» Magazine Connecting Asia and Europe through arts and culture Wed, 17 Dec 2014 10:29:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Green + Arts + Culture + Mobility: Towards an international equation? Thu, 11 Dec 2014 08:01:26 +0000

Contributed by Marie Le Sourd In one year, the 21st UN International Conference on Climate Change will take place in Paris from 30 November to 10 December 2015. Despite...  Read More

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Contributed by Marie Le Sourd


In one year, the 21st UN International Conference on Climate Change will take place in Paris from 30 November to 10 December 2015. Despite some strong and evidence-based call for action (see the recent IPCC statement) and recent encouraging political advancements (like the recent USA-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change), one can be pessimistic about the concrete political decisions and related actions which will arise from this international conference.

However, this Conference is considered as a great opportunity for the Paris-based organisation COAL (Coalition for Arts and Environment) and UK-based Cape Farewell to give more visibility to the actions of the arts and culture sector around key global environmental issues. Both organisations are therefore jointly coordinating with local European and international partners, the ARTCOP21 taking place alongside the International Conference on Climate Change. This programme – artistic, collaborative and innovative – will include 5 key moments: a special edition of the COAL Art Prize; a conference of creative parties; a series of massive and participatory installations; an artistic path throughout Paris and its suburbs to raise awareness among the public about environmental challenges; and a professional workshop with policy makers, funders and representatives from the cultural and creative sectors. The idea behind the ARTCOP21 is to highlight the role of the arts and cultural sector in raising awareness on environmental issues, while promoting innovative solutions by civil society organisations in order to embrace the challenges at stake.

Lauranne Germond, Director/Co-founder of COAL says: “The ARTCOP21 will mostly take place in Paris and its suburbs (region Ile de France). The idea is however to position this programme at a European and international level and hence to include artists, creators, change makers from Europe and the rest of the world to reinforce one key message: the need to voice out a multiplicity of approaches and innovative solutions coming from the arts and cultural sector to answer the complex environmental issues we all face today at various levels”.

This international approach is needed to avoid transforming the subject of art and environment into a “luxurious western form of concern”, to quote the Budapest-based producer Anna Lengyel during the session “Green international cultural exchange, International Mobility versus Virtual Cooperation?” at the IETM Asia Satellite Meeting in Melbourne on 13 May 2014. According to the organisers, IETM and the Australia Council for the Arts, the title of the working session was intentionally controversial in putting into perspective the terms of “virtual” and “green”.


IETM green day

IETM green day

This session gathered panellists from Australia, Indonesia, United Kingdom and Belgium. Good examples of artists’ projects were presented: the Going Nowhere project on how artists, creators and audiences engage with international creative exchanges between UK and Australia without moving on a plane or on board of any other transportation means, and the green initiatives by ArtsAdmin in the United Kingdom.

Some of the speakers like Kristi Monfries, curator and art manager (Australia/Indonesia) also highlighted issues such as heavy pollution, garbage management by public authorities, plastic overuse, saying that these “are at our door step and remind us at every moment of the environmental challenges that today’s world is facing”.

The question of a more “controlled” mobility or at least a more rationalised one seemed more easily considered by artists and cultural professionals who have the choice to think that way and have the financial means to do so. From a South-East Asian point of view (except for Singapore) opportunities to travel are still limited for the majority of cultural professionals due to a general lack of funding support for cultural mobility. Being “green” is a de facto situation much more than a real choice. The green aspect of artistic practices was also highlighted through some examples of artists in residence programmes. Mella Jaarma, co-director of Cemeti Art House in Yogyakarta, Indonesia talked about artists working directly with local people and/or craftsmen in order to use local materials and knowledge in their artwork and/or process. The intention for artists coming to Yogyakarta is to make the mobility experience and its impact more relevant than the travel itself and to maximise the potential of their experience also for the local communities.

This idea recalled one of the key points shared during the “Workshop on green issues for the sustainable support of cultural mobility” held in Berlin on 12-13 March 2014, as part of the EU-funded project GALA (Green Art Lab Alliance) coordinated by Julie’s Bicycle and DutchCulture/ TransArtists*. As highlighted by Sholeh Johnston from Julie’s Bicycle, mobility experiences have to happen beyond the travel itself. Therefore there is a constant need to dialogue about the format of the mobility (touring, co-production, residencies etc.) and the whole process of production, in order to maximise the impact of the travel for the artists, the organisations and the audiences involved.

This workshop attempted to better link initiatives from the sector and policy orientations to embed green criteria in the way funding is allocated to cultural projects (including those with a cultural mobility component). In this regard, two recent reports have highlighted the possible connections between the cultural sector and innovative green solutions and the actions by governmental agencies and Ministries:

- The D’Art report, The Art and environmental sustainability, An international overview by IFACCA (International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies) and Julie’s Bicycle provides a snapshot of national policymakers’ level of engagement with environmental sustainability with an emphasis on policies, not on artistic content or wider arts practice;

- The report Culture shift: How artists are responding to sustainability in Wales commissioned to the Arts Council of Wales aims in a somewhat complementary way to the above report at identifying initiatives, networks, artists of what is becoming an “emerging sector”.

These documents are conceived in a pro-active way and seek to share good practices as well as to encourage collaborations and partnerships at all levels (local, national and international) to tackle these global environmental challenges. Ian Rimmington of Arts Council of England said during the above mentioned training in Berlin: “Think long-term: as long as people are getting in the right direction, this is fine!” And this “right” long-term direction shall definitely encompass a more international, holistic and cooperative approach while taking benefit of the experiences and initiatives of the cultural and creative sector worldwide. A topic that will be definitely tackled in the up-coming ARTCOP21! Stay tuned!


*ASEF culture360 is one of the media partners of the EU funded project GALA.  The final meeting of GALA will take place in Glasgow in March 2015, hosted by Creative Carbon Scotland. See more at:

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Asian Intercultural Theatre Conference 2014| Interview with Phillip Zarrilli Tue, 18 Nov 2014 02:38:14 +0000 Valentina Riccardi

As part of the media partnership with the Intercultural Theatre Conference that will be organised on 25-28 November in Singapore, ASEF culture360 has interviewed one of the keynote speakers...  Read More

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Phillip Zarrilli with some of his students

Phillip Zarrilli with some of his students

As part of the media partnership with the Intercultural Theatre Conference that will be organised on 25-28 November in Singapore, ASEF culture360 has interviewed one of the keynote speakers in the conference, Phillip Zarrilli, internationally known as a director, actor, and actor-trainer.

Phillip is the founding Artistic Director of The Llanarth Group in Wales, UK. His current directing credits include Guest Director at the recent Taipei International Festival 2014, where he directed Kaite O’Reilly’s the 9 Fridas with Mobius Strip Theatre, and Nordland Teater in Norway where he will direct Ota Shogo’s The Water Station. He is Professor Emeritus of Performance Practice at Exeter University, UK, and teaches regularly at Intercultural Theatre Institute. His publications include Psychophysical Acting: An Intercultural Approach After Stanislavski and Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Come to Play.

He talked to us about his keynote titled ‘Inner movement between practices of meditation, martial arts, and acting: a focused examination of affect, feeling, sensing and sensory attunement in the context of intercultural training.’


Could you tell us more about your work with the Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI)?  What is your approach to theatre training in the context of Singapore and Southeast Asia?


I have a lengthy history of working with ITI/TTRP. My relationship began when I first met Kuo Pao Kun at a conference in Australia in the mid 1990s; this continued with a first visit to teach an intensive workshop in my approach to intercultural actor training using Asian martial arts as a pre-performative approach to training the actor’s (embodied) awareness, attention, and concentration.

Because I have developed an approach that begins from the techniques, elements and principles of Asian modes of embodied practice (martial arts and yoga), my approach to theatre training in Singapore/Southeast Asia does not differ from what I do elsewhere—such as my recent intensive six weeks training professional actors in Taipei as part of a production of the 9 fridas for the Taipei Arts Festival, 2014, or in Norway at a recent intensive with students at the Norwegian Theatre Academy.

What differs is the actual process of clarification of how to use the elements and principles as they are applied to the specific acting problems which I am working on at the time.


Going back to the theme of this year’s conference ‘Methods, techniques and strategies of making contemporary theatre’, which aspect of the theme will your keynote speech focus on?

My keynote address at this year’s conference focuses on “inner movement”, that is, how certain modes of Asian psychophysical training can be taught to sensitize and open the actor/performer to affect, feeling, and sensory attunement in an intercultural context.

I address the question of how one learns “to be sentient” and “open up a world” in performance. I elaborate the importance of how teachers/directors must help guide students through a process of understanding (in an embodied/practical way) the elements and principles of such trainings so that they are useful in their future creative work.


Phillip Zarrilli with some of his students

Phillip Zarrilli with some of his students


What should be, in your opinion, an essential part of the intercultural training of any aspiring actor today? 

