s vitality. Adorno valued the dialectical potential of a language that could put in question what it was saying and how it was saying it. Both opposed the use of jargon and the tendency of language to congeal into fixed vocabularies and routine gestures. All large organisations, the EU included, have a tendency to speak in ways that Adorno and Orwell opposed. The corporate speech of the early 21st century unconsciously echoes the language world of Orwell’s 1984 in its repetitiveness, its tendency to settle into slogans, and its closing down of thought in the name of consensus. But how might we find alternatives? This will importantly depend upon our own inventiveness with language and a willingness to give up on certain forms of ‘authoritative speaking’ that seem increasingly threadbare to those on their receiving end of them. Our own inventiveness can draw on many resources as we imagine how we might speak to each other in ways that are both democratic and expressive. Europe invents itself through many languages and not just one. In this repeat it is a little like another multilingual society, India. How we respond to this reality not as a deficit or a problem, but as a source of cultural enrichment and opportunity is one challenge for the next European renaissance.
For Merleau Ponty le langage parlant is a creative state, but it also affirms and recreates a social bond. It becomes what he describes as a “gesture of renewal and recovery which unites me with myself and others.” While he finds examples of this kind of language in literature it is by no means confined to a specialised form of creativity. The experience of “renewal and recovery” occurs for the speaker and the listener, for the individual and the collective. To utter le langage parlant is a potential in all of us, but one that circumstance can easily damage or restrict. It also marks the moment when language comes alive.
The first European renaissance marked a great transition in language in its affirmation of the expressive power and the literary dignity of different vernacular languages that were destined for a while to become the different national languages of Europe. The next renaissance will perhaps move in another direction, one that has been described as a colonial phenomenon, creolisation, where different languages and cultures mix and mingle. How we talk to each other and in what language or languages will become of ever greater importance. A ‘poetics for Europe’ will foster the conditions for a langage parlant made out of the interaction between different languages and cultures. One of its hallmarks will be the understanding that in saying something we are always doing something and that one of the things we are doing is recreating or dissolving the conviviality that can connect us one to another.
Jon Cook is a writer, cultural activist and Emeritus Professor of Literature at the University of East Anglia. He was educated at Cambridge University and the University of East Anglia. He has published a number of books and essays that, in different ways, focus on the question of what makes language creative. From 2008-2017 he was on the governing body of the Arts Council for England. He has taught at universities in the US, Europe and India and is currently involved in a project to create an arts and humanities curriculum for the 21st century. In 2021 he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He currently lives near Stroud in Gloucestershire and hopes it will not be too long before the UK rejoins the EU.
Riding the rapids of the great transformation
Charles Landry, inventor of Creative City concept and Co-Founder Creative Bureaucracy Festival, Berlin
Riding the rapids of the great transformation
The place to be
Periods of history involving mass transformation, like the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution or the technological revolution of the past fifty years are cultural shifts. They involve major adjustments in attitudes, ways of being and mindset. They can produce confusion yet also a sense of liberation and a mindshift combined with a feeling of being swept along by events. There were delights and dilemmas as they unfolded. Now, by contrast, the temper of the age, the Zeitgeist, is one of uncertainty, foreboding, vulnerability and lack of control over overweening global forces—especially our urgency to avert climate collapse or to avoid the polarising narratives that poison civilised conversation.
It is hard to see a way to a golden age, especially since we know we need to shift our economic order and a way of life that is materially expansive, socially divisive and environmentally hostile. And doing that cannot be grasped by a business-as-usual approach as it takes a while for new ethical stances and new ways of operating to take root and to establish a new and coherent world view.
Is there light at the end of the horizon in facing those challenges, even though some feel Europe is at the edge of exhaustion and without the energy or motivation to think, plan and act afresh and with vigour? Is that really so?
Our crises, often dark and gloomy, weigh heavily and can push us into passivity and resignation. Yet crises can be opportunities and provide a gateway from one world to the next. Take a helicopter view of the vast range of initiatives happening, large and small, across Europe and beyond to address the solutions to create a more human- and nature-centred world and you see some positive patterns. Still, for the moment, fragmented and without sufficient power and traction, big agendas are coming together in unprecedented ways and driving this change are many: activists, civil society, politicians, researchers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, business, writers and more. There is a mood and a movement emerging. We are seeing the possibility of creating a different world driven on other principles. There is a Planet B in sight, even though to get there we must get Planet A right.
It is a compelling story. Think how eco-principles are beginning to shape our mindset and how that provides the frame and therefore
courage to move towards a green transition where the circular economy notion plays a crucial part. Think too how newer concepts like resilience help us work through the tasks ahead or how co-creation and the participatory imperative helps harness the collective imagination (since transformation is a collective endeavour). Think here too of the notion that the world is our commons. And not to forget a digitising world that allows, in particular, the cultural creative economy to run through systems like electricity in its inventiveness and with its immersive capacities. Sometimes the speed of the possibilities are dizzying and we always must be alert that we, rather than the technologies, are in control.
There is convergence and it is happening at escalating speed. From the beginning of the 21st century we finally saw a rapprochement between the two great ways of exploration, discovery and knowing: Art and Science. That rapprochement began to break down the widespread mutual incomprehension between the arts and sciences. The premise is that the most fruitful
developments in human thinking frequently take place at those points where different lines of creativity meet. By sharing their creativities, ways of knowing and the knowledge it enables, scientists and artists enrich and maximise each other’s potential and so encourage innovation. The transdisciplinary perspective is powerful when boundaries erode and as the methods of exploration and problem-solving can combine the linear, analytical and logical as well as the visual, kinaesthetic, spatial and musical. Allied to technologies that help shift ideas into reality, these synergies promote new forms of creativity which can result in ideas that can be turned successfully into products, services and solutions. This is the radical technological and cultural revolution underway. It has great opportunities. Together it is all transformative.
