» Magazine Connecting Asia and Europe through arts and culture Thu, 17 Apr 2014 00:49:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Interview with Christa Meindersma: Saving Heritage helps a community to survive Thu, 13 Mar 2014 02:16:18 +0000

                  Contributed by Ulla-Alexandra Mattl Christa Meindersma has been director of the Prince Claus Fund since 2011. She is an international...  Read More

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Christa Meindersma, Director, Prince Claus Fund

Christa Meindersma, Director, Prince Claus Fund










Contributed by Ulla-Alexandra Mattl

Christa Meindersma has been director of the Prince Claus Fund since 2011. She is an international lawyer with extensive experience in Asia, Africa and Europe and a passion for art and culture. Previously, Christa worked as deputy coordinator of the Task Force Sudan of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and negotiator and senior political advisor for the United Nations, in East-Timor, Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Kosovo, Darfur, Nepal, DR Congo, Sudan and New York. Christa is member of the Advisory Council of the Prince Claus Conservatory and School of Performing Arts.

The Prince Claus Fund initiates and supports activities in the field of culture and development and works in cooperation with individuals and organisations, mainly in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and is a platform for intercultural exchange.

At the 6th World Summit on Arts and Culture in Santiago de Chile on 13-16 January 2014 Christa was a panellist of the session “Cultural heritage at risk: protection and reconstruction post-disaster” where she gave examples of successful interventions and described some of the challenges her organisation faces on a daily basis.

In an interview during the World Summit she shared details about her work in Asia as part of the Cultural Emergency Response Programme (CER). The programme, which was founded in 2003, provides quick help to evacuate, stabilise or rescue cultural heritage under imminent threat of destruction or damaged by man-made disasters, natural disasters or conflict. The programme has now been running for more than 10 years with emergency interventions in 54 countries.

Can you tell us about the places where the Prince Claus Fund has been active in Asia?

“We have done quite a lot of work in Indonesia but also in the whole Himalaya region (Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim in India) which has been affected by earthquakes in recent years. We have done work in India, in Pakistan, in Thailand, many different countries.”

How is your work in Asia different to your initiatives in other parts of the world?

“We can’t say that any of this work is specific to Asia because each country is very different and has its specific situations. The whole Himalaya region for example is a seismically very active region with earthquakes. What we find is that we have to deal with similar issues in the different communities after a disaster. For example, in many communities in the Himalayas traditional buildings were affected. The question people were looking at was how to rebuild in a traditional way and how to restore the buildings in a way that they were more resistant; they are looking at the incorporation of new technologies in very traditional buildings. The other issue that came up in different places was a lack of skills, in particular traditional buildings skills, and knowledge about how to build and restore the traditional buildings; carpentry, masonry, and all the details of the buildings. In some cases older craftsman were found to teach young people and they helped with the work that was carried out. We also find that often not only buildings but also murals are affected like for example in Bhutan. We have also been working on murals in Thailand and on temple structures all across the region.”

So you mainly work with saving and restoring built heritage?

“No, buildings and murals are not the only things that communities like to save after a natural disaster. We also see that they like to save instruments, for instance in Burma after cyclone Nargis in 2008. We received requests to support the rebuilding of particular instruments and also the teaching of the skills needed for this. The instruments are used to accompany a puppet theatre and the communities were anxious to not lose the traditions around the puppet theatre. After earthquakes or floods people also very often want to save archives – photo archives and documentary archives. Therefore, the concept of heritage we work with is very broad.”

Do you see any specific mentality in Asia towards saving or not saving heritage, for instance traditional or colonial buildings or heritage?

“This depends very much on the community. In some communities there is a very strong awareness of wanting to keep certain buildings or the use of certain traditional building methods. Very often after a disaster there is a discussion of various groups or members of the same community. For instance in Bhutan, when we visited one of the temples which had been very badly affected, the community itself, the craftsmen, the leader of the monastery and the local authority had very different views on what should be done. Some wanted to tear it all down, some wanted to keep the traditional building style; because it constitutes the soul of the building, it would get lost if one replaces the traditional structure with a concrete structure. There are many issues engulfed in those discussions but it is very interesting to see those discussions taking place. There are also situations when an authority may just demolish certain buildings, in particularly after a natural disaster, while the community would have liked to save them. In China people are moved out of the houses which are then demolished although the people say no damage was done. And the temple [in Bhutan] was saved because the community wanted to save it and was able to find ways to make it happen.”

What more lies behind the will to save or not save an affected structure?

“Situations are very different but in the discussion about saving or demolishing, replacing buildings by concrete buildings, the value or price of the land can also be a crucial factor; but also concepts about modernity and concepts about what is the value of the traditional. In some communities, for example in Sikkim -  in the Northeast of India, after the earthquake, a lot of buildings were torn down immediately and replaced by concrete structures, even with concrete temples placed on top of old structures.

But now there is a move among certain architects from the region to run awareness campaigns in villages to save damaged traditional structures that have not yet been torn down. Often it is also a matter of creating awareness among communities and sometimes we also get a request to support these awareness campaigns.”

With this in mind it would make sense to work on awareness campaigns in regions prone to natural disasters before the disaster actually strikes?

“We support a number of activities; one is very practical; we support trainings for disaster intervention teams in different countries which are organised together with the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) in Rome. People get trained knowing the specific context of their country. Afterwards they go back to their country and set up their own teams and train them. People are trained on how to respond if disaster strikes depending on the different context of their country, for instance flood or earthquake prone, and also the type of heritage – museums, collections or archives. In certain places disaster will strike, we know that, we just don’t know when. This is the very practical side we work with. On the other hand, as I mentioned before, we get requests to support awareness campaigns.”

Who are your partners in Asia?

“Where possible we always try to work with local partners. Sometimes the local partners work with non-local involvement but very often it is purely local. In Indonesia for example we work with the Indonesian Heritage Trust. They have around 80 local branches on the different islands and can be very fast with a damage assessment mission when something happens. Because of our ongoing collaboration they know exactly how we work and we can move very fast, which is key. We also have a very good partner in Burma who has been involved in our work for some time and has also taken part in one of the trainings in Rome. We have a very trusted partner whom we work with in the whole Himalaya region and a very trusted partner in Nepal, the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT). These partners are our direct link to these countries. They are the ones who go in and do the work. In many countries we already have strong partnerships but we are of course trying to develop them further and also our networks all across the world.”

Can you identify any main challenges despite the diversity of projects you are working on?

“It is very important to listen to the communities, so that one sees how they value their heritage, what heritage they value and not to impose one’s definitions of what is a monument, what is heritage, what is valuable from the outside. It is definitely also very important for the locals to be taking the initiative and to be fully involved in the action. Creating awareness is essential, but again the campaigns that work best are local campaigns to create awareness of the value of certain heritage. For the emergency response it is important to act very quickly in order to save whatever can be saved; the investment of larger sums of money and bigger interventions will need to take place later. Initially it is important to put a roof on the building so that the murals can be saved, evacuate archives etc.”

And a last question – are there any other organisations that lead on similar programmes?

“No, we are the only one; to our great surprise. We try to convince other organisations, humanitarian organisations as well as cultural organisations to pick this up. There is much more to be done than we can do and it is also important to realise that

“saving heritage, which is important to the local community in times of great distress and disaster, really helps the community to survive, to reconstruct itself in order to want to keep going; this is an extremely important component.  It is about much more than just saving a structure. It really has to do with the survival of a community and giving meaning to a situation.”


Ulla-Alexandra Mattl is Director of The Castalian Pool, a not-for-profit organisation with a focus on furthering cultural and political development through projects and initiatives. She is also the EU Correspondent for the Artsmanagement Network. Ulla is specialised in cultural co-operation and cultural relations with a special interest in Asia-Europe co-operation. She holds an MA in Cultural Policy and Arts Management from City University London and an MA in Finno-Ugric Studies and French with focus on Sociolinguistic. Follow her on Twitter: @uajm and @castalianpool


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Interview with: Makiko Yamaguchi, Director of the Tokyo Culture Creation Project Wed, 05 Mar 2014 07:43:48 +0000

culture360 contributor Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio interviews Makiko Yamaguchi from the Tokyo Culture Creation Project to find out more about her perspective on "internationalisation" through arts, culture and creativity.  Read More

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culture360 contributor Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio interviews Makiko Yamaguchi from the Tokyo Culture Creation Project to find out more about her perspective on “internationalisation” through arts, culture and creativity.

  1. Could you please introduce the “Tokyo Culture Creation Project” and tell us about its main aims and activities?

Tokyo Culture Creation Project started in April 2008 to disseminate the culture of Tokyo in and outside Japan and to establish Tokyo as a city of global cultural creativity. The Project itself is organised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture in cooperation with arts and cultural organisations as well as NPOs.
The Project facilitates the involvement of a larger number of people in creativity, by building foundations for cultural projects across the city and by offering opportunities for creative experiences to children and young people. Additionally, it creates and disseminates Tokyo’s “new culture” globally by organising international festivals and other type of events.

