Apartments become stages: a different way of performing and enjoying arts

The night begins with an improvisation that mixed sax music, dance and visuals. Then, a small walk leads to a penthouse where “A mother”, monologue of Dario Fo and Franca Rame, takes place, leaving the audience in the room breathless; Juliette, a beautiful French dancer, warmly welcomes us at her house and suggests us to take a tour of her small penthouse in the neighborhood of Poble Sec. And then, she offers tomato juice and a homemade French quiche.

bianca combine

Bianca Rubino│biancarubino@gmail.com

“Hello! Welcome! Please, come on in!” No, we are not friends of our host; we are entering at a private home to enjoy a performance.

In time of crisis and financial cuts that affect severely the cultural sector and in which, for example, emerged a movement of occupied theatres, a new artistic trend takes shape: performances in apartments. Recently, Barcelona, a city with a diverse cultural offer, has hosted two events of this kind: Hors Lits and BIOROOM. They both have this new idea of performing in common and enjoy a curious and appreciating audience, but they differ in other aspects.

bianca hors lits 3Hors Lits  (Réseau d’Actes Artistiques), which literally means “out of the bed” in French, consists of four performances of twenty minutes each in four different apartments of a given neighborhood in one night. The idea is embedded in the will of breaking down the wall embodying intermediation: it remains a very simple and honest communication between the performer and the public, in any possible place, “even in your bed”. Hors Lits has its origins in France in 2005, when an Argentinian actor decided to react to the problem of not having a space where to perform. Since then, the project has expanded to several French cities and out of France as well: Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Montreuil, Marseille, Paris, Rennes, Vevey, Saint Etienne, Beziers, Séte, and lastly Barcelona, Aix en Provence, and Bruxelles.It is so that “Colectivo Suelto”, namely two French girls, exported the event to Barcelona achieving resounded success and counting already two editions. The latter one had place in a mild night in November, accidentally a day of a general strike against financial cuts, 14th November 2012. The meeting point was a square in the neighborhood of Gracia. The action was repeated the next day with an awesome success.

Once everyone was gathered, we were directed to the first apartment. The night began with an improvisation that mixed sax music, dance and visuals. Then, a small walk led to a penthouse where “A mother”, monologue of Dario Fo and Franca Rame, took place, leaving the audience in the room breathless. Later on, an Italian man was already waiting in the next house to perform Pesto Cooking, and once the pesto flavor invaded the room, it delighted the audience with its taste, while moving towards the next apartment. The last appointment was the staging of a dream between reality and fantasy, lightness and uneasiness, talking frames and moving lampshades. Without noticing it, the route had already come to an end and it was time to say goodbye to all those journey mates of that special night. Hors Lits is getting bigger, as Nîmes and Nantes are joining the network this year. Montpellier will stage in “apartment” again on 27 and 28 March, and so will the Paris Region as well. Barcelona will host the event again in May. The official announcements are available on the website horslits.com/.

bianca BIOROOM3BIOROOM’s project started last year. It can be understood as a “perfomative experience of intimacy” and is strictly connected to a doctoral thesis on “the dramaturgy of reality in the contemporary scene”. So it goes around the theatre of intimacy and the theatre of reality and following the reflections of the historian Michelle Perrot, the house becomes a capsule to represent the city. In contrast to Hors Lits, BIOROOM staged four stories directed by four different directors. One of the stories was about Juliette…Juliette, a beautiful French dancer, warmly welcomed us at her house and suggested us to take a tour of her small penthouse in the neighborhood of Poble Sec. Once everyone was comfortably sitting on the sofa or had arranged him/herself on the floor, she offered tomato juice and a homemade French quiche. After that she began telling her personal story. She spoke of her childhood and her neurologic illness, consequence of isolation from the other children. Looking at her, it was hardly believable, due to her enthusiasm and social skills. The energy and the joy she expressed captivated her guests. The audience became personally involved through a series of philosophical questions and answers about life that were followed by an improvised dance session with Juliette. The last part of our night was a solo dance improvisation, in front of the wall projections of her family pictures. There we found out that her parents were part of the night audience.

The two experiences have different perspectives. They both offer an original approach to experience a space and a place where we do not normally experience a dance or a theater session, starting by discovering the atmosphere, and obliging us to go beyond the idea of an apartment and its rooms. Both proved that sharing food can play an important role by making people suddenly feel more comfortable, relaxed, and open. The main experience remains that fascinating feeling created by the situation of intimacy and cosiness. A place and a time for reflection, to taste a beverage offered by the host, to hear different stories, to be curious and discover new homes, to create more intimacy between the artists and the audience.

BIOROOM’s main objective is to build “an itinerant exhibition”, “an intimate map of the most important cities of the world”, believes Juan Hurraco, BIOROOM’s creator and curator. Thus, after the first edition in Barcelona, this year a second edition will be held in Buenos Aires. On the other hand, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago de Chile might get involved soon as well. Follow the next stories at bioroombarcelona.tumblr.com

Find out when Hors Lits and BIOROOM will perform in a city close to you and do not miss the chance to live this experience.

bianca combine 2

If you liked Bianca’s article, also read Strasbourg: Pas Seulement Capitale Européenne!