From my perspective, the most important elements about any mode of training today include:

(1) that a programme of training integrate one or more ‘traditional’ psychophysical training(s) and contemporary modes of performer/actor training, selected to address aspects of a complete training of the contemporary actor/performer (e.g., awakening the actor’s embodied awareness; engaging their active imagination; helping them understand structures of performance and dramaturgies in the plural, etc.);

(2) that some form of foundational, in-depth, pre-performative psychophysical training be undertaken for a sustained period, i.e., that such a training is daily for at least two hours, for a minimum of five days per week, and for at least 9/10 months (ideally this would continue for an additional two years;

(3) that students learn to work with a wide variety of dramaturgies and are both expected to be “interpretive actors” (working with play-written texts) AND as “creative/devising actor/performers” learning how to structure, create, and make their own work in their own cultural context.


See also:

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The National Gallery Singapore | A Conversation with Jean-François Milou Mon, 17 Nov 2014 08:06:23 +0000 Bharti Lalwani

Art critic Bharti Lalwani interviews Jean-Francois Milou, lead partner of the StudioMilou about the design of the new National Art Gallery Singapore, to be inaugurated in 2015.  Read More

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Site progress, concept sketches and Francois Milou on site
Photo credit: Fernando Javier Urquijo, studioMilou Singapore


A French architectural firm, with branches in Paris and Singapore, studioMilou specialises in the design of museums and cultural spaces. Led by principal architect and lead partner Jean-Francois Milou, the firm works with adaptive reuse of historical buildings, seeking imaginative solutions while respecting the building’s historical fabric, meaning and surroundings.

Among a number of prestigious undertakings, Jean-François Milou has worked as a consultant to UNESCO, and for the French Government on projects in India, Nepal, Indonesia and Georgia.

studioMilou beat out 110 entries in winning the competition to design the National Art Gallery Singapore (due to open in 2015 for the 50th Anniversary of the independence of Singapore). Singapore’s latest institution will host the National Heritage Board Collection of Modern Southeast Asian art within iconic architectural structures – former City Hall and Supreme Court building – that embody the colonial history and heritage of Singapore. These once intimidating edifices will for the first time allow its public free access when launched  as a National Gallery for Modern Art in 2015.

Art Critic Bharti Lalwani finds out more about the aesthetic direction of this new institution.


(Key- Jean-François Milou: JFM, Bharti Lalwani: BL)


BL: Unlike new museums that are built from scratch, studioMilou is converting existing heritage buildings into a museum for Modern and Contemporary art from Southeast Asia (SEA). Jean-François, let us begin with your strategic plan for the architecture of the National Art Gallery Singapore (NGS).

JFM: Most of the galleries and museums built today, if not all, are built from scratch, often as iconic free standing landmarks, which in some cases lack real attention to existing contexts and landscapes.

Singapore is making a strong statement in reusing two major national monuments to create this visual art institution, or let’s say to grow an art institution from an existing and significant historic and cultural landscape: the former City Hall and the former Supreme Court of Singapore. This decision to reuse the two buildings has been criticised by some, but I believe it is a chance to grow something more organic from a real and complex existing fabric of culture, spaces and information. This necessary negotiation between the architecture, the collection, the curatorial discourse and the city as it is seems to me, is more interesting.

To answer your question, my position as the architect is to create a building which does not compromise on quality down to the smallest details, or on what a national institution of this status should be with respect to its facilities and to the complex historical fabric of the two buildings.

The two layers of design – the Gallery and the monuments – are merging in a new architectural landscape, one that is peaceful, even, flowing in natural light. We hope to create an environment where people of Singapore and museum goers from further afield will experience sufficient sense of calm while mediating the architecture and the collection. In order to accomplish this, I have given priority to a sense of unity as compared to juxtapositions, to an elegant backdrop filled with natural light and designed to accommodate what will be an evolving institution with multiple configurations for exhibitions and events.


BL: Could you provide specifics of the architectural accentuation?

JFM: Yes, the surface area of the new institution will be 60,000m2, with a budget of around 500 million Singapore dollars. We are joining these two buildings via a new roof structure, a kind of veil that seems to float above the roof level of the two independent structures. This complex draping glass-and-steel structure  will filter the intense light of Singapore and create new spaces bathed in natural light. This is designed in such a way that it complements the system of levels of the façades of the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings.

So on one hand it is a very ambitious architectural project of creating new entrances, new roof top piazzas under a complex and sophisticated fabric of metal and glass, while on the other, it is a very respectful and modest restoration of two existing historical buildings. Hopefully people of Singapore will have the impression that the existing building have been returned with minimal intervention, recognizable yet modern.


BL: But as they are steeped in Singapore’s colonial history, how do you intend to transform and shape our experience of these imposing structures as sites of contemplation for art, while keeping the integrity of the building exteriors intact?

JFM: Again, the project will conserve much of the existing structure, which consists of many different spaces, some very large, some very small, some designed as simple white boxes and some more as heavily decorated historical spaces. This succession of different spaces of diverse character will create options for varied curatorial approaches. This variation of spaces (scale, character, etc.) can as well be a way to reflect the various contexts of South-East Asian art if sensitively treated in relation to the art displayed. But as just mentioned in replying to your question above, the unity of the design approach within the interiors – to be given in particular through the use of limited materials and colour schemes – will be one  of the main ways the design creates spaces which are in many instances conducive to contemplation.  And, the roofing structure, a filigree metal form draping gently over the buildings, is also designed to filter the light and create a gentler interior whereby the sunlight itself gives a sense of continuity between the two buildings, and softer ambiance.

There is minimal impact on the architecture of the two buildings which includes a rooftop landscape composed of areas open to visitors and new walkways between the buildings. As such, it radically changes the circulation and allows visitors new perspectives. The competition jury particularly appreciated this elegant aspect of our design and how it could radically transform the visitor experience while changing very little in the buildings themselves.

Speaking more specifically about individual spaces, that requires the curators acknowledging the character of each space and feeling confident enough to play with the dense wood panelling in some of the rooms, the white walls in others, all with full respect for their significance for the public. By taking on this variation, which reflects more about the original structures than anything else, the Gallery can create an interesting visitor experience blending the collection, the buildings and the cityscape.


BL: You have reinvigorated some century old buildings in Europe, the most recent being the Carreau du Temple in Paris.  The two heritage buildings of Singapore are nearly as old. Are there certain structural issues (exterior and interior) when dealing with such sites?

JFM: Yes, many, and studioMilou’s teams in Paris and Singapore have always taken an approach that tends to share something of a researcher’s intensive interest and an artisan’s intimate concern when it comes to the restoration and adaptive reuse of buildings.

When dealing with heritage and existing buildings, architects have to spend a lot of time not only researching and exploring solutions which avoid ‘harming’ buildings, but also explaining their approach to their client whilst convincing them, or the partners of the project, or the agencies about design decision here and there.  This process reflects the expectation of the civil society when it comes to the conservation of important historical monument.

One of the main challenges is to incorporate the requirements for new modern exhibitions and performances (security, fire safety, climate control, etc.) in a traditional building without compromising the integrity and the authenticity of the building itself.

Additionally, all rooms are different with different settlements, so each room, each door, each window is a small project in itself. Part of the work almost involves being a bit like an archaeologist, and part of the work is to be an architect.  It takes time.

With each project, our firm has sought to go beyond the notion of pure conservation, instead striving to offer solutions that combine our conservation skills and practices with practical and contemporary architectural approaches inspired by the reality of places and the circumstances of the projects themselves.  Le Carreau du Temple, recently open in Paris, and the National Art Gallery Singapore bear witness to this approach whereby we endeavour to respect the original buildings while offering contemporary solutions in terms of ideas and influences.


“when it comes to responding to the collection, programmes

and curatorship, the Architect should be a good listener,

and should create an efficient, inspiring and beautiful museum

infrastructure able to accommodate the many new ideas,

initiatives and changes to come”



BL: A National Gallery dedicated to Modern art from the region is a first for Southeast Asia; naturally, its museum-professionals are young in the field and somewhat inexperienced in dealing with such an ambitious project. I believe the government collection too is not enough to fill the combined 60,000 sqm space of the two buildings. What are your challenges then in anticipating their needs?

JFM: The 60,000 sqm includes the exhibitions, public spaces and numerous back of house areas for storage, delivery, and moving exhibitions, and food and beverage, etc. When it comes to galleries created recently almost from scratch, as those built in the past decade in Australia (Goma, Mona, etc.), I think it’s fair to expect that for some time the Gallery will be an institution firming up its identity and directions, a gallery in progress, with a collection in progress, a discourse in progress and so on.

But when it comes to responding to the collection, programmes and curatorship, the Architect should be a good listener, and should create an efficient, inspiring and beautiful museum infrastructure able to accommodate the many new ideas, initiatives and changes to come (new art pieces, new curatorships and such). I think this is part of the brief to a large extent in most new-born galleries. I would say that the Gallery is positioning itself as an institution with the potential to evolve overtime, building its collections as it goes.


BL: If  South East Asian art professionals are at a nascent stage, its museum/gallery-going audiences are even younger. Singapore’s “mall culture” is well known and the general attempt in the case of Singapore’s Gillman Barracks (a colonial barracks transformed into a gallery hub) has been to transplant that experience by fitting in commercial and F & B outlets to encourage visitor-ship. I gather that 15 commercial outlets are planned in NGS. What types of outlets are these and will this extra-ordinarily high number of shops (for any museum) distract from the museum’s viewing experience? 

