2014-08-05
Zenaida des Aubris
is Consultant for International Cultural Events. She has over 30 years experience in management and production of classical music in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Book review

Exporting Culture. Which role for Europe in a Global World?

Is European culture visible enough in the globalized world? Why is culture from this continent often perceived as old-fashioned or even worse as out-dated? Is the export of national cultural products and services - in most European countries subsidized by the taxpayer - no longer relevant, or more relevant than ever before? Is it a huge waste of money, time, and effort or an attempt to create another form of globalization? These and several other questions concerning the export of culture are addressed by authors from different countries in order to initiate a debate about the role European cultural products and services are able to play globally.
 
This compilation of essays, put together by Raphaela Henze and Gernot Wolfram, starts out with the premise that, due to the history of European colonial actions over the last few centuries, the term European Culture has negative association. The European Union and other institutions have made enormous efforts in order to change this perception and replace it with a new one based on an understanding of diversity, tolerance and cultural openness. The book further sets out to answer the questions such as: has European Culture what many call commonly high culture really reached a level of recognition among global audiences in the United States, India or the Arab and Asian worlds? Does a genuine mass culture even exist? Starting with a definition of genuine would be appropriate. The editors rightly surmise that in the development of globalization this approach can appear as something outdated and for some it might even appear as a huge waste of time, money and effort. Are there examples of successful cultural transfers? Is culture not not simply used as a tool of cultural diplomacy? Will one culture dominate all others? Do we need new cultural identities?

An attempt at answering these complex questions is given by twelve authors from eight different countries, all with diverse academic and practical backgrounds and each approaching it from a different standpoint.

Maia Davis Cross, as the sole US-American author in this publication, argues that the countries of the European Union and the United States should have a natural affinity when it comes to sharing cultural values. However, in presenting and promoting cultural activities, the United States has gone the way of the private sector, while the European Union has continued to subsidize these actions, drawing a clear line between the economic success of certain products (films, musicals, comics) and others meant to raise mutual understanding and cooperation.

The title of Claire Brunill-Maiers essay is Examining cultural narratives and celebrating diversity can Europe slow the American cultural juggernaut? Her answer has European nations adopting a more positive attitude to their own heterogeneity and a stronger empahsis on listening and responding to the global voices within the continent.

Raphaela Henze argues that the diversity and identity of each of the European cultures should be strong enough in and of itself in other words, more self-esteem to allow the cultural products to carry the trade-mark Made in Europe in order to succeed.

Gernot Wolfram writes about the grand sounding phrase European Arts Projects being a promise and a wish. It is a term often used in political discourses. But what really does it stand for? Most times, the full potential of exchange and creativity that such platforms offer are unfulfilled due to lack of funds (more so in the countries of southern Europe than northern countries). In fact, he argues, there will be European Union funding programs that will force artists to become much more entrepreneurially minded in subjugating themselves to the yoke of being a part of Creative Industries.

Hilary Carty bases her essay on the fact that there is an ongoing, dramatic shift in the make-up of the European population: in 2011 there were 1.7 million immigrants to the EU from outside the EU countries, adding to the total of 20.7 million immigrants or 4.1% of total population; these numbers continue to rise. There has thus been a growing diverstiy of people and cultures, especially in the European urban areas, which, if ignored, can only lead to isolation and distrust on all sides. The answer lies in an open and democratic integration of their cultures in established institutions as well as setting up integrated communities through cultural understanding.

Michael Schindhelm argues that mass culture in countries outside of Europe are based on totally different approaches. Therefore, the bastion of European high-culture has to reflect on how to handle its own often called old-fashioned or too intellectual stance. The speed of development, not only technological and economical but also cultural, with which the rest of the world is developing (especiall the BRIC countries) will undoubtedly leave its mark on Europe, too. Buzzwords such as sustainability and frugal innovation (which may well be coupled to the Hindi word Jugaad, meaning clever improvisation) abound. Nobody has the last word on interpretation any longer. He proposes for European countries to explore global cultural trends and how to best include European culture into the fast streams of cultural development.

Ulrich Sacker, who was a member of the Goethe-Institut for many years and Pius Knüsel, a previous director of the Pro Helvetia Foundation, share many viewpoints involving the continued importance of supporting national cultural exchange institutions. These institutions can become valuable tools not only in forging cultural diplomacy, but by working constructively with the host country in actually enabling a cultural and artistic dialogue.

GiannaLia Cogliandro Beyens and Cristina Ortega Nuere, both from the European Network of Cultural Administration Training Centers (ENCATC), have a unique perspective on the European cultural curriculum and the many challenges it poses in an ever evolving global world. At the core of their considerations are answers to questions such as how should education evolve in a changing society and multi-cultural environment and can networks in the field of culture and education contribute to establishing fresh and unconventional connections between the creative, business and academic spheres.

As a journalist and documentary film maker, reporting from many of the worlds war zones over the last 20 years, Katrin Sandmann, contributes her unique viewpoint to this book and one that is often not even taken into account because considered self evident in todays European democracies: The fact that artists are free to pursue their expression and work. In so many of the countries and cultures that she has lived in or reported from, it is not all a matter of course to be able to perform a work by Beethoven or Mozart, let alone paint or write about experiences or impressions. In fact, it can be downright dangerous and life threatening. The vulnerability of arts and artists in times of conflict is not to be underestimated.

Iris Rittenhofer, writing after spending many years in the small but culturally important country of Denmark, argues that so much of cultural output in this case specifically referring to Danish design has developed a life of its own, becoming global property by the very nature of its acceptance and integration outside of Denmark. The challenge for the creative industries is to manage the transgressive quality of cultural forms and genres in ways that apply culture as a topic, she writes. Additionally, she states her case for Capitals of Culture (Aahrus will be one in 2017) to seize their chances to (re)-negotiate European-ness as a topic for contemporary, border-less identifications of a transforming space.

Verena Teissl argues that a distinction has to be made for the distribution of goods as opposed to cultural transfers one of the main tasks of foreign cultural policy institutions such as the Goethe-Institut, Institut Franšais or Instituto Cervantes. She understands cultural transfer as a trans-cultural tool: adapting ideas, systems and formats of expression of one culture and transferring them into another results in an altogether different product.

Throughout, it should not be forgotten that all forms of culture are essentially made by and created for individuals. The conclusions throw up more questions and could be the basis for lively discussions.

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