Bianca Rubino, Exhibition Editor

Bianca is Italian with Swiss roots. She studied BA Humanities for the study of Culture in Modena, Italy, and went on Erasmus to Malmö, Sweden. She is now enrolled in MA Euroculture , which she studied in the University of Groningen and the University of Strasbourg. She is currently doing an internship at Interarts, based in Barcelona, Spain, in the field of cultural project management and cultural policy. Her interests are anthropology, sociology, artistic and cultural life and institutions, cultural management and policy, and many more. She has the smallest feet a girl ever had.

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Europe: Love or Hate?

Second round of the Second Edition of The Euroculturer

Because we relate

3 January 2013

Do we love or hate Europe? Well, don’t know yet but here are some Euroculturers who decided to love or hate Europe the hard way.

On a rainy day, Rashid laments the loss of his political and platonic love for the EU. Talking to the old and the young only induces fear and frustration. What happened to the European dream? Mario, from Northern Spain, is more optimistic. As a member of the Erasmus generation, he believes in the inherent strength of Europe which runs through the veins of young people. If the old could do, why can’t the young? A piece of news puts Penelope in a time-travel and takes her back to when she was truly happy, loving life and friends, crying, but growing up. So where does she live now after all those years of heartache? Still, between hi and bye. Coming from America and moving to Europe after living in South America for a long time, Mary finds something very weird about Europe. Shouldn’t this place, blessed with better life conditions for more people as it is, do better? She asks this while pointing out the idiosyncrasies she witnessed while adjusting to living in Europe. How blatant can her criticism be? To make Europeans feel better after the hard slap in the face, Heather suggests you watch a hokey pokey dance of Britain, Scotland, and the EU. Will it work?

Too many hot potatoes for a magazine. But again, is it love or hate? Probably, love.

Eunjin Jeong, Editor-in-chief

A Question for Scotland – or is it?

Heather Southwood│Southwood28@gmail.com

“You put your left foot in, your left foot out, in, out, in, out, you shake it all about”*

*the hokey pokey, a dance

Source: Presstv.ir
Source: Presstv.ir

At first glance, this probably describes one of Britain’s (I’m not sure if it extended beyond our borders) awkward dances that took place at every school disco at Primary Schools across the country. However I wonder if this could also be an accurate description of Britain’s policy towards the European Union. I also wonder if this could help explain the peculiar exchange between the EU and Scotland, over the question of Scotland’s potential independence from the UK.

For many years now, the UK has been following a policy of devolution. That is, in Wales and Scotland there has been the implementation of their own ruling authorities that make decisions away from the UK Parliament. This has now led to the discussion over the possibility for Scotland to become an independent state, for which a date has been set for a referendum in which all Scottish citizens from the age of sixteen upwards will have the opportunity to vote upon.

What is perhaps particularly salient in this decision is what this would mean for Scotland and their position in the EU. This has been thrown into the debate as it is important in how the question for the referendum is framed. Does this mean that the EU’s relationship with Scotland as an independent state could be decisive for the citizens in determining the fate of their country?

I think however it is enlightening to look at the Scottish opinion towards this issue. This has the potential to highlight some of the peculiarities of the UK and perhaps this island’s (referring to England, Wales and Scotland) perception as to its position in Europe. As the UK has taken a somewhat ‘rollercoasteresque’ approach to EU policy making, for example the current debate over the repatriation of certain powers, following the previous Governments enthusiasm to signing EU Treaties. Has this approach from the UK influenced the approach Scotland may want to take towards the EU?

Deputy First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has claimed to Members of the Scottish Parliament, that it was a realistic possibility that Scotland could gain its independence from the UK and remain a member of the EU. This was in response to the demand that Scotland must make its position towards the EU clear before they can formulate or go forward with the referendum. What is interesting however is that these words are in direct contradiction to Jose Manuel Barroso who has clearly stated (although not naming Scotland directly) that all new member states would have to reapply to join the EU.

Yet it has been asserted in the debate that if Scotland did become independent, it could remain a member of the EU, the use of phrases such as ‘common sense’ and ‘it being in the interests of Scotland, England and the EU’ perhaps highlight a position of arrogance that can be seen in the UK’s roller coaster approach and actions towards EU policy. This could be reasserted through Sturgeon’s claims that although Scotland should respect Mr Barroso’s words, he was not the one to make the final decision on the issue. These comments are all those which have been asserted within the Scottish Parliament, arguably showing the way the Scottish are framing the discussion.

The problem as I see it is this, if you look at a map of Europe over the past one hundred even two hundred years, it has changed distinctly. One of the most significant changes can be seen through the creation of new states. Currently, we have seen debates over independence in the Basque country, in Catalonia and most of the new states created from the former Yugoslavia are going through the accession process for the EU. If Scotland could walk straight in to EU membership from its position as part of the UK, it would have wide repercussions throughout Europe; repercussions that the EU could not arguably allow. How could the EU negotiate agreements on for example the Euro without the ultimate option of withholding membership as a possibility to be persuasive in its position?

The EU is a potentially influential factor in this question of independence, the issue of Scottish independence and its continuing relationship with the EU would have consequences for Europe as a whole and the way in which the Scottish ministers have shrugged off Mr Barroso’s words perhaps highlight another issue, that of a state thinking itself more important than that of the collective of the EU. This is an interesting contrast to the growth of Eurosceptism within the UK policy that the EU can be so influential within this debate, but it is also important that the EU values and understands the importance of this debate for the EU as an institution. Hence, the question of Scottish independence has a significance beyond the UK’s borders. It will be interesting to see how the debate will continue.

