Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

CIED Galway Conference 1997

CIED Project No. 200                                                                 Dr. Hatto Fischer

Galway Conference Oct. 17-18, 1997                                          Co-ordination


Reflections about the Galway Conference:


         Cultural Heritage after the Industrial Age


  1. 1.   Introduction


The Galway Conference has a practical pre-history. It includes efforts to address the city manager of Galway, Mr. Gavin already in 1995 with the idea of a conference about ‘cultures in cities’ as viewed by both poets and planners. For some crucial ideas and thematic approaches to this complex issue had been expressed before at the Fifth Seminar, “Culture, Building Stone for Europe 2002” in 1994, and was followed up by the ‘Myth of the City’ Conference held in Crete, 1995. That is to say, significant activities took place already before the CIED-project (‘Cultural Innovation and Economic Development’ and financed by the European Commission under Article 10) and the Galway Conference came about in 1997.

Within CIED, the 5 (five) Pilot Projects had formulated at the outset a working hypothesis to be tested throughout the life time of the project (two years). The comparison between five cities concerns the relationship between culture and economic development being strived for, and as envisioned by both planning concepts used currently and cultural policy principles adopted to make possible investments in the cultural fields.

By means of a set-up of a local cultural committee, the Pilot Projects started to examine cultural consensus measures and to establish first guidelines for user studies of former industrial buildings with the prospects to be re-used for cultural purposes.

While culture as planning filter and/or strategy to revive historical centres was defined in the project as being both anthropological and philosophical in nature, evaluation thereof was linked to the idea of a cultural calendar. The latter is a tool by which it can be measured as to what official (in comparison to unofficial) cultures give recognition to. Further ideas of evaluation, including the cultural impact of existing cultural institutions, were examined with the purpose to know better the cultural prerequisites for decisions taken at both general level (Master Plan of a City), and what chances these investments in the cultural fields offer to upgrade economic development into a qualitative notion of life. After all, cities were in the past  a cultural orientation for future jobs and as an innovative network the resource centres for a permanent income, that is the financial sustainability of a way of life.

By the time the Galway Conference came about in the third phase of the CIED project, cross-cultural references and common parameters along with first reflections of planning methodologies in different cultural contexts had been articulated in the project’s two previous Steering Committee meetings. Thus the project was willing to take on the matter of linking more precisely culture and economic development through an examination of plans and planning methodologies as applied until now by the 5 (five) partner cities. As a matter of fact, the objective for the Galway conference was formulated by Phil Cooke, insofar in his response to ideas coming from Palermo, he stated that CIED was now concerned with the refinement of planning methodologies by including the cultural dimension.

In a city basing its planning concepts on what constitutes a unique cultural heritage, namely the Gaelic one, Galway offers substantial insights into the makings of a booming town (increase in tourism, positive migration movement). Already at the outset of the project, it was felt that in the light of so many changes, the city’s administration must concern itself more with preserving that unique identity. Within CIED, this meant to respond to that need by establishing a heritage plan, that is to refine planning methodologies, in order to guide future developments according to these positive constraints.

Thus Galway is a test case for the other four CIED partners, insofar as ‘cultural heritage after the industrial age’ means more than just facing the recent past with new ideas. It means opening the agenda at the level of local authorities to questions related to ‘innovation in the cultural fields’, because it has become convincing that this leads to economic development. Adding then the extra dimension of co-operation with European partners, it means drawing also the attention of politics to a new search for inward investments allowing for a simple concept to become feasible. This concept tries to link the culture of the past with means of modern technology, in order to promote the articulation and the development of that cultural heritage after the industrial age. There is the hope that this will become a new economic force shaping the future.

But this is not at all easy to accomplish. To start with, the ‘cultural heritage’ of cities has changed drastically. They are no longer dominated by smoking chimneys of large industrial complexes attracting a large working force living in poor quarters, or ports marked by coal barges docking along side huge coal freighters (as was the case in Cardiff when still a major coal exporting city-port), but more by closed-down plants and endless industrial quarters no longer used. It makes the recent past, that is the industrial age, become a curious question as to what ought to be preserved of those times of ‘hard labour’, and what not?

As if the sweep to power by the British Labour Party under the rulership of Tony Blair signals one kind of change, and it means giving back to local/regional authorities more power, but also responsibilities, the reality of people seeking employment under changed conditions is marked by quite other circumstances, that is not at all easy to define. For within cities there prevails a ruthless continuity of anxiety and exploitation, arbitrariness and fetish feelings for what has value. It throws many people off their own, that is true path. Everyone is forced to live fully exposed to a kind of commercial life marked by supermarkets and package deals without knowing how to cope with the questions of life in an urban environment increasingly deprived of any meaningful, that is sensual and, therefore, culturally significant experience.

