European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Evaluation of Ruhr 2010

Evaluation 2011

The question is now how well did Essen / Ruhr 2010 perform throughout this critical year? As to be expected by both the concept and the setting various projects high-lighted that this former industrial area was in transition. Whether or not it has become the home for a new cultural industry, that remains to be seen. Right now it is too early to ascertain what has attained sustainability. For instance, it will be important to evaluate what someone like Bernd Fesel has managed to activate. He aimed by a diverse form of consultancy to set up something like a European Silicon valley. There can be heard already some skeptical voices saying Silicon valley in California, USA is unique and cannot be copied and pasted onto another area with quite a different history and cultural background. Nevertheless it should be interesting to take a closer look at the outcomes now that this one year is over and Ruhr 2010 as organisation ceasing to exist in due course of 2011.

Some key concepts along with the slogan 'change through culture - culture through change' indicated that Ruhr 2010 envisioned a region with future. To attain that it meant some specific efforts and attempts to solicit the arts for making possible this transition. Literally speaking, this would entail taking the entire population onto an imaginative voyage at best if they are to reach a new land. Surely such a vast effort to replace the former coal and steel industry with new economic activities has to be more than a change in image and would require quite another culture, if it is to support all these new activities.

By invoking such a concept of culture, it would remind what Virgil said about culture creating such myths which could remind people what to do at a certain time e.g. cut the trees or harvest the fields. For culture has to do with memories storing practical wisdoms and lessons learned from having made already certain experiences. It is in other words the algebra of a complex identity building process just as the miners used to sing certain songs to guide them from out of the shafts back up to the surface of the earth. They knew then what difficulties had to be overcome but now with the times having become uncertain, quite another cultural disposition shall be needed. And such a culture cannot be produced at will or by pushing a kind of magic botton. Rather it requires a philosophical blue print and above all a willingness to let a bottom-up process mature over time for only that can be convincing to the people themselves. Since these people have to leave behind their ways of going about doing a certain job, that departure shall never be easy as it is not self understood the new can be easily embraced.

For sure the challenge was and still is formidable, namely when it comes to the need to provide for so many people jobs within new economic structures. The creative industries promise according to recent studies, including the one pubished by the European Commission in 2007, that they will provide opportunities for all kinds of creative jobs, including web designers and others who shall be needed by Information Society.

No wonder then that this experiment in innovation undertaken by Ruhr 2010 was supported by some within the European Commission but not all. This is said because those who supported such a concept were not really affiliated to the European Capital of Culture institution. Rather they were much closer to a certain tendency to link ever more culture to the new economy and what has become the new strategic vision of the EU for 2020. It is based on smart growth and an 'economy of experience'.

In that respect Ruhr 2010 appeared to be implementing the Lisbon Agenda to the full. It underlines also efforts undertaken to a great extent in Germany to regain a new competitiveness in these new fields of the IT. As this can be linked to the soft economy or creative industry, there was some willingness to go along in this experiment linking culture as propagated by a specific concept of European Capital of Culture to 'change through culture - culture through change', in order to realise the new economy.

In view of such a disposition, there can be conceived several ways to ensure a thorough and reliable evaluation. As this requires not only empirical research but a special methodology capable of combining quantitative and qualitative assessment procedures, a definite logic to raise crucial questions comes into play. This will lead to further going inquiries in depth as much as to hopefully a more open discussion about both positive results and failures than what is often the case when merely claims of being entirely a success story are made. Already a review of comments collected indicate while many supported the Ruhr 2010 and saw that it had achieved a lot in the region, they did reflect upon the tragic outcome of the Love Parade event and pondered if it was wise to close down Ruhr 2010 despite it having been the driving force of it all.

Since the methodology for purpose of evaluation is best approached by articulating the logic of questions in need to be answered, following list of possible examinations has been drawn up as a first attempt to attain a systematic overview:


1. Fulfillment of the criteria set out by the European Commission to receive the designation of European Capital of Culture