JFM: The National Gallery Singapore needs balance being a site that its local populations can relate to – especially in its opening years – and a site that is of great interest and credibility to visitors from further afield. The Gallery will include a strong commercial element and this is part of the broader cultural way of doing things in general, notably when seeking to attract family groups, which will often prefer the option of stopping to eat, particularly if older and younger family members are involved.

We know that for some, pushing the door of an art institution of this magnitude and ambition in Singapore may initially be intimidating and unfamiliar.  For this reason, a part of our brief is clear about the need to create an institution which is welcoming for all the people of Singapore, which encourages them to step into the buildings. For many, the initial reasons for stepping into the institution will be curiosity about the buildings and their new functions (which isn’t unexpected given the importance of the monuments), and this may well involve an outing where they look at the art, stop for a rest, to eat, to shop. This mix-use strategy is more and more common in Galleries worldwide, and is in many cases, a strategy for balancing the revenue: State and private.

So the gallery proposes to mix exhibition, programming and public spaces with gardens, with cafes/restaurants and book stores.  Just how the commercial side of things play out in this regard, balancing the attention of visitors, will depend on the quality of the institution’s core functions – displaying artworks, creating public programmes/ dialogues across cultures and such. These core aspects need to be strong enough to dominate other facets. There is a risk of blurring the boundaries between the institution being known for its art or being known primarily for its commercial attractions of so-called ‘lifestyle’ or recreational zones.  The designer should pay attention to clearly separate the zones of the gallery in order to not create any overlapping or confusion between the meditative and reflective experience in the collection and the entertaining experience of the F&B and shops.

Again, this is a distinct red line that many major art institutions have to draw. We have designed the space by planning for retail outlets in the overall Gallery plan with this well-defined red line in mind.


Also about the National Art Gallery Singapore:
The National Gallery Singapore | A conversation with Low Sze Wee


Bharti Lalwani is an art critic who contributes to The Art Newspaper, Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia, Eyeline (Australia), among others. Her research interests include Private museums as well as contemporary art from Southeast Asia, the Middle-East and West Africa. Through her writing and research she connects the emerging contemporary art histories of three continents. In 2014, she was nominated Forbes Art Writer of the Year (India). 

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Asian Intercultural Theatre Conference 2014 | Interview with T.Sasitharan Wed, 29 Oct 2014 10:30:13 +0000 Valentina Riccardi

As part of the media partnership with the Asian Intercultural Theatre Conference that will be organised on 25-28 November in Singapore, ASEF culture360 has interviewed the director and co-founder...  Read More

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T. Sasitharan, co-founder and director of Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI)

T. Sasitharan, co-founder and director of Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI)

As part of the media partnership with the Asian Intercultural Theatre Conference that will be organised on 25-28 November in Singapore, ASEF culture360 has interviewed the director and co-founder of the Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI), T. Sasitharan. A Singapore Cultural Medallion recipient, Sasi is well recognised as an educator, theatre artist, cultural critic and arts advocate. His thought leadership on arts and culture has made a wide impact on the larger community. We have asked him about the upcoming conference and the evolving contemporary theatre scene in Singapore and the region.

Where does the need for such a conference originate from and who does it aim to benefit?

It’s part of the mandate of Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI) to research and reflect upon the processes and practices of the kind of theatre we teach.

When the subject is as complex and protean as Intercultural Theatre and Intercultural Actor Training, any new knowledge or understanding that may be gleaned will need more time specific conditions to emerge and to be expressed.

The Asian Intercultural Conference (AIC), which happens once in three years, enables the time and conditions necessary for teachers, students and collaborators to share and critically assess emergent data and information on the approaches, methods and pedagogies of Intercultural Theatre work and actor training in particular.

You will note that AIC 2014 focuses on the practical, with the emphasis placed firmly on demonstrations and presentations of techniques, skills and the craft of acting, directing and dramaturgy. The theoretical is present only tangentially. AIC 2014 would benefit not only those interested in the practice and performance of theatre, across a range of genres, but also those with different theatre specialisations from the actor-performer to the director, writer and dramaturge. The circle of benefit could well be extended to include professional theatre critics, writers, theatre scholars and drama teachers and students.


 Can you tell us more about the topics that will be discussed and the format of the conference?

Please refer to the conference topics below. The conference is divided into keynote sessions on the first day, work demonstrations and presentations through Days 2 – 4, with plenary discussions that round up each day.


What kind of audiences are you hoping to involve other than theatre practitioners and from what regions?

Other than the groups mentioned in Q1 above, I am hoping that lay people who make up the theatre-going public with an informed interest in theatre and scholars of performance theory in domains other than theatre, like sociology, anthropology and critical studies, may also be interested in getting a rare peek into the practice and studio-floor realities of working interculturally.


 What are your expectations about the conference?

I have the highest expectations of gaining valuable insight into the techniques and approaches used by former ITI students and other practitioners working within the domain of intercultural theatre. This is the kind of insight that is usually unavailable when we watch public stagings of theatre. These are the secret and private processes of making theatre which are only revealed to those who are party to the rehearsal and training processes preceding public performances.


Since the first Intercultural Theatre Conference in 2008, what has changed in the contemporary theatre scene in Singapore and in the region?

Since the first AIC in 2008, there has been, both at home and in the region, a growing awareness and acknowledgement of the “intercultural” as a phenomenon in its own right of cognition, perception and interaction in theatre practice. That is to say, that the intercultural is distinct and different, for instance, from the “multicultural”, “cosmopolitan” or “global” as a descriptor of a mode of practice in making and showing theatre. This is not merely a matter of labelling or semantics. It reflects a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the conditions, contexts, manners and qualities of the contacts, sharings, interactions and transmissions that take place on the studio floor and on the stage where intercultural theatre work is made and shown.

See also:


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The Danish Agency for culture in Asia | Interview with Ulla Ronberg Wed, 29 Oct 2014 04:25:32 +0000 Florent Petit

  Florent Petit, ASEF culture360 contributor met with Ulla Ronberg, Senior Advisor for Cultural coordination in the headquarters of the Danish Agency for Culture in Copenhagen. Mrs Ronberg introduced...  Read More

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Ulla Rønberg, Danish Agency for culture

Ulla Rønberg, Danish Agency for culture

Florent Petit, ASEF culture360 contributor met with Ulla Ronberg, Senior Advisor for Cultural coordination in the headquarters of the Danish Agency for Culture in Copenhagen.

Mrs Ronberg introduced the principles on which relies the International cultural cooperation from Denmark, with a special focus on recent projects developed in Asia. She also shared her views on the new directions taken by cultural exchanges between Denmark and Asia for the years to come.


The Danish Agency for Culture is an agency under the Danish Ministry of Culture, employing about 300 professionals. The agency carries out the cultural policies of the Danish government in the areas of the visual and performing arts, music, literature, museums, historical and cultural heritage, broadcasting, libraries and all types of printed and electronic media. The agency works internationally in all culture related fields, and sees as its top priority the increased internationalisation of Danish arts and cultural life. The agency also performs as the Secretariat for the Danish Arts Foundation.

Danish Dance Theatre performing Black Diamond in Shanghai and Zhangzhou

Danish Dance Theatre performing Black Diamond in Shanghai and Zhangzhou


1.       Could you introduce the Danish Arts Foundation and tell us about its goals and mission?

The prime aim of the new Danish Arts Foundation is to promote the arts in Denmark as well as Danish art abroad. The funding for international projects is managed by six different committees (Visual Arts, Literature, Music, Crafts and Design, Performing Arts, Architecture).

It is up to the Foundation’s committees to decide when funding should be awarded. This is a very important point to stress: The Danish Arts Foundation is a government organisation, the funding comes from the state, yet the Arts Foundation keeps a real independence from political considerations when it comes to giving grants. This is fundamental to the Danish arts funding system.

The Danish Arts Foundation is a member of the International Culture Panel, where international strategies and action plans are put in place. The panel is cross-ministerial, consisting of the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Trade and Growth, and different organisations affiliated to the three ministries, e.g. the Arts Foundation.

The Panel’s action plan 2014-2016 defines a geographic and thematic focus. Geographically we focus on the BRICS-countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and the Middle East. We also try to create synergies between countries in a region, for instance helping cultural exchange projects in China to find their way to South Korea or Vietnam.

We also work on three cross-sectorial thematic areas: Children and Youth,  Sustainability , and Dialogue, Democracy and Participation .

Although The Danish Arts Foundation is an institutional agency and the committees decide who they want to support and where they want to work internationally, they have also chosen to participate in the culture panel and contribute to the overall aim of the Panel : to increase Denmark’s cultural exchange with foreign countries and strengthen the internationalisation of Danish cultural life. This co-operation between Danish partners in the Panel is really important.  In this way we join forces and work together internationally.

The International Culture Panel has four overall aims:

  • The development and renewal of Danish art and culture. This is to say that whenever we engage in international cooperation, it is also in order to enliven the Danish art scene. There always has to be this reciprocity.
  • The promotion of Denmark as a country through nation branding;.
  • To increase cultural exports; and,
  • develop  intercultural dialogue.

These four purposes are of equal importance and they are the values we keep in mind whenever we engage internationally.