Source: Huffingtonpost.co.uk
Source: huffingtonpost.co.uk

References:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-20664907

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-20709124

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfPg_GzC-HA

If you liked Heather’s article, also read A Luxury: Lack of Borders

Heather Southwood, Copy Editor

Heather is from Manchester, UK, and completed her undergraduate in Law before studying Euroculture in the University of Göttingenand Jagiellonian University, Krakow. She is currently completing a research track in Indianapolis. Her research interests include citizenship and the promotion of belonging in citizens. She also attempts to discover a new national dish she can cook every time she goes somewhere new.

Welcome to the EU: Everything makes sense in theory, but in practice we’re still a bit lost

The idea of the EU is countries working together to strengthen each other so that people can live more prosperous lives in peace. However, instead, it has been a verbal battle ground to decide who’s in, who’s out, who’s to blame and how can I come out ahead.

Mary MacKenty | mkmackenty@gmail.com

mary
permesso di soggiorno

“Dove sei nata?” (Where were you born?), the police officer asked me during what was hopefully the last step in my month-long battle with Italian bureaucracy to get my permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay). What is a permit of stay you might ask? Well, essentially it is a waste of time, considering by the time it is processed I will be leaving Italy. Why you need both a visa and a permit of stay is beyond me, however looking for logic in Italian bureaucracy is utterly useless. I tell the officer that I’m from Massachusetts, however she wants the exact town. The truth is that I don’t know the answer. I’ve lived in three states in the USA, and spent four of the last five years in six other countries. Which hospital I happened to be born in seems quite irrelevant to me. I decide on Brockton because I can’t remember how to spell Stoughton, even though my gut instinct leans towards the latter. If I’d learned anything this month it’s that no one knows anything about this process or cares too much about the quality of my form filling-out ability, so I doubt anyone will get hung-up on this detail.

I’ve side stepped most of it so far…

After these years of studying and working abroad you’d think I’d be used to being a foreigner and dealing with bureaucratic nonsense. However, I have to admit, I’ve side stepped most of it just by keeping my tourist visa in check. I do my best not to complain considering that I find myself fortunate enough to be studying in Europe however, for the sake of this article, I will sum the process up briefly. Go to the post office and get looked at like you’re crazy when you ask for a registration kit. Spend three weeks gently insisting on getting your rental contract. Go to the police to be scolded in a joking manner that you will be deported. Go to the immigration help office and wait forever to be told it was unnecessary. Then, finally, go to the police station to present myself, where all my documents are accepted without batting an eye. It’s not so much the time that’s wasted; it’s the stress from the uncertainty of your legal status and the lack of comprehension that gets you.

In your own country, you don’t see it.

When you live in your own country, you fail to see the hoops other people are jumping through just to live there. You take the benefits of your legal status for granted. The USA is one the hardest countries to get a visa for, but I don’t see that. I have my magical birth certificate, from a city I can’t remember, which exempts me from needing a visa. Now, with the opening of borders within the EU you are given even more freedom to have international experiences, while skipping over most of the negative aspects of bureaucracy. I wanted to study in Europe because for me it was a great example of culture integration and tolerance. It seemed quite ideal for my lifestyle based on a constant need to live in other cultures.

Cultural inclusivity in the EU…really?

However, what I’ve seen since living in Italy is that the EU is the opposite of cultural inclusivity. The EU has the idealism of cultures working together to strengthen economies and peaceful relationships. What they should say is as long as you being a part of the EU benefits my country it is fine, but as soon as I feel any negative consequences I really wish you’d leave. This is the whole hypocrisy behind the EU. On one side it is promoted as an area of cultural tolerance, but really it was created out of political and economic necessity more than the desire to learn from and live with other cultures. While many enjoy their freedom to travel, do business, study and work abroad; the political elites deal with how to keep their country gaining the most and how to keep unwelcome foreigners from coming into their countries. I have seen the Turkish and Chinese, for example, living as marginalised societies providing people with kebabs and cheap cloths. Having gone through all the ‘unnecessary’ paperwork as a foreigner, I couldn’t imagine the racism and setbacks the immigrants face from not really being accepted here.  That was until my classmate who has the exact same paperwork as me, but happens to be Indonesian, Muslim and wear a veil, got her paperwork rejected for a part “being in English”. If that isn’t blatant racism I don’t know what is.

What is to blame?

Clearly the lack of European identity is in great part to blame. It may be unrealistic to think, but why should we protect the interests of some people just because they were born in our vicinity when we are all in search of the same things in life: love, family, friends, education and work. Where we were born is irrelevant. The idea of the EU is countries working together to strengthen each other so that people can live more prosperous lives in peace. However, instead, it has been a verbal battle ground to decide who’s in, who’s out, who’s to blame and how can I come out ahead. Countries should stop being so nationalistic or they might as well go back to being separate states. At least then there’s no false pretense of cultural inclusion. On the upside they are now fighting with words not swords but are they any closer to real integration at all?

Accept the other consequences integration entails, please?

