By Stefania Ventome. Edited by Lina Mansour. Biographies are available at the end of the article.
In front of Bucharest’s main train station, at the end of a small park that shelters homeless people and drug addicts, lies the CFR Palace. Massive, imposing and sober, the CFR Palace, also known as the Ministry of Transportation, is one of the first buildings that a visitor coming to Bucharest by train would notice. It is also one of the many architectural remains of totalitarian regimes scattered around Romania’s capital. Nowadays, Bucharest is a city of contrasts, split between abandonment and consumerism and decay and development, but for most of the past century, the city was the administrative centre of three gruesome dictatorships, a dark history that has left significant marks on the city’s identity. Bucharest’s monumentalism is mostly attributed to the infamous legacy of Ceausescu’s brutal regime, but buildings such as the CFR Palace evoke a different past, one that has been slowly erased from the people’s collective memory.
For a very long time the original programming of European TV stations had suffered from the dominance of US made TV content, and the discrepancy was mostly caused by the differences in budget. For a very long time, TV shows were seen as being of lesser quality in comparison to movies, and more successful actors would usually avoid appearing on a regular TV show. That recently changed, as several TV shows from the US got acclaim from critics and general praise by the audience, thus the status of TV shows slowly evolved. There has been more creativity involved in making a show and at the same time the level of production and artistic direction of some TV shows improved so much that they could compare to those of movies that usually appear in film festivals. There have been several established movie directors who directed shows and some award-winning actresses and actors who had major roles in some shows (the latest example being Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep in Big Little Lies).
While all this was happening in the US, Europe started catching up, now that TV shows had a better reputation and an established market among a much wider audience. The European television program was traditionally based on imported content (films and sit-coms), adapted reality and game shows; and the only difference would be whether this content would be presented in a dubbed or original version. The original programming was usually national, it would rarely cross borders and every country had its own type of shows they specialized in. Except for football matches and reality show adaptions (a reality show Big Brother started in the Netherlands, but has experienced a worldwide success, as the rights for the production of the show were sold in many other countries, resulting in the show airing in almost every European country), there was no other content that was ‘pan-European’. That recently changed with the emergence of streaming platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. These services bought rights for many European original shows and for the first time made them available with subtitles in English and other languages, all across the globe. Continue reading “The Rebirth of European TV”→
Besides reading all days long, summer holidays are also a perfect occasion to visit some museums… or enjoy some festivals. I had been willing to go to the Rencontres d’Arles for years: I finally managed to go there last month! This festival allows you to stroll through the streets of this centuries-old city while visiting various photography exhibitions. Art photography, photoreportage, experimental, contemporary art, light and sound, video artworks, you name it! If you’re a visual art enthusiast, Arles is definitely the place to go to during the summer! Here is a very small excerpt of what can be seen during this year’s edition (open until September 23!), as well as some comments about two other exhibitions I’ve been to, both in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
It is a cold and grey Saturday afternoon, just one week before Christmas and I am rushing over the empty Platz der Menschenrechte, Human Rights Square, in front of the old German weapons and munitions production factory in Karlsruhe. This huge building was constructed with German Pünktlichkeit during the First World War and managed to avoid demolition in the late 1970s after having been a reliable space for the preparation of violence and destruction. With sentiment echoing Adorno’s phrase, “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” the city of Karlsruhe in the post-war decades seemed paralyzed and helpless to interact with this huge memorial of violence production in its heart.
It wasn’t poetry that brought a spirit of hope into the massive walls in Lorenzstraße – at least not just that. In the 1980s, the artist group “99.9% leerer Raum” moved into the old factory, just before, in 1984, the first ever email was received just a few kilometres away at the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe (KIT). At that time, enthusiasm for new and connective technology of communication had awoken to end the rather destructive technology of weapons, which had dominated the atmosphere of the massive building. In 1987 the association for arts and media technology was founded, and eight years after the ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medien), the Centre for Art and Media, opened in the old German weapons and munitions production factory. Since then, the building has hosted exhibitions with a focus on media and communication technology. It is, however, an unusual exhibition for the ZKM, which I am visiting today. Usually, visitors come to stroll down memory lane between the antiquities and rarities of computer and video games, or to discover new developments occurring in the digital arts. Although this exhibition does not focus on technology and media art, it fits perfectly in this historic building.