1.1 cultural governance

Cultural governance can be understood best by linking it to public participation in proposing, selecting and implementing projects. As this requires a very democratic organisation if to be truly bottom-up, it conjoins citizens and artists as they go together to ensure the citizens stand behind the bid and the artists guide the process towards a truly artistic program which can inspire and at the same time guide the cultural investments in need to be made if such a program is to be realized. In all cases holds what Bart Verschaffel, coordinator for literature of Antwerp '93, says about all cities wishing to get the designation but few can handle the demand of being in reality European Capital of Culture. That means the reasons a city states why it wants to become European Capital of Culture have to be quite clear from the outside. For often economic benefits to be obtained from such a designation are confused with cultural aims when in fact the managerial approach seeking to take advantage of such high mobilisation and release of energy to make the bid come alive lacks any artistic concept. Crucial is, therefore, to monitor when a city selects or appoints the artistic director for the usual practice is to have already the framework in place i.e. the managerial team, and to wait until after the designation has been received with the appointment of such an artistic director. This is itself reflected in the questions cities have to answer when already short listed and facing the final session when the Jury shall select which of the shortlisted cities will receive in fact the designation. In the case of Gdansk, Warszawa, Lublin, Katowice and Wroclaw, the five Polish cities competing for 2016, this will be in June 2011, that is four years before the decisive year. It is thought then the artistic director and his team can gather in project ideas and initiate a program after having made the selection even though it may be too late to alter by then the basic concept and its key message e.g. in the case of Ruhr 2010 'change through culture - culture through change'.

Yet the question of cultural governance goes deeper than just finding an artistic director and using the time of preparation to come up with a true artistic program which does inspire and promises to be of the highest artistic quality. For one, the managerial guideline may differ already in this essential part since there can prevail the prejudice that any high artistic achievement would mean immediately elitism or high culture while much more desirable shall be low culture in which everyone can participate in.

This is mentioned because exactly at this point some crucial conflicts between management and artistic director can ignite and become unresolvable. This has lead many a times to such conflicts that it is commonly agreed that artistic directors find themselves more often in an ejection seat especially if they do not have the strong backing from the political authority. Bob Palmer had such support from the mayor in Glasgow 1990 and this itself explains why cultural governance goes beyond the mere managerial mode for the political support is vital. The same applies for Marseilles 2013. After the city had received the designation and the members of the organisation convened thereafter with the European Commission for their first and informal evaluation session, the prime question asked was if the conflict between city and organisation was resolved with regards to the artistic director?

Thus cultural governance includes the need for political support and therefore over and beyond how the artistic program is brought about, it goes without saying that the role of the political authorities is crucial in finding a modi vivendi. Without it, the relationship between management and artistic director shall be jeopardized as was the case with Patras 2006 with its artistic director Mikroutsikos resigning at the beginning of January, that is just when the decisive year started.

Aside from knowing where the conflict lines can burden and even burry the organisation, cultural governance through people participating must avoid the pitfalls of modern methods amounting to highly manipulative participation techniques when in fact all what is being created is a pseudo-we feeling with the real concepts being worked out by experts who never appear in public but who are closely linked to those who give the money. That becomes immediately evident when there is an obvious gap between what citizens propose during free assemblies and the high professional appearance of anything published by the organisation. Moreover techniques to bring about pseudo participation are well known and has become even a subject field at university level, but as Karl Popper would once say how can you evaluate a discussion when you do not even participate yourself, this form-content separation in terms of participation requires a much more careful scrutiny when the Jury is about to select a city.

Practically the managerial approach dominates always as it is the safest to do. Artistic experiments risk more easily a failure. In terms of aesthetics, there can be ever so much disagreement as to what is art, beautiful and substantial. In favor of the managerial approach, and that means putting as well much more emphasis on the communication strategy so that cities hire a Public Relations company even before they have appointed or decided upon an artistic director, is as well the so-called 'fun culture'. Bob Scott with his good British humor is known to be an advocate of a fun culture as it is likely to be communicated more easily by the media. Ruhr 2010 seemed to have copied this style since almost all announcements of events are dressed in such a fun language.

The dominance of the managerial approach has still a further reason: money. Often sponsorships and funds agreed upon at various governmental levels (local, regional, national) do not come so easily at first. Only if there is a chance to win the designation does something happen. As this requires fund raising capacities on the side of management, it is natural that this priority overrides all other considerations. Moreover a city is reluctant to commit itself to an artistic director especially if the risk is high not to get the designation and then still be stuck with a highly expensive artistic director but who has then no longer the same impetus to get active compared to when the city does received the designation and can carry the title 'European Capital of Culture'. As this matters most for advertisement and profiling purposes, it means cultural governance is neglected for the sake of managerial competence and efficiency. Moreover city officials and the people they have entrusted to get through the first phases of the bidding process are in need of entering together a learning process before they expose themselves unnecessarily to a possible failure or false exposure to the outside world.

Cultural governance is subsequently weak when it comes to commit the organisation already to a certain artistic program based on knowing how to steer the creative process. This is the most apparent failure in many cases. By adopting the managerial approach, participation and creativity are short changed and once the designation has been given, the political authorities think the conditions have changed so radically that they no longer feel obliged to stick 100% to what was agreed upon before i.e. when formulating the bid. Thus the crucial question if the proposed artistic program shall be implemented or not cannot be answered if there is no artistic director appointed to ensure consistency.

