Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Newsletter Dec. 2010


The role of Poiein kai Prattein ("create and do") is to provide especially in difficult times orientation. The aim is to bring about such cultural actions as to what Kids' Guernica entails, namely entry into a collaborative learning process at informal level. Once these actions bring about lived through experiences, they can substantiate knowledge about others and the reality in which we all live. This pertains in particular to the youth facing dim prospects when seeking jobs. As Katerina Anghelaki Rooke calls them they are the 'dross of time' and not enough is being done to give them a real chance to develop a life of their own.

In addition, and more important is that these kinds of actions become community wide actions with ever more people participating in them. These actions should take Agenda 21 further to include Cultura 21 and this in support of sustainable development. However, real progress is only made once linked to efforts to bring about dialogues of the imagination with reality to further peace. That means staying in touch with reality should have a high priority on any agenda created by citizens when seeking cultural governance as basis for these actions.

Poiein kai Prattein means 'to create and to do'. By bringing together these two dimensions, and may that be planning and culture, a poetic language is sought. It allows for an understanding of the feelings more often hidden underneath the logos of things. For very often it is as if people sit on a bench without knowing the earth underneath them.

A philosophical reflection thereof can alter that perception and make the situation become a real living experience. David McNicoll in Ottawa, Canada calls it 'the journey of a citizen':


His journey begins and ends with a canoe trip but in-between he tries to convince city hall that the officially adopted development model is not sustainable. When will voices like his deeply affected by core values linked to the earth be heard in a city consumed by houses and cars without making sure 'untouched' nature remains not merely in hidden pockets of resistance, but as result of a conscious effort by man affects the perception of things by retaining a visible ratio of nature / man built environment?

Culture allows people to understand the situation they find themselves in. This is something European Capitals of Culture have to grasp but all too often they fail. This is because the voice of the arts goes unheard in a city transformed into a cultural enterprise for the sake of attracting more tourists. The latter matches the current EU 2020 vision with its emphasis upon an 'economy of experience' as if this is life once things can be enriched by technological means and a hotel beside the sea having a cluster of pools. It never seems to occur to those promoting such an economy that the more virtual and artificial the world becomes, the greater the alienation from the real life. The Greek poet Seferis put it bluntly when he described that in one line: 'when the boat takes away the tourists then the beaches are given back again to the winds.'

There was much hope that Barack Obama would bring about a real change in the United States but there is only a real hope if politics succeeds together with the people to alter the very limited and limiting models of existence offered by an economy based on growth, circulation of money and profit. That success model of having to consume ever more is proving to be increasingly so a production of waste while the unemployed and poor ones left on the fringes no longer participate in any real decision making process.

It is important to realize that when it comes to organise bigger projects like the special year of a European Capital of Culture, then too often this happens without the participation of the citizens. This is because there are more powerful forces which shape the life in cities and regions. Thus the cultural agenda follows in reality the dictates of big business, including Wall Street. It means accepting the silencing of certain voices which would otherwise let people know there are other ways of redistributing resources and making things work.  But without the knowledge of how culture works, an alternative model of existence will remain an impossibility. This is said even though it seems at times that emancipation from these kinds of tutelages is just lurking around the corner.

Along this way to cultural emancipation Michael D. Higgins keeps saying that cultural policy must promote forms of participation. They should be developed in all walks of life. As this touches upon citizens' movements and what role NGOs like Poiein kai Prattein can play within civil society, one thing should be kept in mind as pointed out by Jürgen Habermas. For he states quite clearly the effectiveness of NGOs like Poiein kai Prattein depends upon the strength of civic movements. The latter are inspired by an ethical concern but too often they are single issue orientated and cannot be sustained over a longer period of time. Also NGOs usually lack the financial and organisational resources compared to much larger companies operating on a global scale.

Still, the ethical core of any NGO has to stay independent, in order to ensure integrity in both communication and knowledge passed on. This does not have to mean a NGO would have to deny the possibility of working together with political authorities and the business community. Rather a NGO of civil society must act out of an independent position in order to give valid advice free of any conflict of interest.