Lastly, I also would like to mention the five principles that the International Culture Panel has formulated. These principles underline all our activities when we work in cultural cooperation:

  • Any project, first and foremost, must be based on a high cultural or artistic quality;
  • Projects have to be embraced by the audiences in the respective countries. It is important to secure local interest, local anchorage;
  • All activities must have a measure of longevity. There must be a long term perspective, a purpose of knowledge-sharing and networking;
  • A bottom-up approach and the facilitation of agent to agent participation; and,
  • The last principle is about visibility: it’s always important, and that goes without saying, to focus our communication on target groups to make sure there is the right visibility for our projects.

These five principles are all interconnected and they give a very good idea of how we work  internationally .


2.       Among your latest projects with Asia, you have set up a Cultural and Development Fund with Vietnam for the years 2011-2015. How can you assess the impact of this initiative so far? Do you have similar projects with other Asian countries planned for the future?

If you look at our principles, it is obvious that we don’t work the same way in every country – that would make no sense. We are developing cultural exchange projects with partners in Vietnam, South Korea and China in three very different ways – because these are three different countries.

The way we have been working over the past years in the Danish-Vietnamese Cultural and Development Fund is currently under revision. The Vietnamese art scene is interesting to follow So how can we adjust our cooperation to fit this development? We have to figure out new strategies and in my opinion focus on reciprocity.

The Danish Agency for Culture is participating in seminars and courses in Vietnam, invited by the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture. In Denmark, we have a long tradition of working in an administrative system supporting arts and culture. We see this cooperation with Vietnam as an opportunity to share our recommendations and our know-how.

Among other projects in Asia right now I can mention the Danish Cultural Season in China 2014 2015 . This project is initiated by the International Cultural Panel. For the last year and a half, I have been working as a project leader for this programme, which has been launched on 24th October during the visit of Mrs Marianne Jelved, Danish Minister of Culture to China.

There are around 60 projects, some of them big, some of them small, covering almost all the artistic spectrum from performing arts to music, literature, museums, exhibitions, residencies for visual artists and many others.

If I have to mention one of the projects in the programme, it could be the children and youth portfolio of projects, developed by Danish and Chinese creative schools for children. This project is covering six companies of children theater travelling to several Chinese cities, accompanied by Danish music schools and creative schools. There will be workshops and seminars for both children young people and adults. On our webpage ( you can see the complete list of projects.


3.       What are the priorities of the Danish Agency for Culture in order to promote Danish art and artists abroad?

The five principles we talked about are fundamental in all aspects of working with international cultural exchange.

I would like to stress the principle of working bottom-up. In order to work bottom-up, you must be in dialogue with partners that have a genuine interest in cooperation. On an institutional or artistic level, Projects like for instance, China 2014 / 2015 could not have happened if Danish and Chinese partners had not worked closely together and put resources into the projects.

One of the best ways we usually start a project is the visiting programmes. The Danish Agency for Culture invites people to visit Denmark and stay here for five days. We organise meetings for them with relevant institutions and agents and, hopefully, the Danish partners will also travel the other way. This helps us to pave the way for a dialogue and paring of interests on an institutional and artist-to-artist level.

At the same time, it is also important to have a fruitful dialogue on an administrative level. We work closely with the Chinese Ministry of Culture in the making of the Danish Cultural Season. When our Minister of Culture visits China, she will of course meet with her Chinese colleague in order to continue the dialogue and reflect on our bilateral cooperation.


4.       Is there in your opinion a specific approach to adopt when developing projects with Asian countries?

I don’t think so. As I said before, when we work with partners in South Korea, in China or Vietnam, we work in different ways and with different projects. The fundamental dialogue with the partners we engage with forms the projects. We do not have one model for all when working with Asian countries.


5.       How do you envision the future of cultural relations between Denmark and the Asia-Pacific region?

I think relations will grow stronger and networks will develop. We have strong ties with China, Vietnam and South Korea, that hopefully will expand. And maybe expand into the region. But again, this is all up to Danish and Asian partners. In the Danish Agency for Culture, we facilitate and we organise, we help making communication across borders easier, we set up the framework in which projects can develop.


6.       Which kind of advice could you give to Asian professionals willing to present their work in Denmark or set up collaborative projects with Danish artists or organisations?

I think the best way, the best tool, is actually the visiting programmes. If you are working as an artist or a curator and have an interest in, for instance Danish design, you should come here! Meet the right people, engage in dialogue, find out how you could work together and from there make things happen.



Florent Petit is a former project officer in the cultural unit of the French Embassy in Japan. He holds a Master’s degree in Art History from the Sorbonne University in Paris and in International Relations from the Institute of Political Studies of Lyon. Former lecturer of Chinese, Korean and Japanese art in the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, he has occupied several curatorial positions in museums in France (Asian Unit of the Musée du quai Branly, Paris) and Luxembourg (Mudam, Museum of contemporary art, Luxembourg City).


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Between two cultures: Euro-Asian creative personalities (part II) Tue, 28 Oct 2014 09:24:48 +0000 Magali An Berthon

In this sixth article, Magali An has focused on two design and craft projects rooted in Euro-Asian double-culture: Paris-based French-Japanese craft duo Eskimeït who creates contemporary jewelry and objects with an old Japanese coal burning technique; Vietnamese young fashion designer Linda Mai Phung who decided with entrepreneur spirit, to move back to Vietnam to launch her fashion brand and work with local textile crafts.  Read More

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In this sixth article, Magali An has focused on two design and craft projects rooted in Euro-Asian double-culture: Paris-based French-Japanese craft duo Eskimeït who creates contemporary jewelry and objects with an old Japanese coal burning technique; Vietnamese young fashion designer Linda Mai Phung who decided with entrepreneur spirit, to move to Vietnam to launch her fashion brand and work with local textile crafts.

These 2 interviews are part of a focus on creative industries and creative personalities from a Euro-Asian background. Actress, illustrator, craftsmen or fashion designer, they all have insightful personal stories. Whether they were born in Europe or Asia, whether they have chosen to live in their country of origin or decided to settle elsewhere, we discover in these interviews their artistic universe and find out how their double culture has impacted their creative lives.

Hirohiko KAMIYA & Lorène HAYAT KAMIYA  - Designers – Eskimeït

Hirohiko & Lorene

Could you introduce yourselves to our readers and tell the circumstances of your meeting?

Lorene and Hirohiko: Hirohiko Kamiya, 46 years-old and Lorène Kamiya Hayat, 41, we are a French-Japanese couple and designers working together for the past twenty years.

Hirohiko: I arrived in France in 1987 to study makeup and hairstyling. I then worked in fashion, photography and theater until 1990, before starting studies at the interior design school Camondo. This is where we met.

L & H: After graduation, we have launched our own home decor collections, while freelancing in interior design on the side.
In 2004, we travelled to Japan to visit the Binchotan charcoal craftsmen from the Kishu area, which then led to our first collection of objects, lighting and jewelry with this special technique. We successfully exhibited this collection at the Maison & Objet trade show in January 2005 and 2006. Then we founded our brand called Eskimeït where we keep developing jewelry and objects around Binchotan charcoal.

Could you describe your artistic practice?

L & H: In our work – since we met- we have always been looking for new materials which we could transform and change from their original purpose and functionality. Each of our jewelry pieces is unique thanks to the organic and mineral rendering of Binchotan coal.

Even though we both have an education in design, we do not like the idea of producing objects industrially. Handcraft matters to us. As designers we still enjoy working with our hands because that’s often how we get our ideas. With time we understand each other very well and collaborate in a very complementary way.

Where does your love for art comes from?

Lorene: My father was a knitwear designer and as a child, I loved making collages with wool yarn falls, knit samples, fabric scraps and manipulating materials and colors. Besides my childhood memories, I remember moments in school when I was creating things with my hands and I even remember the happy sensations I experienced in doing them.

Hirohiko: From my childhood in Japan, I’ve always loved making things with my hands. I remember when I was little, I used to collect the caps from milk bottles to turn them into many objects: flying UFO, car wheels over and over again. I think I have always loved making art!

You currently live in France and work as a French-Japanese design duo, how do you reconcile your two cultures in your artistic practice?

Hirohiko: Initially, I just came to Paris for my studies and what I found was a great feeling of freedom. Here in France, relationships in life and work are very different, less codified and more direct than in Japan. Sometimes, for matters of hierarchy and social status, in Japan you are not really allowed to express what you think. In Paris, interactions feel more natural and easy. However, in my work process, I feel still very much Japanese!

Lorene: Meeting each other has really opened me to completely different culture. When I went to Tokyo for the first time, I actually expected a very modern and urban city and yet I was struck by the contrast of small Shitamachi old traditional neighborhoods which are so lively. I feel more connected to the traditional side of Japan which is still very present: you can see temples everywhere. I like the idea that for Japanese people, nature is put above all and that we must protect it. I also like their idea of renewal by giving things a second life, for example with the art of Kintsugi, they would repair a broken ceramic by sealing it with a technique based on gold lacquer, which confers to this object a completely new aesthetic dimension.

What is your relationship to Japan? And how does it inspire you?

L & H: We go to Japan every couple of years. We usually visit the city of Kamakura, the ancient capital of Japan near Yokohama, for its temples and traditional neighborhoods with artisans. The Binchotan charcoal we are using is obtained by an ancestral technique dating from the Edo period. It was developed for the use of the Emperor. We use it in our designs and try to treat it in a different way, accordingly to our own perception, our environment and our two cultures.