1.1.1 City and Citizens

A critical instance can be picked up by returning to the original competition between cities for the title, Essen and Bochum among them. Press reviews during that time described Bochum as making a last sprint effort by having all the citizens to get behind the bid of Bochum. Of interest is that after Essen got the title, the enthusiasm in Bochum collapsed like the flame on a candle being blown out by the wind. It can be imagined that it will be difficult to start up again. By 2009 the city of Bochum still seemed hurt by being by passed. The city had by comparison to Essen much more to offer in terms of a lively cultural scene. It was here as well where Jochen Gerz had initiated his project 'Promise to Europe' but not without controversy since it cost a huge amount of money. It left others wondering why not fund much more the artists altogether and not just one spectacular project to which the city council had committed itself without apparently realizing in what it got involved in.

Always it is vital that people stand behind the bid and participate when the program is being implemented. Only then can the program be made visible insofar out of the general public there shall be created the audiences following special events. This critierion is developed in the third Palmer/Richards report. All too this obligation is dropped or neglected once a city has received the designation and a more formal, equally managerial orientated organisation takes over. Critical is, therefore, how the local activities are supported and promoted so as to allow for further going participation of citizens not only in cultural but in all events shaping the life of the city. Clearly the success achieved by Cork 2005 was the increase in confidence people of Cork felt after the one year and therefore they were ready to take on larger challenges.

In the case of Ruhr 2010 the program took on altogether another dimension since not only the city of Essen, but all 53 cities of the Ruhr region were meant to be involved. The component of the program to cover that was called 'local heroes'. Cities took turns and were the central stage for one week during that entire year.

How successful this part of the program turned out to be is in need of some careful study. There are reports about smaller communities completely underfunded and ill prepared to take care of even six famous writers who would arrive but no one sure at the place what to do with them. Moreover while the rotation principle makes sense due to the number of cities involved, one week will surely not suffice to make that vital link start to work between citizens and city. The work needed to achieve such cultural governance can be highlighted upon by only certain cultural activities. Surely this cannot be case if merely a kind of festival for one week and even then subjugated to the so called 'fun culture' as if anything serious is distasteful. The latter would confuse culture with entertainment in free time, that is outside work, and therefore continue the odd and old separation between work and pleasure. As this was remarked upon already by Adorno and Horkheimer in 'The Dialectic of Enlightenment' when citing the example of Odyssey who could experience the beauty of the songs by the sirens while his crew worked i.e. rowed and had their ears stuffed with wax in order not to hear the songs.

It would be important how these cities participated in other projects of Ruhr 2010 and how its citizens became to identify themselves not so much with their own city but with the overall region. One study published by Ruhr 2010 shows that the older people get, the more they identified the European Capital of City with one city while the youth tended to adapt more easily to a common trend thought to link them with the entire region. Again this will be difficult to ascertain if there is but one survey available on this subject matter.

Cultural governance is a subtle matter and is directly linked to something often overlooked by both the European Commission and evaluators of all kinds of expertise, namely what artists declare to be their 'free conscience' in order to safeguard their creativity. This applies as well to ordinary citizens for to partake in public life there must be provided public spaces in which people can articulate even their 'stupid' ideas in order to find out if they have any truth element at all and thus are worthy to be considered as part of a future plan to be realized. That means as well culture should not merely invoke change but give to people the tools to handle and to understand the changes they go through so that they can adapt successful to the new situation.

1.2 European dimension

Ruhr 2010 points out that the European dimension was especially present in its TWINS project. This would require furher examination before being able to say anything to this claim.

The TWINS project was praised by EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. It comprised of over 200 twin towns of which about half of the mayors came together already as early as 2006 to give their pledge of support. From 500 project proposals submitted an international jury selected 100. The aim was to use cultural networks to let young artists participate in the events of Ruhr 2010. Especially unconventional projects were promoted.

Furthermore, it would be furthermore crucial to see if Ruhr 2010 together with Pecs and Istanbul took advantage of there being three European Capitals of Culture in 2010, in order to lift the European debate to another level. This would have to include as well the discussion about the prospects of Turkey entering as new member the European Union. Especially Germany with its large Turkish population could play here an outstanding role in mediating between the needs of the European Union and Turkey. Again the TWINS project idea was used to collaborate with Pecs and Istanbul considered as twin towns.