After spending most of my adult life living abroad, especially in South America, I no longer feel ‘American’, but just another person in the world. This has led me to no longer understand, on an emotional level, nationalist sentiment. However, unfortunately, lines have been drawn on the globe dividing us into nations, so I need to accept that there are consequences to living abroad. If you believe in the positive aspects of a course of action then you need to find a way to overcome the obstacles associated with it. I am not a ‘Eurosceptic’, however I do believe that people’s nationalistic prejudices need to decrease in order for the EU to succeed on the social level. I would think it wise for Europeans to put things into perspective and realise that, even with this crisis, they are still ahead of most of the world. If they want to enjoy the benefits of the EU, then they should accept the other consequences integration entails. An increase in social integration would hopefully get states to genuinely work together, not just when it’s beneficial to them.

maryMary MacKenty, Contributing writer

Mary has a BA in Arts and Sciences, concentrated in Latin American Studies, from Syracuse University in the US. She is currently studying MA Euroculture at the University of Udine and uses every free moment to travel. Her interests lie in improving the quality of international education and expanding it to countries with fewer opportunities. She loves the beach, drinking mate, sports and being free to roam the world.

The Girl Who Went on Erasmus Twice

Cuts threaten Erasmus

“The EU’s university exchange scheme Erasmus could be threatened by budget cuts in member states across the union. The much-loved scheme allows university undergraduates to spend up to a year studying for their degrees in foreign countries all over the world.”

(25/10/2012, euronews)

Penelope Erasmus1

Penelope Vaxevanes │prosiliomani@hotmail.com

The first Erasmus

I remember vividly the day my Erasmus in Lyon, France ended. It was six in the morning as I boarded the shuttle to the airport, to catch my flight to Greece. I was with my friend Paul. We were both tired as we had crashed a party the night before with some other friends and had left at 4am .We walked in the warm night for the last time, slipped into the quiet residence, I took my luggage and we left for the bus stop, silent. A couple of minutes later the bus came, we hugged, I boarded the bus and as it took off I waved, not only to Paul but also to that part of my life that I could never go back to. I cried all the way to the airport. It was the first of the countless times I would cry in the following months, as I suffered post-Erasmus depression. Don’t laugh. It’s actually a thing.

Eventually, I got over it. I put the whole experience in that part of my mind where everything seems glorious and happy. The experience shaped me like no other before it. It opened my horizons and made me appreciate the life I had been accustomed too. I got to meet so many different people, that came from all these different countries and whose lives were so similar to mine and yet so different. I got to emerge myself in another culture. I had to forget all that was normal in Greece and simply follow the French normal. The experience was educating. It transformed me, as it has transformed millions of other students before and after me.

Imagine my shock, then, when I read one morning in late October that the European Union (EU) is planning to cut the Erasmus budget. Not only does the EU make budget cuts in education, but it does so by cutting the funds of one of the best features of the European university life: the Erasmus exchange program. What a ludicrous idea, indeed. On the one hand, I think that maybe the EU funds are in such a state that they have become desperate. On the other, though, I think that they just view the Erasmus programme as a luxury they offer students which they do not appreciate. Indeed, students hardly see the benefits when they are on Erasmus, but rather realize later, when the whole thing is over.

Largely, Erasmus is considered a good excuse to go abroad, meet people, travel, party 24/7 and occasionally appear in class and write a paper or two. Mostly it is like that. Or rather, it seems like that. Yes, of course, all the Erasmus clichés are more or less true. The Spanish people who always hung out alone, only speaking Spanish.  The people, who never go to campus during Erasmus, let alone to class. Those people that always compare the country they’re in with the one they came from, always finding the first one lacking. There will always be people that the Erasmus experience will not affect at all. They are the excuse the EU is using to label the program a ’failure’ of sorts, when, in reality, it is so much more. Continue reading “The Girl Who Went on Erasmus Twice”

You, Me and Us: Who makes Europe and Why?

Mario Aller San Millán │marioallersanmillan@gmail.com

mario2

Europe will live or will perish as it arrives or not to take conscience of itself“− Salvador de Madariaga

Two interesting pieces of news concerning Europe overlapped in this second half of 2012. To my great dismay, the rumours of the decrease in the budget for the Erasmus Programme (a slow-coming death, sentence by starvation for some) have not raised enough protests and anger. I’m angry, and the reason for my anger is based on the fact that the raid on this one programme is a direct attack on the waterline of the construction of Europe. The second news concerning the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU for having contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe for over six decades and for representing “fraternity between nations” does not comfort me at all. I agree that it is indeed something great, but for me this award has a second reading. I think this Prize was not awarded for how well Europe has done and is doing, but rather to remind Europe that until now it has done well and that it should keep on this track. It’s a reminder of its past, not a praise of its present. It can be seen as one of those Academy Honorary Awards (Oscars), that they usually give at the end of someone’s career for their ‘exceptional career achievements’. During these years in which Europe performed so well, it has changed from being the object we fought for to being the common fulcrum for progress. We Europeans have spent centuries trying to kill each other (and killing others in our way, some may add), but we have overcome this, and today the very idea of a conflict between us sounds funny as we enjoy the longest period of peace in our history.

Early this year I read an interview with Umberto Eco, he said “…the United States needed a civil war to unite properly. I hope that culture and the [Single] Market will do the same for us…”. I agree with him, but not completely, because I think that while the Single Market and other like-instruments are important, the crucial element here is Culture. Culture surrounds us; it is not just something enclosed in a museum or written in a book; it is Us, how we live and how we behave. We cannot agree on a better definition of what it is to be European than it is a common feeling of sharing; not just of one thing but of many immaterial ‘somethings’, for example rights and values. Considered separately, none is strong enough to set harmony among us, but the proper combination of them can attain it. Those ‘somethings’ do not appear by themselves; they come to us because we feel we have something in common, because there is a shared feeling of belonging to something that is, in fact, alive. Some might argue that culture is different in different parts of Europe and so we cannot speak of a single ‘European Culture’ but cultures, of one Set of values but sets… as many as there are nations in Europe. I believe that those plurals are to be overcome and that those differences (or ‘diversities’ as the EU motto says) come from different appreciations of our past.