People feel urban poverty burdens their daily lifes due to a lack of ‘imaginative spaces’ in which they can dream about their future having another meaning and which touches really upon the substance of life. In that sense, it is not easy to know what needs to be preserved, culturally speaking, and what should be subject to change, in order to continue investing in the future.

Indeed, reflections about ‘cultural heritage’ require the knowledge as to what is innovative enough, in order to take into deeper consideration what has happened not only in the ancient, but also in the recent past. This makes a difference as to future orientations. In that sense, the sense of loss of identity proclaimed by many in Europe nowadays is not only an expression of fear, but also an admission in no longer knowing history. The latter is really about the ‘continuity of change’ which has to be answered by European cities in various ways, if they manage to preserve their cultural identities under changed conditions. 

European cities have not been able to resolve the question of change in the mirror of ‘history’ in any satisfactory manner. A prime example for this development is given by the French poet Baptiste Marray who speaks about Paris having exported life to the outskirts. This includes the replacement of the former ‘Les Halles’, a huge market area, by the cultural focus point called ‘Centre Pompideou’. The latter is really a failure in terms of marketing the arts because this kind of cultural specialisation knows to attract only tourists, that is one-sided consumers who in their search for meaning (‘adventure’) and in finding none, become very difficult to handle, because deeply dissatisfied. That indicates things in the making because more and more arbitrariness and cynicism dominate above anything else in such artificial environments.

Within CIED, Leipzig has undergone recently, that is since German re-unification in 1989, similar mistakes by exporting the entire retail business along with the traditional fair grounds and the market halls to the outskirts. Already the German government is willing to admit that this investment on the ‘green meadows’ is a failure when compared to what is happening in the traditional centres of cities. It is important that CIED has helped here to alter planning methodologies and more significantly measures of success. Not financial expensive plans for office blocks no one will use, are ‘in’, but a more thorough understanding of the ‘cultural fields’ to move in, in order to link new projects with the creation of jobs. What is needed, is a kind of determination to bring about such practical results, that transparency and flow of payments provide people with the security of knowing what they can do, in order to resolve their situations. Helplessness has been defined within CIED as a sign of a cultural crisis, that is people are no longer able to organise themselves to resolve major questions of life such as what job to persue, in order to secure an income.

There is really no improvement, culturally speaking, in terms of the ‘human self-consciousness’, if measures by which decisions are taken and judged by are not questioned. Lady Diane fulfilled that dream to match searches for glamour with compassion for humanity, but this ideological need covers not nearly the grounds marked by hard business and shut out options to live differently. The lack of recognition of the latter  marks a potentiality of the arts and cultures marking the surfaces of a city as evolving in the past, and which nowadays, due to the overflow of commercial goods, seems to have no other choice but to reflect upon their own cultural poverty, that is the abilities to sustain a lively and own, that is unique identity.

The CIED (‘Cultural Innovation and Economic Development’) project, co-financed by the European Commission due to Article 10 addressing for the first time the question of culture within options given by the EU members to the regional fond, has the task not only to mark these cultural differences between the past and the present, but also to accompany this process with a forward looking urban policy of planning and investment, in particular with regards to such former industrial areas left behind by modern developments.

The transition from the industrial age to the present one has been accompanied more by ‘invisible’ technical accomplishments. It left cultural orientation rather confused as to knowing what is at stake, while artistic viewpoints were merely exploited where opportune. Until recently considered to be antagonistic, current urban living conditions are marked by driving the arts much more than ever before to commercial solutions, while the European Commission warns about increasing tendencies towards commercialisation of European cities with the risk that more and more ‘cultural identities’ are being destroyed. Clearly that is a call for some correction in an otherwise economic driven European integration process and effort.


  1. 2.   The Galway Conference


The Galway conference took place over two days. On the first, Thursday, Oct. 16, 1997, delegates were greeted by Micheal O Laocha, the Mayor of Galway (who is elected every year anew and has a largely symbolic function, while real power resides with the city manager of the Galway Corporation) and Peadar O Flatharta, spokesperson for the Gaillimh le Gaeilge Teo association (the prime member of the local committee in Galway and initiative group for the Gaelic language). After those greetings, a cultural feature of the Gaelic world was demonstrated by means of a video showing of a recent national hurling event - a special sport of the Gaelic culture, as explained by Ciaran Hayes. This was followed by the report of two planners involved in the urban renewal scheme of Galway, namely John Roche and Guss McCarthey.

After lunch, the delegates departed by bus to tour the Connamara countryside (unfortunately rain made the bus windows a bit foggy to see through), and to visit first the Gaelic television centre and afterwards a cultural heritage centre called ‘Ceardlann an Spideal’. Here both the modern and the handicraft - local skill - promotion idea of a unique cultural identity were shown to be compatible with what were appealing images based on real skills and sound management.