Japan also inspires us culturally. We love Ozu films which portray so well the evolution of Japanese society with its relationships and codes. We are also inspired by Japanese landscapes, old architecture, traditional family life. All of this still lives with Japan today, through many festivals and customs. What influences us is linking modernity to tradition.

Japanese people consider their crafts as an art and not as a minor practice, what is your opinion about that?

L & H: What we like in the Japanese craftsmanship – paper, lacquer, textile, ceramics- is their real sense of aesthetics and sophistication, often coming with a hint of unexpected strangeness.

Before even starting on how to burn Binchotan charcoal, students must watch their teachers for years and understand all the senses which come into play: touching, smelling, noticing the color of the flames… In the Kishu area, we have encountered several Binchotan masters and each of them had a very personal approach from cutting the Ubamegashi oak tree branches, to manufacturing a clay oven and practicing their cooking technique. In Japan this charcoal is mainly used for its combustion and filter qualities, but there was no craft developed beyond these primary use. Yet we can’t stop being amazed and inspired by the intense black color of this material, its raw beauty, its amazing hardness. It features unique shapes and patterns of woodrings and cracks, as an endless source of inspiration for our designs.

Linda Mai Phung – Fashion designer


Linda Mai Phung – Copyright Thai Pham

Could you tell us about your career path and your origins?

My name is Linda Mai Phung, I was born in France and I grew up near Paris. Both my parents are Vietnamese. I just celebrated my 30th birthday! I have studied fashion design in Paris art school Duperré. After my graduation, I have worked on various projects in fashion and graphic design in France in Paris, Europe in Prague and Berlin  and finally in Ho Chi Minh City. I came to Vietnam to work for an ethical fashion brand and I never left! Coming to Vietnam made me realize that I wanted to stay and start my own ready-to-wear brand. I then launched my project in 2011. Since then, the project keeps growing. I am selling in Europe and in Asia and I have won several awards: the Eco-Fashion Designer Award by Neoplanete Magazine in 2011, the Ethical Fashion Show Creativity Prize in 2011 and the Ethical Fashion Forum Innovation Award in 2012.

Could you describe your creative work?

I am a fashion designer so I draw, design clothes and accessories, conceive seasonal women’s wear collections and work on the production process with my tailors, suppliers and workshops. I draw my inspiration mostly from my many travels. One of my strongest concerns is to design sustainable products which would take in considering their impact on the environment. It is also very important to think about the people who will wear my clothes. My love for art and design has been driving me since my early childhood. Starting my own brand is actually a dream come true and an authentic passion: I really love making things, creating and designing. This is also my way of expressing my personal view of the world.

You grew up in France and chose to settle back in Vietnam. What has motivated your choice?

Vietnam is the country of my parents. So in a way, I have always had this idea of settling here, somewhere at the back of my mind. It was a project which matured through time, as a lifetime journey in a search for my family history and the development of my career.

You can find such talented craftsmen in Vietnam and the economy is booming, so I found many appeals in coming here. I decided to move to the capital city Ho-Chi-Minh City in the South and launch my fashion brand. The creative scene here is very dynamic and inspiring. The economical and urban development, the people’s authenticity, the sounds, the colors, the contrasts between the city and the countryside… I enjoy all of it! And I feel that I am learning a bit more every day about myself and about the world, just by living in this exciting country.

Moving here went quite smoothly. I was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome I received when I arrived in Vietnam. I have been very lucky, I met a lot of helpful people who have supported me in my first moments here and without whom I would never have gone this far today: the tailors, the craftsmen, my friends or even the business owner who made me come to Vietnam in the first place.

Personally I immediately felt that I belonged, thank you also to this stimulating project.

How do you work with Vietnamese ethnic minorities? And how do you combine their traditional textiles to contemporary fashion?

People do not always know that there are about fifty-four ethnic minorities spread all-over Vietnam. Most of them have their own language and their own textile techniques and traditional dresses. Each year I travel to one of these remote provinces where I have spotted certain ethnic groups with great crafts. I usually come to buy some textiles and some woven and embroidered fabrics made locally in these villages, I put them on my motorbike and then head back to Ho Chi Minh City ! Sometimes I also order custom textiles to local handicraft workshops but it is difficult in regards of my collection deadlines. The whole process requires time. For weaving, they need to grow the plants which will give the yarn- hemp for example- and in other cases, the handmade adornments such as pleating, dyeing or embroidery demand also a very long time. This is the beauty of each of these particular fabrics: they are all unique. In my designs, I now use them in the details of a hem, in a liner or a collar. I also choose major textiles to feature in my key looks which creates interesting contrasts. For example, I will use a traditional wool weaving to make a hyper contemporary biker jacket.

This illustrates well the idea of identity and origins set up in my work, by mixing materials and shapes, using an ancient embroidery lining on a garment with a very modern exterior look. This is my signature as a fashion designer.

What does double culture mean to you and does it impact your work and creative life?

My double culture is really what sets the identity of my brand: a contemporary blend of cultures, a mix of Asian and Western influences and know-how. I feel that this is an asset and a great opportunity to be able to explore different aspects of your own origins, especially in a creative field. My double culture has actually opened doors for me and it has given me an edge as a multi-cultural and travel fashion brand. I have Vietnamese roots and I grew up in France, so this was the starting point of my project. However, I am now looking to go further and define a new identity with my work, probably on a less personal note with the eyes turned towards the future.

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Pro Helvetia cultural programmes in Asia | Interview with Murielle Perritaz Fri, 03 Oct 2014 08:22:35 +0000 Florent Petit

In this interview with our ASEF culture360 contributor Florent Petit, Murielle Perritaz, Head of Programmes at the Swiss Art Council Helvetia talks about its cultural activities focusing in particular on the Asia-Pacific region and on projects related to digital culture.  Read More

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Murielle Perritaz, Head of Programmes at Pro Helvetia



In this interview with our ASEF culture360 contributor Florent Petit, Murielle Perritaz, Head of Programmes at the Swiss Art Council Helvetia talks about its cultural activities focusing in particular on the Asia-Pacific region and on projects related to digital culture.

Mrs Perritaz also stresses the fundamental importance of networking with local operators in order to develop relevant cultural exchanges.


Could you introduce Pro Helvetia and tell us about your goals and missions?

The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia is mandated by the Swiss Confederation to promote contemporary artistic creation in Switzerland, contribute to cultural exchange at home, promote the dissemination of Swiss culture abroad and foster cultural outreach.

Pro Helvetia supports projects in different ways: on the basis of applications, via its network of cultural centres (Paris, Rome, Milan, New York and San Francisco) and liaison offices abroad (Johannesburg, New Delhi, Shanghai, Cairo) and in the context of its own programmes (including Russia) as well as through information and promotional materials.


Pro Helvetia has two liaison offices in New Delhi and Shanghai. What are the activities of these offices and which kind of relations could you develop with local cultural scenes?


2013 Swiss Game Designer at Game Gazer India, Goa-Bangalore

These two liaison offices work similarly to culture agencies. They don’t have their own facilities for events at their disposal, but they reinforce contacts with their region and nurture long-term partnerships. They introduce Swiss cultural projects to local organizers, initiate co-productions with cultural practitioners from the region and organize residencies.

These offices cover quite large regions, New Delhi is responsible for the South of Asia and Shanghai covers China (including Hong Kong and Macao).


Do you have any other project in other areas of the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia…)?

We regularly take part in specific collaborative projects, mainly in Japan, Australia and Singapore, within the context of special events or festivals such as the Japan Media Arts Festival, the Arts Biennale of Sydney or the Singapore International Band Festival.

We don’t have for the moment any plan to open new offices or developing additional programmes in the Asia-Pacific region. This is mostly due to limited financial resources, yet we are very much aware that there is a great potential for cultural exchanges with these regions.

Through its programmes,  Pro Helvetia highly values digital culture and creative industries. Could you give us an example of project with an Asian counterpart on these topics?


2013 Young Swiss Design Exhibition in Shanghai, Chang LIU

So far, our programme dedicated to digital culture has mostly focused on the creation of a fertile ground and environment for digital art in Switzerland to blossom, and the social and cultural impact of digital technologies.

On an international level, we engage in high visibility and dissemination events, such as the exhibition presented in the China Millennium Monument Museum of Digital Arts in Beijing. We are also organizing promotional campaigns that allow creators working in that field to establish themselves in international markets, which is something vital for the existence of their projects. This is the reason why we are participating in events such as the Tokyo Game show.



How would you assess cultural relations between Switzerland and the Asian region so far? Which kind of initiatives could be taken to further develop them?

Whether you consider the promotion of Swiss art in Asian countries or cultural exchange projects (such as residencies, co-productions, etc.) so far the results have been very positive. We realized that there is a strong and increasing interest for these kind of exchanges and the feedback we get from involved artists is extremely positive. Of course, this requires a lot of efforts, adaptation and flexibility.

Our offices in Asia play a very strategic role in this sense. This is why we are only hiring local operators, with a deep knowledge of the local cultural sector and the capacity to create a link between the two cultures. Our offices are also actively working in order to develop their field of action, getting in touch with new partners. For instance, our branch in New Delhi extensively widened its network in South Asia these last years, in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

But at the end of the day a lot depends on the available financial resources. The intensification of exchanges depends on our capacity to find partners in the private sector.