The common past we share is packed together in the ‘History of Europe’; and no one can boast about history as Europe. Usually compared with that of the USA, it is not worse nor better, but substantially different. While Americans have their Exceptionalism (counter-mirroring our ‘normality’), we have our originality. There hasn’t been in history any process of integration or assimilation similar to that currently in Europe, and it is still in progress. Until now, it has been a process of integration, not of assimilation; and it should remain as such but pivoting on the common characteristics we have, and exchange programmes such as Erasmus play a crucial role in this.

Some may say that the time of Europe is over, that nowadays Europeans can barely do anything together, nor will they be able to in the future; that the story of past wars and subsequent reconciliations no longer work to unite Europeans, especially for the younger generations. I cannot agree with this as it leads to the thinking that we ignore our past, and therefore it does not provide us with any common points for building a future together. I say that Erasmus and other exchange programmes (such as Comenius and Leonardo) are not creating our European conscience, because we already have it, but strengthening it in order to achieve a more united Europe in the future. They do so by creating common experiences, experiences of sharing and understanding. We are different from our grandparents’ generation: those who initiated the European project had gone through experiences of the terrible disasters of the war and interwar periods, and they learnt from that. We are given the possibility of living in another European country, we take it, and hence we have the opportunity to discover, understand and enjoy it, not to just be tourists visiting. While our grandparents felt the call of need to unite by empathy in destruction, we feel the call of common sense to keep and deepen this union by empathy in marriage. This is important, especially at a time when some of the values I have referred to have been damaged, some of the rights have been threatened to be diminished, and the learnt lessons we inherited seem to have been forgotten. This might help us to find the solution for the present (identity) crisis which is threatening the idea of Europe and its legitimacy.

Nowadays the world is changing, so Europe is changing and our countries of origin with it. We, the youth, do not want to be left behind, nor aside, so we change too, we are not restrained by nationhood like our parents were. Everyone needs an aim to live, and ours can be a hope, a hope that in some years, as Stephen Wolff said, “Europe will be run by leaders with a completely different socialization from those of today” with less national quarrels, less Brussels-bashing and more unity. These leaders will be Us!

Concerning the title and the subheading, Europe is made of Us and therefore we are Europe, but we are not (or don’t want to be) conscious of it, so therefore we ignore that what is at stake is ourselves, not a foreign entity. Once we understand that, Europe will be able to advance and succeed, otherwise the distance among us will continue to grow until the call of need is felt again. I hope my dream will be shared and will become real and, of course, that we may stay forever young (at least for Europe and of mind). My thoughts may be utopian because I still hope that my illusion becomes real, but this is because I trust in Us. ISN’T IT TIME TO WAKE UP? ARE WE ON IT?

marioMario Aller San Millán, Contributing writer
I was born and raised in Northern Spain. I always studied the least I could of that I was told in order to get a pass. In Euroculture, I have been in Uppsala and Bilbao. My interests are everything with the adjective European. From History (which I love), to music (which I enjoy nonstop), to Politics (to which I perhaps pay too much attention), to Economics (with which I have a love-hate relationship), to languages (for which I am a hopeless case), but maybe above all the peoples and their customs (that I try understand). Apart from that, travelling and sports are my main drugs.

Lost in Gastronomy (1) − In Search of My Culinary Self

Edith Salminen │edithsalminen@gmail.com

Part I

Almost a year ago from this very day, I embarked on an exciting and demanding adventure, writing my Master thesis. Like many other second year Master students, I was disoriented, bewildered and extremely stressed out because of it. Outright, I was lost in the maze of ideas that didn’t cease to overwhelm my brain. Only one thing was set in stone: if I were to spend six months of my life doing research, sitting in front of the computer from dusk until dawn, reading countless articles and dozens of books on one specific topic to then analyse and write about it, I needed to choose a topic that truly inspired me. Easy. Since I considered myself a full-fledged foodie, almost a gastronome – I chose food.

After a few not-so-successful thesis proposals tackling rather complex food-related multi-cultural phenomena in Europe, I once again felt like road-kill on the Master thesis high way. I had gone fishing further than the sea, as we say in Finnish. I was struggling with a rather indefinable research question that was way out of my reach. Defeated by academia, I came to a full stop. I needed to focus and find my centre. Where am I, what do I have around me, I thought, what is closest to me food-wise? Patently, I needed concrete inspiration, so I started going through my kitchen cupboards in the hope of finding guidance. Food item after food item made me smile, reminding me of my travels abroad, precious moments spent with beloved friends, somewhere in the world. For a while, I found myself utterly captivated by the most delicious nostalgia. Suddenly, however, it hit me: I am a Finn and I live in Finland, but there were almost no distinctively Finnish products in my kitchen. I became even more confused.

At first, it seemed reasonable. After all, I had been living abroad for the past four and a half years and had only recently returned back home for the purpose of writing my thesis. Still, I found it somehow odd and inexcusable. As a matter of fact, I was ashamed of myself. All of a sudden, I felt lost in my culinary identity; if we are what we eat, then what does that make me? Judging by the food I had stored at home, I was certainly not a Finn. And then a storm of questions took over my already overheated brain; do I know what Finnish food really is? What does Finnish food culture say about Finns? Which produce is most common for Finnish soil? All along I thought I knew the answer to each question when in fact, I wasn’t so sure about any of them.

