“How can we keep creating new opportunities for exchange and exploration of the cultural world?” The first stage of ArtLab 2019 closed with this question, because while content is substantial, crucial and challenging, it is people who remain at the heart of cultural innovation. The ability to build networks, collaborate, share ideas and good practice, face the challenges of the present moment together and anticipate those of the future: this is the key to building new horizons. It is also the key to the success of ArtLab, an organisation which has been facilitating interaction between cultural enterprises, cross-pollination between sectors, and opening up international prospects since 2006.
This year’s talks, workshops, and informal gatherings brought with them with a list of resolutions, practices to put into action or develop further, and questions to keep asking day after day in a constant bid to challenge ourselves and build new culture.
CO-CREATING CULTURE TO CREATE VALUE
Social inclusion, environmental sustainability, inter-culture. It’s no longer just about protecting our heritage and promoting cultural venues and activities. Social goals are increasingly important. Closed borders, the environmental crisis, fear, populism: these are the issues to which culture needs to respond by constructing new narratives, investing in the public as a driver of change, and creating shared value.
Here are a few of the experiences whose power to stimulate and facilitate the construction of a culturally and socially active citizenry made a real impression:
Amsterdam Museum: in a city with around 1 million inhabitants of 180 different nationalities, the museum’s goal is to present the many stories of the city. With the interactive exhibition ‘Black Amsterdam’ the curator Imara Limon established a dialogue with the public through questions like “What is your role model?” and “What is black?”. This approach places the public front and centre and contributes to the museum’s collections by creating an anthology of city stories from a range of perspectives. An example of the way that museums can become living institutions, allowing for identification and universal consciousness.
Climate Museum UK: “Culture declares emergency!” This motto is the driving force behind the mobile museum which organises activities to create engagement with communities around issues of climate change. Climate Museum UK promotes the concept of “Possible Culture”: cultural organisations need to prepare for the worst while imagining the best, and respond to challenges with a critical, rational approach that is both creative and open.
IMAGINING POSSIBLE FUTURES
Technology, digital culture, immersive experiences: this is the now familiar glossary used by cultural projects, and the present reality for cultural enterprises. So why are we still talking about it? The current challenge is to build meanings, a transformation that must be both technological and social. Generating impact is possible only in the presence of both characteristics. How can we make sure that the digital experience model is enhanced? How can we move away from the use of digital dope and towards the development of a relationship between culture, learning and technology? According to Pier Luigi Sacco, EU Commissioner Adviser on Education and Culture, “digital technology provides cultural organisations with new and powerful tools to encourage the public to develop new forms of critical awareness, thus accelerating change”.
We have spotted this model in two successful international experiences:
Audience of the Future: new ways to bring Shakespeare to life, making his work ever more captivating for an increasingly large audience. This is what the Royal Shakespeare Company has set out to achieve, working with digital technology firms such as Intel and The Imaginarium Studios to stage new productions of great classics like The Tempest, using digital avatars, lighting tricks and interaction with the actors.
MIRA Festival: this festival in Barcelona combines music and digital art to promote innovative projects from all over the world, as well as collaborating with museums and galleries to explore new forms of artistic expression which can interact with the artworks on display and bring them closer to the public.
EDUCATING, OPENING UP, DEMOCRATISING
Education means building the public of the future. A through-line that connects galleries, museums, cultural institutions and the music industry. The music industry 4.0, its post-digital incarnation, has been a pioneer of the democratisation of culture: while music is increasingly accessible in terms of consumption and production, it is also fundamental to invest in the music education system and innovative forms of involvement capable of fostering new generations of listeners and musicians. Technology becomes crucial to this end as it encourages experimentation and interaction between sectors to bring artists and audience closer together.
During the panel curated by Music Innovation Hub we were particularly impressed by these two experiences:
TEOSTO: using a royalty collection system for singer-songwriters and composers, this Finnish non-profit has the aim of “giving music writers a voice” and promoting their rights, and the diversity and awareness of Finnish music in Finland and abroad. For Turo Pekari, Senior Consultant of Innovation and Discovery at Teosto “Music belongs to everyone” and reducing intermediaries between writers and the public represents a cultural rather than an industrial revolution.
INTORNO LABS: a psycho-acoustic journey which lets you into the depth, movements and details of sound in a way never experienced before. The technology from Intorno Labs allows artists to access a new sphere of creativity and can be adapted to any space eager to try out creative installations, including theatres, museums and galleries.
ArtLAb 2019 continues onto new stages of its journey: Treia, then Helsinki in September and Bari-Matera in October. ArtLab 19 Milano closes with a promise: “to keep cultivating new looks at the great realm of the culture world”.