On the second day, Friday, Oct. 17, the CIED conference took as venue a hotel on the outskirts of Galway. Chaired by the excellent moderator, Andrew D’Arcy, it had a heavy, but rich in both substance and contrast, programme to absolve. After the opening speeches by again the mayor of Galway, Micheal O Laocha, followed by the representative of the project leader of CIED, namely Vasilis Sgouris from Volos, Greece, the City Manager Mr. Joe Gavin made some very important remarks as to how he views future policies for developing Galway. Furthermore, it was of great significance to the conference, that the main guest speaker during that opening session was Mr. Eamon O Cuiv, Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (with special responsibility for the Gaeltacht and the Islands). Then, Cardiff, Wales through Phil Cooke and Gwawr Hughes and Volos, Greece through Vasilis Sgouris and Aegli Dimoglou were presented, and after the coffee break the Pilot Project of Galway by Peadar O Flatharta.  His speech showed the economic approach to cultural investments, and what stands to be gained, if this includes heritage criteria, including that of the Gaelic language. After lunch, this viewpoint of what wealth on cultural heritage exists in Galway was expanded upon by the historian Peadar O’Dowd, who in his lecture about the history of Galway showed not only the wisdom to hire him for a special historical study of Galway, but also what European connections prevail in Galway. The lecture was followed by the presentation of the other two CIED partners, namely Leipzig presented by Leona Bielitz and Manfred Laske, and Palermo presented by Flora Albano of the European office in the city’s administration. The conference went then into three workshop settings all discussing the same questions as proposed by Ciaran Hayes, and once they reported back to the conference as a whole, comments to this were made by Dr. Hatto Fischer, co-ordinator of CIED. He was followed by the philosopher and poet, but also former minister of culture, Michael D. Higgins who spoke significantly about the ‘philosophical connections’ needed, in order to sustain a cultural dialogue of tolerance for differences throughout Europe. As intended by the organisers, his speech meant that the Galway conference ended with a high note.

2.1 Interests in the Galway Conference a priori

The ‘Myth of the City’ conference held 1995 for one week in Crete, and during which 15 poets and 15 planners/architects/philosophers travelled from different places to others, in order to see the contrast between cities, villages and just what happens in the landscape, provoked already sufficient interest in the Galway conference and was looked upon as a natural follow-up. For delegates then saw among other things how Irish poets could contribute a great deal towards ending typical conferences.

2.2 Poetic Visions and changing societies

Poetry is involved the moment much larger issues, the complexity of life itself, are at stake, but as an added dimension by which to comprehend life, poetry is little appreciated. In reflecting the ‘Contemporary Irish Poetry’ situation, E. Grennan in Colby Quarterly (Dec. ’92) defines ‘poetry’ as being “honestly preoccupied with the world of individual consciousness and the world of external fact, honestly seeks a language that will do some sort of unsentimental justice to these two zones of being, however the weight of attention and engagement is actually distributed between them.” That is not a battle cry, nor a wish for a ‘balance of power’, but here begins to articulate itself the new Irish consciousness amidst streams of disappointments and ruptures caused by a kind of ‘frentic violence’ (Brendan Kennelly) transforming hate into still further hate and revenge - a kind of senseless continuity feed by being deprived for many centuries of the most simple means of existence and by not knowing what the dignity of mankind can mean to one’s own self-understanding. That hidden Irish pain has many faces and many stories to tell.

The linkage between culture and poetic visions are not easily perceived as being of any importance due to quite another logic and thinking prevailing in modern life. Only high quality presentations and substantial contributions can overcome that obstacle. Yet poetry is really an expression of intuitive feelings for situations to come, and therefore they express more precisely the anticipatory consciousness of society. Furthermore, it would be a grave mistake to reduce poetry to a mere form of subjective expressionism, since the poetic logic is above all visionary and ‘rational’, in terms of anticipating the organisational logic of things to come. Already the fragmentary poem by Parmenides describes how wheels of a chariot causes smoke when turning faster and faster as the goddess was taking its subject out of town. Friction and resistance are always akin to poetry made into close-by observations. The question is whether or not it can be decoded in time, to be understood as an intuitive feeling for an outcome to come. That forces always poetry to oppose the traditional logic or rather the dialectics of the double negation as formulated into a system by Hegel and exercised in the most cynical manner by Nietzsche. Poetry risks returning to simple words, and leaving them exposed to winds and silence, given them back the meaning they had when honesty meant something to everyone. It is language in attunement to the dexterity of love seeking not an escape, but a fulfilment in not a safe harbour, but a life to be trusted in. It shows itself when the ‘erotic component’ Pablo Neruda described so well retains the coverage of daily news.