Culture should not be based on false compromises. Too often the latter is dictated not only by economy seeking profits before giving everyone a chance to do meaningful work, but more so by a growing trade with weapons leading on to real war. Chancellor Merkel had to acknowledge this finally during her recent visit to Afghanistan at the end of 2010. Till then the German governmant had engaged itself in a denial that it has deployed troops to wage war in a foreign country i.e. Afghanistan. In terms of what people had promised themselves after 1945, namely that never again should war start on German soil, it means not only false compromises but broken promises plaster the road from the twentieth into the twenty-first century. By evoking the term 'war', Merkel begins to justify the making of false compromises as key element of her version of real politics.

Therefore cultural emancipation begins by freeing civic society from the tutelage of false compromises. Even within a period of economic crisis any NGO can contribute to peace through culture and dialogue by being consistent over time especially in the use of terms to describe actions and to reflect experiences made until now. Peace cannot stand for war or vice versa. That would still be a part of the slave language in which a curse is a praise and vice versa.

On this website can be found discussions about planning, culture and economy. They all testify to the fact that any observation about life will have to include ideas and ways of perceiving things by philosophers, poets, artists but also by children, youth and citizens. At the same time, the dialogue with politicians is of importance. If good governance is to be brought about, then those intervening in public life must be sure of their theories, themselves a replica of background knowledge, as they give them the justification what they attempt to do. For instance, mayors believe by affecting certain key factors at municipal level they can bring their cities forward. Yet it is doubtful if they do so only in a mere superficial way. This is the case when they do not really invest in people and follow only some neo-liberal ideas which keep the carusell going round and round with no one able to stop the thing.

In this time and age it is not unusual that mayors adopt the ideas of wishing to make the city into a creative enterprise. It should service a privileged class which can afford the luxury of waste. More difficult is to prove that this creative class is capable of making the city become innovative. Toronto is such a test case as to what the power of imagination can do when without the necessary money!

Sometimes theories favoring just one class of people seem to replicate the situation found at school when all teachers agree that this one class is the best. No one seems to know what has brought about this image but it becomes the much preferred, even beloved class. Its members are promoted and thus they grow up with a certainty that doors will be open for them when seeking jobs in influential places and organisations. Gramsci spoke about the homogeneity of the ruling class sharing certain values and thus it follows a certain code of behavior. The latter has thus to be added to acclaimed success stories of growth, profit and ever greater quantitative outputs making up the modern economy. And it goes with a constant testing of the limits of capacities every year anew. The folly of such enterprises is in reality the failure to let a creative process work through all contradictions before another test is made as to the strength of the people. However, they need not more presumptions as to what can become of the economy if based solely on money, but what are common assumptions about life especially when it comes to educating the children and youth for a still unknown future. People do seek and need some certainties in their lives. This is what the philosophy of civic society can offer: the certainty that citizens must get involved if some urgent things will get done not tomorrow but rather today.

Hatto Fischer 27.12.2010

Updates on the website:

Archive work includes uploading finally the train exhibitions Hatto Fischer did to depict the journey from Ancient Greece to modern Athens. It underlines the thesis of Robert Payne that the loss of the great love songs created by Sappho and others has yet to be realized by the civilised world.

Another example when it comes to dealing with culture is set by the institution of European Capitals of Culture. In 2010 Essen or Ruhr 2010, Pecs and Istanbul have this title. There was made a thorough evaluation of the final report of Linz '09 which verifies that it shall not be easy to overcome a deep seated cynicism people carry within them due to all the economic uncertainties while 20% of the budget was spend on communication to underline both its importance but also as industrial industries this dependency. Of interest may be as well what advise was given to Sonderborg wishing to become European Capital of Culture in 2017 insofar as designing the program from an artistic point of view means knowing already how crucial it is to stay authentic when seeking this title.

2010 has also been designated by the European Commission as the year to "combat poverty and social exclusion". As a response to that Hatto Fischer gave a paper on 'Poverty of Experience' and Anna Arvanitaki on "Urban Development and Culture: conditions for osmoses" at the conference "Inclusion through education and culture" which was organised by the University Network of European Capitals of Culture in the city of Pecs, Hungary which is for the year 2010 one of the three European Capitals of Culture (the other two being Essen/Ruhr 2010 and Istanbul).