Incessantly, however, a bigger question remains ever-present and it needs to be answered: How do you make people feel viscerally that they must transform and change their minds—even while people realise that the world stands at the cusp of a crucial moment? Time is short in which to make the big difference towards one-planet living and we need to harness and share our collective talents, will, energy, intelligence and resources.
The year 2020 glitch
2020 was a year of radical reckoning. It was a time to think afresh. Did it make us finally listen and etch itself into our consciousness as we saw, momentarily, the skies clear and heard the birds sing again? This forced experiment of reducing carbon emissions gave us a glimpse of a possible other world. It reminded us that the world of ‘more and more’ cannot go on even though many still think of the old normal as our desirable and exotic destination. Crises like the pandemic provoke a dramatic reordering of priorities, deep reflection and rethinking and focused us—or at least should have—on what really matters: the common good and public interest. We saw too that, as Tom Burke put it, “civilisation is the thin film of order around the chaos of events.”
The pandemic was a wake-up call which triggered a dawning of humility as our collective hubris was humbled and old certainties crumbled. The pandemic created both clarity and confusion as in the eye of the storm it is difficult to see “where next” and how to get there. There seems to be no blueprint for how to move forward, yet we do have them.
We have an image of what could be: a zero-carbon society, a gender-equal society, a world where the dividends rather than the threats of diversity are promoted. The solutions are there but we think too often that technology will sort it out and that we can continue to just act as before. Technology takes on the responsibility and authority. We abnegate, we feel less answerable to what is happening. Shifting our mindset and how we think, plan and act—our behaviour—is the far bigger task.
Taking an eagle-eye view of the world in motion demands we unscramble the nested complexities and look at existing trends in order to assess their depth or superficiality, their characteristics and the nature of their impacts.
A good analogy is to think of change like an ocean. Ripples on the surface are less important than waves of increasing significance, which are themselves formed by tides, currents, climatic changes and
geological events which shape the movement and dynamics of the whole—and which might produce the occasional tsunami. It is that tsunami we need to avert.
We know the direction of travel if we do not act and it is the deep trends—think climate change—that we need to address. The challenge for all of us is to distinguish between the important, the less significant and the trivial: to understand the difference between a trend and a fad. And some trends are as persistent as they are predictable—just consider that when I was born the world population was about 2 ½ billion and when I die it will be more than 8 billion people. Not surprisingly, nature is suffering. Think water shortages, deforestation and animal extinctions. All are inextricably interwoven. In addition to this we are still operating largely with the same institutional structures made for a different age.
Variation of the mind
To make the rebirth—perhaps a Renaissance—a reality requires us to shift our mindset dramatically. That mindset should see things as an integrated whole. But this is not to downgrade the specialist—it is simply that we need to grasp the interconnections. Is it crisis, danger, the fear of impending doom, awareness, knowledge or is it a thoughtful, inclusive mind that shifts our thinking? This means understanding mindsets, mindflows and mindshifts. It implies reassessing how we think and learn, what we learn, the intelligences harnessed, the types of information used and disregarded. It demands new criteria to discriminate, judge and filter and a broader perspective which embodies a more inclusive sense of possible resources that are more free-flowing, lateral and creative. A changed mindset, rethought principles, new ways of understanding and generating ideas are the cornerstones of change.
A mindset is the order within which people structure their worlds and how they make choices, both practical and idealistic, based on values, philosophy, traditions, experience and aspirations. Mindset is our accustomed, convenient way of thinking and guide to decision-making. It not only determines how we act in our small local world, but also how we think and act on an ever-encompassing stage. Mindset is the settled summary of our prejudices and priorities and the rationalisations we give them. A changed mindset is a re-rationalisation of a person’s behaviour and is difficult as people like their behaviour to be coherent—at least to themselves.
Mindflow is the mind in operation. The mind is locked into certain patterns for good reason. To cope with the world we focus on the familiar, whether thought processes, attitudes, concepts and interpretations. The environment or context determines what is seen and what meaning is given. It operates below the level of conscious awareness. We cannot be completely open 24/7 although our default position must be a willingness to re-assess. Most of us will look at the world or a problem in a learnt way and have vested interests in perpetuating our current practices. An open focus can be seen as threatening, especially for discipline specialists as this might challenge the authority of their profession.
A mindshift is the process of dramatically reassessing core ideas. But how can you relax when there are pressures around you? Changing a mindset is unsettling and potentially frightening. Transformative effects happen in differing degrees: direct experience, seeing things work and fail and through conceptual knowledge. The most powerful means is the direct experience of having to change behaviour. This is where crisis comes in. By living through and understanding a crisis directly a person internalises learning and is able to repeat this learning in different contexts—it thus becomes replicable.
The challenge here Is that we travel with a weight of history attuned to bipolar thinking, operating in silos and are often sceptical of integrated, 360-degree perspectives and transdisciplinary thinking. Yet that cannot generate the solutions the future requires. The greater the number of perspectives applied to a problem, the more
imaginatively will it be approached. This is not to deny the value of our existing specialist knowledge. We cannot all simultaneously have the skills of an engineer, a biochemist or environmentalist, but we can understand their essence and so merge them with other skills or insights to make them more effective. This integration with other skills—especially in the human and social sciences, such as history, anthropology, sociology and psychology—has too often been lost in most affairs. For instance, a traffic issue is never only about cars and land use. If transport planners had understood psychology or culture better or the ideas of mental geography, they would have been more careful about building urban motorways that scorch their route through communities.