Irish poets appear to be capable of that. In their kind of presentations they seemed to reflect both a visionary cultural policy prevailing in Ireland and what standards are set there in the meantime by not only poets, but all artists and intellectuals. Indeed, culture is a cumulative process of excellent work. If articulated well, it leaves upon others the impression of urgency that a new cultural dimension needs to be introduced, in order to know how to combine theory and practise under present circumstances. After all, culture is a process of mediation between needs and what can be fulfilled under these given conditions. They are the prerequisites to acknowledge terminal points of reference. Thus if such a conference stands a chance to challenge common beliefs held until then as being most sacred values, there must be found a way to avoid the ‘violence in cities’. This is to say, that there is a need of translating cultural needs into planning constraints, in order to know how to shape not only a place, but how to give the place a chance to breathe.

For instance, there was felt the importance to add the poetic dimension to planning discussions, if practical concepts were to relate to the ‘life in cities’. This is said because only once poetry does touch upon what can be understood, what not, then a process of mediation between these two alternatives  possible to cope with the need to learn to cope with the very much needed ‘cultural adaptation process’. The latter has to be linked not only to changes in life brought about by societies being no longer industrialised based economies nor to the current impact of the global economy basing its potentialities on the new communication technologies, but also directly to efforts to upgrade European integration. This has been understood as the need for new approaches to planning, as the case of CIED, a European project in the making.

2.3 The Irish context

It is well known that Ireland has set here both as a country and through its individuals very high standard indeed when it comes to absorbing not only European funds, but in making good usages thereof. Significantly around the time of the Galway conference, that is mid October 1997, Irish newspapers at national, regional and local levels started to reflect upon the consequences for the future of Ireland the moment the country as a whole as no longer the status of an objective 1 region, but moves up a notch due to its recent development pace to that of objective 2. It means co-financing can only be then up to 50% by the European Union. Such experiences and developments made everyone already back then in 1985 eager to come to Ireland, in order to get first hand experiences. Unfortunately the Galway conference could not fulfil that wish.

2.4 The Galway context

The Galway context for the conference can defined in a double sense: there is a city seeking a cultural identity not only within the overall and that is modernised Irish context, but places its main priorities and objectives upon a duality of language, namely the emphasis upon the Gaelic as a major factor besides the English language. Immediately this means re-drawing the city’s social and historical maps insofar as it is an effort to revoke memories of former organisations based on tribes.

Insofar as Ancient Greece developed in the polis, it is a well known fact that such organisations can contribute towards the social and cultural cohesion, provided there is justice and no discrimination of foreigners. The context is, therefore, defined through what provokes a sense of community in the making based on cultural values which are conveyed by a liveable consensus amongst the people themselves. Naturally, this means extending the community’s power through usage of language to unknown, even risky realms of possible exclusion, if the ‘right to access’ is not the privilege of everyone, but those in support only of the Gaelic language - a single identity and interest definition which if taken too far would not only take the English-only speaking part of the Galway population by surprise, but could risk overturning the cultural dynamics of the city and instead help establish very exclusive, reactionary patterns in way of behaviour and acting, that is responding to needs of others. For a self-

Of interest is that E. Grennan speaks about the ‘sound of the language’ as being close to that ‘of the tribe’. This reminds of Galway presenting its former political constellations as being one of ‘tribes’. It is “a sound that closes the gap between the language of the p o l  i s and that of the poem, a single speech spectrum….” (E. Grennan, “Contemporary Irish Poetry” in Colby Quarterly, Vol. XXVIII, No. 4, Dec. 1992, p. 185).

For anyone coming from Greece, and cultural heritage means being rooted in the Polis, a political culture of testing one’s own voice against others, it strikes an amazing accord. Tribe and tribalism had been associated until now only with the Indians and African tribes well described in Golden Frazer’sThe Golden Bough’, and out of which S.Freud developed his specific theory of ‘Totems and Tabus’ prevailing even in modern societies, that is when they have left already a long time ago those primitive stages of existence and development.

Added to that where theories by Levy-Strauss about language becoming the collective totem pole, in order to guide the individual when it comes to making a decision of marriage, while M. Polanyi attempted to contrast these so-called primitive economies with both archaic, that is previous ones and modern economies governed by money as decision carrier. Again it is all a matter of relativity on how anthropological studies figure in the search for continuity in the present with the past. Naturally, to emphasise familiar sounds as a way of recollecting what has been said and agreed upon in the Polis, that comes very close to the thesis by Jean Amery who stated in his excellent essay ‘How much home does a person need’, the kind of dialectic within language being needed, in order to uphold a relationship to be trusted between what has been approached, sound wise, and what can be recognised as being truthful.

