"Economy versus Culture? Such pigeonhole thinking was a bad habit of the nineteenth century “. (Bodo Hombach, Moderator of the Initiativkreis Ruhr) In the context of the Forum d'Avignon Ruhr 2012 - a unique European-wide dialog and action platform, which is a French-German partnership on culture & economy - high-carat representatives from politics, economy as well as creative minds and artists met on the 9th of March 2012, for the first time in the SANAA building at the Zollverein World Heritage site in Essen to discuss possible alliances of creativity and economy.
In the interplay with the Forum d'Avignon, the european centre for creative economy (ecce), a spin-off from the European Capital of Cultural RUHR.2010, dedicated itself at the 1st Forum d'Avignon Ruhr to the economic, social and cultural changes, which emerge with the continuing digitisation of the 21st century. The objective, as Dieter Gorny (managing director of the european centre for creative economy - ecce) says, is to shape these changes and thus to achieve a sustainable growth for cross-sector strategies contributing to culture, economy, technology media and politics. The central questions, which were discussed at three sessions with different key subjects were: What can and must be done and which alliances must be entered in order to maintain Europe’s competitiveness and sustainability in an area of conflicting globalised economies, technological innovations as well as cultural tradition and experience?
f.l. Hermann Vaske, Kurt Mehnert, Ute Schäfer, Dieter Gorny, Nicolas Seydoux
The pluralistic compilation of the three podiums was a guarantor for a lively discourse – food for thoughts was given not at the interface but at the points of friction, new processes were launched and the necessity of strategic partnerships in culture and economy in a digitally networked society outlined. “Creative people are no beggars!” are the bold words with which Nicolas Seydoux, president of the Forum d’Avignon opened the discussion and content wise he was supported by Günter Winands, head of culture and media section of the commissioner of the Federal Government: “Without this appreciation for creative work, we are risking the loss of thousands of workplaces in culture and creative economy on the long run! It is important that we - and not only the politics – point out these interconnections more vehemently and thus mediate the importance hereof.”
Hannelore Kraft, Prime Minister of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, referred to what can arise from culture and creative work and the importance she gives to this topic: “Culture is the yeast in the dough and not only the cream topping on the cake”. The chairman of the German Social Democratic Party, Sigmar Gabriel demanded financial support for the “future market, in which there are already 1 million people working. Germany is an economic giant and a cultural dwarf – clearly Berlin must provide more financial means, otherwise we drain our cities and communities and we drain our society culturally.” “In future, the innovative strength of a region such as the Ruhr Region will also depend on, as to what extend a region is networking with other Metropolises”, says the minister Ute Schäfer. “Therefore, for creative cities, the European and international exchange is of utmost importance”. Within the think tank, apart from the changes of the working processes of creative minds, a particular important focal point of discussion was the copyright in the digital networking, since it reflects to the creative minds the respect and appreciation of their work. Sascha Lobo, author and blogger, commented this: “The extensive discussion showed that it is not merely one topic, but an array of topics. The only chance is, not to think culture and economy in mere terms of inter- and multi-discipline, but as whole, huge principle: How does this world function and how does it change… “
Hanelore Kraft, Prime Minister of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia
During the noticeably exciting, heterogeneous discussions, in which friction heat became tangible, there was always consent: the demand for appreciation of culture, the necessity of its funding and its economic significance as well as the importance of this debate, however the path leading there was described from different points of view. Frequently, forward thinking and keenness for experiment were demanded, so for example by Heiner Goebbels, Director of the Ruhrtriennale, with his unmistakable Statement: “We must use this imminent cut as an opportunity: not with the objective to save the biggest and the heaviest tankers; but to create other contemporary production methods and to establish them as models. Production methods, which are not subject to institutional gravity, but ones which are ideal laboratories for the future”. The Participants commented repeatedly that the format of “Forum d'Avignon Ruhr” bears exactly these characteristics. Prime Minister Kraft on the meeting: “These are discussions, which carry me forward, because people who come from different fields tick differently. With this common creative work, one can achieve positive results” Dieter Gorny was pleased about the successful launch into (future) co-operation between Forum d'Avignon and Forum d'Avignon Ruhr and summarised at the end of the meeting the utmost importance of think tanks as follows: “Debate platforms such as Forum d'Avignon Ruhr have an immense significance for the European development, particularly if they are the source of so much inspiration, fantasy, creativity and contradiction. If these impulses have their source here, that is the best thing that can happen.”
"Why Are You Creative?" Exhibition by Hermann Vaske
The Forum d'Avignon Ruhr is a co-operation between the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010 spin-off european centre for creative economy (ecce) and the Forum d'Avignon. Hermann Vaske’s exhibition “Why Are You Creative?” provided the artistic framework for the meeting.
Pictures: Forum d'Avignon Ruhr (Ruhr.2010)/Manfred Vollmer