How do you envision the future of cultural relations between Switzerland and Asia?


2013 Pipilotti Rist Exhibition in Guangzhou, China, Times Museum

What really matters for us is to develop long-term relations with cultural actors based in Switzerland and abroad. They both have to find a mutual interest in this process. We do think there is a need to strengthen projects that allow to create long-term relations and dialogue. For that reason, it is important for us to reinforce cooperation and co-production projects, and not limit ourselves to the sole export of Swiss projects abroad.

What kind of advice would you give to Asian professionals willing to present their work in Switzerland or set up collaborative projects with Swiss artists?

Our core mission is to promote Swiss culture abroad and exchanges with foreign cultures. This means we won’t be able to help foreign professionals directly to show their work in Switzerland, but we can advise them on networks and potential partners. So I would invite them to contact our offices in Shanghai and New Delhi for sure.

They can also apply to our artists in residency programme. Cultural actors coming from the countries where we are settled can benefit from research stays in Switzerland in order to connect and create links with Swiss artists and structures.


Useful links:


Florent Petit is a former project officer in the cultural unit of the French Embassy in Japan. He holds a Master’s degree in Art History from the Sorbonne University in Paris and in International Relations from the Institute of Political Studies of Lyon. Former lecturer of Chinese, Korean and Japanese art in the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, he has occupied several curatorial positions in museums in France (Asian Unit of the Musée du quai Branly, Paris) and Luxembourg (Mudam, Museum of contemporary art, Luxembourg City).



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Malta | A Silent Pathway Towards a Cultural Boom? Wed, 01 Oct 2014 07:23:12 +0000 Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio

Rich in history, tradition, and archaeology, renowned as an intercultural passage of different populations in the heart of the Mediterranean, the small island of Malta is truly astonishing for its variety of faces, lineages, languages and architecture.  Read More

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Rich in history, tradition, and archaeology, renowned as an intercultural passage of different populations in the heart of the Mediterranean, the small island of Malta is truly astonishing for its variety of faces, lineages, languages and architecture. Many words and stories have been written about the history and culture of Malta, but little is known, at an international level, about its contemporary culture.

After 7000 years of cultural and historical heritage that has shaped the Maltese local identity, the country is now facing a dawning era of new geopolitical mechanisms and balances, entailing new global connections and stimulating challenges.

Internationalisation, mobility, cooperation, networking and creative exchange are some of the keywords that are currently transforming the cultural policies and artistic practices at an international level.

How is Malta responding to these global demands? How is it positioning itself in the international cultural landscape? What are the opportunities and the challenges of a new cultural strategy and development?

From the Past to the Future

A few years ago, in 2009, while in Malta for an international project, I took the chance to visit some cultural institutions and search for contemporary art spaces. The power of the historical heritage combined with the beauty of the Mediterranean landscape was dense and enveloping. The fortress city of Valletta, Fort St. Elmo, the Grand Harbour, the peaceful and mysterious town of Mdina, medieval walls, castles, astonishing cathedrals, Baroque pomp, Caravaggio, and so on, are just some of the cultural magnificence that delight the eyes and leaves one breathless.

But what about contemporary art? Where is the contemporary art museum? Where are the spaces for visual arts?

Beyond the all-encompassing St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity and some independent and alternative initiatives – notably, the MCA (Malta Contemporary Art), founded by artist and curator Mark Mangion – the contemporary scene of Malta proved to be quite disappointing. Nevertheless, in recent years, the growing interest in contemporary arts, the opening up to the international arena, and the strong determination and efforts of several Maltese cultural professionals have contributed in transforming the panorama and are paving the way for a new cultural moment.

In 2011, an important official document – the National Cultural Policy – was discussed and released. A new vision concerning needs, strategies, methods and tools to improve the cultural sector is about to begin.

The National Cultural Policy focuses on the cultural development needs in Malta. These include:

  • improved cultural governance structures
  • international cultural cooperation
  • strengthening the professional status of the artist
  • articulating the specific needs of the arts, heritage and audiovisuals
  • development of the cultural and creative industries
  • recognition of cultural rights, cultural socialisation and cultural inclusion
  • ensuring the long-term sustainability of the cultural sector

A change in national policies; a clear commitment in order to discuss and develop measures in favour of the cultural sector; the establishment of new principles, strategies and actions to ensure a public and participative cultural debate, were some of the key points stressed in the document.

Among the different points analysed, it is interesting to observe the importance of international cooperation. 

International Cooperation. Building international cultural bridges helps in the promotion of diversity, dialogue and cooperation in cultural activities and in enhancing the professionalism of the sector. Bilateral and multilateral cultural agreements need to be backed up with the necessary material resources in order to transform cultural diplomacy into an effective tool in support of cultural development. The mobility of cultural collections, works of art, artists and cultural professionals are key areas in which public and private investment in international cultural cooperation should be encouraged.

A year later, in 2012, the National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries – drawn up by the Creative Economy Working Group – began exploring the links between economy and creativity. Among the different proposals, the Strategy aims

“to position Malta as an attractive, contemporary and stimulating creative hub within the Mediterranean region, with strong emphasis on exchange and access to international markets”.

The path towards a new cultural era was opened and Malta’s cultural sector was to reap the fruits of its own labour. Heritage Malta and the Malta Council for Culture & the Arts (currently changing its name to ACM, Arts Council Malta) – the main cultural institutions, both founded in 2002 – began widening its influence and multiplying its activities.

The future is now and it’s already very busy in Malta.

In October 2016, Valletta, the capital city, will host the 7th World Summit on Arts and Culture. As announced by the MCCA, “Co-hosted with the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), the World Summit will welcome around 500 delegates from 80 countries to discuss the major issues impacting the arts”. A few months after the Summit, in the first semester of 2017, Malta will run the EU Presidency. In 2018, Valletta will be European Capital of Culture. This last achievement, officially declared in May 2013, was received as a great triumph and sparked a powerful wave of hope and enthusiasm.

This crescendo of international events is positively shaking the whole cultural field in Malta and is already generating a highly interesting series of activities.

The VIVA Festival (Valletta International Visual Arts), the very first event entirely devoted to contemporary visual arts in Malta; the series of conferences titled Dialogue in the Med: exploring identity through networks; and Science in the City, a festival where science meets art, are just some of the very recent events that are taking place these days in Malta.

Compared to other European countries, which are suffering drastic cuts in the cultural sector, Malta seems to be walking towards a more serene and stimulating scenario.

General cultural funding is improving, though there are still many challenges to face. The construction of a new museum dedicated to Modern and Contemporary Art (a highly controversial issue); the need to design a clear mobility funding framework, which takes into account both incoming and outgoing mobility projects; the establishment of new cultural bridges and long-term cooperation projects both within the cultural reality of Malta and at an international level – in the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia and worldwide – are key objectives that require serious commitment and firm responsibility. Many are the risks in this complex pathway, but still there are more opportunities ahead that numerous cultural professionals hope will benefit the entire Maltese society.


Useful links:


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Between two-cultures : Euro-Asian creative personalities (part I) Wed, 01 Oct 2014 02:00:22 +0000 Magali An Berthon

These 2 interviews are part of a focus on creative industries and creative personalities from a Euro-Asian background.  Read More

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In 2014, culture360 invites a number of special correspondents to get an insight on issues that are highly discussed in the cultural sector across Asia and Europe.

Magali An Berthon, will explore arts, crafts and design topics focusing on Southeast Asia and France. Through a number of in-depth articles and interviews, she will attempt to portray creative profiles emerging from a new young generation of artists and designers without borders. She will also focus on inspiring initiatives renewing and promoting local crafts and traditions.

In this fifth article, Magali An has interviewed two notable Euro-Asian creative personalitiesFrench-Vietnamese illustrator Marcelino Truong -who has just published his first autobiographic graphic novel about his childhood in Vietnam during the war; Paris-based Vietnamese actress and designer Yen Khê Tran Nhu- who has worked closely for the past twenty years with Tran Anh Hung, Vietnamese director of “The smell of green papaya” (Golden camera at Cannes Film Festival).

These 2 interviews are part of a focus on creative industries and creative personalities from a Euro-Asian background. Actress, illustrator, craftsmen or fashion designer, they all have insightful personal stories. Whether they were born in Europe or Asia, whether they have chosen to live in their country of origin or decided to settle elsewhere, we discover in these interviews their artistic universe and find out how their double-culture impacted their creative lives.


Interview with Marcelino Truong


ph Marcelino Truong à la table lum par Sébastien ORTOLA

Marcelino Truong

Marcelino Truong is a Paris-based illustrator, painter and author born from a Vietnamese father and a French mother.  In his graphic novel, “Une si jolie petite guerre” (Such A Lovely Little  War), published by Denoël Graphic, Paris, in 2012, Marcelino looks back in awe at the drowned world of his Saigon childhood at the outset of the Vietnam war.


1- Marcelino Truong, could you introduce our readers to your background?

I was born in the Philippines in 1957 and take my first name from our street in Manilla, la calle San Marcelino. At that time, my father was a junior diplomat serving the Republic of Vietnam, or South-Vietnam in those days. We later moved to Washington DC, USA, until, in 1961, my father was called back to Saigon, as part of the J.F. Kennedy project to beef-up the American effort in South Vietnam.