Culture is understood here as a kind of calling within language to become true to oneself. It is not only an entertaining thought, but requires hard, that is cultural work to bring about this trust in what is being named to be the reality in which real people live in. The element of authenticity is here reflected in the trustworthiness or not. Accordingly values are given to what helps to fulfil this criteria of liveable truth, and by the sound of it, it is the kind of language spoken.

2.5 Mapping a town with the help of poetry

Of interest to the CIED project is also the understanding of poetry by E. Grennan, since a  “map in language, a language more varied, even, than the landscape of the island itself”. He sees that poetry as an imaginative power can bring together three major features of any town: a glimmer of its possible unity, a refinement of a common dual tongue (in Galway the English and the Gaelic languages, in Volos ancient and modern Greek, etc.), and the drawing of all attention to the fact that the language of the town is the ‘tongue which talks’. Thus with the help of poetry, it is possible to map in an imaginative manner the town.

Yet that is not identical with the ‘talk of the town’, or what makes certain images of cities become famous, so much that they can effectively persuade any visitor that this reputation shall be upheld even after he has left the town again. Associations are patterned accordingly, and every local authority makes tremendous efforts to influence that image-holding, equally image-producing power positively. It may then deviate from what areas anyone ought to avoid and which ones are the preferred ones, for the darker sides of a town are not necessarily talked about, except in the criminal statistics and by those forced to live there, but any map, even the most imaginative one, has to relate to real streets and corners, if anyone is to find any orientation at all through that map. However rich and varied, it is, of course, noticeable that many cities produce maps which guide everyone immediately to hotels and restaurants, and only peripherally to cultural sites, while the personal and historical colours are lacking since banks and other commercial enterprises, fore mostly car sellers and oil companies wish to express in such an official brochure their support (and commercial interest) in what the city intends to do, in order to become even better known than now.

In popular music, there was this famous group called ‘talking heads’, while philosophers would say an inherent characteristic of people defined by talking too much is that they are dominated by the ‘talking drive’, as Freud would speak about the sexual and death drive.

It is most important that a talkative town or culture re-visited sounds very silent in comparison to the past, and this is perhaps due to a kind of censorship along the lines ‘don’t talk too much’ having not being able to resolve the dilemmas prevailing between reflective reasoning usually denounced as intellectual, academic, theoretical, etc. and practise as the art of rhetoric’s, that is the manipulative usage of language to secure desired ends.

But E. Grennan speaks about a unity which fails to convince everybody because it is being replaced by a kind of uniformity unity, e.g. people of Dublin are anxious because of the many stag parties being carried out by British weekend tourists, this has led to the development that every pub has at its entrance one of those muscle packages called bouncers, in order to secure who enters, who does not.

Such a development is commented upon because it breaks precisely with any sense of aspiration for collective unity. Yet after Dublin’s map had been re-drawn according to James Joyce’s much more imaginative walk through the town, there has entered into the city’s profile a commercialised version of that romantic account of a man who became like Odysseus a traveller not through 22 years, but twenty-four hours in the streets of Dublin. It is a map taking the visitor more from pub to pub, then to supposingly famous places where the knowledge to be gained, can be linked to a touch of authenticity.

Such an account of a society in the making, reveals how difficult it is to make sense of, whether now closely watched in terms of how people eat, or from a distance, that is what makes the children of these crazy crowds turn out to be in a world not known for its social charity, but for its interest in boxers, provided they continue to win their bouts. It extends even to journalists in the interest that they are not being shot dead because of probing too much into modern forms of violence to be linked to mafia-like exploitation schemes of money making enterprises, for existence takes place independent of any kind of substantial claim to truth, or, for that matter, from a wish to uphold ‘local identity’. The subtle dividing line is still but ‘it does not matter’, for entertainment in the streets is at best a meeting place of people confused and in search of another kind of meaning, that is collective consciousness as to who they are.

Usually the disappointment not to find it in the streets drives them into the football stadiums, and the hard sotted players entertain much more the thought on how national feelings, once revived when the national football team runs onto the fields, can be exploited for commercial reasons, than what ought to be a common concern about one’s own true standing in the cultural field. The latter remains as neglected as it is quite important that many, including academics tend to avoid this controversial need for cultural reflections. It appears that ‘knowledge without subject’ has become the modern commercial language, and thus people tend to distance themselves much more from any kind of positive communicative process, for they do not want to deal with all that dirt found out there, on the streets.