Since activities by Ruhr 2010 together with Liverpool '08 entailed the creation of a new ECoC informal network, this alteration of networking between European Capitals of Culture has also to be discussed. Ruhr 2010 representatives claim the new network including besides current and future cities merely those which were European Capitals of Culture during the past two years to be more efficent compared with the old ECCM network which existed until 2010. This claim of greater efficiency is made especially when it comes to innovation as far as newly designated European Capitals of Culture are concerned. Since the newly created network replaces the old ECCM network which sought a continuity between all former, current and future ECoC cities, it touches upon a peculiar learning process. By focusing mainly on the current and new elements as if nothing can be learned from the older cities, this thesis has not only to be refuted but there needs to be made clear what damage this act of excluding former cities has created. For originally it was thought each city can and does make its contribution to the overall institution called European Capital of Culture. Lessons are to be learned from all cities may they be the initial ones like Athens, Paris or Berlin or else the ones which came to the fore in the nineties with Glasgow, Antwerp and many others being outstanding examples of how culture can be used to regenerate a city while bringing to the fore new artistic forms of expression. The reasoning behind the new network seems to have more to do with securing contacts and jobs rather than with fulfilling the overall mission of a European Capital of Culture, namely to make known the European dimension through culture.

1.3 High artistic achievements

If anything is neglected equally contested, then the artistic program. It is usual to leave it till the last. As explained already this is because managerial priorities seem to dominate in the knowledge that without funds nothing goes. That leads naturally to a wrong sequence. Every city seems to wait until the designation has been granted before appointing the artistic director when in fact he or she would be needed to influence and to shape decisively the concept for what kind of program will be in place when the year comes and the city has to show not merely its own cultural resources but what can be done with them to enhance what kind of performances, exhibitions and artistic shows. As this requires a considerable upgrading of all cultural resources from those building sets to the ones who can direct or act, it does matter what standards are set. Naturally here need to be overcome some typical conflicts of interest.

For instance, local artists wish naturally to use this year to show only their own work when in fact they have all along locked the perception of the locals in home pictures or what is considered to be typical, equally what constitutes the identity of the place. But typical paintings of the port may leave no alternative to another way of looking at life. This tendency to remain provincial prevents then seizing the opportunity to become truly international or universal. For art cannot be limited to political expedient categories which are most of the time parochial if not localized versions of the given state of art linked to the regional or national idea of identity. Even while Catalonians may have real grievances due to their suppression by the Spanish culture, they cultivate in turn such a national twist to being Catalonian that they tend to exclude writers from Barcelona if they write primarily in Spanish when it comes to the book presentation at the Frankfurt book fair.

Aside from political ideas and management misleading all the others as to what kind of program should be in place, there is often not the knowledge readily available as to what would mean not progress but taking some innovative ideas in theatre e.g. Gratowski in Wroclaw further by experimenting and adapting his style of directing. Yet to identify trends and to work with artists who can take up such work, that is itself a kind of experiment which must be open to new ideas and as well to the likelihood of failure. For every professional artist knows how much they must reherse before something stands on its own and is worthwhile to be shown to the audiences. As any audience follows these trends, dislikes and likes included, crucial becomes the role of critics who can elevate performances to new levels of understanding and articulation.

Spyros Mercouris stresses often the point that people need culture and the arts to understand the situation they live in right now. In turn, art grows out of the pains and experiences people make in their daily lives and by staying in tune, they open up possibilities of still other reflections once nothing is given but also nothing is promised in the way of an immediate salvation. The time mode is reflective in all of this insofar as terms and expressions used reflect also what is currently debated but not really clearly said and yet which would be needed if redemption is to work. Since the arts deal as well with what was left unresolved in the past, what people remember most itself the key topos or field of subjects in need to be addressed, it is crucial that an artistic program is sensitive enough to these innovative possibilities.

1.4 The creation of a lively cultural scene

It is quite important that a catalogue for evaluation purpose includes this criterion. Without a lively cultural scene in which artists and innovators mingle freely, nothing like a vibrant culture can be achieved. Everyone knows the difference between formal and informal structures, the latter as crucial for new ideas to be picked up and developed further. Areas and communities which experience young people wandering off to seek jobs elsewhere know how vital it is to keep the youth not only close to home but to activate them in a way that they see perspectives for them. Whether or not a local place has future depends exactly how alive are the streets and whether people are high spirited instead of subcumbing to but a gloomy and dismal mood. Here the value of coincidence plays a significant role. It was Adorno who said a society without coincidence is dictatorship. He meant by that a way of coming together and even if it seems without any order, all the more of value if someone goes out and meets exactly someone who can give some answers to questions about architecture or urban planning. The so-called interconnectivity is also a key feature of certain personalities who simply attract other great personalities till the cafe becomes a place where you go to have a good discussion.