There are four categories in our project:

  • Festival
  • Kids/Youth
  • Artpoint
  • Networking
  1. One of your main aims is focused on creating cultural diversity and establish the city of Tokyo as a vital hub for international networking. What do you do to fulfil these goals?

We implement “Tokyo Creative Weeks” since 2011, covering all of our projects in four categories each autumn.  In the category Networking we put together an international conference on “Culture and Social Innovation” and also initiate the “International Visitors Programme”.

  1. The “International Visitors Programme” is a very interesting project. Could you please tell us more about it?

This is an annual programme which started in 2011. We invite 10 young professionals from various fields and countries to experience the actual cultural scenes of Tokyo and come into contact with their Japanese peers and build a network.  We do not focus on one genre or one issue, to ensure that the team is always diverse and open. We want them to write articles or blogs to report about their experience or inform their colleagues within their own network. We also seek to extend their participation in this programme to future cultural/artistic cooperation or project.

  1. Do you think that mobility and exchange are important for artists and cultural operators? If so, why?

Definitely yes – even if digitalisation and highly developed information technology allow us to communicate without moving or meeting and help usovercome geographic distances. Maybe because of this, we have to meet face to face in order to find a common “language“ and build toward a faithful relationship which are both important and basic elements for collaborative work.

  1. What is your internationalisation strategy? What kind of partnerships, networks and international collaborations are you currently developing?

Japan is still insular, I mean in its mentality, and I have the impression that there are very few people even in the field of arts and culture who know or are convinced of the importance of international networking.  Not just in order to “sell” or “buy” a production or for scouting artists for example, but to build a sustainable relationship that is not bi-lateral but multi-lateral. To do that, we must try to have better environments for arts and culture, and maybe a better society. This is something that interests me a lot.

To go in this direction, our international visitors programme is a very tiny step to approach diverse experts in various fields. However I think it is necessary and requires a long time, so we need to be very patient.  It is important for me to find the people or organisations that act in an interdisciplinary and multilateral way. With them, I can share a “language” to work with.

There is a very interesting experiment now in Japan – ONPAM or the Open Network for Performing Arts Management, a non-hierarchical structure which started last February and is accessible outside Japan. This could be a good example of a cultural network today.

  1. What is your vision for the future?

Mobility should be developed within Asian countries, and networking programmes should not need to be referred to as being “international”, that aspect should be inherent and self-evident to the nature of the programme itself.

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6th World Summit on Arts & Culture | Critical times, creative spaces Wed, 19 Feb 2014 09:25:15 +0000 Anupama Sekhar

What does it mean to be human in the 21st century? This was the powerful - albeit invisible - question that many speakers were responding to at the recently concluded 6th World Summit on Arts and Culture (13-16 January 2014, Santiago, Chile)  Read More

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What does it mean to be human in the 21st century?

This was, for me, the powerful – albeit invisible – question that many speakers were responding to at the recently concluded 6th World Summit on Arts and Culture (13-16 January 2014, Santiago, Chile) with the most evocative response coming from UK’s Alan Davey. Quoting Seamus Heaney in his closing remarks, he reminded the gathering that we are, ultimately, “hunters and gatherers of values.”

The 3-day event – organised by the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) and the National Council for Culture & the Arts, Chile – brought together over 400 policymakers, artists and cultural professionals from around the world to explore how “the arts and culture can transform the possibilities of development in the dynamic world we live”.

We live in a critical time of contradiction, in a contemporary flux. This timely reminder came from Sonia Montecino, one of Latin America’s leading intellectuals, in the very first key note address of Summit. This century is, without doubt, an age of unbridled technology, development and commerce. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the triad emerged as leitmotifs across many panels and sessions of the Summit.

How much technology should we let into our lives?

The intersection of technology, human interaction and creative expression was a key point of debate. In a special video message, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei hailed modern communication technologies as the most important human creation of all time. They provide invaluable opportunities to access knowledge, build partnerships and liberate ourselves, he said. Google’s Hayes Raffle argued that new languages and paradigms are best learnt from children, through play or via cutting-edge technology.

On the other hand, Spain’s Angel Mestres called for a return to making face-to-face connections in the physical world. What we lack today is conversation, he said, urging us all to huddle more often at the coffee machine. Musician Manuel Obregon, who is also Costa Rica’s Culture Minister, concurred. His message: let’s begin to invest in people over material things.

The culture-in-development debates

In the last decade, culture has come to be acknowledged as a driver and an enabler of sustainable development.  Texts such as the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the Hangzhou Declaration (2013) are setting a new tone and asserting the value of culture within a cultural or creative economy. Culture is now included as one of the Millennium Development Goals in the post- 2015 development agenda.

In the face of this growing validation of the role and value of culture, two very interesting questions were raised at the Summit. Does culture take an active or reactive role in the social, political and environmental crises of our times, enquired Chile’s Minister President of the National Council for Culture & the Arts, Roberto Ampuero. Recognising that culture may sometimes be an impediment to development (as evidenced in the African context), Mike van Graan of the African Arts Institute wondered what the relationship between culture and social justice is.

Creating meaning outside markets

Does the focus on the value of the creative economy take away from the arts, asked South Africa’s Avril Joffe. She argued that the market is an inadequate guardian for the arts because people have collective needs and identities that the market simply cannot fulfil. “We are all not either sellers or buyers. We have other identities,” she concluded.

The discussions around market and meaning often echoed Charles Landry in Culture at the Crossroads: the market economy does not intrinsically invite an exploration of higher purpose and goals. Culture, on the other hand, does.  The need of the hour is to recognise this difference and flip our world view from an economy-centred to a culture-centred one, exhorted Arjo Klamer of Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Building on this idea, New Zealand’s Elisabeth Vaneveld called for the creation of a new language for the arts that moved away from market terms such as ‘sector’ & ‘industry’.

In critical times, what is the role of culture?

The role of culture is to humanise and regenerate us in a noisy, mercantile and technologically-saturated world, said Chile’s Ampuero opening the Summit on 13 January 2014. Built around the overarching theme, Creative Times: New Models for Cultural Development, the Summit explored in depth the changing role of the arts in education, knowledge transfer, innovation, healing & creative convergence.

Do not separate culture from education. This was the warning call from the Costa Rican Culture Minister. Sonia Montecino lamented the growing devaluation of arts and humanities and highlighted the increasing contradictions between the formal education system and home cultures. The importance of cultural activities and alternative educational opportunities at the community level were strongly emphasised in the discussion on community leadership.

The past surfaced in myriad forms across various sessions: the importance of post-disaster heritage protection; the need for spaces of contemplation in the reconstruction of memory in post-conflict societies; and, the value of simultaneously honouring the past and developing the future.

The problem of inequality was introduced into the cultural diversity agenda. As one speaker eloquently put it, we have left out some people from the table of abundance.

New systems & new models for cultural development

The significance of networks, cultural centres and inter-sectoral partnerships for social innovation in the nonprofit sector were driven home through a variety of good practices. Open and porous platforms were recognised as critical to broaden traditional spaces for arts presentation and new forms of dialogue with audiences and the larger public. The complexities of cultural leadership – passionately undertaken by artists, collectives, curators and arts managers – in these critical times were shared.

The changing nature of cultural policy making in critical times emerged as a key topic across the three days of the Summit.  The alarming cuts to public arts funding (and reassessments of the subsidy model) in the wake of the global recession were discussed, leaving some participants wondering why governments were keen to save financial institutions, such as banks, in tough times at the cost of social programmes. Egypt’s Mohammed el Sawy reiterated that culture continues to be seen as a luxury by governments and thus ineligible for priority funding. The new trend of public-private partnerships in arts and culture was explored by Singapore’s Kathy Lai and UK’s Beatriz Garcia.

The rise of cities as centres of thinking and decision making in cultural politics was widely recognised by speakers. The role of arts and culture in making cities creative, inclusive and sustainable was explored.

In all, the search was for both a greater voice for culture in contemporary times and deeper inspiration to build a more cohesive cultural ecology, which is both creative and sustainable.

The next World Summit on Arts and Culture will take place in October 2016 in Valletta, Malta and will be hosted by the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts. Previous World Summits on Arts and Culture have been held in Ottawa, Canada (2000), Singapore (2003), Newcastle Gateshead, England (2006), Johannesburg, South Africa (2009) and Melbourne Australia (2011).