3. Refinement of Planning Methodologies

By adding the dimension of culture to planning, it automatically means including methods by which to recognise people’s needs living in modern cities. The latter sprawl all over the country side while leaving many more people struggling to make any sense of this urban conglomeration. By failing to fulfil cultural needs, people cannot recognise what kind of ideas can suggest to them on how to deal with the urban environment as a living entity in the making. In that sense, culture stands for the filter by which needs become recognised, that is responded to. At the same time, culture is derived from real living experiences within constraints which bring about this culture in the first place. Meaning of place and cultural constraints reinforce each other when the ‘myth of the place’ has been solidified by sufficient experiences which begin to replicate themselves. That is where the question of planning comes in.

Indeed, life has always been shaped by various forces, but nowadays there is an even more urgent need to articulate a concept which touches upon human consciousness, and yet to relate at the same time pragmatically enough to current decision making processes when presenting new possibilities to urban life. The keeping up of that cultural dynamism is needed, in order to remain in dialogue with the city in the making. That is why it is so important on how issues are addressed for inherent to them is what needs are recognised, principally speaking, and implementation processes allowed for despite potential and real conflicts of values. Certainly these conflicts about which value premises to follow, they  can be resolved more easily, if the approach adopted, justifies also a way of life because it leads the way towards certain solutions.


4. Evaluation of the Galway Conference

How important it would have been to include the voices of poets, or for that matter of other artistic people, such as the ones from the Druid theatre group in Galway, this cannot be evaluated now, even though they would have certainly allowed for the discovery of such ‘imaginative spaces’ that cities need, in order to become dynamic and alive, culturally speaking.  For instance, the poetess Paula Meehan emphasised that cities need not only ‘tamed’, but equally ‘wild’, that is untouched places, and that planners must not always equate unused spaces as equally non-economical ones because of not being developed. Such value premises in a commercially driven economy are difficult to articulate and to follow up by planners. Even though a difficult, nevertheless important dialogue between poets and planners started then, that is 1995 in Crete, and the aim of the Galway Conference was to contribute towards the continuity of that discussion.

Thus fruitful conferences come about when they manage to give endorsements of another approach needed, in order to face the reality of life in a city compounded by confusion as a result of increasing cultural desorientation and one sided pursuits of economic interests. The European Commission has defined this problem as being increasing commercialization of all walks of life with the consequence of more and more unique ‘cultural identities’ being destroyed. The commercial usage of culture for tourist purposes is but one outstanding example of that recent development.

Of course, scepticism is appropriate as to the meaning of bringing together people, in order to discuss such ideas. It is not easy to make conferences become fruitful whether of planners or poets, for too many of such conferences have been reduced to a kind of standardised practise. They loose all originality by taking place, for instance, in typical hotel designated conference rooms - far off from the daily life of a city and not at all in tune with reality in the making. For even such conference conformity, that is the making a meeting happen under certain conditions, does not escape the common syndrome of trying to lend whatever one is doing an aura of importance. It reveals a loss of originality in making possible a meeting with the local place. Thus conferences, although well prepared and supported by sufficient funds, and even if they manage to capture the audience, they do not add anything significant to the kind of understanding needed to sustain a kind of development to be called healthy growth in both economic and cultural terms. This is because they reproduce but a very familiar pattern, while usage of the kind of interrelationship of knowledge with current practises remains unclear. At the most, there is only an indirect way to alter the shape of such conferences and make them become major orientation points for future developments.

That criterion of success is, of course, a remarkable admission of aspiration and not so much, in order to point out the weakness, of a fully fledged endorsement about the need to alter approaches to both intellectual discussions and reflections of cultural dynamics.

Problematic terms:

a) cultural /heritage industry:

It touches upon aspects which critics have already named the ‘cultural heritage industry’ in the making. It is an obvious reference to what the German philosophers Th.W.Adorno and Max Horkheimer had described already in their ‘Dialectics of Enlightenment’ (1944) as the problem of the ‘cultural industry’, for which Hollywood as image producing branch stands as prime example with all the implications of mass manipulation and fake options of life. Within CIED (‘Cultural Innovation and Economic Development’) such testing grounds are drawn up, that working hypothesis about a possible correction in this interrelationship between culture and economic development can be envisioned, and partly practised. The Galway conference stands, therefore, for a crucial cultural turn in the approach to both questions of culture and of economic development.

b)  working hypothesis within CIED revisite

Culture and economic development are not compatible all the time, nor does every conference manage to sustain a linkage between ‘experiences and visions’ when examining this relationship. Hence two important things have emerged out of that earlier conference ‘Myth of the City’, namely that people coming together need to be involved in a certain structure on how to perceive things, and future planning requires some clear investments for otherwise the pre-conditions for retaining only a low quality of solutions, that is non-cultural ones, shall remain the same.