“Art in Europe 1945-1968” is the title of the exhibition, curated by Eckhart Gillen and Peter Weibel and their Russian colleagues Daria Mille and Daniel Bulatov. It is a cooperation between the Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the State Museum Exhibition Centre ROSIZO in Moscow. The exhibition contains more than 500 diverse works of about 200 European artists. In Karlsruhe it has the significant subtitle, “The Continent that the EU does not know.” The curators aim to give a second perspective on the dominant narrative of post-war Europe. They present works by artists, who have responded to the breakup of a divided continent after a decade of destruction.
“Art in Europe 1945-1968” focuses on a central cultural space. One that was damaged and torn apart several times during the 20th century. The curators present artistic developments, stemming from the huge area that is geographical Europe. With artwork coming from anywhere between the Ural Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, the exhibition draws on many sources in its goal of opening up a new narrative with regards to a shared past. The curators claim that until today historiography looked at the arts of the 20th century as divided into two main streams. Firstly, there was abstract expressionism, which is seen as a symbol of freedom in the West. Then there is social realism which, according to these curators, has been seen as a conservative kind of art, an art bent to serve the communist political system in the East. This exhibition, however, is an effort to engage with the history of art in Europe in a less simplified manner. This exhibition explores these themes through comparison, by finding similarities, and understanding differences in a socio-political approach to interpretation.
While walking through this huge exhibition, taking up two floors with an immense amount of art work, I can sympathize with the curators and let myself get lost in the many pictures, sculptures, films and photographs. It is hopeless trying to discover everything: this exhibition is the product of more than twenty years, and 200 people, full of creativity and extreme emotions. It is by accident, that I find the small Picasso, “Pigeon, Blue Variation” from 1951, hidden on the back of one of the huge white walls. The difficulty of mapping this great quantity and variety of art in post-war Europe can also be seen through the different strategies of structuring the exhibition in the three hosting places in Brussels, Karlsruhe and Moscow. In Karlsruhe it is organized into the five chapters “Trauma and Remembrance,” “Cold War,” “New Realism,” “New Visions,” and “Utopia 1968”. While 1945 is interpreted as ‘hour zero’, 1968 is defined as the starting point for a new relationship between West and East. What might seem like a very linear and horizontal approach, is in fact an attempt to entangle spaces, to invite visitors to discover art works that have not shared the same space before. Curator Peter Weibel calls it an active plea for understanding Europe – a goal which is just as important today as it was in 1945.
The idea of “Art in Europe 1945-1968” was conceived already in 2012, and it was supposed to be shown in Russia first. However, after the crisis in Ukraine and the strained relationship between the EU and Russia, many important sponsors withdrew their financial support. It is in these grey and cold days, that it becomes more important than ever to take a break and discover new perspectives on what shapes Europe: memories and trauma, war, utopia, and new visions. Now, in times of a critical public discourse regarding Europe, and in times of planning the building of walls, it is maybe more appropriate than ever to consider the leading questions of “Art in Europe 1945-1968”: “what is Europe?”
What I take with me walking back from the ZKM, in the old German weapons and munitions production factory in Karlsruhe, over the Human Rights Square, is the idea to keep my eyes wide open and to search for hidden ideas. Ideas that are not omnipresent in the main discourse surrounding us today. There was a lot happening in the period between 1945 to 1968 in Europe. It seems like a period of conflict and inconsistency . There is also a lot going on in Europe today, and it is essential to reflect on the present patterns of perception and communication. “Art in Europe 1945-1968” shows that it is worth challenging established constructs and opening a discussion about a common past and a common future. Despite or precisely because of its confusing multitude of pieces, visitors of “Art in Europe 1945-1968” can find a new way of looking at Europe in the past and in the present. I interpret this exhibition as a liquid reflection on arts and European society. It commutes between the East and West in Europe, and changes its setting in each location. It is not a fixed construct which needs to be consumed in a certain way, but one that underlines different perspectives. An exhibition is more than its images or sculptures. It represents a reflection on the everyday reality of artists and curators, and it grows in the space where it is shown, and with each visitor approaching it. “Art in Europe 1945-1968” communicates with its surrounding and with its audience and it is worth, I believe, taking your time to look, listen, reflect and respond.
The exhibition “Art in Europe 1945-1968” can be visited in the ZKM until 29th of January 2017 and afterwards in Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.
Elena Ferrante is an elusive figure. She is an enigma to the literary world, and a mystery that needs solving to some in the journalistic. To me, she is an artist. An artist in the real sense of the word. A person who embraces the artistic way of living to the extent of embodying it. The American writer Elbert Hubbard once wrote that, “Art is not a thing – it is a way of life”. Likewise, Elena Ferrante is not a thing. She is many things. She is a fever (#FerranteFever), leader of a modern tribe, a hero, among other things. Perhaps, most importantly, she is a way. A way to freedom. How do we discover this way? It’s quite simple. We travel along with her on the journey.