2. the bid as commitment to what kind of concept of cultural capital

The bid has to give reasons as to why a city wishes to become European Capital of Culture. In the case of Essen, this would have entailed why it would wish to give up its own identity for the sake of integration in a much larger unit, namely the region. It would require the identification of such cultural elements seeking already fore mostly an expression at regional rather than mere city level. Yet if especially the older population is reluctant to give up their affinity to one place and prefer to identify a European Capital of Culture with one city, what cultural concepts need to be in place to accommodate such divergent needs? As this does touch upon the constant need to balance the new with the old, the unknown against the familiar, then certain measures are needed. For the familiar is deemed very often to be trustworthy since it has proven its reliability, even though it entails the risk of people staying in a problematic situation only because the problems are known to them e.g. lack of contacts, money and therefore living at the edge of poverty.

Since culture departs from the perception of human suffrage and human pain, just as Van Gogh would paint the hands of the potatoe pickers to exemplify this, the same goes for a culture akin to coal miners and their plights when working under ground. Immediately spring to mind the blackened faces by the coal dust with only the eyes gleaming up since the only white spots in the face. Thus an artistic transcription of those experiences written in coal dust must seek a way to reinvent writing in a new dust. Klaus Heinrich in his book 'dust and thinking' gives here a valuable clue as to how things prescibed in dust can take on significant meanings especially when Antigone disobeys the king and does give her dead brother a decent funeral by spraying dust on his body. She does so against the order of the king who wishes to punish her brother by preventing that he receives a burial like any human being. To be deprived of human dignity when going into the land of the dead means to leave behind no traces in the dust and therefore no thoughts could remember his name, never mind what he did during his short life.  Likewise it would be important how Ruhr 2010 buries its past without loosing traces thereof so that this period in the life of many people can be remembered and be dignified in a way that this hard life was not in vain. It continues but now under different aspects of dust and thinking about those in need to be recognized as to what they contributed to make life in the community possible. Here the role of museums would become important just as much the political history of the Ruhr 2010 was also connected to how it empowered Hitler to start a disasterous development as it lead to war, slave labor in the coal and steel industry and to the Holocaust. The fact that Ruhr 2010 excluded almost entirely this aspect of history of the area speaks for itself of how festivals designed to drown out the past by seeking to celebrate the new contribute but in a mere superficial way to the rewriting of the history of the region. Thus all the more it becomes symbolic that Essen was prepared to give up its identity without really making sure the city and its people were compensated by new cultural measures to ensure no one was left behind.

3. Have the expectations of the Jury which selected Essen / Ruhr 2010 been fulfilled despite the controversy which accompanied the selection?

To remind the Jury stated as reason for selecting Essen / Ruhr 2010 the following:

The Jury’s verdict and selection of Essen as European Capital of Culture for 2010:

“The central idea of the concept was to regenerate through culture the vast space devoted to and despoiled by industrial development and to create a metropolis – the Ruhr metropolis- resulting from bringing together the smaller cities of the region. To win the title of the European Capital of Culture would help the region in its quest for a new identity through a unity – a unity not imposed from above but achieved from its roots – “bottom up” – with culture as the driving force.

Regeneration and redevelopment of the region was the core of the project for 2010. “Transformation through culture, culture through transformation” was the slogan for this operation. The authorities would like to transform the region into a European cultural metropolis and to transform the “black image” of Essen (corresponding to the industrial past) into an image of dynamism.


The model of transformation and regeneration of post-industrial societies and landscapes through arts and culture, given by the Ruhr, could set an example for other regions in Europe to follow. The legacy of the event would be a new identity for the region in the European scene.”

Following key questions can be posed:

There are several questions to be added to these expectations as the Jury itself remarks regeneration has to be coupled with redevelopment or more precisely something new has to be brought into existence where nothing existed before. It is one thing to reuse former industrial heritage sites by converting them into exhibition halls or as in the case of Ruhr 2010 even into a swimming pool and quite another to create the foundation of an entirely different industry. The IT sector is known for people working at home, in cafes or somewhere near hotspots in the city for all it takes is a computer and the internet connection. Consequently the really new key words are besides a new infrastructure accessibility and digital literacy. It has been said Indian culture is more conducive to the logorithms of computer language and therefore many companies have outsourced their accounting to Indian companies. A culture which is conducive to such a type of work cannot be produced at will.