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Singapore Biennale 2013 | In Conversation with Tan Boon Hui Tue, 18 Feb 2014 06:56:14 +0000 Bharti Lalwani

Bharti Lalwani speaks to Tan Boon Hui, SB2013 Project Director and Co-Curator and former director of the Singapore Art Museum, who initiated and spearheaded the biennale collaboration between 27 curators from around Southeast Asia for the 4th Singapore Biennale.  Read More

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Tan Boon Hui

Tan Boon Hui, SB2013 Project Director and Co-Curator









Bharti Lalwani speaks to Tan Boon Hui, SB2013 Project Director and Co-Curator and former director of the Singapore Art Museum, who initiated and spearheaded the biennale collaboration between 27 curators from around Southeast Asia for the 4th Singapore Biennale which explored the potent theme “If the World Changed”.

(Key: TBH: Tan Boon Hui, BL: Bharti Lalwani)

BL: Let’s start with the premise of this biennale which solely focuses on art practices around Southeast Asia. Does the geneology of this year’s biennale bear its roots in the exhibition you co-curated with critic Iola Lenzi- Negotiating Home, History, Nation (NHHN) which ran as a parallel exhibition to the 2011 Singapore Biennale?


TBH: By the time I was asked if the Singapore Art Museum could take over the organization of the 3rd Singapore Biennale in 2010, the curators had been appointed and the biennale title selected for all intents and purposes but I was troubled by the whole issue of what a biennale in a place like Singapore should be and which public would it be created for. The question of how a biennale could have value beyond the frankly small coterie of ‘biennale professionals’ such curators, critics, academics, gallerists and collectors was always a perpetual challenge.


While I could not retool the structure of the 3rd biennale, it was possible to experiment with other possibilities at the fringes, especially with parallel projects. Two years prior to this, the independent curator Iola Lenzi pitched a proposal for a survey exhibition on contemporary Southeast Asian art when I was at the National Museum of Singapore. The occasion of 3rd biennale in 2011 therefore seemed the perfect opportunity to realize this project as a sort of testbed for making a statement about the region that was grounded in the social-political history of the last 20 years, as well as an attempt to make larger statements about the strength of regional art. So we had Iola Lenzi as guest curator, and Khairuddin Hori and myself as co-curators. The show was very popular and people were surprised at its intense, provocative content.


In writing my essay for the catalogue of this exhibition Negotiating Home, History and Nation, I started to make preliminary propositions about the art of Southeast Asia, ways in which we could connect the disparate cultures and art practices. In this sense, the curating structure and regional focus of this 4th Singapore Biennale, for me at least, did have roots in this smaller experiment during the last biennale.


When I was asked by the National Arts Council to propose the 2013 edition of the biennale, I therefore suggested a new model for the next Biennale that would give it a distinct identity, ie Southeast Asia focus, from that of our Asian biennales such as Gwangju Biennale, Shanghai Biennale and Yokohama Triennale. The thinking was also to bring a freshness to the conventional biennale, which frequently shows artists who have already been featured in other biennales or international exhibitions. The wider Asian art scenes such as Japan and Korea became the next level of consideration, if appropriate. This regional approach is not limiting, as all the forms and discourses of contemporary art are found within the region. Instead, it will allow us to surface more diverse practices across the region.


BL: At the time I reviewed both the Biennale and this major survey exhibition, I thought NHHN- in itself a micro-biennale, was way more comprehensive- the catalogue essays on their own were quite exhaustive. For this biennale, I liked that there were a number of new works and in that sense it was fresh. We’ve already seen how the same works circulate through a number of biennales.

How did you aim to provide an expansive overview of the region’s diverse art practices within “If the world changed”?


TBH: NHHN achieves it power via concentration, an intense experience, deeply excavated and in your face. Most of the artists, were established and we looked for representational works that could be canonical over time. The unremitting focus on the role of the artwork as social commentary and critique also gave NHHN an ethical core that tied works together.


This biennale, however, aims for freshness and openness, even at the risk of unevenness in the presentation. The format builds in the possibility of idiosyncratic selections, rather than sure winners. A key focus for this Biennale was to look across the region and allow visitors access to not just more internationally known artists from places like Indonesia and Philippines but also artists from the mainland like Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos as well as artists from outside the major metropolitan art centres in the region. This biennale can be seen as an attempt at mapping the practices of the region and sometimes when you do that, you have to concede some ability to do deep into one particular issue or scene.


My concern was more that people did not even have a good sense of the artistic configuration or practices in the region will be coming to the biennale and the exhibition needed also to take seriously its role in educating our audiences about this region. What we had to sacrifice was the time to interrogate the differences  between our curatorial strategies and how  they relate to the current state of  art-making in  their specific locality. The theoretical framework for hanging all these concepts on is still to be made. That  would be the challenge I would lay out for the next biennale, to tease out the interconnections and gaps between the practices in the region. When curators and art historians write about biennales, they often forget the context of the public that is experiencing this biennale which often results in the embarrassing ways in which even senior writers describe exhibitions such as the biennale without even mentioning how the general public outside the coterie of professional art specialists is encountering the artworks. I firmly believe that curators and organisers of Biennales in developing art scenes need to learn to speak of art beyond what Camille Paglia calls “the echo chamber of current art discourse”.


To achieve this, our curatorial model of 27 co-curators was key. The curators were picked for their own regional capabilities and specialised knowledge of their respective region or country’s contemporary art scene. Some of their practices are interdisciplinary in nature, some of them run independent art spaces, some more known as artists. For example, from Vietnam, we have Tran Luong, known for his works in video and performance, who is also a curator and hails from Hanoi, in the north of Vietnam.


Alongside we have Nguyen Nhu Huy, an interdisciplinary artist who also curates and writes and is the artistic director of Zerostation based in Ho Chi Minh City, in the south of Vietnam. From Malaysia, we have Yee I-Lann, a multi-disciplinary artist originally from East Malaysia; while from the Philippines, we have Kawayan de Guia from Baguio in the north of Luzon, Charlie Co who has keen interest in practitioners from the Visayas Islands, and Abraham Garcia Jr. who is based in Mindanao. Collectively, all 27 of us were able to bring SB2013 together to present a layered picture of Southeast Asian contemporary art, reflecting the wide-ranging practice and thinking from this region.


BL: So what were the criteria for selection of the 27 curators from within Singapore and Southeast Asia? – And how does the democratic process of deliberation take place among this unusual number of collaborators?


TBH: The 27 co-curators were invited to be part of the Biennale for their distinct local knowledge of regional art practices, differing perspectives and specific networks and expertise of contemporary art practice that span beyond major metropolitan centres in the region. Southeast Asia is such a vast and diverse region it was impossible to find one person who had all the connections. As such, we saw an opportunity to bring together and build relationships between artists, practitioners and curators across the region to create a truly ground-breaking and distinctive international Biennale. Once we all got together we knew that the collaborations were right and insightful, as the curatorial team had identified numerous names that the international community will not have heard of before, or artworks that are not presented on other international platforms.


Artist selection is both an art and a science. All 27 curators came to meetings with mutual respect for each other. We all benefitted from learning about each other’s work and the artists presented. Discussions focused on the strength and rigour of proposals, and each artist’s practice and decisions are eventually arrived at based on majority consensus. We did not necessarily agree on everything but enough to move ahead. If there was more time, it would have been wonderful to be able to move the curatorial discussions more deeply into issues where we diverged and see where it took us. I personally think that is what a biennale should be, leave questions and opportunities for others to take up, rather than simple statements of finality.


BL: Were the artists given a clear and well defined direction from the curators or perhaps you took a more spontaneous approach?


TBH: The artists were shortlisted for the strength of their proposals and relevance to the title If the World Changed. Beyond that the curators individually had their own style of working and we respected those differences.


BL: At the press conference, you talked about how the discussion on the theme began with ‘What do we not know?’ – Were there any significant knowledge gaps within Singapore Art Museum’s archival research on contemporary practices?


TBH: Academics and curators love to use this term ‘research’, but often too loosely. Artists are much too creative to be pigeonholed and there was no way any one curator could fly in and out on short field trips and end up with any deep understanding especially of scenes that are complex and have many players.


That horrible term ‘research-based curating’ does not really get one anywhere. That’s where curators often ignore the established methodology of anthropologists who are the true champions of authentic field research, living and breathing with their subjects over a sustained period of time. For this biennale, we were tapping upon the years of immersion that each of our invited co-curators have in their local scenes, something that the museum could not replicate at the present moment. That is where the deep knowledge originates.


BL: Most of the funding comes from National Arts Council (NAC). As I understand, SGD 6 Million has been the official figure since 2008 (SGD 4 Million + 2 Million Private Funds in 2006); For this Biennale edition, you utilize existing spaces such as the elegant Peranakan Museum, The National Museum and Singapore Art Museum – This considerably frees up the budget for new concepts and commissions…

What were your challenges with this ambitious and commendable biennale and how do you think this edition succeeds?