The next day, at a grocery store, my radar was up. I paid extra attention to what I was about to put in my basket. After I had walked around for a few minutes at my local supermarket, still in a slightly confused state of mind, I realised that if I wanted to find real Finnish goods, I was in the wrong place. Decisively, I stacked away the basket, walked out the supermarket, hopped back on my bike and headed towards a smaller food store – a kind of indoor, everyday Farmers’ Market if you may – located in the centre of Helsinki. On the way there, it all became crystal clear: this is what I ought to devote six month of my life to, finding my culinary roots, unravelling Finnish food culture and thus finding my own culinary identity.

The effects of my choice were immediate. As soon as I entered that other food store, I already inspected the food with whole new eyes and a whole new intrigue. Somehow it seemed like each product coming from a small-scale producer in the region was a piece of me. I was filled with utter happiness and a strong urge to know them all: the producer, the product, how it was done, how it grew from Finnish soil and how it finally ended up on the market shelves and from there to people’s homes and kitchens. Something as banal and ordinary as a potato suddenly gained enormous value before my eyes. Why hadn’t I felt this way before?

The problem of the ever-so-globalized world we live in today, and especially here in Europe, is that we are rather limitlessly able to get our hands on food from all four corners of the world. Paradoxically, it is often cheaper to buy produce that has travelled halfway across the world compared to produce coming from nearby. Safe to say, the food system in Europe is drastically unbalanced, humongously stressed and extremely unsustainable. This is linked to many ’man-made’ tendencies, which I also found myself guilty of. The equation is simple. Take Finland, for example. Firstly, we tend to underestimate and undervalue what we have closest, what we have in abundance around us, considering it ‘nothing special’, ’unworthy of attention’. Secondly, because we also want to buy cheap food, we choose foreign over local, turning a blind eye to the good cause to support local producers, community and region. A sad reality: mass-produced tomatoes from the Netherlands that we got in the supermarket all year around are about three times cheaper than the sweet and juicy Finnish ones best consumed in the summer time. I rest my case.

The more research I did on the matter, the more I realised how Finns think about their own culinary heritage and the distinctive Finnish raw materials both in regards to value, quality and tradition. Most Finns will certainly talk about the delicious recipes their grandmothers make, but it often ends at that. These recipes would most of the time never be reproduced in their own homes on a daily basis. The lack of confidence and value for Finnish food was obvious, not to mention how revolting the misbeliefs that people have about Finnish food being tasteless, difficult and time consuming to prepare. Very quickly, I understood that not only was I writing a thesis about a topic that I was extremely passionate about, but I was also doing the little thing one person alone can do to safeguard her land’s distinctive biodiversity, the characteristics of the terroir, and becoming reconnected to my own land.

Continue on Lost in Gastronomy(2) − In Search of My Culinary Self

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinnish leipäjuusto (lit. bread cheese) is something that only a few make at home these days. Until recently I belonged to the ones who absolutely love this cheese, buy it in the supermarket, and have no idea how to make it (thinking it’s very difficult). It’s a piece of cake! I’ll never buy super market leipäjuusto again. Vive la tradition!

Eurosonic Festival: starting the year with the right beat!

Bianca Rubino│biancarubino@gmail.com

Groningen is a university town in the Netherlands with less than two hundred thousand inhabitants in which about every one out of five is a student. Groningen has a vibrant cultural life full of theatre, exhibitions, and concerts’ events. And yes, it plays a very central role in international underground music scene. Since the nineties, bands such as Nirvana and U2 have played on the Vera’s stage and other venues, such as Oosterpoort, are very active as well, offering various performances.

Bianca_eurosonicAlso tracing back to the nineties is the Eurosonic Noorderslag Festival, one of the biggest networks and international showcases for emergent European music, which this year is the 27th edition. Three different parts can be extrapolated: Eurosonic, Noorderslag, and the Conference. Eurosonic takes place in Groningen every year in January, this year from the 9th to the 12th. It takes place each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, before the Noorderslag, which is the Dutch pop Festival. In addition, the Conference brings together professionals of the music industry. But let’s focus on Eurosonic.

In a way, Eurosonic can be seen as the ‘younger brother’ of Eurovision aiming at showing young talents, thus playing new and fresh music out of the box … but actually not: not ‘kitschy’ at all and it has the additional feature of being part of a network.

In fact, artists such as Mando Diao, Franz Ferdinand, Lykke Li, the XX, Ben L’Oncle Soul, and James Blake, have been discovered and appreciated thanks to this festival.

Eurosonic is supported by the European Broadcasting Union and Yourope, and is in collaboration with Eurosonic Radio Station, the public radio network, and the European Festival Association.

In general, the line up counts on an average three hundred artists. Each year Eurosonic is dedicated to a different country. In 2013 it will be devoted to Finland and, contrary to the message offered by the Finnish Touristic campaign that was stating “Welcome to Finland, the land of silence”, in this festival Finland will count on seventeen different artists and many genres to represent the best of new Finnish music scene and industry: Acid Symphony Orchestra, Death Hawks, Disco Ensemble, Don Johnson Big Band, Eva & Manu, French Films, Huoratron, Lau Nau, LCMDF, Mesak ft. Claws Costeau, Michael Monroe, Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, Phantom, Rubik, Satellite Stories, Siinai, and Sin Cos Tan. Without doubt, a very interesting performance will be the one of the Symphony Orchestra and their ten Roland 303 electronic equipment.

