European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

2nd bid of Paphos

The second bid by Paphos was made for September 2012 when the final decision by the jury turned out to favour this city with its well known cultural heritage.

The prime concept is based on the 'Open Air Factory'.

Its programme consists of three pillars:

- myth and religion

- world travellers

- stages of the future

All three may conjoin in linking past, present and future by the methodological principle being applied while preparing for 2017:

                      spatial narratives: metamorphosis and re-presentation

Here it may be possible to conclude already the influence of Acultos from Essen, for metamorphosis is a classical theme by Goethe while representation as a logical presentation of underlying structures was analysed well by Michel Foucault in 'Les mots et les choses' (the order of things). That this has a spatial dimension underlines an uniqueness in approach since it implies already a special configuration of how to plan events. This becomes especially noticable in the third part of the programme: stages of the future. It begins with the country site and continues by going to unusual, even trivial or neglected spaces in a semi-urban environment. For the latter space, the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly coined the term 'rur-urb' to designate spaces which are no longer rural or urban strictly speaking, but somewhere in-between. This space is typical for expanding cities especially where illegal construction precedes any other form of development. It reflects a random use of space with people simply seeking a location where to put up a home surrounding by the illusion this is not the city, but also not completely out in nature.

To come back to the notion of re-presentation, in the introduction to the 2nd bid designed to upgrade the first bid by reinforcing the European dimension and upgrading the artistic excellence, it is said that Paphos has many "representative settings upon which human creativity thrived and led to local development and civilization." (Source:

Here comes to mind immediately due to the reference made to the term 'civilization', if some progression over time is implied e.g. from primitive to modern times. Given this link to ancient cultures, evidence of the past has posed a dilemma in places like Egypt, Cyprus and Greece, as manifested in the general belief what was achieved in the past can never be surpassed in the present. That perception of the past has determined very much both the future and the present since it prevents the encouragement and recognition of contemporary expressions not only in the arts, but in all fields linking ideas to ways of doing things or going about as a nearly unchangeable way of life.

The reluctance to tackle this problem leads to further questions as to why the economic crisis came about, insofar the lack of anticipation and a misguided development have not favoured any exceptional way to step out of the shadow of that past. That shadow can be said to be as well deeply tragic in more than the sense of creativity Arthur Koestler gave when he referred to people living consciously most of the time at a trivial level,  but once aware of death and the stepping stones there to cross over when facing unknown waters then able to act and to create by being in touch with the tragic level. That means for Koestler creativity is the result of a definite awareness about the shortage of life while this consciousness is being answered by a burst of creative energy reflecting man's wish to do something about it, even his counter measures are but short termed. For he knows that he will return to the trivial level as he cannot stand to live consciously and continously at the tragic level.

One factor which contributed to the economic crisis was the banking sector, and therefore it is of interest what role banks played in misguiding cultural reflections into thinking only in terms of the value of money. Naturally this does not explain as of yet greed linked to over spending while over consumption of space leads to not only abuse, but permanent destruction of the environment. Over spending came also as a result of Cyprus having become over time a safe heaven for often not clean money. Many earned a lot of money due to the exceptional high interest rates having been paid there. It is known that also a lot of the new Russians who became rich due to recent economic developments parked their money in banks in Cyprus. Also the geopolitical locations lends itself to being a turn over for many kinds of transactions often linked to doubtful business practices and deals. This does have an impact upon the overall morality and spirit of the island.

Naturally in addition to this comes the division of the island, and one wonders why the jury did not pick Nicosia located directly at the border? Is a reference to cultural heritage a simplier way to safeguard the ECoC title by not linking it to a border city? That selections so far have avoided picking a city which is directly a border city, this has been examined. (See: Nicole Immler & Hans Sakkers, "(Re) Programming Europe: European Capitals of Culture: Rethinking the role of culture". Journal of European Studies 2014, Vol. 44 (1) 3 - 39. It does explain why, for example, Görlitz in Germany was not picked since at the German-Polish border, and instead Essen /Ruhr 2010. (An exception can be Marseille 2013 since at the border of Europe but due its programme ensured that it was located in the main stream of European cultures; likewise Pilsen 2015 may wish to claim as being close to various borders, but again that is more a reflection of a cultural diversity which used to exist in that part of Europe.)

The bid of Paphos does emphasis a continuity of cultural events taking place in public i.e. outdoor spaces. But in over emphasizig this aspect, there is one important aspect being overlooked as is the case in almost all European Capitals of Culture. In the past, cultural events such as the dance at the village came after the harvest was completed. It marked a certain time and led Virgil to remark myths are there to remind people what needs to be done at a certain time of the year. Nowadays this link to work and rhythms of the year have evaporated with cities and modern technologies transforming easily everything into spaces independent of the seasons of the year, and therefore time is determined by something else. It may be a neutral time or else may be a suggestive one like the twilight zone setting off new kinds of associations especially in song writers.

The emphasis upon a strong binding element with nature can also be misleading since the alienation from nature started at an early age in man's civilization. The fragments of a poem left behind by Pindar testifies that. Thus the notion Paphos wishes to apply in the name of a strong linkage to nature is not the same as the enjoyment of being able to do things outside any constructed building insofar as weather conditions allow something differently from what is the usual case in Northern Europe where the climate is tougher and the weather unpredictable as far as the sun is concerned.

Still, if Paphos 2017 wishes to derive out of this 'way of life' in the past, the leap into the present with all the abuse of nature is huge. It may take more than creative energies to overcome the present deficit in nature.

Hatto Fischer


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