We spent roughly one thousand eventful days in Saigon at the beginning of what some foreign correspondents at first saw as a lovely debonair little war in an exotic country of elephants and tigers, but the conflict later morphed into the monstrous world-shaking Vietnam war.

We left Vietnam for England in July 1963, a few months before both Presidents Diêm and Kennedy were assassinated.

All this is, along with our day-to-day family life, I describe in much detail in my graphic novel, Une si jolie petite guerre, which will appear in Germany in April 2015, released by Egmont Graphic Novel, under the title Ein schöner kleiner Krieg. I grew up in London. We lived in the suburb of Wimbledon. My sisters, brother and I would hop on the District Line to go to the trendy French Lycée in South Kensington.

At age 15, I was dispatched to a boarding school in Saint-Malo, Brittany. Having no idea of what I wanted to do in life, I decided to start by collecting degrees. I set off for Paris and its prestigious Institut d’études politiques (Sciences Po). I was 20 when I graduated and then moved down a step to the Sorbonne where I read English Literature, which to me seemed an almost Bohemian occupation after Law school. After accomplishing my military service in the Marine nationale, the French Navy, I went back to English Literature at the Sorbonne, ready to cram for the dreaded competitive exam called l’agrégation. I had however not completely given up doing something artistic, so I quit teaching English after a year and decided to plunge – kamikaze style – into the world of comics and illustration. This was back in 1983, for me, the year of living dangerously. I had to learn my trade on the job.

One of my first breakthroughs was a commission for a four-page comics story in Metal Aventure, an avant-garde comic-strip magazine then run by Jean-Luc Fromental, who is now- thirty years later – my editor at Denoël Graphic in Paris.

2- Could you describe your artistic practice?

My work runs in three main directions: illustration for adult and young readers in newspapers, magazines or books. I also produce paintings. The third direction was opened in 2012 with the publishing of my autobiographical graphic novel Une si jolie petite guerre- Saigon 1961-75 (Denoël Graphic), which I mentioned earlier on. The graphic novel is a genre for teenagers and adults which I find very fitting for my purpose. It’s a crossbreed between a novel and a comic-strip album. I am currently busying myself with the making of the sequel (1963-75) under the title Give Peace A Chance. The animated film also beckons me, now and then. I designed the characters and sets of a 26′ film by Henri Heidsieck called Petit Wang – Little Wang (La Fabrique, France, 2005), which was awarded a prize at the Annecy Animated Film Festival in 2006.

For a long time I worked hard to learn my craft as an illustrator, with neither leisure nor space to think about writing. I do now. I feel that it is sometimes best when possible to write the story yourself. Otherwise illustrators are dependent on the texts which publishers hand over to them. Sometimes, you wait in vain for the story you are hoping for.

In all my work, Asia and especially Vietnam, are quite often present. That’s were being half French and half Vietnamese comes in. Asia and Vietnam are topics I have spent much of my life studying and well, I was, shall we say, “to the manner born”.

3- Where does your love for art come from ?

As a child, I enjoyed drawing. This is a gift which I inherited from my French mother Yvette who painted, drew, made ceramics, sowed, played the piano and was probably an artist at heart who ignored her real calling. My father was a very literary and erudite person – a great translator -  very much the eternal scholar with a poet’s sensibility, I think. He was good with a photo camera as well.

My brother Dominique was really good at drawing too and I thought him more daring than I was. I think he could have become a very good artist had he not decided to head for the exit in his mid-twenties.

Growing up in the sixties, I played endlessly with my Action Man toy-doll soldiers and designed sets for their battles. I pushed the realism quite far. Only a few of these photos have survived. I think that staging stories for my Action Men was somehow a clue as to a future path in art or written fiction. But at the time I didn’t think that far, it was really out of my reach. I didn’t come from an environment where such things were encouraged. At school, I was quite good at French, History, English and Art. But only the good marks in the “noble” subjects were appreciated at home.

I’ve always thought highly of manual labour and skill and find it greatly underrated.

4- Is there any Asian artist who is a reference or an inspiration for your work?

I love the Vietnamese painters from the Fine Arts School of Indochina which existed from 1925 to 1945. I love the works of many of the artists who studied there, such as Tô Ngoc Van, one of the masters, who joined the communist Viet-Minh independence movement in 1945 and was sadly killed in a bombing in 1954. His pencil drawings are sensitive and elegant. There are many others such as Mai Van Hiên, Lê Phô, etc…

Of course, I’m very fond of the Japanese artists of the Tokugawa period. Who isn’t ? : Hiroshige, Hokusai, Utamaro and so on…This liking shows in the three samurai picture-books for young readers I have produced, a series which starts with Le Samouraï errant - The Wandering Samurai (Editions Gautier-Languereau, Paris, 2006).

Here’s a senior Chinese comic-strip artist from Shanghai, whom I greatly admire. His name is He Youzhi. God knows how you pronounce it ! Born in 1922 !  Google his name ! I’m fascinated by his depictions of the daily life in China before and during the Maoist Revolution.

5- Do you think that your Asian background influences your work?

I have always been interested in the history of Vietnam and in its way of life. These supply me with most of my ideas and subjects. I suppose this comes from my Asian background, of course. Maybe living away from Vietnam for most of my life has strengthened this obsession ? Perhaps if I had lived most of my life in Vietnam I would be attracted to and obsessed by the West ?

I practice Tai Chi nowadays after having dabbled with several martial arts and feel much at home with those oriental gestures, postures and contortions !

6- Tell us about your first return to Vietnam?

A long story which would keep us up all night !

I returned to Vietnam in 1991, eight years after my first steps as an artist. I was eager to go back.

Until 1986, the country was shut off from the Western world. Thus, in 1991, under a layer of grime and mold, almost nothing had changed in the Saigon I had known. In spite of the poverty and lack of freedom which afflicted Vietnam, I loved its people.

I was lucky enough to be welcomed and chaperoned by one of my father’s cousins, Ly Chanh Trung, a former senior civil servant of the Republic of Vietnam (the South), who acted as an undercover informant for the National Liberation Front and in 1975 became a member of the National Assembly. Thanks to him, I met all of my Vietnamese extended family, who had taken part in the revolution : a French-speaking generation just like my father. It was interesting to hear their stories, as I had grown up mainly in the West, away from the war and on the anti-communist side of the fray. This was of great help later for the writing of my graphic novel Une si jolie petite guerre. It’s always important to hear what the other side has to say.

7- What does “double culture” mean to you and does it have an impact on your work and how it is perceived?

I see myself as a sort of go-between, a courier, a ferryman, drifting from one shore to the other, from West to East and East bank to West bank, telling one world about the other.

When you’re a métis, a “mixed-race” (sounds awful, doesn’t it ?), you carry both worlds within you. I try to decipher one world and to make it clear to the other.

It’s about learning or trying to learn a completely different language : Vietnamese.

It’s throwing aside jeans and shoes as often as possible and running around in baggy thai pants and flip-flops. It’s about boring my friends into a deep coma when I start lecturing them on this or that topic of Vietnamese history. It’s also enjoying two very different cuisines. I do a lot of cooking, French or Vietnamese.


Interview with Yen Khê Tran Nhu



Yen Khê Tran Nu

Yen Khê Tran Nu is a Vietnamese actress and designer based in Paris, best known for her roles in the Tran Anh Hung’s trilogy: Cyclo (1995), The smell of green papaya (1993) and The vertical ray of sun (2000). As Tran Anh Hung’s partner and closest collaborator, she is also in charge of costume and set designs of all his films.


1- Could you tell us a bit about yourself ?

Yen Khê is my first name which my grandfather has imagined ​​for me. This means “Fog on the source”, opacity and clarity, and I find that this antagonism suits me.

I left Vietnam in 1974 to follow my family in France. I was one year old. My mother, my sisters and I came back to Danang in 1980, to visit my grandparents. It was five years after the war ended and the country was in such a big misery. Since then I have never stopped going back to my grandparents’, and later, for work.

I grew up in Paris but Vietnam has always had a special place in my heart.

After high school, I spent one year at the “Ecole du Louvre,” followed by a degree in design and interior architecture at the Camondo school in Paris.

Meanwhile, I took dramatic art classes, on the recommandation of my piano teacher, to overcome my shyness. Filmmaker Tran Anh Hung – who was looking for an actress for his short film graduates- found me in this class. I agreed to appear in his first film and since we have been working together on every project.

2- Describe your artistic practice.

I was very young when I acted in the short film ”A married woman of Nam Xuong” which allowed Hung to shoot his second short film and meet Christophe Rossignon, future producer of his three movies about Vietnam. “The Smell of Green Papaya,” won numerous awards (Golden Camera in Cannes, César for Best Film, Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film) which helped the filming of ‘Cyclo’, filmed in Ho Chi Minh City, awarded with Golden Lion at Venice. It was an unforgettable experience.

Then I went back to Vietnam with ‘”The vertical ray of sun,” this time in Hanoi.

I was very lucky to be able to embody these beautiful portraits of Vietnamese women, as I did not grow up in Vietnam but felt very influenced by this culture. My parents were more anxious to transmit to us the culture customs, starting with food.