So, how can youthink small and with less when we are used to thinking big and with more? This transformation is a cultural project, the biggest of our times, as it is about values, mindset, attitudes and hearts, minds and skills. Seeing things culturally is powerful as culture is who we are. Creativity helps shape what we can become.
There are various ways to change behaviour and mindset: to coerce through force or regulation; to induce through payment or incentives; to convince through argument; to con, fool or trick people; to seduce (an odd combination of the voluntary and involuntary); and finally to create and publicise aspirational models. It is the latter we need to
focus on and it is not as straightforward as it sounds. It is likely to be a combination of all persuasive devices that takes into account immediate, short- and long-term impacts. At times the slowest way of changing a mindset can be by rational argument; yet while longer, it is the most effective, especially when evidence based.
This is where storytelling comes in and understanding the distinction between forms of communication—especially the narrative and iconic. Narrative communication is concerned with creating arguments; it takes time and promotes reflection and is linked to critical thinking; we build understanding piece by piece. Iconic communication by contrast seeks to ‘squash meaning’ and to crisply encapsulate an essence in order to create high impact and to show that what is being said feels significant. Our challenge is to embed narrative qualities and deeper, principled understandings within projects which have iconic power. This is where the talents embedded within the creative economy are so significant. They can create the messaging, the products, the experiences that are emblematic and which can leapfrog learning and avoid lengthy explanatory narratives through the force of their ideas, their projects and the symbolism they engender. The iconic project says it in one go and as you reflect, you understand what it is about.
How artists and those in the creative economy can help
What exactly is it about the process and act of singing, writing, dancing, acting, performing music, sculpting, painting, designing or drawing that is so special? Participating in these activities arguably harnesses the imaginary realm to a degree that other disciplines such as sports or much of science, which are more rule-bound and precise, do not. The latter tend to be ends in themselves, they do not change the way you perceive society; they tend to teach you something specific. This process of imagining has the benefit of forcing us to reflect, to develop original thought, to confront challenges and, crucially, to imagine that Planet B, which is where we need to get to. Nursing us through a green transition is a creative act where involvement with the arts can help.
Engagement with the creative activities combines both stretching oneself and focusing; feeling the senses and expressing emotion. Art, for instance, can broaden horizons and convey meaning with immediacy as well as depth; it can facilitate immediate and profound communication; symbolise complex ideas and emotions or encapsulate previously scattered thoughts; anchor identity and enhance communal bonds or, conversely, stun and shock for social, moral, or thought-provoking ends. Art can criticise or create joy, entertain, be beautiful and even soothe the soul and promote popular morale. More broadly, expression through the arts is a way of passing ideas and concepts on to later generations in a (somewhat) universal language.
What art does is not a linear process. Humans are largely driven by their sensory and emotional landscape in spite of centuries of developing scientific knowledge and logical, analytical, abstract and technical thought. We are not rational in a scientific sense, but we are a-rational rather than irrational. This is why all cultures develop arts.
What are the elements that help transformation along the way? We see here a combination of urgency, perhaps a crisis, and increasing evidence that the old ways do not work. Then a new concept comes in that encapsulates a way forward, as when the notion of sustainability emerged especially after the Club of Rome report in 1972. That in turn can drive an intent, a vision, a mission. Missions act as calls to action and as gathering devices to bring interests together towards a common aim. Crucially, we need real-life projects that embed the intent as it is only the lived experience of, say, a sustainability
initiative in action that makes an abstract concept real. Think here of the 15-minute city idea popularised by Paris and its focus on the city of proximity where walking, ease of access and most facilities are nearby and local. Here what might have seemed invisible becomes visible.
This reminds us that the new thinking needs to impact at three levels—the conceptual, the discipline-based and the implementational. It involves, additionally, reviewing the detailed mechanisms to make things happen, such as financial arrangements or planning codes to encourage and direct development into certain directions.
New thinking can generate a rebirth—a Renaissance. This Renaissance could unleash a process of re-enchantment that speaks to our deepest yearnings, our soul and our sense of wanting to become whole again where we and the world around us have the right balance.
Great placemaking is an art not a formula, but strong principles can help us along the way. For a long time I pondered, What are great places beyond their need to provide the means of survival and shelter and to be environmentally responsible? Five core themes came to mind: “places of anchorage and distinctiveness”, “places of connection and communication”, “places of opportunity and ambition”, “places of nurture and nourishment” and “places of inspiration and imagination”.
A place of anchorage and distinctiveness
This place feels like home. It generates a sense of the known, it is familiar and comforting, it feels safe and this is a place where I am sheltered and that creates a sense of belonging. It is distinctively itself. It celebrates where it comes from. It acknowledges its past, its heritage, its traditions and core assumptions about who it is. Its multiple identities, its ideas, its visions are etched into its way of life and this is what makes it special and unique. This place explains to itself where it comes from by its history, built fabric and urban design, its rituals, behaviours and activities. The routines of daily life and their predictability seem ordinary, but this ordinariness makes people feel rooted. Ironically, feeling at ease about itself gives this place confidence about where it is going and more relaxed about any changes that may unfold—so it dares to be innovative.
