European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Program of Patras 2006


Most revealing was one postulate Patras 2006 and which became the slogan for its programme published only three months into the year: "Culture is all about images..."

If culture is reduced to but one image, namely the one the city had in the past and shall perhaps alter through this one year of experience as European Capital of Culture, then it is certain that the outcome shall depend merely on a degree of manipulative certainty. For nothing more needs to be done but to signify what has changed, what not in that image once this one year has passed! (This negative trend manifested itself in other ECoCs under the term 'city branding'.) Once culture is reduced to image making processes, then there is no longer a distinction made between an artistic programme and an events calendar amounting to a series of mere festivals. That reduction reflects as well the hesitation of the official side as to what demands it will want to make of culture. Significantly James Clifford called it 'the predicament of culture' once you have not only coca-cola everyhwhere, but block buster exhibitions like the Leonarddo da Vinci shown in Patras during that year.

Before Patras 2006 became European Capital of Culture for the year, Greece had been engaged in hosting the Olympic Games in Athens 2004. That meant Patras sailed literally in the shadows of these vast efforts designed to upgrade the infrastructures and to prepare for the Games. It lead to a gross underestimation of efforts in need to be undertaken if a cultural programme lasting over one year is to be hosted by the city of Patras.

Bob Palmer stressed in his report of 2004 that one mistake was repeated year after year. It was not to conceive well ahead of time such a programme which can weather all uncertainties, including financial ones, and come up with a convincing answer as to what this designation means. He visited Patras two years before the year began and recommended strongly to the European Commission that the designation should be withdrawn, in order to avoid a disaster. His recommendation was overruled by the Council of Ministers which followed the recommendations of then Greek Minister of Culture Venizelos.

The case of Patras 2006 can be taken as indication what influence Ministers have. Their voice counts more than that of an expert as they represent their respective countries at Council meetings in Brussels and no one within the European Commission is willing to expose these political authorities. That is a part of the rule of the game. It explains as well the difference between expert opinion and political expediency. The discrepancy is reinforced by the fact that the European Commission rarely listens fully as to what experts are saying. Altogether it reflects how decisions are taken in Brussels. Since no one has an interest to expose a member state, problems are either ignored or downgraded as if minor issues which shall go away with time.

In case of European Capitals of Culture, it should be mentioned as well that the designation remains within the national fold. As such the selection committee is composed of seven foreign and six national experts, thereby ensuring that the special interests of the nation having the turn to designate a city in its territory during that year are very much heeded.


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