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Pecs 2010

Christogram in Pecs

"Borderless city"

The key concept for Pecs is based on the recognition that a multiplicity of minorities live in this city together. That has been proven over time and throughout history. In the process certain buildings underwent a conversion, the most spetacular one a former Turkish moshee now a Catholic Church. This reversal in a different direction reminds of the Hagia Sophia in former Constaninopel now Istanbul. When referring to buildings and therefore architectural history, another question comes to mind when referring to people and how they wish to observe their values and beliefs. Already Sibiu when European Capital of Culture in 2007 brought out again the fact the existence of different faiths which includes a Greek Orthodox Church still functioning today as any community relies on a place where to observe rituals of marriage, baptization, funeral and just reverence to a God approachable through special rites, prayers, songs and silent observances. Naturally this does not explain as of yet the dominance of religious buildings and how the profile of a city becomes a cohesive whole, but it is already remarkable that city planners and of course professors of modern literature with interest in Walter Benjamin would conjoin to work out a new approach to Pecs in preparation for this special year of 2010 when a European Capital of Culture besides Essen / Ruhr 2010 and Istanbul. The reason for raising this question is as much about the confusion between culture and religioin as it is a standard fault of integration of minorities by making sure they stay minorities and like the Romas really on the periphery of society. That means not all minorities are treated equal nor the real question raised but what course should be taken to ensure integration. Naturally it begins with education of the children and does not end with the church but in-between birth and death a life can take on many nuances and variations as different models of existence are tried out. Often minorities resort to a special brand of survival very much like Greeks abroad are known for their multiple restaurants while Indians became skyscaper workers due to their agile abilities to work overground without free of falling. The deeper issue in this direction is, however, one of not merely integration but as increasing tensions show in such cities as Berlin or Amsterdam but how to deal with communities taking on a life of their own and thereby tend to follow their own laws rather than the law of the country they live in. The recent death of Kirstin Heisig, a youth judge in Berlin during the summer of 2010 underlines the fact that many institutions are overdemanded when having to deal with a discrepancy between law and the handling of vital issues like bad behavior or even violent actions in a civil, that is non repressive way. Always in the background looms the sense for and the need to abide not merely to law but to a certain order just as waiting for people to get off the bus presupposes people understand the logistics of traffic. Any stampede of people after a break out of panic knows that even the movement amongst many people demands the observance of some rules and considerations of not merely others, but what is 'rational behavior' in a crowd, in a city, in nature etc. Since all European Capitals of Culture are swept up by these rationalist models, and it starts with hotels catering to international guests wishing everything from breakfast to clean rooms, the danger is that much is swept up and put aside, if not demolished just to present a shining new image. The problem with that is that traces of the past may be removed with further going implications as to how the memories of a city work and more so that the place cannot be distinguished anymore from other similar cleaned-up places. Another way of putting it is that the kind of modernisation brought upon a city leaves many other paths of development short of breath and resources. Thus at risk is a kind of overemphasis of certain flagships, the newly constructed cultural centre of Liverpool '08 an example, at the expense of everything else. The hope is that the press and therefore media attention focues on the stars while not looking too closely as to what takes place in the sidestreets. In the case of Pecs this could be very well the case with regards to how really minorities like the Roma are treated especially when they were included in the bid and in applications for funds requiring special consideration of minorities like the Romas, but who were not given funds to do things during the implementation year but postponed to 2012. Again that would mean entering the financial squabble that follows a need to cut back in budget after a sudden financial crisis has hit European Capitals of Culture and not only. But a more precise question would be to look at the set-up of the organisational committee of Pecs and to see how many of the minorities are represented amongst the staff. As the Platform for Intercultural Europe attests most cultural institutions do not reflect the diversity in society but a Danish museum would, for example, have 95% Danish citizens working there while UK Museums would have a volunteer staff of only male workers over 50 years of age and none coming from one of the cultural communities existing in London. Thus the question Pecs poses by way of its own reputation is what leading answers and models of living together it can come up with and communicate this throughout the rest of Europe especially during this special year.

As to the title 'borderless city' the intention is easily to be understood. On the other hand, there are people who develop fear where there are no borders. A city may not have borders either but then it means the spill over at its outskirks is so massive that the distinction city, rural surrounding breaks down completely. What seems at first an attractive title can in a second look  become quite problematic. There are many more questions to be asked in conjunction with how a cultural concept for a city like Pecs conjoins with the new needs and challenges any city faces especially in a country like Hungary and in a geopolitical location with Croatia just 40Kms away. History says things always begin when a city suddenly revives due to some enlightened people capable of attracting new talents and those in search of developing their ideas further. This may be the case of Pecs with its 30 000 students and the fact that the city has become the birthplace for the new University Network of European Capitals of Culture. That allows for interesting interactions between city and university with regards to the cultural life. It is known that cities without students would be like snowwhite asleep and this for centuries. The fact that one prime concern when planning streets, public spaces and other routes that bicycles figure greatly in the planning concept. University towns are known for the countless students using this vehicle of transportation and thus it alters altogether the kind of visibility but also ways of moving about in the city. The only problem is as the case of Heidelberg shows the risk of creating an unreal world with here students and there tourists while real life is missing. It leaves open the question how then real life experiences are made possible and thus guarantees people living in that city stay in touch with human reality.

HF 24.8.2010

2010 Program - see


European Capital of Culture Programmes at the University - PTE English
Symposium of Myocardial Cytoprotection in Pécs, the European Capital of Culture in 2010. The strong parallel presence of research and culture assured an ...

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