European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Evaluation: Cultural Impact Assessment

                             "Culture is the most difficult thing to evaluate"

                                                                 - Eric Antonis


Prevailing theoretical questions and methodologies

Impact upon culture as 'theory': way of living and perceiving things - one example for what is currently offered in terms of teaching new methods of evaluation:

Mastering Impact Evaluation

Strategies, Methods and Tools

Maastricht, 7-8 July 2014

European Institute for Public Administration


"While over the last few years substantial efforts have been made to promote and disseminate counterfactual impact evaluation practice (quantitative), there is much less sharing of good practice concerning so-called theory-based impact evaluation.
The seminar will focus on this theory-based impact evaluation, drawing on the latest advances made in terms of methodology. The most cited methods – Process tracing, Congruence Analysis, QCA, Pawson and Tilley’s Realist evaluation, Mayne’s Contribution Analysis, Scriven’s General elimination method – will all be covered and put into perspective. Several cases will be used to exemplify these methods. The participants will also execute many exercises to better grasp the methods. An important focus of the course will be to match the rigor associated with counterfactual impact evaluation when making causal claims."



The prevailing political culture – culture is 'theory' and cultural adaptation

There is an interesting discussion about whether a 'thin' or 'thick' culture is to be preferred for future developlment. It is a matter of assessment as to what can take deeper roots and which of the two cultures is more flexible i.e. can adapt more easily to changes? In both cases, what counts is the kind of cultural adaptation is made possible by the prevailing culture to ongoing changes, and this while sustaining a continuity of identity?

If culture influences politics – attitudes, values, judgements – then this is about emancipating the 'theory' by which can be known in which direction to develop in further.

There can various criteria developed to evaluate the work which has been done within and by European Capitals of Culture, one of them being what contributions they have made to culture to allow for the continuity of memory work?

Culture as work of memory

There is a special story about him told by Aragon and Cocteau when they took an imaginary walk through the Dresden gallery yet to be restored at that time, for when they left the Dutch room and entered the French one, they pointed out one painter who left Holland to join the French painters was Vincent Van Gogh, but before doing so he had to cross 'the river of forgetting'. What a sudden relief I felt when reading that! For someone who grew up in post-war Germany, 'never to forget' was the key dictum. Indeed, we remember better and more when we experience things due to a kind of 'self forgetting'.

Definitely, if Wittgenstein could say philosophy is but a special way of remembering things, then through memory we can connect, provided our collective memories include the others and their needs.

However, as Juan in San Sebastian would say, “it is an art to remember especially in difficult things such crucial aspects like peace.” Rather we seem to forget many things when hard pressed in the present, only worries cloud not only our minds, but darken the horizon. But even if we cannot realize everything all at once, here and now, there is the possibilities of retaining 'memories of the future' and make that into the inherent part of cultural heritage upon which Europe is created and re-created during the flow of times. Hence it is really up to us we discover not only what inheritance of the past there exists, but by ongoing memory work create such an archive that we become consistent over time with both our visions and values.

2014 – 1914: we do remember the First World War especially during these difficult times Europe is going through right now. There are warnings even that we are at a brink of a similar catastrophe but this time not as to what happened in former Jugoslavia, but in the Ukraine.

In terms of the arts, the outcome of that war made Paul Klee say that this war destroyed all sense of beauty so that any expression thereof shall be by necessity abstract as it has to be created out of memory of previous experiences of beauty.

Worringer predicted at the beginning of the twentieth century that art shall be divided between the abstract kind of Paul Klee and the one seeking to evoke empathy by using simple symbols of animals such as Nolde. This observation is crucial since schoolteachers in Germany were collecting already evidence of what was supposed to be a modern art to be denied by Hitler in his famous exhibition since it would be destroying not only the creativity of the people, but also respect for the parents. In the latter case it meant people smashed the glass window behind which was exhibited a portrait of his parents by Otto Dix.

Bertrand Russell said this was the outcome of First World War, insofar as then the discovery was made what power over people technology entails. After the war, many young men threw themselves into research. Again Russell makes the comment in his essay about the 'Fathers of Fascism' that all of them were highly intelligent, but there was only one huge problem, namely they had no ethics. So lessons from the past have to be learned, so set the the cultural course for the future.

As known not merely Hitler, but someone like Paul Le Man, the father of Post Modernism denounced an art development which let Max Beckmann paint the 'Argonauts' on his way like so many into exile. Indeed, Europe is full of those stories about Walter Benjamin who committed suicide rather than fall into the hands of the gestapo, and who was recently remembered when Marseille was European Capital of Culture in 2013.

For Southern France had others like Andre Malraux but also Max Ernst seeking to evade Nazi Germany while there were others who would go into resistance, but before so doing would write as did Albert Camus did a letter to his German friends. Europe has never really recovered from this disaster and especially in re-united Germany after the wall fell, there can be sensed even when they remember the bombardment of Dresden and Neo Nazis mix in with those who wish to recall that end of Second World War without accusing the allies for what they did in those final days, that somehow Fascism has not been defeated in 1945 but learned to mask itself better.

No where is this becoming more apparent in the current Ukraine crisis with reference to Neo Fascism being made by the pro Russian side to justify their move to gain independence from Kiev in an over eager wish to join Russia. The Polish journalist Kapucinski had warned in his book about the 'Imperium', that is the Soviet Union after it broke up, of the return of the Russian machine. It includes the Russian mother as a desire to have an omniscient power and Russian soldiers devoted to the flag.

Above all fear prevails in Europe these days that not only the anti-Europe feeling feeding directly into those who wish again to combine 'Nationalism' and 'Socialism' are about to repeat the same mistakes many committed when they followed Mussolini and Hitler but as well Stalin. The real question is, therefore, whether Europe can stay connected while learning out of past mistakes rather than being disintegrated and then united through war since driven by hatred?

HF Athens July 2014

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