TBH: The budget for this biennale has remained similar to the previous installment. What we have managed to do is to present more artists across more venues than the previous two editions (82 artists and 9 venues), this edition also saw an increased percentage of commissions. Significantly higher than previous years at 82%, this marks the highest percentage to date. Through this commissioning, SB2013 enabled artists from the region the opportunity to expand their practice.


What’s worth noting is that we have been able to commission a diverse range of artworks including work from artists who work  with local communities . One example would be Singapore’s Ahmad Abu Bakar, whose work Telok Blangah features a traditional wooden Malay boat, filled with 1000 glass bottles inscribed with messages collected from male inmates of the Singapore Prisons. Messages in the bottle describe the hope and aspirations of the inmates while in incarceration and upon their release. In this work, art, as a way of communication, becomes  tangible when the public  is offered an opportunity to leave messages that would be taken back to the inmates. While it is seemingly direct and yes- naïve, the simplicity of the offering in this case brings an honesty that is missing in much conceptual art.


This year we were also sure to invest in other programming efforts that have allowed deeper engagement with audiences. For instance, we have a number of themed curator tours available as well as a variety of interactive artist workshops that give the public access to the people behind the Biennale works. Other resources include a SB2013 smartphone app that offers two specially curated time-based walking trails as well as detailed Artist Folios designed for educators and parents to provide a background to the artist and their work, along with a glossary of terms, suggested questions, and activities to encourage children of all ages to understand each work and its themes.


Links and references


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sharing culture360 content 2013 | over to you! Tue, 18 Feb 2014 01:29:36 +0000 Judith Staines

Content published on is widely shared by our users via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media.  We like to know what content users most interact with...  Read More

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Content published on is widely shared by our users via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media.  We like to know what content users most interact with and how social media patterns are changing.  So each year we analyse the content sharing to see what the Team and Editors can learn.  Editor, Judith Staines, reports on the findings from 2013.

In 2013 there was a substantial increase in the amount of social media sharing of published content.  We found that 70% of our content was shared over 100 times (compared to 33% in 2012).

Two-thirds of all Opportunities and more than half of the Culture News, Publications and Magazine articles published on the site in 2013 were shared more than 100 times. Popular items were shared over 3,000 times.  Patterns of sharing are quite variable, depending on the type of content.

Overall, Facebook remains the most popular way to share content, particularly for open calls and other opportunities for artists, cultural managers, arts organisations and researchers in Asia and Europe. But Twitter is hot on FB’s heels. Notices for interesting publications received more shares on Twitter in 2013 than on Facebook; Culture News items also had a much higher proportion of shares on Twitter this year.

LinkedIn is also starting to make its mark as a preferred tool for social media sharing of Culture News (creative industries, cultural management and policy items, especially) where it represented 15% of the shares, having barely registered in 2012.

Some of these increases in social media traffic are due to our reaching more site users (180% increase in Unique Visitors in 2013), from better integration of the content publication with social media channels and – it would seem – you like what you read! aims to continuously refine the quality and relevance of the content, to seek out better ways to disseminate it, and to engage in an interactive conversation across Asia and Europe.

In 2013, there was an 80% increase in visits from Facebook, a 200% increase in visits from Twitter and a 550% increase in visits from LinkedIn. The Twitter account has been particularly active and reached a significant milestone in November 2013 when it obtained its 5000th follower.  The top five ASEM countries using Twitter are the UK, Australia, Indonesia, Spain and Singapore.  We also note that mobile visits now account for 12% of the network total traffic – a 1000% increase since 2011.

leroyluarsharesWe ran an extraordinarily successful Asia-Europe Short Story Contest in 2013. On the theme of ‘Long Way Home’, 483 entries were received and the ten shortlisted stories were opened up for online voting to decide the winners. The winning short story has racked up over 14.1k social media shares to date.

Excluding the Short Story Contest, the most shared content item was the UNESCO grant scheme: UNESCO IFPC | grants for young creator projects  shared 3,018 times. This was followed by Funding opps | Mobility Funding Guides 2nd Edition, shared 2,635 times and Vienna | Artist in Residence Programmes | open call, which was shared 2,052 times.  Eight content items were shared over 1,000 times.

Opportunities are extremely popular and widely shared.  Our main focus is to achieve a balanced access of information to opportunities across Asia and Europe. In 2013, we found that some of the most extensively shared Opportunities (Residencies, Open Calls, Grants, Competitions and Jobs) were in Japan, Korea, France, Germany, the UK and Austria.  Along with the two listed above, popular opportunities included: Asia Awards 2013 | international art and design competition (1,150 shares), George Town Festival 2014 | call for artists and performers  (898 shares), Edinburgh | Atelier for Young Festival Managers 2014 (774 shares), Korea | 2013 International Fellowship Contemporary Art (772 shares) and Japan | Beppu international artist residency (709 shares).

Culture News is an active, fast-moving area. We see our users are quick to respond to news items in the areas of cultural policy, cultural management, culture and development and creative industries. Our users seem to be active researchers of the contemporary arts and culture scene in Asia and Europe, and particularly interested in relevant publications, so we hope to continue to achieve high levels of social media sharing in this section in 2014.

We published fewer Events this year, as we noticed you were not sharing this content so much. With better targeting, the sharing of events announcements has nearly doubled and we think you can learn a lot from keeping an eye on what is going on in the arts and culture scenes across Asia and Europe. So do check our listings of Exhibitions, Festivals, Conferences and Meetings and pass them on.

The Magazine section of features specially commissioned interviews, articles and profiles, with special In Focus themes each year.  The interview with Indonesian artists at the Venice Biennale, Indonesia at Venice Biennale | Carla Bianpoen & Rifky Effendy, by Bharti Lalwani was shared 836 times. Lai Del Rosario’s review of a major Philippines contemporary art show in France, French-Filipino tandem Philippine contemporary art to France, had 775 shares and the annual round up of cultural events, Asia-Europe | arts events 2013, by Judith Staines was shared 758 times.

In 2012 we found that the most widely shared content was Asia-related, but 2013 saw a balanced representation of Asia and Europe among our most popular content. Countries that feature in the top shared listings include Brunei, Japan, Korea, Italy, Spain, UK, China, Austria, Germany, Norway, Belgium, Malaysia, Switzerland, India, France, Poland, Viet Nam, Indonesia and the Philippines. So, if you are looking for a varied, informative resource on Asia-Europe arts and culture news, events and opportunities – you’re definitely in the right place!

Great work was done in 2013 by Jeffrey Withaya Campell, as Technical & Social Media Coordinator, to build up the social media profile and reach of We now have a new team in place in 2014 and welcome Piero Zilio as Social Media and Web Analytics expert and Timothee Guicherd as Technical Coordinator.  A new social media strategy has been developed so make sure you are connected to’s social media channels to keep up to date – and to follow our progress.

AND …  if you see something interesting on in 2014 … pass it on …

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Asia-Europe | arts and culture agenda 2014 Fri, 10 Jan 2014 18:36:23 +0000 Judith Staines focuses on arts and culture connections across Asia and Europe – from New Zealand to Ireland, Malta to Mongolia and Laos to Latvia, there are 49 ASEM member...  Read More

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]]> focuses on arts and culture connections across Asia and Europe – from New Zealand to Ireland, Malta to Mongolia and Laos to Latvia, there are 49 ASEM member countries in our editorial sights. So here’s an overview of the Asia-Europe cultural agenda 2014 from’s Editor Judith Staines, highlighting some of the best arts and culture events coming up in the next year.

Cultural Years and other major events

New European Capitals of Culture are launched for 2014 in the Northern periphery of Europe. Umeå (Sweden) and Riga (Latvia) take the honours and present year-long programmes with a strong focus on participation and collaboration with local citizens and seeking to reach out to visitors to the cities. These festivals aim to make a real impact on the cities and generate new stories, networks and shifts in perception for years to come.

 © Tiffany Chung | Vietnam Next

© Tiffany Chung | Vietnam Next

The Year of France in Viet Nam took place in 2013 and now changes places to become the Year of Viet Nam in France running from January – September 2014.  It launches with a strong programme during the Toulouse Made in Asia Festival (30 January – 15 February), including a Viet Nam Next contemporary art exhibition programme. If you miss it in Toulouse, works are travelling to Nîmes and Val de Marne during the year. Keep an eye on the Année France Viet Nam website as there are some great events coming up in France in 2014.  Also launching in France in 2014 is the year of China-France, celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations: follow the cultural events calendar on the France-Chine 50 website.

anodualAnd don’t forget that the 2013-14 Spain-Japan Year commemorating 400 years of exchanges between the two countries continues until July 2014. The Año Dual España-Japón offers a rich programme of cultural events in Spain and Japan. is also watching with interest how the cultural cities movement has gained momentum in Asia, with the designation of three East Asia Cities of Culture for 2014: Gwangju (Korea), Yokohama (Japan) and Quangzhou (China).  Watch this space!