Naturally it is known that interesting art exhibitions can facilitate a readaption by learning to perceive things differently. It is an indirect learning process which has to accompany the overall cultural adaptation to new types of work. Moreover, the digital world requires being off set by real world experiences for otherwise people feel trapped over time in a virtual world or in cyberspaces as if they are permanently in a flight capsule rounding the earth. Giving a stimulus is, however, different from offsetting but in both cases it is for any artist a new challenge on how to interpret the quest for a balance. To this has to be added when following alone the works of Beuys how the abstract problem of perception cannot be easily taught in a culture known by the word 'Weltanschauung' and where philosophy tends to deny the senses of being a source of truth (Hegel). Exactly how Ruhr 2010 decided to resolve some of these basic philosophical issues would be interesting to hear but what was conveyed so far there seems very little in the way philosophy of from the eighteen to the twenty century was replaced by one more fitting to the needs and demands of the twenty-first. Curious enough is, therefore, how exactly Ruhr 2010 was meant to steer this process of conversion by following its slogan 'change through culture - culture through change'.

So far the contours of a metrapolis have not become visible. While all expressed satisfaction that the cities which would otherwise compete with each other learned to cooperate, a Metropolis would require much more. This would have to include a governing body for the metrapolis as a whole and therefore would entail also how urban planning and enviroinmental impacts could be conjoined when regarding the entire are as one urban space. Alone the legal implications for land use and building rights would be in need of a follow-through at several levels. At the same time, the create a region within an already existing region or Land (state) would also be in need of being discussed. While Germany has two types of Länder, Baveria in the one case and Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen on the other by being both cities and states, demographic developments need also to be taken into account if there is going to be a shift towards recognizing a new type of metropolis making up the political landscape. As this concerns the franchise of citizens and the type of government known in Germany as federal system, it would require more than some head scratching to figure out how this new entity would exist within the given state structure. It would also be diametrically opposed to what are the shrinking cities in former East Germany while certain features of the modern post industrial Germany has seen a tremendous influx of traffic volumes due to countless people commuting not merely from suburbs to core centres but from state to state and thereby adding to the territorial stretch of the entire infrastructure linked to transportation and communication. And if this is not enough after German reunification in 1989 there has been partially a shift away from Bonn back to Berlin as the new-old capital while the industrial shift which took place after 1945 from Berlin to Munich and Stuttgart has remained basically the same. That means the regional differences and income discrepancies between the socalled richer and poorer regions have remained the same. Thus whether the Ruhr region remains a conglomeration of 54 cities in near proximity to each other or they forge themselves into one Metropolis, that was never seriously discussed or incorporated into the feasibility plans of Ruhr 2010. As such it was a useful slogan to promise some change but in reality it turned out to be much more elusive than even the greatest optimist could have imagined that this experiment was bungled so badly. One reason can be that there was a lack of seriousness and with it goes as well the absence of a kind of substantial criticism which could reveal the difference between image management and real knowledge processes. The latter would have to include citizen participation in an effort to upgrade the governance of the entire region while pseudo exercises in the creation of a new identity cannot be reduced to putting the former coal and industrial compounds into a new light. And yet these light spectacles was what constituted most of the time the events of Ruhr 2010.

4. Press reviews

A glance at articles published by the press both in Germany and internationally acclaim many things as to what Ruhr 2010 achieved. It starts with the grand opening when snow was falling and still the enthusiasm could not be suppressed. As a matter of fact the snow added an extra effect to what promised to be a daring year.

Clearly one of the biggest highlights was the picknick arranged for one day on the autobahn shut down for that day to offer a unique spectacle: people joining in to sit along an endless table while everyone contributed in one way or another to the entertainment. Alone this scene where usually cars race due to no speed limits existing, the landscape was transformed by people enjoying themselves. It must have been quite the experience.

Then, other articles featured this unique transformation of former industrial sites into art centres or there was the action with the balloons. Since it is not at all easy to keep the attention of the press throughout an entire year, it is naturally of interest what interplay there existed between Ruhr 2010 and press / media as this points out the existence of what kind of communication concept. Moreover, the question how the website functioned and the entire program was communicated, this plays as well a decisive role. Critical in all cases is the sheer magnitude of events amounting to over 5000. It was difficult to keep up and thus reviews would be important to provide some orientation before, during and after the events. There were voices who said with time and despite making every effort to follow these events, they did loose in the end the oversight and also the ability to keep up. If that is the case, it is easy to understand that in the end quantity not quality gave the impression of no longer being a part of the process meant to take people through one year in which culture was to be experienced in a special way.

More telling is the press review and the comments made by all kinds of people. They expressed generally positive opinions about this attempt to make the Ruhr area become one region and thought that it was a pity that the key driver of these events, namely Ruhr 2010, would close its doors so soon after this one decisive year of 2010 was over. Above all the comments did touch upon the tragic outcome of the 'Love Parade' when people were killed in a stampede after many started to panic. That revealed the use of industrial sites or in this case a former train depot is not compatible with safety standards or for that matter with events planned to take place in a different place and not when people are meant to enter and exist through but one tunnel. Again this revealed which projects were directly funded and which ones were not but could carry the logo of Ruhr 2010. That difference is a matter of who is responsible for what and therefore any press article will address immediately this question but who is in charge for what in order to know who is accountable in the eye of the general public.