Moreover, worth of attention are the Holograms, four boys in their twenties who literally break the stage, the Greek Evripidis and his tragedies based in Barcelona, the songwriter Rover from France, the emerging Palma Violets from UK and The Honey and the Birdies with all their energy, funny show, with polyglot texts and the pop A Toys Orchestra from Italy.

Several prizes are designated within the Eurosonic Noorderslag. The awards refer to different aspects and realities of pop music, to mention some: EBBA Awards, The Pop Award, European Festival Awards, Interactive Awards, and Pop Media Award. In particular, the European Border Breaker Award is founded by the EU Culture programme, in collaboration with the European music industry and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Every year ten artists receive this prize, performers awarded in the past were Adele, Mumford and Sons, Damien Rice, and many others. Since 2010 the Public Choice Awards was created to choose the best one.

If you were not lucky with the tickets (which were sold out in only fifteen minutes) you can still enjoy the free stage of the Eurosonic Air at Grote Markt at the city centre of Groningen, of Gruunsonic, of the other events which are organised by other organisations, galleries, pubs or follow transmission from home through radio, Internet or television.

It might be interesting to discover the next ‘star’ of Europe, not the one on the flag of course…

Bianca_queu

If you liked Bianca’s article, also read Apartments become stages: a different way of performing and enjoying arts

Bianca Rubino, Exhibition Editor

Bianca is Italian with Swiss roots. She studied BA Humanities for the study of Culture in Modena, Italy, and went on Erasmus to Malmö, Sweden. She is now enrolled in MA Euroculture , which she studied in the University of Groningen and the University of Strasbourg. She is currently doing an internship at Interarts, based in Barcelona, Spain, in the field of cultural project management and cultural policy. Her interests are anthropology, sociology, artistic and cultural life and institutions, cultural management and policy, and many more. She has the smallest feet a girl ever had.

Lost in Gastronomy (2) − In Search of My Culinary Self

Edith Salminen │edithsalminen@gmail.com

Part II

A few days later, I went on another observatory excursion to Helsinki city centre. This time though, I was determined to identify the source of the problem. Having realised that preaching to the converted at the Farmers’ Market hardly made any sense, I went to a rather chic gourmet deli where any Finnish foodie can get his/her hands on all those lovely high quality French and Italian products they’ve savoured during their holidays to Paris and Rome. I went to stand in line at the cashier to have a peak at what Helsinki foodies had selected to buy. Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese, jamón de Serrano, Greek olives, artichokes, sushi, croissants, etc. The only purely Finnish product I saw was fresh pikeperch fillets. The situation was more dramatic than I had expected. And these people call themselves gastronomes! And I called myself a gastronome! Neither them nor I were even close to it.

Being ’food interested’, a foodie, let alone a gastronome, is not just about eating and drinking high quality (foreign) products that are unaffordable to a great deal of people. Neither is it about buying what is globally considered as the most exquisite foods, nor is it about overdoing it every single time. To be a gastronome is to know and be passionate about the entire food chain and all processes related to it. Without a holistic regard to food and gastronomy one cannot truly call oneself a real foodie. The founder of the Slow Food Movement, Mr. Carlo Petrini, talks about “gastronomia idiota della padella”: the overflow of recipes, food shows on television, cooking tips – food pornography. “If those that call themselves gastronomes don’t start to foster reciprocity and locality by reconnecting themselves to their soil, mother earth and the farmers that produce the food that they keep cooking and brilliating about, soon there won’t be any food left, period”.

What we need is a whole new approach to food and gastronomy because you and I, we, who buy the food and love to cook, are no longer simple consumers: we have become co-producers, active entrepreneurs who are able to make a statement and thus affect the food system that we are a part of. Fabulous wine or food gives us sensory pleasure and reflects a certain status, which is true. What we keep forgetting, however, is that it also reflects traditional or innovative production methods. And what we certainly have neglected is that it is an expression of regional culture and history and hence generates wealth, distinctiveness and biodiversity of a given region.

This is the point where it got serious. Six months later, I handed in my thesis and obtained my Master’s Degree with flying colours. Four months later, I enrolled at the University of Gastronomic Sciences to learn more about what I can do to preserve my own native terreir, its biodiversity and culinary distinctiveness.

Ever since I re-established the connection to my culinary heritage, and by so doing found my culinary patriotism and pride, I have had a mission. Whether I find myself in France, where life without food is unheard of, or whether I am in Finland, a country much less known for its distinctive food culture, one thing is certain: good food is everywhere! There’s no place on Earth where one cannot find something delicious, something that only exists in that specific place in the world, something that locals who grew up with it hardly consider a culinary masterpiece.

Let me put out a challenge. Get to know a dish or a raw material that only exists or is only prepared in a certain way in your native country! I encourage you all to appreciate the fruits of your own land and the work of farmers in your hometown. You can be as European or as cosmopolite as you wish, but a tree can’t stand without its root.

Go back to Lost in Gastronomy(1) − In Search of My Culinary Self

If you liked Edith’s article, also read Why I Cry of Happiness Over Delicious Food

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARoot vegetables have always been present in Finnish cuisine. They grow well in Finnish climate and are a cheep source of nutrition. The various root veggies have recently been making a come back. If the traditional ways of cooking them don’t tingle you taste buds enough, try using them in new and fun ways. I built my own smoker and smoked oven baked parsnips, beetroots and carrots. Delicious!