National cities of culture are becoming a growing phenomenon. Limerick has been chosen as Ireland’s first National City of Culture in 2014. With over 200 cultural events, the programme incorporates a vision of Limerick as an internationally connected city.

The Commonwealth Games take place in Glasgow (23 July – 3 August) and a Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme is planned, both in the city and Scotland-wide, over a time period surrounding the Games. Highlights include a global aerial theatre performance with multiple stages in Scotland, Australia and Brazil and an online choir with singers and songs from around the Commonwealth.

singrigaIf you are passionate about singing, the World Choir Games take place in Riga, Latvia (9-19 July). The 8th World Choir Games – the world’s largest choir competition – bring the international flair of the Choir Olympic idea to one of the most traditional singer regions of the world. Over 450 choirs from 58 countries have registered to date and you can listen to the official song here.

Cultural management, policy & cultural industries events readers are always quick to respond to cultural research and policy events and calls. Here’s a taster of what’s on in 2014.

Beyond our geographical region but well inside our international arts and culture sphere of interest is the 6th World Art and Culture Summit (13-16 January) taking place in Santiago de Chile. Good to follow the debates online and on Twitter to catch the essential themes.

The 8th International Conference on Cultural Policy Research ICCPR2014 will be held in Germany at Hildesheim (9-12 September) and Berlin (12-13 September). A call for proposals has been opened and registration starts in February.

As part of the Greek Presidency of the EU, the 3rd Stavros Niarchos Foundation International Conference on Philanthropy is scheduled to take place in Athens (26-27 June) on the topics of Philanthropy & Ethics and Arts & Culture: Creative Assets and their Social & Economic Importance.


Organised every three years, the 18th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival focuses on theatre for children and young people and takes place in Warsaw, Poland (23-31 May). The ASSITEJ World Congress is the most important meeting of members of the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People and registration opens 1 February.

Cultural networks are on the move in 2014 with the IETM Asian Satellite Meeting (12-14 May) to be held in Melbourne, Australia, attracting performing arts managers and artists from Asia and Europe, with a programme centred on developing a Three Way Dialogue between artists, professionals and funders.  ENCATC is building capacity of cultural management researchers, academics, cultural managers, artists, policy makers and students with a study tour to Shanghai (9-12 April). It also organises the 3rd ENCATC Academy in London (8-9 May) on the theme of ‘Cultural Relations & Diplomacy with a Focus on Asia’, a joint initiative of ENCATC and Goldsmiths, University of London in partnership with the Asia-Europe Foundation.

And finally, the 10th China (Shenzhen) International Cultural Industries Fair (15-19 May) is a huge marketplace for a wide array of cultural industries products and services.  Under the slogan ‘Develop Culture with Trade’, it attracts increasing numbers of European exhibitors and buyers.

Contemporary art biennales and fairs


As usual, contemporary art biennales and fairs feature high on the cultural agenda for 2014. There are striking parallels between some of the themes – dreams, imaginings, oblivion, voyages into the unknown, desire, longing … – perhaps dreaming of different realities is the artistic solution to living in uncertain times?

You can find an excellent list of links to art fairs, biennales and other art events, both Asian and international, on Art Radar Asia. For a global list of biennales, consult the Biennial Foundation Agenda 2014. Here’s a speedy journey through a few of the big hitters and some of the more out of the way events this year.

Eglé Budvytytė | Choreography for the Running Male, 2012, performance, 30 mins | Courtesy the artist | Photograph: Ieva Budzeikaite | Commissioned by Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius

Eglé Budvytytė | Choreography for the Running Male, 2012, performance, 30 mins | Courtesy the artist | Photograph: Ieva Budzeikaite | Commissioned by Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius

The 19th Biennale of Sydney (21 March – 9 June) on the theme, You Imagine What you Desire, “seeks splendour and rapture…” and looks like a great programme with 90 artists from 31 countries. Students of all things Biennale should check the News section for the Flashback Friday which takes a look at past events – back in 1979, dialogue between Australia and Europe was the theme.

It’s a big biennale year in Korea, with the 10th Gwangju Biennale (5 September – 9 November) and the Busan Biennale (due to open in September). The Seoul International Media Art Biennale is looking good with an active pre-biennale programme in place leading up to the September event.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which made such a splash in its first year in 2012, is planning the 2nd edition for December 2014 in Kerala, southern India, under the curatorship of renowned Indian contemporary artist, Jitish Kallat.  Dates and themes are to be announced.

As ever, there’s a lot going on Japan. The 5th Yokohama Triennale (1 August – 3 November), under the artistic directorship of artist MORIMURA Yasumasa takes a ‘Voyage through the Sea of Oblivion’ with the first artists announced.  A high-profile newcomer to the Japanese contemporary art festival scene is the Sapporo International Art Festival  (10 July – 28 September) with Guest Director, artist Ryuichi Sakamoto. ‘City and Nature’ are the themes and SIAF is running open calls, notably for ideas to transform urban heritage sites in the city. The Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (6 September – 30 November) is in its 5th edition connecting with Asian artists and themes.  


And in a remote peninsula of southern Japan, the Kunisaki Art Festival (1-23 March) offers a fascinating detour into nature, spirituality and contemporary art (info only available in Japanese but contact Beppu Project if you want to know more).

In Venice it is architecture year with the 14th International Architecture Exhibition (7 June – 23 November) on the theme of Common Ground.  Elsewhere in Europe, you can catch Helsinki Photography Biennale (27 March – 4 May) which has a focus on environmental issues. Ireland’s Contemporary Biennial of Art, Eva International (12 April – 6 July) takes place in Limerick, the aforementioned National City of Culture.  

bb6In Romania, Bucharest Biennale (23 May – 24 July) considers identity, on a theme of ‘Belonging and Longing’. Berlin Biennale (29 May – 3 August) has a collaborative international team of curators and promises to explore the intersection between larger historical narratives and individuals’ lives.  Mediations Biennale in Poznan, Poland has yet to announce its programme for 2014 but an earlier edition had a special focus on Asia. Liverpool Biennial (5 July – 26 August) has launched an online journal in the run up to the next Biennial.  Stages presents new writing and thinking, and is a space for staging research generated from the Biennial’s year-round programme.

Travelling to Russia for the first time, the roving European biennial, Manifesta 10 – The European Biennial of Contemporary Art (28 June – 31 October) is hosted by The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Elsewhere in Russia, the Moscow International Biennial for Young Art (26 June – 10 August) on the theme ‘A Time for Dreams’ has run an open call for works and curatorial proposals, attracting a lot of  attention on so we hope for good Asia-Europe participation.  The Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art in Ekaterinburg is due a 3rd edition in 2014 so keep an eye on that website for details.

Literature festivals

Asia continues to be a hotbed of literary festivals. The year opens with the flagship event in India which has parented many of the newer Asian literature festivals – Jaipur Literature Festival (17-21 January), described as “the largest free literary festival on earth”. Well worth planning a visit some time, to open your mind and expand your reading habits.

Following on comes the Irrawaddy Literature Festival (14-16 February) in Myanmar – for its 2nd edition ILF takes the road to Mandalay and takes place in a UNESCO World Heritage Site that holds the world’s largest book, inscribed on 729 marble tablets. Pakistan has a trio of interesting literature festivals in the first part of the year: Karachi Literature Festival (7-9 February) and the newer Islamabad Literature Festival are organised in partnership with Oxford University Press, while Lahore Literary Festival (23-24 February) aims to bring together, discuss and celebrate the diverse and pluralistic literary tradition that distinguishes Lahore as a city of arts, activism and big ideas.

bookwormbeijingChina also sees literature festivals in the early part of the year with the Shanghai International Literature Festival (March 7-18) and the sister Capital Literary Festival Beijing (March 20-24).  The large-scale Bookworm Literary Festival (March 7-21) centres on Beijing with 90 Chinese and international speakers from 24 countries.

In Wellington, New Zealand, Writers Week (7-12 March) is part of the New Zealand International Arts Festival.  You can find a calendar of the many literature festivals in Australia throughout the year. And a major new Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts is coming to London (29 May – 1 June) this year.

Edinburgh Book Festival (9-25 August) has a huge programme featuring over 800 writers and thinkers and is dedicated to ‘big ideas’. Later in the year in Asia you can catch the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (October 1-5) in Bali, Singapore Writers Festival (Oct 31 – Nov 9), the  George Town Literary Festival (November),  4th Mumbai International Literary Festival (14-17 November) and Hong Kong International Literary Festival (November).


It’s also good to follow who are this year’s literary honoured guests, to see what Asia-Europe connections feature in the worlds of publishing and literature. The Salon du Livre Paris (21-24 March) presents the City of Shanghai as Guest of Honour with 15 invited authors, while London Book Fair (8-10 April) puts the Spotlight on Korea for its 2014 Market Focus.