The Italian author was born in the literary world in 1992 with the publication of her first novel Troubling Love. She was a shy girl at first, who lacked confidence in her own abilities, and wasn’t quite sure of the impact she would have. In a letter to her publisher, Ferrante expressed her doubts by writing: “I will say to you clearly: if Troubling Love does not have, in itself, thread enough to weave, well, it means that you and I were mistaken; if, on the other hand, it does, the thread will be woven where it can be, and we will have only to thank the readers for their patience in taking it by the end and pulling”. Nonetheless, she did hold one firm belief – that “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors”. It was her conviction in this belief that enabled her to accept herself for who she was – although a recluse in the eyes of others, a writer with stories to tell in her own. When asked about what she intended to do in order to publicize her novel, the author wrote to her publisher:“I do not intend to do anything for Troubling Love, anything that might involve the public engagement of me personally. I’ve already done enough for this long story: I wrote it… I won’t participate in discussions and conferences, if I’m invited. I won’t go and accept prizes, if any are awarded to me. I will never promote the book, especially on television, not in Italy or, as the case may be, abroad. I will be interviewed only in writing, but I would prefer to limit even that to the indispensable minimum”.
In the years that followed, Ferrante published her most famous works, which are commonly referred to as the ‘Neapolitan’ novels. These books are set in a poor, yet vibrant neighborhood in Naples, and explore the lives of its many inhabitants – especially the friendship that brews over several decades between two key characters: Elena and Lila. The series announced the author’s arrival in the literary world, but Elena Ferrante was still missing. Despite ‘The Story of the Lost Child’ (the last book of the series) getting nominated for the Man Booker International Prize (2016), the writer showed absolutely no interest in the award. She continues to embody what Lord Krishna describes as the ‘Spirit of Yoga’ in the Bhagavad Gita (the Hindu ‘Book of Revelation’) – the one, who acts “with no desire for success, no anxiety about failure, indifferent to results, he burns up his actions in the fire of wisdom. Surrendering all thoughts of outcome, unperturbed, self-reliant, he does nothing at all, even when fully engaged in actions”.
Today, the author is an omnipotent figure in the literary world. With the dual publication of ‘Frantumaglia – A Writer’s Journey’ and her book for children ‘Beach at Night’ earlier this year, the author seems to be here, there, and everywhere. She’s at bookstores in the US, in films in Italy, and in newspapers and on the internet (obviously). Even then, she is nowhere really. Except, in our hearts and minds, as a writer pushing the boundaries of what it means to be an artist by leading a self-effacing life. A life that we can only imagine, and hope to plot.
And plot we should. For Ferrante has shown us time and again that she is not a dot, but a series of them. She is a line that traces an artist’s consciousness. If the first dot represents a moment of doubt in the writer’s journey, the second one represents faith in the nature of the divine. Miracles are most often attributed to God, because their makers are usually unknown. Having experienced the miracles of other anonymous writers herself, Ferrante’s single-minded intention to become this unknown produces the third dot. This dot is representative of the wisdom of action. Without need for fame or publicity, Ferrante’s works are built on honesty and integrity that speak to our souls. They become voices that one can hear in the deepest recesses of their own being. The media frenzy to unmask Ferrante’s real identity, to me, is only indicative of our desire to know this voice more truly. But alas, it cannot be heard in the clamour of the marketplace. Our restlessness only results in the marking of the fourth dot of Ferrante’s consciousness – a deadening silence in response to the chaos. The voice disappears only to make us acutely aware of the void within. It forces us into sincere self-reflection, and guides us along the path to freedom.
If you feel like giving up on the whole “plotting Ferrante” business at this point, it’s understandable. But I would urge you not to. Instead, embrace the mystery that she is. Become part of it. Live it. And pay attention. Every now and then, the real Ferrante re-surfaces to remind us who she is – a person who is obsessive and passionate about words and stories; a non-conformist, who thrives on anonymity and solitude, and to remind us who she is not – almost everything we want her to be. Follow these clues or ‘frantumaglia’ (fragments) in her own words. Because no matter who you are, and what you do, you can lay claim to your own freedom by invoking Ferrante’s spirit.
