Last Wednesday, October 10, 2018, DiEM25 and DiEM Voice landed in London for their “Here and Now” event at the Platform Theatre, Central Saint Martins. Our movement brought together over 250 people, including DiEM25 activists from across the continent and a set of star speakers (such as Brian Eno and Bobby Gillespie) to put forward a case for democratising culture and the arts.
The evening started with an aerial straps piece by Kit Hill, DiEM Voice Coordinating Collective member, which saw her indicate that the dystopian future is already in the Here and Now.
DiEM Voice Coordinating Collective member, Igor Stokfiszewski then opened the event by introducing the audience to DiEM Voice, explaining how people could participate by sending in questions for the moderator to feed into the discussion with the speakers.
DiEM25 co-founder, Srecko Horvat, then set the scene by asking “…where are we ‘here and now’ when it comes to art and culture?”.
DiEM25 Coordinating Collective member, Brian Eno, then took to the floor to discuss the role and importance of art and creativity. He began by saying that “in nearly all discussions about art, hardly anybody ever asks, and nobody ever answers the question: what does it actually do for us? So at the centre of all this discussion about different kinds of art and what artists are doing, nobody says why does art actually exist”.
He continued, “children learn through play and adults play through art”, later adding that “totalitarians discourage creative behaviour. They like art
#artbut only as advertising, as propaganda, because it consolidates the system”. Eno concluded by saying, “the point for me is that we make societies that not only have space for creative behaviour but are constantly dealing with it and flexing their muscles to deal with disruption of that kind”.
DiEM25 Coordinating Collective member, Rosemary Bechler, spoke about how creativity must operate across borders and boundaries, saying “if we are to reinvent our democratic cultures, we need the skills to be able to reach out across these boundaries and change people’s minds. And for that, my premise is that we need a culture of openness and generosity that acknowledges vulnerability as a strength.”
Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie talked about the importance of allowing young people the time and space to be creative. He added “my interest in punk-rock eventually led me to lead a creative life. I never went to art school, never went to university. I had a job at a factory, left school at 15. All that stuff was out of my reach and I never knew that I could be a creative person and I really do owe it all to the Sex Pistols, they were like my art school teachers.”
Danae Stratou, DiEM Voice Coordinating Collective member, talked about her work in raising awareness of environmental, social economic, cultural and humanitarian crises through art. “In Elefsina I was offered an opportunity by the local authorities, an abandoned factory where I could create a large scale installation. Inspired by the land’s ancient preoccupation with life and death, the task I gave myself was to create a site-specific installation that connected a number of issues simultaneously through the language of the aesthetic.”
Answering a question from the event’s moderator, Mary Fitzgerald, about the title of the art installation [Upon the Earth, Under the Clouds], Stratou said “The title was the key. It came from a documentary that I watched. It was in 2015 that I first started going in that area and looking around, and I was invited to look at it and perhaps come up with a proposal. It was at that moment in 2015, in the summer, that we started having all these images of babies and children drowning in the effort to come to Greece. So it was really devastating and I completely froze and thought ‘What can art do in a moment like that? What is the role of art?”.
DiEM25 co-founder, Yanis Varoufakis, opened by saying that “to democratise society, to turn art into an instrument of defending the victims of the class war, we need to transcend individualist disruptions. We need our interventions to take place on the streets, in the neighbourhoods, in deprived state schools, in the communities.”
Varoufakis continued “DiEM Voice, with our event here at Central St Martin’s tonight, is inviting everyone to debate DiEM25’s art and culture policy agenda; the agenda best able to help us win this war. A policy agenda on its own is, of course, useless. But, a progressive movement needs a policy agenda to be inspired, to inspire and to have as a guide of what we want to do once powerful enough to do something significant.”
DiEM Voice Coordinating Collective member, Igor Stokfiszewski, wrapped up the event with the following poem that he wrote based on the content of each speaker’s presentation:
Culture war Here and Now,
The creative pleasant battleground.
Dangerous commodification at the very end of the auction.
Marginalised groups drew poetry from the future.
Where are we going.
Dance and madness.
Grown ups play in the dark.
Nationalists, the new fascist international is not dangerous.
What you need to defeat them is time, company and a little bit of money.
Culture war Here and Now.
Thousands of refugees, de-industrialisation of Greece, unemployment, humanitarian crises, language of aesthetics.
Art is an instrument of class war.
Class war Here and Now.
Bring on a new Europe. Clap your hands.
Get out of Saint Martins and fight!
We are now inviting everyone to debate the 8th pillar of our Progressive Agenda for Europe: Vision for Culture. Find out how you can participate by clicking here.
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