European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Culture and Economy


From cultural to industrial heritage

Already during the ERDF Article 10 CIED (Cultural Innovation and Economic Development) project, a lot of work was done on organising - planning and implementation - the transition from the industrial to the post-industrial age. Cultural heritage was no longer considered to be merely that what contains meaning of the past, but equally to entail 'memories of the future'. The latter can be used to describe and to formulate a cultural strategy which entails with working with 'memory' as a way to look into the future. The cultural planning in this case entails preserving the local identity while adapting to the changes. Hence cultural adaptation as strategic concept implying work with time shall determine how and fore mostly when the development plan of the city is to be implemented.

Once 'culture in transition' is used as overall reference, then urban reality is perceived as being both static and in a flux. This has to do not only from attempting to make a transition from the ancient but also from the more recent past i.e. industrialisation. Given industrial ruins, unused spaces but also spoiled or ruined natural spots, it is not clear what has future when everything nearby or far away seems to offer more opportunities while close-by appears static and uninteresting? Alone this difference in appearance may already explain the difference between those who leave compared to those who stay or rather remain (mainly elderly people). Consequently a place in transition finds it more difficult to allocate resources in what needs to bew sustained, namely a continuity of change or rather a plurality of changes which contrbute to an overall sense of life being improved best measure by taking on a quality of its own. The latter manifests itself in the reputation or even myth a certain place or city has.

If culture means working with memory so as to ensure a continuity of identity, then it matters that changes in the urban fabric are combined with preserving that what people are fond of and which has given to them already a meaning of life. When CIED held its first conference in Galway 1997, the local population was so upset at that time by so many business plans over powering everything else, that their implementation transforme the city so much and so quickly, that the people could no longer identify themselves with their city. All the familiar places like a favorite bench were vanishing while modern places put up meant to them nothing.

Once a smart city like Milano around Porta Garibaldi becomes so alienating to its local surrounding, that road and even path ways no longer make sense since only arbitrarily added by the architects and city planners to adapt to the new high rise building, then the city falls apart and life in the streets takes on a degree of superficiality since it serves only the corporate identity and therefore a clientel of intelligent people but who are without history and attachment to the local place. In having uprooted everything best demonstrated by one old house remaining amidst all the new high rise buildings appearing not only as relict of the past but more so as reminder of the human scale when compared to what the smart city looks like today: out of reach safe for those who have the money to consume not only luxury items but also time in a way that they waste time as if it can be spend by moving about in empty spaces. Here emptiness stands for lack of real signs of life and therefore without meaning. Maybe it is the neutrality of these new developments which results out of the total eradiction of the past insofar as only the new is desired. Adorno had warned that if such a trend is followed i.e. seeking only the new, sooner or later people will be forced to flee back into old structures and then never get out of such a city which traps them for life.

Sometimes capital accummulation through new projects geared to make a city like Milano into a smart city, or as a matter of fact into a Berlusconi city, outpaces all possibilities for the local population to keep up with not only the changes evoked by these urban interventions, but by being no longer able to shape and to work within the logic of a cultural adaptation process to relate under own terms to past, present and future needs. Once citizens are out of touch with the high flying development schemes, then they lose interest. They will no longer participate in the civic life of the city. Lia Ghilardi describes this as being the key problem of London nowadays.

It is, therefore, important to give some thoughts to what linkage a city in Europe can create ongoing changes within a conscious strategy of cultural adaptation, so as to be able to steer the developments in the city in a direction which is compatible with cultural needs. Otherwise people will move out or never move into the city.

Aarhus 2017 might serve as a good example. Their concept of being a European Capital of Culture is linked to use of culture as a location factor. The city is interested in attracting highly qualified people as this shall fulfil modern economy needs i.e. companies going global need such people. Such a professional class will only come to work at a place if they are not only well paid, but if there exist good schools and a cultural sector which does provide sufficient events so as to make the city attractve during leisure time.

The term 'leisure' plays a significant role when there exists still work as in the industrial age, and people can enjoy only other things after work, that is in leisure time i.e. when off work or duty. It is quite a different setting if a city does not have this productive sector which entails people being locked into their working hours, and who have a desire to be distracted from work even during the thirty minutes of a lunch break. A further description of what happens in such places can include an overload of eating places as something which seems to flourish now more than ever, given the over emphasis on food having become as much an entertainment as the fulfilment of a real need i.e. of being hungry and wishing something to eat.      

Eleusina as metaphor for Europe: creating the new out of the old

The work with sounds is a specialty for Tarek Atoui who gave in October 2015 an interview after doing three sound performances in Eleusina.  Eleusina as metaphor for the future of Europe - Interview with Tarek Atoui He emphasizes when referrring to sounds what difference it makes to listen to them on the surface of things compare to being underneath, in the water itself. Then quite other sounds can be heard. Especially in a port city like Eleusina, the ship motors at a distance differ from what noise a shrimp makes. That metaphorical description of audible sounds captured not only by the ear, but by the use of sensitive technology opens up new spaces of configuration for purpose of orientation. As a matter of fact, man cannot stand beig alone, all by himself, and even more so not in a silent universe. That kind of silence would come close to death itself. It is a frightening silence so what can be assumed as a counter move is to become more differentiated, equally aware what kinds of sounds there exist beyond the mere contreast of soft and loud.