A place of connection and communication
This is a place of relationships, from the incidental to the casual to the deeply profound. You connect and communicate face to face with neighbours, work colleagues, friends, acquaintances and those different from you. You link to the wider world physically and digitally as well as with your past and potential futures.This place is locally bonded. It is at ease with itself and with the wider world. It reaches out. It is relaxed about meshing its diversities. There is seamless connectivity enabled by high quality urban design, good gathering places and possibilities for chance encounter. Its walkability and varied transport modes—internally- and externally-focused—connect beyond the city confines. Its digital infrastructures reach out to virtual worlds stretching out far and wide. It is the hub from which your transactions with the world flow—both those near to you and those afar.
A place of opportunity and ambition
This place fosters open-mindedness. It encourages a culture of curiosity, it provides choices, options and possibilities in our differing phases of life. It has a ‘can do’ attitude. There is an experimental culture and this keeps it flexible and adaptive to emerging circumstances and changes.Some places provide opportunities and others less so, yet this is a place in which to have ambition, ideals and aspiration. It sparks in you the desire to give free rein to your exploratory instinct and to open out. The raw materials of the city create the potential and are embodied in peoples’ creativity, skills and talents as well as its material resources. These are “things” like buildings and also symbols, activities and the repertoire of local products in crafts, manufacturing and services. They are our historical, industrial and artistic assets including architecture, urban landscapes and landmarks as well as our indigenous traditions of public life, festivals, rituals and stories, hobbies, enthusiasms and amateur cultural activities. This draws attention to the distinctive, unique and the special in any place. These resources are all potential opportunities. Acknowledging this can engender a spirit of generosity. It can create the desire to give back to your city. This helps generate civic pride, loyalty and trust.
A place of nurture and nourishment
In this place people can flourish and there are many opportunities to self-improve from the formal to the informal. This is a lifelong learning environment and a place where a culture of discussion is vibrant. This place cares about every aspect of your life. Here you can grow personally and professionally and the city helps you in this endeavour. It reinforces your necessary ladders of opportunity to move forward. It provides accessibility and enables mobility and helps move away constraints. It enables you to be more fulfilled and to widen your horizons. You are fed by these broadening perspectives and so learn and reflect. This can help citizens become more competent and confident and thus willing to participate in helping to shape, make and co-create their evolving city. To make this happen requires preconditions and these include good facilities, be they in education and research, health care, social provision, affordable housing, parks, good retailing and cultural facilities from the large-scale to the intimate. It will provide anything that makes it more liveable. Overriding everything there is a spirit of generosity and of giving back and this in turn inspires citizens to aspire to give of their better self and to become the best they can be.
A place of inspiration and imagination
This place has a visionary feel. It lifts you up from the day-to-day. You feel at one with yourself and your city. It provides a heightened level of experience by its beauty, and what that is remains ever debatable—and so it is also a place of possibility and excitement. It allows you to envision what could be. Here, aspiration and good intent is made visible in both the built fabric and through the vitality of its culture and urban programming. Each reinforces the other and this creates a virtuous spiral. This visionary dimension reflects the ideals and ethics that the city wishes to project to its citizens and to the wider world. These greater purposes beyond self-interest change over time.
In bringing about a New Renaissance, three foci are important. First, we need to heal the division between the city and nature in a changing climate; second, we need to be imaginative in working through how we live together with our differences; and third, we need to unleash the creative potential in each one of us.
Many in Europe understand this and they have the commitment and energy to make it happen. Europe is not exhausted – it is alive as never before!
Charles Landry works with cities around the world to help them make the most of their potential. He is widely acclaimed as a speaker, author, innovator and he facilitates complex urban change projects.His aim is to connect the triad culture, creativity and city making. An international authority on using imagination in creating self-sustaining urban change Charles has advised cities or given talks in over 60 countries. He helps shift how we harness possibilities and resources in reinventing our cities and his Creative City concept has become a global movement. His book The Art of City Making was voted the 2nd best book on cities ever written by the planning website: http://www.planetizen.com/node/66462. His most recent books are The Civic City in a Nomadic World and The Creative Bureaucracy with Margie Caust. The latter has become a movement with an annual festival taking place in autumn every year in Berlin. The 2021 Festival had over 18000 visitors. Other books cover the measurement of urban creativity, the digitized city, urban fragility and risk, the sensory experience cities and interculturalism. For further information: www.charleslandry.com
Picture © Lukas & Joe
The next renaissance will be globalised
Johannes Ebert, Secretary General/ Chairman of the Board of Goethe-Institut; Nico Degenkolb, advisor for Cultural and Creative Industries projects at Goethe-Institut Head Office, Munich
The Next Renaissance Will Be Globalised
Shaping the past, changing the future?
Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, Modernity: these terms for epochs of progress and awakening continue to shape the collective identity of Europe and of the Western world to this day. Their achievements are rightly pointed out and their pioneers and representatives remembered.
However, what has increasingly entered public discourse and thus collective consciousness in recent years is a fundamental ambivalence that characterises Europe’s history of progress in the modern era—on the one hand, a claim to values shaped by humanism, and on the other, a lived practice that all too often contradicts the ideals formulated.
This contradictoriness comes to light especially in Europe’s relationship to non-Europe. On the one hand, the great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant laid the foundation for the modern, enlightened, Western worldview with the Categorical Imperative and his universalist moral and legal philosophy. On the other hand, he countered precisely this worldview with profoundly racist statements on the supposed superiority and inferiority of Europeans and non-Europeans respectively.1 In 1788, he certified the Native Americans as being „incapable of all culture“ and thus „even lower“ than the inhabitants of Africa. These and other reference points in his work are difficult to reconcile with the idea of universal human dignity postulated by Kant.