But most telling has been the interview with Hans Georg Küppers who was in charge of culture in Bochum and a part of the team which did the bid on behalf of that city but which lost out on Essen. He moved then in 2007 to Munich where he took notice out of a distance as to what was happening in Essen and Ruhr 2010. Most telling is that in terms of press coverage it seemed as if nothing was happening in Essen or Ruhr 2010. For they got very little, if any attention at all. A part of the explanation was there took place numerous cultural events of equal importance during that same year in Munich and elsewhere. Thus what took place in Ruhr 2010 did not seem that extraordinary or of greater importance. It created the impression that Ruhr 2010 did not manage to achieve very much. As this touches upon the crucial question of visibility, something which Bob Scott would emphasize so much, it is a matter of evaluation whether or not success or not should be judged according to what is perceived solely through the eyes of the press.

(For interview with Hans Georg Küppers on 6 March 2011 see


An outstanding example of this has been Patras 2006. Since the main media is located in Athens and there they did not take notice what was happening in Patras, the overall impression in Greece and in Europe was that Patras was a failure since everyone got the impression nothing was taking place there for otherwise they would have heard about it.

5. studies and surveys

There has been a growing body of knowledge about European Capitals of Culture. It started with Bob Palmer (2004) and has been refined ever since especially because the European Commission has made it mandatory to have in place a methodology for purpose of monitoring and evaluation. A novel effort has been made by Liverpool Impact '08 and this has been continued by Turku 2011. Alongside these developments the University Network of European Capitals of Culture has started to make substantial contributions. Their publication of papers presented at their General Assemblies held by now over a span of five years does guarantee a source of independent research. This is of utmost importance. Bob Palmer mentioned the growing tendency that the official reports drawn up by the cities themselves amount more or less to work by spin doctors who inflate the successful and silence the failures or short-comings, so that no learning takes place from designation to designation. As this involves a jury undergoing a comprehensive visitation while applying the guidelines and criteria set by the European Commission, it is an indication that a lot happens in between various experiences made and what follows. This can be reflected onhand of the overall shifts in which cities are finally selected as this amounts to an agglomeration of many factors, including what is wished for next.

Studies and surveys of the official kind aim to establish the success stories and usually that begins and ends with the increase in tourists, revenues, number of events and related indications that the one year was a success. Much more difficult are the qualitative ones e.g. was Istanbul 2010 a success in not only the eyes of the Turkish government which seized upon this as a diplomatic tool but was something missed out like a chance when writers assembled in the city  but the writer Naipaul not invited since he would offend the Muslim population, so the official claim of the organisers. Naipaul as author of 'Beyond Belief' describes in his book four countries which converted to the Islam and thus he describes what happens once such a conversion from one belief to another is entered. Given the need to understand the Islam from various perspectives, clearly an opportunity of dialogue was missed. Sometimes these small details in an overall annual program many seem insignificant but it does have serious ramifications, including for the chances of Turkey to enter the European Union. Thus a cultural capital can also be appraised by what it does not belittle but appraises it in a way that allows the search for truth while not going out of proportion to make a point.

6. Special evaluation - Ruhr 2010 project '2-3 Streets over'

Jochen Gerz is known for stressing the importance of conjoining the tangible with the intangible when it comes to implementing a program during that one year. To what extent this is achieved, that can be a true measure of success. That entails in turn many interesting ways of appraising whether or not progress was made. For instance, San Sebastian in Spain when candidate for the title stated that it wishes to change the masculine dominated culture in Spain and bring about a greater respect for women and therefore an equality of higher quality between men and women. Certainly here can be asked how is this measured? Already their concept suggests it begins and ends with language or with what words are used to designated what since this can already indicate a hierarchy of value and in the eyes of the people themselves in terms of self-esteem. Meribor 2012 wishes to break out of a conventional laziness which leaves people in their daily life dazzed by their own skepticism. Naturally success or failure depend how well was the problem defined to which a solution is sought. Wroclaw 2016 cites the low level of literacy with about 60% of Polish people not reading and therefore as expression of cultural poverty a need to be overcome. Since all that has deep implications on the design of projects and which ones are finally funded, it matters how the overall concept of a European Capital of Culture is linked to these real problems by adopting not only interesting and even spetacular projects, but does things which are not merely to the point but have a chance of being sustainable.