When I first walked into this renowned theatre, it was to enjoy a ballet called “La Bayadère”. It turned out to be more than a mere pilgrimage for a Russian major come to check what she had learnt in her classes about the importance of “Marinka” as an illustrious national cultural heritage. It was indeed an overwhelmingly sensational experience that revealed how aesthetic perfection can inspire strength. The concordance of the legendary corps de ballet, the charm of soloists, the harmony with the orchestra and the terpsichorean magnificence all transcended the grandeur of the theatre’s frescos and chandeliers. Since then, the Mariinsky theatre has become my magical sapphire house, akin to Tiffany & Co. for Holly Golightly. The theatre is not unlike a Fabergé egg; although it is lavishly decorated and stunning from the outside, its true mesmerising beauty lies within.
Marseille, a lively multicultural city and ancient Greek port, still continues to live from the sea. Walking from the Gare St. Charles, you can already feel it: the sound of people out in the streets and the view and smell of the sea… Marseille-Provence 2013 has extensively worked on this dimension to make its programme’s Arianna’s red string the Mediterranean indeed.
Culture is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Marseille: the second largest city in France, notoriously unsafe and dangerous, especially according to the French media who have recently reported several incidents of gun shootings. This is why the title of European Capital of Culture provides Marseille and the surrounding area of Provence, including the towns of Aix, Arles and Aubagne, with a significant opportunity to change its image.
Marseille, a lively multicultural city and ancient Greek port, still continues to live from the sea. Walking from the Gare St. Charles, you can already feel it: the sound of people out in the streets and the view and smell of the sea… Marseille-Provence 2013 has extensively worked on this dimension to make its programme’s Arianna’s red string the Mediterranean indeed. And so it was, on 12-13 January 2013, that a full year of performances, exhibitions and cultural events and exchanges saw its start.
The first step to plunge into Marseille-Provence 2013 is to visit the Pavillon M (Pavillon de Marseille): this centre is open for the entire year and in it you can discover Marseille and Provence through videos, maps and interactive devices. In the building, it is also possible to collect information about the programme of Marseille-Provence 2013 and, when needed, buy tickets. Pavillon M is situated in the area of the Vieux-Port, a small harbour overlooked by Notre-Dame De la Garde from one of Marseille’s hill tops. The Vieux-Port,characterised by numerous touristic restaurants, can be pleasant for a walk, for shopping at the fish and flower markets, and for enjoying the view of the boats anchored there. For the occasion of Marseille-Provence 2013, an interesting mirror canopy has been built and animal-shaped sculptures have been collocated in the main quay.
The city harbour has been central to the immense urban renovation of the city. From 1995, renewal started with the private and public initiative of Euromed (Euro-Mediterranean project). In fact, Marseille-Provence 2013 counts upon several new cultural infrastructures built or remodelled by prominent architects. Some worthy of mentioning are the Mucem (Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean) by Rudy Ricciotti, the Villa Méditerranée by Stefano Boeri, the Frac by Kengo Kuma, and the J1 Hangar by Catherine Bonte which will offer a new shape to the harbour. Unfortunately at the moment, this vision is slightly hindered by the on-going construction sites, still there even three months after the launch of the Capital of Culture.
The above-mentioned J1 Hangar,from where it is possible to enjoy a beautiful view of the Cathédral Notre-Dame de la Major, is already accessible and utilisesa space of 6000 m2 for exhibitions and other events such as performances. Until 18 May, it will host the exhibition “Mediterraneans. From yesterday’s cities to today’s men”, an itinerary narratingthe history of the Mediterranean through the histories and descriptions of eleven port cities (Troy, Tyre, Athens, Alexandria, Rome, Al-Andalus, Venice, Genoa, Istanbul, Algiers and, of course, Marseille). The exhibition combines historical objects and recent video-interviews reporting on different topics, and revolves around history and current societies trying to understand what it means to be Mediterranean today. Bravely someone has already offered her answer, writing in the guest-book: «I feel fully Mediterranean, thank you for this new identity. Julie».
Walking from the centre to the periphery of the city, another very interesting cultural infrastructure is La Friche Belle de Mai, which has also benefited from the Euro-Mediterranean project. Situated in its namesake neighbourhood Belle de Mai, this former tobacco factory was turned into a cultural centre in 1992 and, after two years of further renovation, it has reopened. It’s an impressive multi-purpose space open for exhibitions, ateliers, theatre, shows, cultural activities and cultural organisations’ offices. Here you can also meet friends for a glass of wine or dinner, teenagers can skateboard, and parents can bring along their children to play in the outdoor spaces which include small gardens.
La Friche Belle de Mai hosted until 31 March “Ici, ailleurs” (“Here, Elsewhere”), an exhibition which brought together thirty-nine artists from the Mediterranean area, showing sculptures, paintings and photography. Two of those artists have taken part in the project “Les Ateliers de l’EuroMéditerranée”, which consists of residences of artists in unusual places outside the cultural field, aiming to support contemporary creation, shape a new artistic production model, and involve new audiences.