Picture above: Ebert_Degenkolb_Videostill from the project Intervention M 21 (www.decolonizem21.info) The (De)Coloni al Glossary, Part 1, Europe – Non-Europe, Copyright: Aliza Yanes & Santiago Calderón
Kant is not alone in such contradictions in thought and action, which have become the subject of critical reflection in recent years. In the most famous passage of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, adopted in 1776 as a progressive counter-proposal to Europe’s absolutist ancien régime, on the one hand it is considered self-evident „that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”2 — noble ideals. On the other hand, many of the authors and signatories (they were exclusively men), as slave owners, actively deprived people in their immediate surroundings of precisely these rights, not to mention centuries of discrimination against women. The unpleasant downsides were and are not infrequently ignored when progress is mentioned. On the contrary, when it is repeatedly postulated that the Muslim world finally needs an era of enlightenment or that country X or Y must finally democratise for the benefit of its population, the undertone of cultural superiority that can already be found with Martin Luther, Immanuel Kant or Thomas Jefferson often resonates.
In their recent history, Europe and the countries of the Western world have caused dislocations and injustices that continue to this day and whose postcolonial reappraisal is far from complete.
Against this background, do we even want to speak of a New European renaissance? Is there not something deeply nostalgic about the Renaissance concept, as the historian Thomas Tobias Becker recently stated in a lecture?3 „The past was [in the pre-Modern era] the Golden Age, change itself was suspect. If change was wanted, it dressed itself in the garb of return, renaissance, reformation or revolution.” Such a nostalgic understanding of a European renaissance, however, would be backward-looking, Eurocentric and ultimately hostile to progress.
A desirable progressive European renaissance that wants to be more than a nostalgic transfiguration, that rather wants to unfold a great transformational power, must be driven by openness and exchange with the world, by a clear commitment to dialogue and to the
recognition of diversity of cultural practices, by listening to each other and by cultural exchange between the Global North and the Global South. Important pillars of a global renaissance are the ideas of innovation in the cultural and creative sectors as well as the renewal of society as a whole, both within and outside Europe. European external relations and especially external cultural relations play an important role in this.
This is where the Goethe-Institut, the German cultural intermediary organisation with 157 institutes in 90 countries, comes in as an important player in European foreign cultural and educational policy with programmes that promote cultural exchange between Europe and outside Europe. It thus also provides impulses for cultural and creative economy scenes in the sense of the idea of innovation. Some examples of the Goethe-Institut’s programme work are outlined below.
Talk about power structures
The project “Latitude“ invited a global exchange on colonial power relations from September 2019 to November 2021. In interviews, essays, festivals and numerous other formats, topics such as decolonisation, the preservation of indigenous cultures, the role of museums, restitution and the treatment of cultural heritage are negotiated. Latitude refers to the cartographic concept of a demarcation line in relation to the equator, which goes hand in hand with a distinction between the southern and northern latitudes. Through this separation, the term associatively points to inequality in terms of power relations: the imposition of the systematic power of many countries from the global North over regions from the South. Latitude is a space for respectful exchange—cultural, political, economic and aesthetic.
New focal points are regularly added to the Latitude website. Writers like Cidinha da Silva from Brazil and Philipp Khabo Koepsell from Germany, for example, have written essays on „black literature“ and its positioning in the global literature business. The constantly growing number of voices on Latitude can be accessed via a register of experts that makes the participants visible and enables networking among them. In addition, ideas and insights from many Goethe-Institut projects on decolonisation and postcolonial power relations flow into Latitude. The topics range from the return of illegally acquired art objects to the societies of origin and the decolonisation of museums to the redefinition of power relations between the West and the global South and the reorientation of postcolonial development cooperation. For example, the handling of controversial art objects from former colonies is examined from different perspectives, from experts calling for unconditional repatriation as well as from advocates of a broader spectrum of alternative approaches to cooperation between former colonies and colonial powers. These debates are necessary to gain a sense of a decolonised and anti-racist world.
Dealing with the past
Europe can learn a great deal from its past, especially with regard to its relationship with non-Europe. The Goethe-Institut’s „Shaping the Past“ project brings together initiatives from North America and Germany to develop innovative forms for anti-racist and anti-colonialist remembrance in public space. Shared remembrance and the forms it takes are always the subject of controversial discussions, which show that dealing with the past must always be renegotiated. This is all the more true in an increasingly diverse society. In North America, there is great interest in learning about alternative forms of commemorative culture, especially in light of the current debates about removing statues from public spaces. In 2022, a series of exhibitions will be developed with women artists, historians and representatives of the cultural and creative industries to explore innovative forms of remembrance as examples. This exhibition will be produced locally „on demand“ and can be shown simultaneously in various locations, museums and community-oriented venues in the USA and Europe.
Changing societies with games
Enter Africa is a creative African network represented in 15 African countries and initiated by 15 Goethe-Instituts in sub-Saharan Africa. Interdisciplinary teams of architects, urban planners, IT experts and artists in 15 African cities have come together to develop 15 location-based games for smartphones and an analogue mega-game, addressing the challenges of urban transformation, borderlessness and Africa’s past, present and future. This process has resulted in a network of creative, innovative young professionals across the African continent and European-African game developers. Together they use games and game thinking to develop visions for good societies of tomorrow. At the same time, the creative-economic component has also been taken into account.