I learned to speak the language with the Northern accent, leaving the the central tone from my hometown, much to the discontent of my mother.

For me it was a wonderful way to get back to my roots and try to give the viewers a different view of this country.

Beyond my role as an actress, I have always advised Hung on the visual aspect of his films. It is likely that I will do the art direction for ”Eternity,” his next movie which should run in 2015.


3-Where does your love of art come from?

My meeting with Tran Anh Hung was important. I was only 19. With him I discovered films screened at the French Cinematheque: Murnau, John Ford, Mizoguchi, the operas of Wagner, Glenn Gould, Kawabata novels, Tanizaki…

In my family, literature, poetry, painting and music have always held a central place. My maternal grandfather was a great doctor: acupuncturist, calligrapher and martial arts master. My mother was a literature and ancient Chinese professor at the University of Hue. She also had a beautiful voice and could have become a singer. But as the only daughter of a large family, it was permitted for her. My father has worked for 30 years for France-Libertés, in charge of humanitarian aid programs in Asia. He is the author of five books, four about Vietnam.

My paternal grandfather was an engineer and left us beautiful sea paintings.  All of this is undoubtedly part of who I am.

4- Do you think your Asian background influence your work?

Yes, without a doubt.

Arrived as a child, I did all my studies in France, like any French child would. This is how my mind and my thoughts have been formed. However in regards to my heart and emotions, things are much more complex. It is about atavism. I was lucky to grow up in Paris, into a mixed culture family in a cosmopolitan city which has allowed me to see the the greatest artists to the most confidential exhibitions, listen to music and read international authors, taste all kinds of cuisines. This is why I find the term “double culture” somewhat restrictive. I would rather say that I was bathed in a “multicultural” environment which forced me to make specific choices which built my personality.

5- What are your artistic references and sources of inspiration for your work?

feel the closest to the Japanese culture: literature, film, architecture, design, culinary arts, fashion… ! The Japanese way of life has managed to combine tradition and modernity with inventiveness and unparalleled precision.

It was a great challenge for me to go to Japan for the first time to design the costumes and sets of the movie “Norwegian Wood.” I especially designed eight sets at the legendary studios TOHO. I stayed one year in Japan and this time has deeply influenced me.

6-You are one of the few actresses of Asian origin based in France. What do you think of the absence of Asian faces in French cinema and in the media?

Of course I regret that there is not more ethnic diversity in films and the media in France. Many people think that I only accept to act in Tran Anh Hung’s films. But it would be ridiculous if it were true. It’s just that there are very few roles for Asian actors. The Asian community in France is probably too low-key and therefore it creates no desire of representation in the audience’s mind. In other words, Asians are “uneventful” as one would say.

7 Do your current projects bring you back to Vietnam regularly?

Usually I go to Vietnam once a year. Often in Hanoi, because spending eighteen months for ‘”The vertical ray of sun” has marked me and have created strong friendships there. However in the recent years I spend most of my time in Danang to be with my family. It is a quiet and relaxing seaside town, near Hoi An, a charming village.

In the future, I would love to explore further Ho Chi Minh City. I have actually just spend there two months to develop a design project of high-end furniture.

When the time comes to decide where to live in Vietnam, it won’t be an easy choice !


Magali An Berthon is a French Vietnamese textile designer and editor based in Paris. Graduate of the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris, she has gathered a valuable experience as a textile designer for fashion and home collections.  She finds inspiration in her many travels especially in South-East Asia and has developed a deep interest for ethnic arts & crafts, natural fabrics and dyes. In parallel, she works as a writer and documentarist specialized particularly on textile know-how from all over the world. 

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DOK Leipzig Lake Festival: Asia-Europe confluence through Documentary | India Mon, 15 Sep 2014 04:44:27 +0000 Valentina Riccardi

The second edition of the DOK Leipzig Lake Festival of documentaries was held between April 17 to 21, 2014 at The Lake Resort, Naukuchiatal, Uttarakhand, India.  Read More

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Contributed by Parul Wadhwa




The second edition of the DOK Leipzig Lake Festival of documentaries was held between April 17 to 21, 2014 at The Lake Resort, Naukuchiatal, Uttarakhand, India. It was a non-competitive festival, essentially dedicated to an abandoned intellectual and cultural space in a stress-free environment .The highlight was to initiate conversations around documentary, more on the form than the content. On the struggles and choices documentarians make and the why of it. On the issues of ethics and confidentiality and how it affects the form – and can lead to even greater creativity if a film-maker strives for it. Based on the idea of ‘Documentarian’, the festival had great evenings of informal debates around the constraints in documentary film-making as it was, is and may be.

Several documentary filmmakers, critics and programmers attended the festival. Parul Wadhwa had the opportunity to interview a few of them regarding their impressions of the Festival.

The interviews were conducted with:

  • Claas Danielsen-Festival, Director of DOK Leipzig, Germany;
  • Aruna Vasudev-film historian and founder of NETPAC (the Network for Promotion of Asian Cinema);
  • Deepti DCunha-Film programmer, India;
  • Fernand Melgar-documentary filmmaker (Special Flight), Switzerland. 


Q. What is the historical importance of DOK Leipzig? And in that framework, how do you see the value of holding an Indian edition of DOK Leipzig?

A. Claas Danielsen: DOK Leipzig was founded in 1955. When we celebrated the 50th edition I did some research and to my great surprise found out that our festival seems to be the oldest documentary festival in the world. In the 1960s and 1970s the festival was a meeting place for the greatest international “documentarians” of their time while the 1980s became a darker chapter in the festival history with pressure and censorship by the East German authorities. Nowadays, after the unification of Germany, DOK Leipzig has become the second biggest European documentary film festival and one of the leading events of its kind in the world.

For us it is a great honour to have been invited by Neelima Mathur to curate a programme of the finest documentaries we have shown in Leipzig for the Lake Festival in India. The Lake Festival offers documentary professionals as well as a general audience of cinephiles the opportunity to discover outstanding international documentaries. We hope to get into good contact with Indian filmmakers and to make our festival better known in the Indian documentary community.


Q. What are the main gaps/needs in the documentary filmmaking sector when it comes to Asia-Europe collaborations?

A. Aruna Vasudev: The DOK Leipzig Lake Festival is a wonderful initiative to take deeply meaningful documentaries to young and older people outside the metro centres. All these decades, everything has always been designed for the urban audience but the large majority of people live outside the urban centres. There are definitely gaps and needs in this sector with little enough information and networking available. The Lake Festival can form a bridge by bringing more European documentary filmmakers to the festival to hold discussions and talks with both aspiring filmmakers and also with educational and cultural institutions around the area. Perhaps the Lake Festival could hold one or two workshops on documentary filmmaking in Naukuchiatal itself, where information on funding within India and in Europe, could also be disseminated.

A. Deepti DCunha: Lack of funding is a constant struggle with documentary filmmakers but there is also a definite and urgent need for information to be available to all aspiring documentary filmmakers about sources of funding. In terms of networking platforms there are some initiatives but not enough. In my opinion, the most important step for documentary filmmaking in India( I can’t speak for Asia) is audience development. As long as people in India are not interested in documentary as a form of film and are unwilling to engage with this form as audiences, most initiatives are bound to fail. Hence documentaries, which are right now post college viewing experiences, have to be introduced to a much larger section of people at a much younger age.
In this aspect DOKLeipzig Lake festival at Naukuchiatal can be instrumental by having workshops for selected projects of filmmakers where they can be creatively mentored with the expertise of people associated with the festival, either from DOKLeipzig, Germany or any other partners. The session with Fernand Melger this year at the lake festival, for example, was extremely enriching. Such exchange of ideas should continue by inviting interesting documentary filmmakers to share their experience and approach to their craft.


Q. As a filmmaker from Europe, what is your impression of the Lake Festival? Any special features that interest you as a filmmaker?

A. Fernand Melger: The Lake Festival is a very interesting festival. First of all because it makes you discover an unknown Indian Region. As we primarily always think about the hub of Delhi or Mumbai, we cannot imagine that in the region of the festival are so many people passionate for documentaries. The festival allowed me to discover an Indian filmography and to create links with Indian directors, producers and journalists, which is quiet rare.

Q. Could you describe the process of curation used in the Dok Leipzig festival? Could you also elaborate on the larger vision of the Dok Leipzig festival to start a Lake edition?

A. Claas Danielsen: The above mentioned description of what a good documentary is to me defines important aspects of what kind of films we as festival programmers look for. We try to show the best new documentaries from all over the world at DOK Leipzig which we choose out of approximately 3,000 films that we screen every year. New trends and tendencies in international documentary filmmaking are reflected in our curation which tries to assemble the finest works of their kind in the festival. The programme of the DOK Leipzig Lake Festival is much smaller than the one of our festival. Therefore we select the best of the best of what we have previously shown in Leipzig for this fine festival in India. These films should stand for the diversity and high quality of contemporary documentary which we bring to the small and very niche audience of the Lake Festival.


A detailed photo-essay on the festival can be found at:


These interviews were conducted as part of a media partnership between the ASia-Europe Foundation online portal culture360 and Formedia (India), arranged and designed by Parul Wadhwa, an independent documentarian (India/USA). We thank for the additional support Anupama Sekhar, Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and Neelima Mathur, Formedia(India).

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