Jochen Gerz's project '2 - 3 streets' over entails letting writers and other observers of daily life reside in apartments for one year in order to see what changes occur in the daily life of people as the European Capital of Culture year passes through their streets and city. It is an interesting approach and can be used as a valuable basis for evaluation.

7. Archiv as living memory and the art of staying in dialogue

Around 2000 a French woman developed the concept of an archiv which would follow the creative path living artists would take in order to enable schools and cultural institutions to follow them on their creative path. The interesting application of a simple principle, namely to witness changes as key to understand how creations came about, is that this follows the advice of art historian Hans Haufe who would say a painting can only be understood if you know as well which decisions entered that painting. Artists would call someone they trust to give them an opinion of what the art work looks at the present. After such a discussion and in getting feedback, three weeks later that art work has changed in texture, form and expression. Insofar art works are the best imaginary witnesses of their times, this is already for any European Capital of Culture most crucial to know. Did new art works come about and what difference did it make to these artists that this special year make things possible otherwise not conceivable. Repeatedly it is said this special year sets free enormous energies and more so it draws attention to a place it would never receive otherwise. If both sources are used wisely, then such inspiration can uplift the entire level of cultural articulation in a place and give people something like a support in their efforts to lead a dignified life.

Right now the archives of European Capitals of Culture are scattered with even some invaluable materials lost such as the entire archive of Athens '85 which was destroyed by Nea Democratia, the party which was in opposition in 1985 but then came into power for three years later on. Spyros Mercouris has only some personal items from that time to prove what Athens '85 achieved. Then, at European level, the Commission started only a sort of archive in 2000 and it contains merely applications and documents of the selection committee, but it is not really a comprehensive effort to do justice to the history of not only specific cities but to the institution European Capital of Culture. In some ways this was attempted by the Documentation Centre in Athens which started to archive the documents and materials which have been collected when Spyros Mercouris did the exhibition 'Twenty Years later' for Patras 2006 and Heritage Radio created a complementary online archive. Part of the latter archive is really the basis of what is available on this website of Poiein kai Prattein.

Now discussions with Jürgen Mittag, editor of this tremendous book 'Die Geschichte der Kulturhauptstädte Europas' (unfortunately only in German) have indicated that Ruhr 2010 wants to have its own archiv. To what extent that has been realised in terms of what was described should be the real purpose of an archive, that remains to be seen.

8. Legacy and cultural infrastructures in place

Ruhr 2010 has to learn to live with the legacy it created. In part that is reflected in the new cultural infrastructures which have been created. That includes the Folkwang Museum and the many former industrial sites converted into new artistic spaces. Undoubtedly this entire infrastructure faces the undaunting task how to uphold functions and use thereof when there is no longer this special year. As is often the case in cities which hold the Olympics, the venues thereafter often no longer used as in the case of Athens 2004, to sustain such a process of culture articulated in different ways through the various venues which were created, that then is a huge task ahead of the Ruhr region.

9. Sustainability

The question of sustainability in the case of Ruhr 2010 is an obvious one: can the new image be sustained by creative industries taking root and culture able to uphold the cooperation between the 53 cities rather than being exposed to a constant waste and scarcity of resources due to an unhealthy competition limiting the capacities of the region as a whole.

With Ruhr 2010 closing its doors in 2011 it is already doubtful if the initiative can be upheld. There will be still other difficulties to be encountered especially if there is no cultural governance in place.

A real question of sustainability can be evaluated according to what Douglas Worts consideres to be a matrix of different scales and which allows even to measure the impact this interpretation of European Capital of Culture had not only on the region, but on Europe and to a lesser extent but still significantly world wide. Here can be included the creation of a new institution which calls itself 'international culture' and which attempts to sustain international contacts between Ruhr and the rest of the world. It is a point of entry into the field of cultural diplomacy but the question is if this use of culture has any place in a world marked more by war in Afghanistan and now Libya with questions of sustainability being approached quite differently by such international groups like cultura 21.

10. European networking and contribution to the Institution of European Capital of Culture

Insofar as Ruhr 2010 decided to  break away from the ECCM network and create together with Liverpool '08 a new network meant to be informal i.e. without statues or membership, things have gone into a spin of words. While it is claimed not to be exclusive, its definition is inclusive only insofar as cities of the past two years are allowed to join these meetings while all current and newly designated cities form this network for the sole purpose to exchange experiences and to help each other in meeting the challenge. There is an urgency in the air but also no realization that this is a break in the continuity of the institution of European Capitals of Culture. At least the ECCM despite its many faults attempted to keep together all former, current and future cities. Admittedly it did not a very good job at it but then there is no alternative to this task, namely to uphold a continuity of learning while making sure each city does make its contribution to the institution of European Capital of Culture.

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