Global knowledge networks
The Covid-19 pandemic physically isolated people from each other worldwide. At the same time, the world also moved a little closer together in the digital realm through the final breakthrough of unbounded communication and learning platforms. The Goethe-Institut as a provider of global learning opportunities also found itself exposed to these opposing dynamics. The possibilities of digital learning, especially in the area of cultural and creative industries, are far from exhausted.
Since 2015, the Goethe-Institut has been testing hybrid formats with the Massive Open Online Course „Managing the Arts: Cultural Organizations in Transition“ and the „Master in Cultural Management“ degree programme run jointly with Leuphana University Lüneburg, in which more than 27,000 participants from more than 190 countries around the world have so far exchanged ideas about the work and the changing conditions of the global cultural sector and the cultural and creative industries. More than 50 lecturers from five continents share their knowledge and create a global learning platform for change through culture. As the academic director of the MOOC Managing the Arts Prof. Dr. Nishant Shah puts it, „What impressed us was how many people were talking in the forum about how culture
affects social change. And how much we need arts and culture to change our society.“ If we want to meet the biggest challenges of this century—climate change, digitalisation, flight and migration—we need many more such globally oriented platforms of mutual learning. For it is these formats that enable discursive spaces for artistic, creative-economic and social innovation.
Europe and the world, or rather Europe in the world, are facing major transformations. The flashes mentioned here are only a small sample of the worldwide work of the Goethe-Institut. They make it clear that the transformations that are in full swing in many places will only succeed if we do not make the mistakes of past renaissances and revolutions again. The next renaissance must not be Eurocentric, nor chauvinistic, nor nationalistic. After the US spoken-word artist Gil Scott-Heron, The Next Renaissance will be globalised.
We can successfully meet the challenges if Europe opens up to the outside world, comes to terms with its past together with other European and non-European states, creates global spaces of exchange and encounter and enables mutual learning. The arts and the cultural and creative industries have a particularly key role to play here—they are the motor and the basis for this next future-oriented renaissance.
1 Kant, AA IX: Logik – Physische Geographie, 1802.
2 American Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776.
3 Nostalgie – Geschichte, Theorie, Kritik, symposium Nostalgia and Remembrance at the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam, July, 14th, 2021.
Johannes Ebert is the Secretary General/ Chairman of the Board of the Goethe-Institut. Johannes Ebert graduated in Islamic Studies and Political Science in Freiburg and Damascus and finished a traineeship in journalism. After periods as an instructor at the Goethe-Institutes Prien and Riga and as deputy head of the Public Relations division in the Munich head office, he was director of the Goethe-Institut Kiev from 1997 to 2002. From 2002 to 2007 he was director of the Goethe-Institut in Cairo and regional director for North Africa and the Middle East. Subsequently he served as director of the Goethe-Institut in Moscow and regional director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia from 2007 to 2012, the year he became Secretary General/ Chairman of the Board of the Goethe-Institut.
Picture © Martin Ebert
Nico Degenkolb joined the Goethe-Institut in 2011. He is currently advisor for Cultural and Creative Industries projects at the Goethe-Institut Head Office in Munich. From 2017 until 2020, he coordinated the bid of the City of Nürnberg for the title European Capital of Culture 2025. Nico Degenkolb holds a B.A. degree from European Cultural History from University of Augsburg and University of Seville and a M.A. degree in International Relations from Central European University.
Picture © Krischan Dietmaier
A Program for Culture at the Crossroads
Prof. Dr. Miachael Resch, Director of HLRS High-Performance Computing Center, Stuttgart; Prof. Dr. José Teixeira Coelho Netto, Curator at Media Solution Center, Baden-Württemberg; Matthias Hauser, General Manager at Media Solution Center, Stuttgart
A Program for Culture at the Crossroads
The world is about to enter the Metaverse, says Mark Zuckerberg. The Metaverse, in his vision—or in his eagerness for more power and wealth disguised as a noble contribution to humanity—is a virtual place where we work, have fun, meet friends, watch movies, play games, and, most of all, consume. The Metaverse will be the internet, email, new reality, and everything. The Metaverse is where we will live. Monika Bickert, Metaverse’s vice-president in charge of policy content, wrote an article for Le Monde on November 10, 2021, in which she stressed that the Metaverse is a new kind of life.Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s previous company name that he is now trying to sweep under the rug, claims to have 2.9 billion users in 2021. It may be so. If it is, the foundations for Zuckerberg’s Metaverse have already been laid—in a very short time, considering Facebook’s founding in 2004. The Metaverse is not here yet, but Facebook is—and Facebook is the dress rehearsal for the Metaverse.
Picture above: High-Performance Computing Center HLRS University of Stuttgart, Copyright: Boris Lehner for HLRS
The impending Metaverse—as the successor of Facebook in a family that houses its siblings Twitter, Instagram and TikTok—is not an index of a recent crisis: it configures a dynamic that has been going on for quite some time now. However, this crisis—or moment of decision, in its etymological meaning—has become acute in the last couple of years. Everywhere voices are warning that either we do something now or humanity may lose its grip on its destiny. The remarkable novel The Machine Stops1, published by E.M.Forster in 1909, was at the time considered to be just a piece of futuristic divertissement. But its depiction of a proto-Metaverse shows all the characteristics Mark Zuckerberg boasts about his project. Forster’s book was a fantastic effort to anticipate a reality in which humanity has been increasingly living since then, with some dramatic peaks in the last couple of years—one of them being the attempt to invade the Capitol on January 6, 2021, to keep Donald Trump in power. Even our contemporary social media is described in 1909 as the „behavior modification empire“.This description is a rather generic, mild, and euphemistic label and could equally apply to the movie industry, the television industry, and much more. Therefore, we prefer to name it more straightforwardly: antisocial media.