Frankfurt Book Fair (8-12 October) has Finland as guest country in 2014, under the slogan Finnland. Cool. 2014 is also the centenary of the birth of one of Finland’s literary stars, Tove Jansson, and arts and literary events and exhibitions are touring Finland, Europe and several cities of Japan, a country that loves the Moomin characters and stories.


And that’s just the TIP OF THE ICEBERG of some of the great arts and culture events taking place in Asia and Europe this year!  So don’t forget that if you are organising a cultural event in Europe with Asian involvement, or if your arts programme in Asia has participation from Europe, let us know.’s users are interested in a wide range of arts and culture events and are quick to pass on content through social media. You can upload your events on our Facebook page or email it to us for review for the main site.

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By People / In Cities : Jakarta Art Biennale | SIASAT Fri, 10 Jan 2014 08:38:31 +0000 Sali Sasaki (佐々木 沙梨)

Can art and artists help build a more balanced society in Jakarta? At the pace in which the city is developing, it seems like a tremendous challenge. But artists throughout history have been those who speak out to shake up the minds and conscious of people. To that end, the 15th Jakarta Biennale literally offered them the concrete urban space to do so.  Read More

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Jakarta is one of the fastest growing cities in Asia and among the most populated cities in the world. While navigating through the density of Jakarta road traffic, one cannot help but notice the sharp contrasts that define the urban space: the rising towers versus the shabby makeshift structures, the colourful street vendors versus the glossy shopping malls, the imposing SUVs versus the motorcycles passing in between them. Each trait is distinctive, yet together they fit within the chaotic nature of Jakarta.

In his introduction about the 15th Jakarta Biennale, Executive Director, Ade Darmawan, describes Jakarta as a “fragmented city, one that is difficult for citizens to experience wholly and comprehensively”. It is with this reality in mind that the 15th Jakarta Biennale takes its theme this year: SIASAT.

The word is borrowed from the Arabic siyasah and its meaning is versatile. In certain contexts, it suggests investigation or criticism, while in others it is about politics, trickery, tactics, or “a reason to achieve certain ends”. Depending on its usage it can either serve as a verb or a noun.

“Through SIASAT, the Jakarta Biennale 2013 aims to re-examine the position and artistic practices of the public in getting around, siasat-ing the constraints, instabilities, problems, threats, as well as seizing the potentials and opportunities presented by the urban space.” – Ade Darmawan

The largest venue of the Biennale may be considered a Siasat of its own, hijacking the basement parking area of Taman Ismail Marzuki, otherwise known as the Jakarta Art and Culture Center, and offering a broad display of works by 40 artists from Indonesia, the region and beyond. Other smaller Siasat-like interventions are scattered across the city as Ruang Kota (city spaces), some working as bold statements on Indonesian society [social challenges, corruption,crime, cultural identity…] and even some serving therapeutic messages for people stuck in traffic after a long day at work.


Danuri / Pak Nur “honesty is our most precious possession”, “hopefully my words are like my heart and also my deeds” – Photo courtesy of Jakarta Art Biennale

The history of the Biennale is a good way to understand the evolution of art in Indonesia, and is a mirror that reflects how artists have shifted from an art based on representation to one that is focused on intervention. The event started in 1974 as the “Exhibition of Indonesian Paintings”, which later took the name “Painting Biennale”. Through a process of defining itself over many decades, the name Jakarta Art Biennale was established in 1993 to be more inclusive of various art forms and genres. This 15th edition addresses many questions about the role of art and artists in contemporary urban life and in relationship to local communities.

While contemporary art would seem to be unfamiliar to a majority of citizens in Jakarta, a number of local artists and collectives have initiated projects that seek the direct participation of under-privileged residents and communities. In that respect, the most local and culturally-specific components of this Biennale may be the workshops organised in turn by Abdulrahman Saleh alias MAMAN, Akumassa, Enrico Halim, Jatiwangi Art Factory & TROTOARt.


Enrico Halim, Community project with “non artists” from street vendors to students – Photo courtesy of Jakarta Art Biennale.


Abdulrahman Saleh alias MAMAN, Lokakarya Workshop to beautify the carts of scrap collectors with their own “words of wisdom” – Photo courtesy of Jakarta Art Biennale.

Questions revolving around the struggle to retain local culture and identity in the face of globalisation are common in the realm of contemporary art these days. In Jakarta, artists show a deep concern about those who are “left behind”, and who are also the very individuals that embody a strong sense of local identity and culture. By highlighting those neglected by a rapidly-changing society, local artists manage to raise questions about the cruel impact of economic development in relationship to social and cultural changes taking place in Southeast Asia.

Can art and artists help build a more balanced society in Jakarta? At the pace in which the city is developing, it seems like a tremendous challenge. But artists throughout history have been those who speak out to shake up the mind and consciousness of people. To that end, the 15th Jakarta Biennale literally offered them the concrete urban space to do so.

By people / In Cities is a series of articles and interviews that aims to enhance the understanding of art and culture through individual stories and perspectives including those of artists, cultural practitioners, and policy makers.

Cover photo: Jakarta Biennale – Artist: Eko Nugroho 


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Luxembourg | A cultural profile Fri, 20 Dec 2013 03:25:56 +0000

Luxembourg, the capital of the Grand Duchy holding the same name, is the smallest capital city in the European Union. With a population of 100 000 inhabitants, it is also one of the smallest capital in the world. 67 % of the population are foreigners, mostly coming from European countries.   Read More

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Contributed by Florent Petit



The Neumünster Abbey Cultural Exchange Center (CCRN)


Luxembourg, the capital of the Grand Duchy holding the same name, is the smallest capital city in the European Union. With a population of 100 000 inhabitants, it is also one of the smallest capital in the world. 67 % of the population are foreigners, mostly coming from European countries. With this highly cosmopolitan atmosphere and three official languages (Luxembourgish, French and German), Luxembourg appears as a truly international capital with a unique linguistic context, a place looking a little bit like a concentrate of Europe.

Often presented as one of the richest nation in the world, The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has been designated by the World Bank as the country with the highest GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita. Besides, Luxembourg is sometimes quoted as the city with the highest purchasing power in Europe and it has been ranked in 2012 as the safest city in the world with the lowest crime rate.

With the presence of the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank, the European Court of Auditors and Eurostat, Luxembourg is doubling its population every day receiving up to 100 000 commuters from neighbouring countries who come in to work.

Considering the 150 international banks settled in the capital, one could think that the reputation of the city and the whole country only relies on its business sector. But it is clear that this economic prosperity has served an interesting and quite unique cultural development when you take into account the size of this capital and the diversity of its population. Some aspects of local cultural policies have indeed integrated an international approach, casting bridges with neighbouring countries and offering a concrete vision of what European cultural projects can be.

Due to its small size and its international population, there is a need for the cultural structures based in Luxembourg to think their action on a European level, with a international mentality and programs developed for audiences speaking different languages and with different cultures and backgrounds.

All cultural venues in town, whether they deal with visual or performing arts, have their communication supports and programs at least available in three languages (French, German, English) and sometimes more with texts written in Luxembourgish, Dutch or Portuguese (an important community from Portugal is living there).

The Neumünster Abbey Cultural Exchange Center (CCRN) Palace of the Grand Dukes, situated in the core of the Old Town The Neumünster Abbey Cultural Exchange Center (CCRN) The Bock Casemates on the left and the Neumünster Abbey on the rigth, with the Alzette river inbetween Montée du Gründ The Alzette river running through the Ville basse The Cathedral to the Blessed Virgin and Luxembourg Town Hall The Philharmonie, designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc Fort Thüngen and the glass roofs of MUDAM (by American architect Ieoh Ming Pei) on the background Panorama of the Old Town seen from Dräi Eechelen Park.