Then, in Athens the Marathon run took place on October 31 and this in conjunction with the anniversary thereof which took place 2 500 years ago. A special exhibition 'Democracy and the Battle of Marathon' was curated by Spyros Mercouris. It opened on Oct. 23 at the Zappeion - Megaron in Athens. The exhibition expounds upon the major thesis that the outcome of the battle saved democracy with far reaching implications right into the present.

Since Poiein kai Prattein is a member of the Platform of Intercultural Europe after the June 2010 meeting in Brussels, a lot of work has been done to clarify the concept 'intercultural dialogue' and to link up with efforts to upgrade the European Agenda on Culture.

Given the tremendous deficit in the Greek state budget, along with other EU member states being in similar or worse conditions as for example Ireland, the question of economic governance has come to the forefront of the European agenda. The problem is complex and political parties face difficulties bringing about a consensus on the available options to respond. Here the voice of Louis Baeck in his paper 'Standpunt' (in Flemish) should be heeded while Hatto Fischer shows that a treatise on the economy is as much about economic theory in crisis.

Also materials are made available with regards to a Human matrix to facilitate decision making processes within the context of cultural planning while a first draft of the study for Volos about 'use of new media by museums' has been uploaded.

Finally, there are also now accessible the Paros poems by Hatto Fischer. Silence is an enormous topic, equally a heavy one. Michel Foucault said once "we have to find the places of silence before the lyrical protest covers them up." One version of these Paros poems is in German under the title 'Dialog mit dem Schweigen' while the other version is English is called 'Dance at night'.

In the section 'Beyond images: Photography' there are made available some amazing photos Eleftheria Lialios took of wax figures depicting personalities who have become icons in the cultural landscape. They include Pope Benedict as well as Einstein and Ronald Reagan.

Equally the photographer Kostas Karelias has journed to Zambia to report through his camera the plight of those with AIDS. In an exhibition held in Athens at the beginning of the year he showed his incredible observations of people too often out of sight of world attention.

As to last year's conference on "Europe performing after the fall of the wall" documentation includes the paper presented by Hatto Fischer about "Europe in the 21st century". One of the most authentic testimony of what happened shortly before the wall fell was given by Johanna Schall. She worked at that time for the Deutsche Theater in East Berlin and her talk 'same place, another country' reminds of Christa Wolf's novel 'Kein Ort. Nirgends' (No place. Nowhere). At the same time of the conference, there took place in a gallery talks about "War at a distance" organised by Roger Simon. These talks concentrated on videos which Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan have uploaded onto You Tube. The discussion is linked to the general deployment of troops abroad and the ethical question if war can ever be justified?

Kids' Guernica related activities in 2010

The question of war and peace is most relevant to the actions by Kids' Guernica actions. They depart from children and youth but at times also adults entering a collaborative learning process by painting on a canvas the same size as Picasso's Guernica (7,8 x 3,5 m). The philosophy behind Kids' Guernica entails among other things an analysis of violence free from the need to have an enemy picture. Since 2010 marked the 15th anniversary of Kids' Guernica which started in Japan in 1995 and is today under the auspices of an International Committee coordinated by Takuya Kaneda, there were exhibition openings in Nagasaki, Japan and in Tallahassee, Florida USA at the start of the year and the followed up throughout 2010 by further going exhibitions and events:

Ohio, USA in June 2010

Martinique in July 2010

Vincennes, Paris with students of the class of Prof. Monique Kissel from Saint Denis University with the opening in Vincennes on Oct. 11th 2010

Ghent, Belgium where the police of Ghent has supported the action and Manuel Gonzales the key inspirator with a special link to Guernica since his father was one of the 200 children who were evacuated from Guernica to Ghent after the bombardment in 1937. The exhibition opening in Ghent was on 10th of November 2010 and finally

in Gezoncourt the opening was on Nov. 12th 2010. Here children went together with Alexandra Zanne and a historian to the battle fields of First World War. Once in Verdun they discussed the relationship to the other being "enemy or friend"? This lead on to further reflections about the special Germany-France relationship within Europe while the children painted on their canvas thoughts about the future of Europe.

The year 2010 ends with plenty of snow causing travel delays but also a wonderful fresh outlook on life. So greetings from the snowman seen in Sonderborg, Denmark. This city wishes to become European Capital of Culture in 2017 and therefore such a snow man may be most appropriate to wish 'good luck' with the biding process.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 21.12.2010

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