As the computer scientist Jaron Lanier, author of Ten Arguments for
Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018), argued, social media is a challenge to humanity just as serious as the greenhouse effect. So, it is appropriate to say that media are responsible for the “greenhouse effect of the mind” based to a large extent on artificial intelligence and its supporting algorithms.
We could better understand the new developments by looking at ourselves, our perceptions, and our ideas about the world around us. The French philosopher and sinologist Francois Jullien has compared Chinese and European views of the world2 (The Propensity of Things: Toward a History of Efficacy in China, 1999). He concludes that our European view of the world is shaped by our looking for an ideal (eidos), aiming at modelling the world such that we can achieve that ideal. As a consequence, we tend to think in models. It seems to be obvious that thinking in models has led us to describe the world in mathematical terms. This method was feasible as long as that description did not spin out of control. With the advent of the computer, our mathematical description of the world has become the dominant (for some the only) and most efficient description of the world. Artificial Intelligence now aims to turn a de-scription into a pre-scription to use our mathematical models to control our world better.
Several human hopes and desires are driving this prescription. Mathematical models avoid ambiguity by helping us to identify specific solutions in an ambiguous world. We can further claim that our solutions are not distorted by human intervention, with mathematical algorithms executed by a flawless machine—only experts understand that computers are neither flawless nor do they operate without human intervention. The idea of excluding human error allows us to pretend that our digitally created realities based on mathematical models are just—devoid of any prejudice and human flaws. In addition to this idea of an artificially created intelligence, the vision of creating life without resorting to nature is tempting, especially if we believe that this is a species created only from human minds and exempt from all the flaws that come with the dirty and mortal nature that surrounds us.
Our enthusiasm for our creations leads us to ignore the warning issued by John Culkin in 1967: „We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.“ Taking the models we create for reality has always been the danger of our model-based approach
to the world. Unfortunately, with the computing power in our most current systems, these models get a life of their own and start to spin out of control. This fact itself is a reason to reflect on our understanding of the digital world. Nevertheless, we see disturbing developments that point to human beings‘ abuse of digital technologies beyond that.
After all, Jaron Lanier may have pushed too hard when he called people to delete their „antisocial“ media accounts. He should have stopped short of throwing away the baby with the bathwater. Were it not for the digital tools, to mention one specific event—the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic—the disaster might have been even more extensive. However, his warning is most welcome.
A Program to Address the Situation
If there is still time to remedy this situation, the solution lies in the complete understanding of the meaning of the term “antisocial media” and, in a broader sense, of eCulture. „Understand in order to control,” warned Ludvig Wittgenstein. Humanity must understand eCulture, or eCulture will completely control humanity. Of course, that has always been the issue with every new technology, be it the horseless vehicle, photography, movies, radio, or television. However, none of these innovations compares with the overwhelming power and ubiquitous presence of the antisocial media and artificial intelligence, which have been developing in eCulture—probably the final cultural utopia. Of course, a utopia may be a dystopia or a utopia—that is up to humanity to decide. In order to contribute to the effort towards a utopian eCulture, the Media Solution Center (MSC) has developed the „Reach“ project aiming to promote the understanding of eCulture in as many fields as possible—in the arts, culture, economy, social behaviour—and to create the conditions for eCulture to become a fundamental tool to the advancement of knowledge in a way that promotes civilisation. eCulture has the potential to achieve this goal if humanity can control it. This would be a renaissance.
MSC’s major all-encompassing step is the promotion of the necessary merging between the Humanities (understood as a general umbrella term covering philosophy, the arts, and the disciplines that study the different aspects of human society and its culture) and the Sciences. We have been talking about interdisciplinarity at least since the mid-20th century. Now it is not a question of opting for interdisciplinarity anymore: it has become imperative. A single initiative will not solve a crisis like the one we have experienced in the last couple of years.
If it has been possible for humanity to get an image of the M87* black hole fifty-three million light-years away from Earth, it is because eight observatories scattered all over the Earth convened to transform themselves into one vast and integrated telescope the size of this planet.3 It will take an effort of the same magnitude, probably even more extensive, to confront the Metaverse.
The 21st century saw the emergence of a generation native to eCulture, compared to the older generations for whom it was a novelty. The aggregate power of this new generation provides a unique tool in the forging of a new age for humanity. The MSC wants to be an active part in the effort to avoid a situation in which the limitations of artificial intelligence and its algorithms become the limits of humanity.
MSC has therefore structured its Reach Project as the Research and Creation Center for eCulture and the Humanities. The Center intends to develop a program building a bridge over the ever-growing gap between the Humanities and science and technology. This distancing between the two fields has become widely addressed since the beginning of the 20th century—the conflict between the „two cultures” C.P. Snow described in his 1959 eponymous book.4
Picture left: Logo Media Solution Center Baden-Württemberg
Mission One: Converging Humanities and Science
MSC’s Reach project’s first mission is to support and amplify the conversation between the Humanities and the „hard“ sciences. The Reach Project will not directly address science and digital technology. It will also investigate eCulture as the medium to which science, digital technology, and the Humanities converge to create a distinctive culture, a culture that can face the Metaverse. MSC’s principal arm for that is its academic, nonprofit research program dedicated to today’s culture’s complex and multidisciplinary study. This program includes contributions from the most diversified areas, including physics, neurosciences, biology, the study of social systems, and other complex approaches to the way we are living today surrounded by the internet and all forms of virtual representations. This program will consist of lectures, colloquia, seminars, and short duration courses oriented by the just-in-time principle, as opposed to the just-in-case principle.