In reference to metaphorical descriptions of the nature which surrounds and sustains the life of human beings on this planet called earth, the poet Giulio Stocchi in Milano would say that it is the task of poetry to give birth to metaphors. In reality, such poetic language allows human beings to comprehend life despite, and this despite all the hardships.

Tarek Atoui's use of contrast between the surface and what is underneath is a good way to counter false perceptions or deceptions of especially Greek reality when it comes to perceive who is poor, who is not and who is caught in between these two poles. Society is much more contradictory and not easily to be understood especially if the nuances are not taken into consideration.

The poet Yiorgos Chouliaras would say Greek reality is best perceived when knowing that even if the water appears to be calm on the surface, there exist unerneath strong currents.

Draghi in an interview with Kathimeriini (13.10.2015) would say to the Greek people that they should not fall back into despair, but build on the economic and political stability they achieved by electing a government which did come in July 2015 to an agreement. It has lead to the Third Memorandum of Understanding.

For the interview, see

ECB chief calls for Greek debt restructuring


It is within the understanding of this kind of stability where performances at the surface play a role. Poitively interpreted, European partners shall go along with Greece, provided the government puts up an appearance of good performance. Thus everything can appear to be calm, politically speaking, while what claims are made in public are in reality far from the truth of what people have to put up with daily.

Tarek Atoui speaks of Eleusina as having all the ingredients and compositions to reflect not merely Greek but as well European reality. There are factories which have closed down already but their residual weighs heavily down on not only the environment, but remnant of cultural heritage like the big cement factory. How many other factories are on the verge of dying since they cannot adapt fast enough to changing conditions, this remains to be found out. 

In this context a key question become but what should be the main philosophical principle of the 'new' economy in the making as it has been announced by Prime Minister Tsipras? Philosophy of mathematics could be a starting point to alter the dicoure as they are many talented people who have studied in special fields, but who do not find a productive and creative outlet of their talents in what the local, regional and national economy offers.

Since the link between economy and new policy models is always a question what success models are followed and which policy measures truly work, Draghi reminds that much depends on structural reforms. When asked what he understands under this, he replied open markets, a more competitive one, including the labour market, but at the same time less taxes on labour and more on property. He became more explicit about structural reform when relating this to the need for the Greek economy to return to economic growth:

"Greece will return to a growth path if it undertakes all of the structural reforms that have been discussed. I think that is the key point. When we speak of structural reforms, we are referring to a change in the structure of the economy that will make it more competitive. And more competitive does not necessarily mean just in terms of exports. It means that people who want to open up a new business should be free to do so, and without any problems. It means much greater competition in the product and services markets. It means perhaps a more flexible, more open and more competitive labor market. In a sense, that is the message from countries like Spain and Ireland. Both countries have shown that, with the right reforms, it is possible for the economy to bounce back rapidly. So the bottom line is: Yes, it is doable." (op.cit.)

Artists have a different approach and perceive things from quite another angle. If it is time to return to what matters the most, then underneath the Olive tree it is time to pick up sounds. Kant said already sound creates the most differentiated memory track. It is like local people remembering certain songs since they have gone deep. Or it is the call of the mother for her son or daughter which is not to be forgotten a life long time. Sonia Guggisberg in Sao Paulo has made such an installation about a tree remembering all the sounds it has heard over the past two hundred or more years. It could be men resting in the shade of the tree or else children playing hide and seek with the tree the key reference point. So lets turn the attention for a moment to what Tarek Atoui has to say after he performed in Eleusina.


"Συνεντευξη του Tarek Atoui,στο περιοδικο Αθηνοραμα
In the interview with Tarek Atoui published by the "Athinorama magazine" entitled

"Eleusis is a very powerful metaphor for the future of Europe"

Tarek Atoui says: " Eleusis, someone comes across more industries dying or fading than heavy industry into action. This is why Eleusis is for me a very strong metaphor of how social and geopolitical dynamics of post-industrial Europe turn to archaeological and historical past to stand upright. Cultural heritage is today the most important value. The issue is how to make the turn. How would you imagine again Europe and its place in today's transition?"

Tarek Atoui: «η Ελευσίνα είναι μια πολύ ισχυρή μεταφορά για το μέλλον της Ευρώπης»
Με ποιόν τρόπο η Ελευσίνα μπορεί να μιλήσει για την ανάγκη της μετα-βιομηχανικής Ευρώπης να επιστρέψει στο πολιτιστικό παρελθόν της;

and as well

Tarek Atoui: «η Ελευσίνα είναι μια πολύ ισχυρή μεταφορά για το μέλλον της Ευρώπης»

Από Δέσποινα Ζευκιλή - 09/10/2015



   Industrial compound of Eleusina


Some other thoughts about the factory - thinking in terms of systems depending on cultural innovations


If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is
left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another
factory. If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic
patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact,
then those patterns will repeat themselves. . . . There’s so much talk
about the system. And so little understanding.
—Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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