Indeed, a great attention has been given to the population living just on the other side of the borders (whether this is Belgium, France or Germany) as most of the cultural offer is trying to draw people coming from beyond the national borders. Thus, the Great Region entity (FR : Grande Région / DE : Gross Region), a trans border European project gathering the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg with the French Region of Lorraine, The German Landers of Saarland and Rheinland-Pfaz, and the Wallonie Region in Belgium, has become for cultural leaders (as well as officials and policy makers) the most relevant frame work to think and build their action. Four initiatives perfectly illustrate this:

  • The web portal is available in three languages (French / English / German) and allows each participating region to disseminate cultural content to foreign audiences. It presents the culture and art (exhibitions, shows, concerts, venues…) in the Great Region adopting a broad vision. Co-funded by the Great Duchy of Luxembourg along with neighbouring regions, the project is handled by a liaison office based in Luxembourg city. This tool has been made for a public who turned as a way of life the crossing of borders for work but also for leisure or entertainment reasons.
  • Another example of an artistic project that blurred the borders is the Mono Art Biennale, held in 2012. It gathered fifteen institutions scattered through Luxembourg, the French Region of Lorraine and the German Lander of Saarland around one project: presenting during one summer twenty monographic exhibitions of modern and contemporary artists.
  • The Espace Culturel Grande Région, initiated by the Grand Duchy in 2007, using the dynamic generated by the designation of Luxembourg as European Capital of culture that year, is organizing and supporting trans boundaries projects in order to make visible the vitality of the art scene of the region, whether it comes from Belgium, France, Germany or Luxembourg. The structure is for example providing grants to projects creating a link between cultural practitioners working in these countries. It also delivers every two years the Robert Schuman Art Price, doted with 10 000 euros. The organisation of the prize and jury is made jointly by Luxembourg city with the cities of Metz (France), Trier and Saarbrucken (Germany).
  • Also worth considering to illustrate these efforts to put forward emerging talents in the contemporary art field and pay attention to young creators with a wider scope than national limits is the Edward Steichen Award Luxembourg. This prize bears the name of the former curator for Photography at the Moma in New York in the 50’s. Steichen, who was born in Luxembourg, made most of his career in the United States and became one the most famous photographers of all time. The prize is awarded every two years to a young artist aged between 25 and 35 years, living and working anywhere in the Great Region. The recipient is also invited for a six-month stay in the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York. The organization of this award is made by a not for profit structure based in Luxembourg and mostly funded by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Grand Duchy.

As we can see, strong support has been provided to culture via public funds coming from the State and the City council, consecutive to the emergence of Luxembourg as an international hub for finance since the 80′s. But private funding is also noticeable, as the Private Art Kirchberg initiative can demonstrate. Held every year during one day in September, the private collections of the banks established in Luxemburg city are open to the public for a contemporary art promenade through the Kirchberg district (this area is the home of almost all the representations of international banks in Luxembourg). A curator is invited every year to pick its favourite works in each collection and to propose a stroll where hidden treasures of contemporary art can be enjoyed.

Moreover, Luxembourg has made a lot of efforts to “exist” along bigger and more visible cultural cities in the vicinity such as Brussels, Köln or Strasbourg. Parts of this strategy rely on developing world-class cultural venues with the help of famous architects. The MUDAM – Musée d’art moderne Grand-Duc Jean, for instance, has become a renowned home for international contemporary art. The museum, inaugurated in 2006, has been created by Sino-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei and built on the vestiges of Fort Thüngen, a 18th century fortress. Just next to this museum, the Philharmonie designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc and home of the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, has become in less than ten years one of the most renowned philharmonic hall in Europe.

Another highlight of the local cultural scene is the Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain. Located right in the heart of the city and hosted in a former casino built at the end of 19th century, this art centre was opened in 1996 and proposes since then an international exhibition program and artistic residencies with a special focus on young creators. Today, the Casino stands as one of the best place in the Great Region to get in touch with the latest trends of the contemporary art scene.

These dynamic examples in the visual arts also have their counterparts in the performing arts. The 3CL (Centre de Création Chorégraphique Luxembourgeois) is a centre committed to support contemporary dance via the production and promotion of choreographic projects with a special attention given to experimental works. Through his different programs, the 3CL has set close ties with international partners, located within the Grande Région and beyond. It has for example invited artists from Austria, France, Italy, India, Japan and Hong-Kong for residencies. The 3 CL also organises the Danz Festival Lëtzebuerg, the most important event related to contemporary dance in the country, which will celebrate its tenth edition in 2014.

Located not far from the 3CL, close to Luxembourg Central Station in the southern part of the city, CarréRotondes is a multidisciplinary art centre presenting dance, live music and contemporary visual art exhibitions. The place welcomes artists, groups and companies from all over Europe for live performances of contemporary dance, circus and independent electronic and rock music. The structure will soon mark a new step in its history, leaving its actual compound set in a former fabric to relocate in 2014 in two roundabouts (“Rotondes”) formerly used as locomotive sheds and situated just next to the impressive train station.

All these remarkable cultural venues have certainly contributed through their activities, bearing a strong international flavour, to turn Luxembourg art scene into a brighter spot on the European map.

It is clear that Luxembourg has succeeded to attenuate different kinds of boundaries (geographical, national, linguistic) to become an attractive territory within the European Union on the economic level and for work reasons. But it would be much unfair to limit this attraction to the sole business sector. This capital has also become a cultural platform with a strong identity and a mind of its own, a model that draw attention from far beyond the Grand Duchy limits, setting as priorities to bring together regional partners and strengthening the cooperation of cultural operators.

With its small dimensions, The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg clearly felt that carrying out cultural projects with partners settled on the other side of its frontiers was an absolute necessity more than an option. Despite this peculiar European context, Luxembourg cultural scene, with its trans borders and multilingual projects, can certainly be considered as a valuable example for other regions in the world.


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). 

Photo Credits: Aurelie Champ

Other links:


Other cultural institutions not mentioned in the article:

Abbaye de Neumünster – Centre Culturel de Rencontre (Abbey of Neumünster – Cultural Exchange Center):

Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (Luxembourg City History Museum):

Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art (National Museum of History and Art):

Villa Vauban – Musée d’Art de la Ville de Luxembourg (Luxembourg City Art Museum):

Musée Dräi Eechelen :

Théâtre de la ville de Luxembourg  (Theaters of the City of Luxembourg):

Indie music venue :

Centre National de l’Audiovisuel (National Centre for Image, based in Dudelange, very near the French border) :

Official cultural web portal of the Great Duchy of Luxembourg:

Contemporary art galleries :

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The First Climate Art Festival in Yogyakarta: an Indonesian-German arts exchange on climate change and sustainability Mon, 16 Dec 2013 06:16:44 +0000 Katerina Valdivia Bruch

Katerina Valdivia Bruch held an interview with Christina Schott, co-initiator and organiser of the Climate Art Festival, in Yogjakarta Indonesia.   Read More

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Buyung, one of the performers during Sandiwara Alam

Buyung, one of the performers during Sandiwara Alam


Climate change has been a current global topic during the last few years. At the moment, the consequences of the last typhoon in the Philippines or the chemical disaster in Fukushima, are examples on how human intervention in nature might affect our environment or put it in danger.

The subject of man-made natural disasters, that result in climate change, is the core of the first Climate Art Festival in Yogyakarta, held in the city and rural areas of Yogyakarta, Indonesia this October. From October 2nd  to 24th, the festival offered an extensive programme with workshops, performances, concerts and art exhibitions. One of its aims is to promote an awareness on environmental care amongst the local communities.

However, this topic is not new in the Indonesian arts community. Previously, there have been a number of artists that have worked with local communities addressing environmental issues. For instance, Cemeti Art House with their exhibition series Bocor (Leak) in 2007-2008. In Germany, there is a general agenda on environment care and it is quite common to find artists working in environmental projects. Having this in mind, the initiators of the festival – Yogyakarta-based German journalist Christina Schott and Indonesian environmental activist and journalist Ade Tanesia – organised a festival, that was at the same time an exchange project between Indonesia and Germany. Together with a group of activists and art practitioners from Indonesia and Germany, they developed a programme that encouraged the audience to reflect on the environment, but also cooperated locally to foster the awareness on environmental issues within the local communities.

Katerina Valdivia Bruch held an interview with Christina Schott, co-initiator and organiser of the Climate Art Festival.


Performance during the exhibition Ground Zero
Forest in front of Arahmaiani's installation Memory of Nature Artist Talk during the finissage of Ground Zero Forest Maybe it's not always about trying to fix something
broken, maybe it's about starting over and creating something better Buyung, one of the performers during Sandiwara Alam Anna Peschke and Natalie Driemeyer after a garbage recollecting action
as part of the preparation of Sandiwara Alam Anna Peschke offering food to the audience, final session of Sandiwara
Alam in the rice fields Take Care of this Land Traditional women's choir for the rice harvest during Sandiwara
Alam Sweet Dreams are Made of This


KVB [Katerina Valdivia Bruch]: Is the festival more an exchange of knowledge or an expertise transfer through arts?


CS [Christina Schott]: It is more an exchange of knowledge, but at some point there were also expertise transfers through artistic approaches. During the community festival we held in Ledok Tukangan village in the centre of Yogyakarta, artists and activists worked together and introduced the villagers to some recycling techniques and urban gardening methods. This exchange of knowledge was done through creative workshops, in which they produced handicraft and small artwork from recycled waste materials, but also via performances with songs or theatre pieces about environmental topics, or with the creation of a village garden on permacultural principles.


KVB: In which sense do you think that art might promote public awareness on environmental issues?


