Professor Brouwer: ‘Culture is a necessity in times of crises’

Professor Brouwer: ‘Culture is a necessity in times of crises’
Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014
25-04-2013 A+ A-
‘You should not forget that entire town will be like a huge stage. Culture is not restricted only to the opera house or exhibition halls,’ reminds professor from Netherlands Jan Brouwer in conversation with cultural portal 'Riga 2014' on the day after the seminar ‘How creative spirit and joined endeavor can change your life for better,’ organized by 'Riga 2014.' We discuss the essence and meaning of honor and duty of being European Capital of Culture.

Mister Brouwer, whose object of research has been the notion of culture and the influence of the most varied cultural expressions on the society, for almost 10 years now, underlines the immense significance of involving the public and volunteers. To order a courtyard, to grow an urban vegetable garden, to create a new environmental object, to participate in an action piece, to engage in care for the elderly, to work collectively and improve the everyday life and surrounding environment by the use of creative ideas – this is precisely the edge of culture, which, according to professor, is priority in processes of planning the year of European Capital of Culture. And that is what he wishes for Riga to achieve.

‘You can’t escape that European Film Awards ceremony now!’ professor makes light of the fact as, for him, the most important fete is redirection of thinking, a kick start  for new development and finding the balance in the value system of the society. Of course, a year is insufficient to expect an immediate result, but it is enough to create impetus for change.
 

Experience of previous European Capitals of Culture has been diverse. Liverpool (European Capital of Culture in 2008) and Lille (- in 2004), where the most pressing problems were formulated and significant cultural processes set in motion after the year of European Capital of Culture, as well as sustainable projects – launched and social perception – changed, are mentioned by Jan Brouwer as positive examples.

‘Marseilles has a program with art and culture in capital letters, while Kosice for instance is more turned on projects of public participation,’ professor compares both present European capitals of culture in conversation with 'Riga 2014.' Kosice has earned more of his personal support; besides, he has given his own helping hand to a project implemented in Slovakia, where, following the initiative of the public, the abandoned houses in sleeping districts went to be painted artistically.

Photo: Kaspars Garda – Riga 2014

Asked if his ideas and methods sit uniformly with different nations and mentalities, Jan Brouwer answers in negative. ‘You have to talk to people and listen what they have to say, every place has a process of its own. Even such neighboring nations as Belgians and Dutch can differ starkly – the Belgians are more reserved and shy to express their views, while the Dutch… oh, just give them a chance to talk and have a verbal fight!’

In turn, the presentation of projects prepared in Latvia (The Courtyard Movement ‘En-rooters’ of the Big Give-a-hand Initiative, Photo Self-portraits etc.) has made professor notice that the main initiative here is in the hands of women. But he thinks it is an inspiring fact that the process is on and the projects are active even before the year of European Capital of Culture.

‘Culture is a necessity in times of crises,’ professor Jan Brouwer repeatedly underlines. ‘It is not the entertainment where you are a passive observer, but a road to new discoveries and ideas, your path to a wider mode of thinking. Culture alone will not resolve the crisis, of course, but it must be used as instrument to stimulate human creativity and collaboration skills, which, in turn, will encourage economy, integration, solution of social problems and so on in the future,’ professor explains.

Education in culture and arts is no less important. It is true that in Netherlands there are problems in this respect as well. Like in Latvia, the crises has resulted there in financial reductions, closure of music and art schools, cuts in art and creative subject curriculums in secondary education. 

‘Schools prepare future participants of the job market, but overlook the development of pupils’ creative faculties,’ professor is convinced. He aligns culture and sports, which were luxury available only to narrow elite even as late as in the 19th century, with great certainty. Today, its many disciplines are our everyday experience, and no one needs to be convinced that it is the best way to maintain the spirit fresh and develop the body. Meanwhile, culture is still perceived as extravagance, although it is the same form of ‘health and development’ training for human brain and mind as sports are for the physical body, Jan Brouwer purports.

Art

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