c)   structure of perception, or knowing what is going on in cities

With regards to the first point, the structure of perception as to what is going on inside a city requires as well the perception from outside. This usage of contrasting points of reflection during a conference which convenes not only at one place, but travels, this can be intensified with here a discussion in a high-tech centre, there a village gathering to hear poets recite their poems in different European voices. Such experiences provide the participants with means to compare life in and outside of cities. Naturally planners will be more attentive to the morphology of a place, while poets draw attention to the metaphorical sense of a city, and relate these ‘figures of speech’ or constellations of thoughts to how cities became measures of time, historically speaking. They would judge a city remaining to be human insofar all intentions to complete its construction is never completed. That is to say, they articulate a need for measuring life, and what people do, not merely by the technical criteria of perfection, but by a sense of in- and uncompleteness which had fascinated already Michel Angelo about the raw materials he was using for his sculptures.

d)  criteria for evaluation purposes of cities 

There are, of course, numerous criteria such as ‘artificial environments’ when looking at urban spaces used solely for purposes of consumption, but no one living there anymore, as are tourist establishments along a sea coast evidences of developments having gone way too far in one direction without consideration for any kind of ‘town planning’. The latter reflects, methodologically speaking, efforts by authorities to rationalise development processes with respect to what constitutes a human settlement. Naturally, and unfortunately most of the times, planning procedures give in to one-sided commercial interests linked to real estate values and what is defined as income for the city. That means developments are allowed for, or impacts thereof simply ignored for too long a time, so that people are constantly being forced to do things without knowing when to expect any payment although investments in the future are being made, but not indicated as such as of yet. A conference would need to clarify especially this non-technical matter.

d)  cultural heritage and poetry 

Criticism of specialised poetry  conferences has been expressed by Brendan Kennelly eloquently in ‘Poetry, my arse’. At the same time, Greek poets and planners expressed because of this experience in Crete with the Irish poets the special wish to go to Ireland. They, and not only they, want to experience first at hand the homeland of a dynamic culture in the making, that is a model for European financed implementation policies. Unfortunately the Galway conference could not fulfil this wish in its entirety, and given local constraints, quite something else came about.

Thus there is a need for some reflections as to the reasons why, as much as a drawing upon the experiences made in terms of understanding the Irish situation especially in Galway. As a recent article in the Herald Tribune ( points out, cultural activities within Ireland are beginning to be recognised world-wide, and artists no longer need to escape abroad as did James Joyce, in order to find a place for both calling and formulating new ideas. The Druid Theatre of Galway stands as an example for that kind of vigorous development shaped by a decision to combine the interest in culture with a wise approach to economic development.

As a tribute to Irish culture, Irish poets seem to reflect a very wise, because forward looking cultural policy applied over the past years in Ireland. Certainly the many incentives given to artists, e.g. tax relaxation, and to local authorities alike to look in that direction of culture, can be regarded as most fruitful. Little wonder then that the Greek participants were looking very much forward to going to Ireland, in order to continue this vital stimulus of a special dialogue. The ‘myth of the city’ conference showed that such a dialogue is possible once special fields of interests are left behind, whether now as a poet or as a planner. There are too many ingrained styles and working methodologies as to allow our European cities cope with demands of the present and the immediate future. The fact that even poetry conferences can become sterile, has been underlined by Brendan Kennelly’s book called ‘Poetry my Arse’.

Culture has become known in Ireland thanks to poets like Seamus Heaney who in his acceptance of the Nobel prize spoke about the reason for standing in Stockholm because there exist by now three great generations of Irish poets and also due to the fact, that poets and philosophers could become involved in practical political affairs, e.g. Brendan Kennelly as president of the council advising the foreign ministry or else Michael D. Higgings becoming cultural minister of Ireland especially during the time when Dublin became the cultural capital of Europe and Ireland had the responsibilities for six months to administer all matters of the European Union.

The real commitment to bring about ‘cultural innovation’ within Europe to the benefit of the people who suffer under urban living conditions does not seem to be as great as a fake struggle for survival under sole pecuniary terms. The latter is itself an expression of global economic conditions and on what cynicism, but also lack of morality in a cultural sense this provokes.

Reflections upon the concept ‘cultural inheritance’ within the Irish context

While staying at Trinity College in Dublin, Oct. 14 ’97 as guest of the great Irish poet Brendan Kennelly who remarked how important it is to conceive life as gathering much raw material in need of being put into form, it was raining outside a bit. Not typical Irish weather, but sedate enough to feel the earth was not yet soaked to the ground, but waiting for it to happen. That is the opposite of how academics choose to communicate, that is really not, insofar as they work hard on ever new categories, in order to pin down the other.