CS: Visual arts, music and performance are media, capable of reaching  a broader audience and opening new possibilities to communicate these subjects with communities. Instead of using an abstract or a scientific vocabulary, people can be reached in an entertaining way. Some workshops might initiate concrete projects, in which the participants can experience directly the effects of their activities. Some of these might continue after the festival and offer examples for others to think in a sustainable way.


KVB: Did you incorporate the previous reflections on art and environment by the local arts scene while you were organising the festival?


CS: Only a handful of artists in Indonesia create artwork with environmental topics in a serious way, not to mention climate change. It’s probably not so sexy for the market. The same goes for music. This is exactly one of the reasons why we wanted to connect art to this topic: to make it more popular. The artists we invited were already dedicating their work to environmental problems.


KVB: In your introduction you speak about climate change, which has to do with the current trend on global warming. How did the artists approach this topic?


CS: The best example of this was given by  singer and guitarist Tomi Simatupang: the Indonesian-born and Berlin-based musician worked with his German drummer and Indonesian fellow musicians on several songs on forest fires, greenhouse effect or traffic congestion. To arrange text and sound in a way that the village people could understand their meaning, the musicians started with a children workshop in a village outside Yogyakarta. First, they asked the kids to draw whatever they thought would be an environmental problem. Later, they got an introduction on reasons for climate change and learned to produce musical sounds with any kind of instrument, from bamboo sticks to iron cans. The results poured all into a final composition.


KVB: How did you get in touch with the local communities and engage them to be part of the project?


In the case of Ledok Tukangan village, we used the classical way: The project coordinator approached first the village head and then, with the help of local residents, we got in touch with different groups within the community, i.e. the local women organisation, a creative studio for children and so on. In the end, almost the whole community was involved. During other events, for example the performance Sandiwara Alam, the community was engaged with the help of Indonesian artists living among them. The artists helped us to motivate, for instance, an old women’s Lesung Choir  to become part of the performance.


KVB: How was the experience with the artists and the communities? How was the response of the locals?


CS: Generally, the local residents showed interest and enthusiasm. There has been little action from the local government to take action concerning environmental problems or regarding the effects of climate change. That is why we needed time to explain the purpose and benefits of the project. It was not a one-day-job. There was an intense commitment of the project managers, who had to attend many meetings with villagers and other organisations. On the other hand, events like the art performance in Nitiprayan village or the bicycle carnival,  attracted many people. While the regular art scene in Yogyakarta took the festival as another ordinary art event, the street art community, film clubs and children art organisations responded with enthusiasm.


KVB: Is there any outcome or skill that the community developed from the exchange with the artists? Do you think that they will continue with some of the suggested ideas?


CS: Certainly, the Ledok Tukangan people will continue to use some of the newly learned skills, such as the way to recycle waste into products. Some of these might even achieve monetary profit from recycling. Besides this, the permaculture village garden will be continued and expanded. We hope that in the other villages we worked,  the local people will adapt and maintain some of the suggested ideas. However, it is not enough to organise a one-time-event: To achieve a long term effect, we need to continue the Climate Art Festival on a regular, sustainable basis, for example as a biennial event.


KVB: Thank you very much, Christina. I think it is a great initiative and I am looking forward to hear news on further editions of the festival.

Photos:  courtesy Christina Schott

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Exchange, Cooperation and Cultural Mobility: Visions from Vietnam | Interview with Nguyen Phuong Hoa Thu, 14 Nov 2013 02:03:06 +0000

In order to deepen the research on cultural mobility and to keep exploring the Asia-Europe connection, culture360 contributor Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio took the opportunity to interview Nguyen Phuong Hoa, Deputy Director General at the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam.  Read More

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Hoa_picture_HermanBashiron_MCST_VietnamThe increasingly important issue of cultural mobility and its multiple aspects involve not only artistic and cultural organisations, or artists and cultural practitioners, but also those political institutions that deal with culture, diplomacy and international relations.

In order to deepen the research on cultural mobility and to keep exploring the Asia-Europe connection, culture360 contributor Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio took the opportunity to interview Nguyen Phuong Hoa, Deputy Director General at the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam.

Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio: Could you please introduce your department in the Ministry of Culture of Vietnam and tell me which are your main aims and activities?

Nguyen Phuong Hoa: The Department can be defined as “a bridge that connects Viet Nam and the world in culture, sport, tourism and family issues”.

Main activities:

  • Negotiate and sign bilateral and international agreements on cultural exchange/ cultural cooperation (42 agreements in the last 5 years)
  • Represent Viet Nam at international cultural fora
  • Manage the operation of Viet Nam Cultural Centres abroad and overlook foreign cultural centres in Viet Nam
  • Organise Vietnamese Cultural Days/Week/Month/Year abroad
  • Facilitate the organisation of foreign cultural programmes and events in Viet Nam
  • Cooperate with other Vietnamese authorities/agencies in hosting international arts festivals in Viet Nam

HBM: Do you have any specific programme related with artistic and cultural mobility?

NPH: Every year, the Ministry has a specific budget allocated to the Department for receiving in-coming delegations and sending out-going delegations abroad.

2008: 1.624 outgoing people, and 891 incoming visitors
2009: 1.750 outgoing people, and 1.28 incoming visitors
2010: 1.861 outgoing people, and 1.143 incoming visitors
2011: 1.159 outgoing people, and 1.705 incoming visitors
2012: 1.689 outgoing people, and 978 incoming visitors

The purposes of the outbound delegations include exchange of artists, participation in international festival, organisation of Vietnamese cultural days abroad, study tours.

HBM: What kind of cultural mobility projects do you develop and/or fund?


  • Send art troupes to perform in Viet Nam Cultural Days/Week/Month aboard
  • Fund Vietnamese artists to take part in International Arts Festivals/International Fairs/Contests
  • Give patronage to arts event organised by foreign partners (Embassy, Cultural Centres, Corporate: Hennessy Concert, Toyota Concert)

HBM: Do you think that mobility and exchange are important for artists and cultural operators? Why?

NPH: It is important to fund cultural mobility because it is an effective way to promote cultural exchanges between countries, thus enhancing mutual understanding between peoples, cherishing tolerance, social inclusion and nourishing cultural diversity.

For artists and cultural operators, exchange and mobility can help to broaden their eyes, open their minds, enrich their experiences, enhance their professional capacity and strengthen networking. It opens new opportunities and horizons.

HBM: How do you select artists, researchers or cultural operators? How is your evaluation process?

NPH: The programme funded by the Ministry limited to artists, researchers, cultural operators working in the state owned institutions/theatres. The selection based on their reputed programmes and their ability to produce a tailor-made programme to the receiving country.

Evaluation is made basing on reports from the art-troupe, the co-organisers abroad (the Embassy/ the organising committee of the festival etc) and media review (if any).

HBM: What do you think about the relationship between mobility and education?

NPH: Mobility is an important part of self-learning process. As mentioned before, it contributes to cultural exchange which can enrich education.

HBM: Which is your internationalisation strategy? What kind of partnerships, networks and international collaborations are you currently developing?

NPH: The Government of Vietnam approved the Cultural Diplomacy Strategy in 2009 and is developing another Cultural Internationalisation Strategy. The aim of the strategies are to enhance the understanding of the world about Viet Nam and its culture, thus, building mutual trust, strengthening relations between Viet Nam and other countries towards a sustainable, stable cooperation, so that, the position of the country can be raised, creating favourable conditions for the country’s socio-economic development. On the other hand, through cultural exchange and cooperation, Viet Nam could absorb quintessence of the world cultures, thus, enriching and diversifying its traditional culture.

Viet Nam welcomes all stakeholders, from public and private sectors, at national and local level to participate in the delivery of the strategy. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam maintains close partnerships with foreign embassies in Viet Nam and foreign cultural centres (e.g. EUNIC) in Viet Nam in organising cultural activities. Public-private partnership is also encouraged, such as partnership with Toyota, Kumho, CJ etc…

HBM: Talking about obstacles in mobility, what is your policy in relation to Visa issues? Do you have any plan in order to improve the visa procedures for artists and cultural operators?

NPH: Visa is still an obstacle in mobility. For official exchange programme such as German Year in Viet Nam, Viet Nam Cultural Year in France or French Cultural Year in Viet Nam, two parties have negotiated a free visa mechanism for artists (fee exemption), or created a facilitation process for visa issuance.

In an effort to facilitate the coming of visitors to Viet Nam, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has recently convinced the Prime Minister to maintain the policy of no entry visa to Viet Nam (up to 15 days) for visitors from Russia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

HBM: What is your vision for the future?

NPH: Cultural exchange and mobility is irreversible trend in the integrated world. Given the stated above benefits it may bring about for individual artists and for the whole society, Governments should make policies, grant funds and create favourable conditions to facilitate cultural exchange and mobility of artists and cultural operators.

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