Mission Two: CreativeLab
Reach’s second mission—where MSC leaves the academic field to tackle the thing itself—is to support young professionals in their projects leading to the creation of start-ups involved in using the current cutting-edge technology, especially artificial intelligence. This support will come through Reach’s CreativeLab, which will host collectives organised around professional projects requiring cutting-edge studies and all the material and economic support they may need, either in campus residencies or virtually. Creativity plus an understanding of what is going on is the underpinning of the CreativeLab.
Mission Three: Observatory of eCulture
Reach’s third mission is creating an Observatory of eCulture that will gather information about all things related to eCulture, from the internet to robotics to the social impacts of digital technology. Data—especially Big Data—have already been identified as the new source of wealth and power. However, there is barely any research by any creative initiative that does not depend on a well-organized information centre resulting from constant, attentive, and active observation of the world. Therefore, identifying, storing, and analysing the gathered information has become necessary.Reach’s three missions are enabled by the Network the MSC is part of: The HLRS, the High-Performance Computing Center with its supercomputer, the HdM Stuttgart Media University, with its highly specialised faculties, and the Core-Partner ZKM, Center of Art and Media Karlsruhe. These are unique assets not found elsewhere. As a result, MSC has the concept, the material means, and the people to concisely drive this project into reality. And it will—and it will thus be a focal point for this Renaissance in the Making.
Where: at the High-Performance Computing Center HLRS University of Stuttgart, directed by Prof. Dr. Michael Resch, and the Media Solution Center MSC, directed by Matthias Hauser. Duration: as long as it takes.
Picture above: High-Performance Computing Center HLRS University of Stuttgart, Copyright: Boris Lehner for HLRS
1 E.M. Foster, The machine stops, Penguin Classics, 2011
2 Francois Jullien, The Propensity of Things: Toward a History of Efficacy in China, Merve, 1999
3 The Astrophysical Journal 901:67, September 20, 2020
4 C.P. Snow, The Two Cultures, 1959.
Matthias Hauser has had extensive experience managing the dialogue between Art and Technology. He received a formal education in music. During his professional career as a musician, Matthias Hauser understood that art is a comprehensive system with specific artistic languages in dialogue. His experience in Art Education as a professor of violoncello acquainted him with introducing people to art – which is the base of his arts management practice.As director of an art gallery in La Coruña and Stuttgart for fifteen years, Matthias developed special projects involving art and cutting edge technology for Brands such as Rolls Royce during the 31 edition of Sao Paulo’s Biennial, Gallery Weekend Berlin, and Multimedia Art Dialogues at the Main Palais, Frankfurt. In 2019 Matthias was appointed as the first director of the Media Solution Center in Stuttgart (MSC) – an extension of the High Computing Center (HLRS) at the University of Stuttgart. The MSC bridges between HLRS’s computing capacity — one of the largest high-performance computers– and the needs of industries, corporations, research centers, art institutions, and social organizations in computing resources. Matthias Hauser will face the challenge of creating the conditions for individuals, collectives, and institutions to realize their goals.
Prof. Dr. Michael Resch
Prof. Michael Resch is the director of the German National Supercomputing Center HLRS and the director of the Institute for High Performance Computing at the University of Stuttgart He is a member of the board of trustees of the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM) and an advisory member of the board of trustees of the German Schiller Association. He is a member of the University Council of the University of Stuttgart and a member of the consulting committee of the Film Akademie Ludwigsburg. He was a Co-founder of the Media Solution Center in 2018 and a Co-founder of the Automotive Solution Center Stuttgart in 2008. Prof. Resch was awarded an honorary professorship in 2014 and an honorary doctoral degree in 2011 by the Russian Academy of Science and an honorary doctoral degree in 2009 by the Donezk National Technical University. Michael Resch is a PI since 2007 in the German clusters of excellence for “Simulation Technology” (2007 – 2018) and “Data-Integrated Simulation Technology” (2019 – 2025) as part of the German Initiative for Excellence in Research. Michael Resch holds a Dipl.-Ing. (MSc) in Technical Mathematics (Technical University of Graz/Austria) and a PhD in Engineering from the University of Stuttgart.
Prof. Dr. José Teixeira Coelho Netto
Dr. Teixeira Coelho is the coordinator of a research group on Computational Cultures and Humanities at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo, from which he received in 2015 the honorific title of Professor Emeritus for his accomplishments in research, teaching and extension services to the community. He was the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of São Paulo, which has the most important collection of modern art in Brazil, and the chief curator of Masp – São Paulo Art Museum, a major institution of art in the South Hemisphere. Formerly professor at the Institute of Architecture of University Mackenzie in São Paulo, he has been invited for a number of universities around the world and was granted fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Japan Foundation and the São Paulo Foundation for the Support of Science, among others. He has published a large number of books on art, culture and cultural policy, among them eCulture, The Final Utopia (2020) and Signs and Wonders (in the Digital Age), 2021. He was also awarded a Portugal Telecom Prize for Literature in Portuguese for his novel História Natural da Ditadura. Since 2020, he has held the position of curator at the MSC.