Only cracking a joke, as would say Prof. Baeck from the University of Leuven, can help overcome this terrible distance or academic silence. Or reading again the introduction to Brendan Kennelly’s epic poem called ‘Judas’ would mean finding out about cultural beliefs having been transformed into such stout convictions that if challenged, would but mean insulting the person holding such convictions. That is why in an overall sense for culture, it would mean to be quite aware of the difference between being threatened and challenged. To mistake the latter for the former would leave but a defensive strategy the only option to be followed all in the name of ‘protecting the cultural inheritance’. However, the true difference between merely protecting something and actively re-using it in a new way, so that the continuity of past, present and future becomes a dynamic change, is significant and even more appropriate to reflect upon in the Irish context now that the country has managed quite well to step out of the shadows of poverty and is now even subject to a new categorisation by the European Union as no longer the country of objective 1, but objective 2 level of development. This has immediate impact upon funding to be received from Brussels, and outlines the scope of economic development given this new inheritance, culturally and economically speaking.

Then when heading by train from Dublin to Galway, the partners from Palermo on the same train,  two major thoughts  became a guidance towards understanding the Irish context. First of all, while the transition from a region of objective 1 to 2 was under way, the political election of the next president was underlined in the Irish Times (14.11.97) by reports about uneasy feelings Loyalists in Northern Ireland have at the sign of Tony Blair shaking hands with Gerry Adams from the Sinn Fein Party. This touches again upon the notion of Irish life being quite ‘frantic’, ready to explode at any given moment, for violence has always been there. To that can be added anyone familiar with Gorki’s writings that only some reflections in Dublin escape the attention of the night watchman. He is not how Rembrandt depicts him, but in reality a Dubliner Taxidriver ready to tell about his life, how he brings up his three boys without a mother who died early and who appreciates a man like Brendan Kennelly because a true poet with a heart for the people. In other words, poetry does make sense even at this daily, practical level having to do with earning money, but in knowing that this is not everything and blessed be that or he or she who enriches that daily life through a better understanding of what life is about. The same cannot be said about a Berlin taxi driver who would question poetry from the angle what use is it if it does not bring in money. There the removal of the people from living poetry is tremendous and it indicates what cultural gaps have to be overcome first in Germany when compared with Ireland, before culture can play also a positive role in an economic sense.

The second thought pertains to the concept of ‘cultural heritage’, for while Germany is preoccupied as to why someone like Ernst Juenger can still spin out dreams to make them appear like the continuous present, the discussion in Ireland differs due to many outstanding scholars, poets, musicians etc. making up the articulated human fabric of the entire society ready to learn how to make difficult decisions and yet not willing to accept any solution, if it does not include all people.

The Galway conference was meant to make a difference in the understanding of complex issues linked to conventional planning methods clearly no longer a sufficient answer to planning needs. Perhaps the scope has changed, so while specific forms of planning have been discarded, especially in the wake of the collapse of the Communist system, the need for planning - how to anticipate future steps - has become an issue on how to resolve ‘contradictions in space’ as created by different usage concepts. Equally a higher rationality does not necessarily mean maintaining the same complexity is liveable, understandable and therefore manageable at various levels. As a matter of fact, mixed functional usages have themselves led to a sterilisation of places, since complexity can never be ordered, but only lived and articulated as such. That is why the standard example for CIED is  the difference between Paris with still ‘Les Halles’ operating in the middle of the city, and Paris having exported all life to the outskirts with ‘Les Halles’ replaced by the Centre de Pompidou of which can be said even though successful in terms of art exhibitions, multi media library facilities etc., it will never reach the degree of complexity the whole life around a major market had attained.

In that sense life can never be planned, that is ordered, but this does not mean to take the other extreme position, namely to have no planning whatsoever. That is why by including the dimension of culture, and in turn the scope of ‘cultural heritage’ in need of being considered by planning, there can be developed some thoughts akin to how poetry looks upon the times, that is how the past, present and future relate.

Reflections of Pat Boran

The key word for such a parallel between poetry and planning has been given by Pat Boran when he speaks about efforts to realise “recognizable historical alternatives” in the continuity and discontinuity of time. Two aspects contribute towards a rather hostile atmosphere preventing such recognition of historical alternatives, namely an over-dominating ‘elusive reasoning’ weakening thereby any kind of commitment and being masked by claims of flexibility leading to a loss of continuity in the working through of sound ideas, and a very ‘anti-theory position’ leading to failures to reflect upon the degree of sophistication needed when trying to do justice to a fully lived reality by all people.

Vision and inspiration go together. Pat Boran in the Colby Quarterly has put this into  focus by stating that the prime importance is to find alternative histories when it comes to developing something out of the ‘cultural heritage’. The latter can be interpreted as what has been inherited, culturally speaking, from the past. He understands this to mean look upon “…the pasts out of which the present might have emerged, pasts that do not deny the present but throw light on it from different perspectives.” (Pat Boran, “Shadows and Apples”, Colby Quarterly, Vol. XXVIII, No. 4, Dec. 1992, p.224)


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