European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Opening Ceremony 24 January 2015

The official opening is on the 24th of January 2015, that is one week after Pilsen 2015 opened its year already on 17th of January, reflecting thereby some coordination between two parallel European Capital of Culture cities in 2015.

Every year has a special beginning and ending when a city becomes European Capital of Culture. In the case of Mons, it takes on a special meaning. For on the one hand, the famous installation came crashing down and the decision had to be take to remove it completely.


       Artist Arne Quinze’s installation, The Passenger. Photograph: arnequinze/Instagram

On the other end, as is often the case, tremendous infrastructural projects are not ready in time. This was the case in Thessaloniki '97 and Patras 2006, giving the latter the sub-title "Europe under construction." In the case of Mons, the Guardian article by Derek Blyth explains why arrivals by train in the city will mean difficulties till the end of 2015:

"Don’t expect to be wowed if arriving by train. Top Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was commissioned to design a sublime new station, like the one in nearby Liège, but this costly project won’t be finished until late 2015 at the earliest, so many of the expected two million visitors will have to pick their way around a muddy construction site. It makes you wonder if you have got the wrong Mons, or the wrong year, but this is definitely the right place and the right time to visit."

(Source: Derek Blyth, Mons, Belgium, Capital of Culture 2015 The Guardian, Tuesday 6 January 2015

It seems that Calatrava as star architect has the reputation of causing delays since his calculations are often wrong, and therefore they have to be corrected on the spot, but which costs time. This was at least the case with the Olympic roof he designed for the Olympic stadium in Athens. It was quite a task to make the necessary corrections in the last minute back then, in Athens 2004.

Naturally trains and modern train stations at that resonate with the Belgian Surrealists who believed the coming of the train is like an iron fist punched right into the heart of the city. Rather than bringing visitors, it would bring sickness. To falsify such an artistic viewpoint, it might seem wise to take a glance at other modern train stations such as in Antwerp or in Marseille, since the point of arrival and departure is crucial on how one enters a city.

Saint Charles train station in Marseilles - Oct. 2013    @HF


                             Playing public piano in train station Saint Denis Marseilles             @HF

It does leave lasting impressions, and besides being a place of greetings and farewells all at one and the same time, it is afterall how Europe is connected in a special way, even though train delays may be due to not only changing weather conditions but also because of cable thefts.

Illumination is the theme of the opening. 18 000 silver ponchos shall be distributed for free so that people can wander around and see how artists have transformed the entire city. It is an invitation to do cultural mapping so as to make experiences of the city - a kind of rediscovery for local citizens or a new one for visitors. The introductory text underlines that by suggesting after getting one of the silver ponchos, one should "then just wander around! There is no schedule for exploring every street, park and building that the artists have transformed." Once such looseness is suggested, the question becomes but what shall translate itself into the overall theme of culture meeting technology? Since Mons 2015 has its artistic and cultural programme to last throughout 2015 to this theme, and this with the help of Google, one can repeat the question entailed in an observation made by the sociologist Gurvitch: "a social structure brings forth technology, but is then destroyed by the very same technology!"


HF 20.1.2015


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