Edith Salminen, Food EditorOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Edith was born in Finland and has been travelling around the world since a young age. Edith obtained her BA in French Philology from Helsinki University and studied Euroculture at the University of Strasbourg. After completing the Euroculture programme she did another Master’s programme, this time in European Studies at Lund University, Sweden. Currently, she is pursuing a career as a food writer and is enrolled at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra, Italy. She’s a passionate food lover who fully agrees with Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”.

Something Vegetarian

I recommend knowing how to cook. One does not have to go to ‘health food’ stores all the time, now most things can be found in a regular grocery store. I also recommend checking out Asian markets, Indian markets and Turkish markets. Learn some of the language so you can ask and say what you want.

Chelsea King │ akingjay1@yahoo.com

Hello fellow vegetarians, herbivores, omnivores, and even carnivores out there. This is Chelsea King, here to give you some tips on being a vegetarian or a vegan in Euroculture cities, or in Europe (or the world) in general. (Meat-eaters you can even try them out if you want!) I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, in Utah in the USA, and I have been a vegetarian for almost 10 years, the last three of which I have been a vegan. Since I am a vegan, I will mainly talk about how I navigated Europe as such (which will also help vegetarians).

Chelsea peas

First, let’s look at the definition of vegan. Unlike vegetarians who go without meat, vegans go without all animal products, which include animal milk products, eggs, gelatin, etc. For many people, this seems like a plain and boring diet, but actually it is quite the opposite since the earth is blessed with a very wide range of plants once you open your eyes to it. I believe that just about all nutrients can come from plants. Yes, it is true; one just has to do a little investigating.

misconceptions?

There are many misconceptions about nutrients when it comes to a vegan diet: about protein, amino acids, iron, omega 3, B vitamins to name a few. Protein is easily (and cheaply) found in plant sources such as soybeans, navy beans, adzuki, black-eyed peas, lentils, chickpeas, amaranth, spelt, quinoa, wild rice, oats, couscous and kasha. One should have a complete amino acid when eating (meat contains all amino acids) so vegetarians and vegans should combine a legume (bean) with a grain when possible. Iron is found in dark leafy greens. Omega 3 is found in flax seeds and hemp seeds. B vitamins are usually fortified in most cereals. For a more complete list refer to: http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/a-vegans-guide-to-good-nutrition.aspx. Shoot for the rainbow: the more colors you have in your food/dish the better.

Let’s move to cooking

Now with a very brief knowledge of plant sources to get nutrients (which for the most part are cheaper than their animal counterparts: dried lentils and beans are a fraction of the cost of meat and eggs and last way longer), let’s move to cooking. Not all places will have a handy veg-friendly restaurant, or perhaps you want to impress your carnivore friends, or you are an awesome carnivore who wants to try something new: replacing animal products is not that hard if you know the tricks.

Replacing meat can be done with beans or soya/tofu. Animal milk to soya or rice milk. Butter to margarine (read the label to make sure). These can almost all be straight substitutions. With eggs it gets a little tricky – for 1 egg you can use 1 banana, 3 spoons of applesauce, or 3 spoons of soft tofu. Remember the desired flavor of your recipe, which is why I recommend flax seed powder (flax seed is found in most health food stores and I just grind it to a powder) as it has no taste. In this case, you replace 1 egg with 1 spoon of powder combined with 3 spoons of warm water. Make sure you combine the water and flax before adding it to your recipe. Oh and importantly, vegans can have chocolate as straight cocoa is of course vegan and most dark chocolate is too (again read the label).

Most things can be found in a regular grocery store

Having been a college student in four European cities: Stockholm, Amsterdam, Goettingen and Groningen, my perspective is mainly western European. I recommend knowing how to cook (it will be far cheaper). One does not have to go to ‘health food’ stores all the time, now most things can be found in a regular grocery store. I also recommend checking out Asian markets, Indian markets and Turkish markets, if your city has one, where there will be a treasure-trove of vegetarian options. Knowing some of the language (I must admit, my German is very shaky but I know almost all the words for different food produce, even meats and eggs) so you can ask and say what you want. Get to know the locals. When looking for restaurants, ‘ethnic’ ones such as Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Thai, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, and Turkish are good bets. Always plan ahead by checking out or Google-ing the place you are going beforehand. As some of my fellow Euroculturers might remember, I almost always had food on me when I traveled – fruit bars, soya milk (in mini boxes these do not need to be refrigerated), a bag of trail mix (various nuts, sometimes chocolate, and dried fruits), fresh fruit (apples, grapes, oranges).

A lifetime journey

There are many website out there to help you. Remember we are all human: if you accidentally get some meat, dairy, fish sauce, or whatever in your food it’s ok. Being a vegetarian or a vegan I would hope is not a sprint but a lifetime journey to a better way of life. There will be some missteps but it’s the overall picture that matters. Besides it’s like a marathon: if one gets caught up being perfect all the time one misses the chance to actually move forward.

chelsea

Chelsea King, Contributing writer
chelseaChelsea was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah, with degrees in Philosophy, Sociology and Criminology. After spending a year abroad at Södertörns Högskola, Stockholm, Sweden and University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, knew she had to come back to Europe. She is recent graduate from the Euroculture Program from The University of Göttingen and University of Groningen. She likes traveling, meeting new people and of course eating.