Marseille-Provence 2013 offers around six hundred events throughout the year. In the coming months, interesting events such as the exhibition “Le grand atelier du midi”, the “Transhumance” performances, and the festival “This is (not) music” are waiting to be experienced. The investment undertaken for Marseille-Provence 2013 is surely visible through the new buildings, or new uses of old ones. The biggest challenge will be to insure the long-term effects of cultural and social directives which refer to the city and to the Mediterranean as a whole: will Marseille-Provence 2013 be a turning point for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation?
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 did an internship at Interarts, based in Barcelona, Spain, in the field of cultural project management and cultural policy and is now back in Strasbourg to finish her MA thesis. 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.
Exporting creative industries is important in boosting a European city, but the EU is still ignorant of such potential asset. The ‘creativity’ sector includes architecture, audiovisual products, cultural heritage related services, design, music, performing arts, publishing and visual arts.
María de las Cuevas Linares│firstname.lastname@example.org
Do we have to see the world only through the eyes of ‘McDonald-isation’ or ‘Nike-isation’, or may Europe contribute to it with its own culture? Exporting the European lifestyle and cultural products could have an economic impact in terms of employment and GDP growth, and it would be a way to show the world that the EU is full of ideas and creativity.
Who says that the EU is not creative? In fact, the EU is a key player in the global exports of creative goods with nine member states in the list of the world’s top 20 exporters in 2008, headed by Asia and the USA. Although our rivals are much more confident, Europe is still faring well: Germany is in third place, followed by Italy, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Spain and Poland. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the EU has been losing its reputation in ‘creativity’ since 2002. In 2008, Germany was the top developed-economy exporter of both Performing Arts and Publishing & Printed Media; Italy was the top exporter of Design, while the UK, France and Germany featured in the top five exporters of Visual Arts. Creative-goods exports from the EU in 2010 represented 36% of the total value of creative-goods exports worldwide.
Exporting creative industries is important in boosting a European city, but the EU is still ignorant of such potential asset. The ‘creativity’ sector includes architecture, audiovisual products (film, radio, television, video games and multimedia), cultural heritage related services, design, music, performing arts, publishing and visual arts. The frontiers between culture, business and technology are even more blurred. Nevertheless, they are still underestimated in relation to their positive effects on growth of the economy of a country, a region or a city.
A 2012 report by the European Expert Network on Culture (EENC) pointed out that “Europe – like other parts of the world – is becoming a society of the intangible, whose main raw material lies in the ability of its people to create and to innovate. There is a need for a new approach to the sector’s distinctive features, recognizing the creative industries as traded industries”. The Eurostat Cultural Statisticsreport in 2011 shows that in 2009 the EU-27 exported more cultural goods to the rest of the world than it imported, recording a trade surplus of around €1.9 billion. The main products exported were books, works of art, antiques, newspapers and DVDs.
The Eurozone is more than ever linked to creative industries, culture and innovative mind. Currently, there’s a shift from manufacturing sectors to innovate solutions, while the cultural sector is being recognised as “a driver of growth fundamental to overcome the financial crisis” by the European Commission. The Commission considers that the cultural sectors are “sectors of the future and a sound investment for our well-being”.
The eruption of the world financial and economic crisis in 2008 provoked a 12% decrease in international trade. However, the world exports of creative goods and services continued to grow, reaching $592 billion, more than double its 2002 level, indicating an annual growth rate of 14% over six consecutive years.
Rethinking of ideas, artists, originality and innovative solutions are all features in the creation of new societies. The EU in the 21st century, as set out by the ‘European 2020 Strategy’, should be governed by smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This Strategy provides the targets – fixed by the Commission – to be met in 2020.
María de las Cuevas, Junior Editor
María is a Spanish journalist. Her home University is University of Deusto and host university, University of Strasbourg. Her plan after finishing MA Euroculture is to work in the cultural field to promote the access of new audiences into social inclusion and to enhance the power of creativity in the society. She is enjoying the city of Strasbourg and is very exited about the forthcoming research track at the University of Mexico. She loves writing and reading, meeting new people and going around with her bike.
The Euroculturer interviews Lora Markova, the winner of the 2012 ALBA (Annual Liesbeth Brouwer Award) Thesis Prize. We all saw her being awarded with the prize during the Gala dinner at the Intensive Programme in Bilbao this summer. We know that the award is a great asset for one’s academic future, not to mention a reward for all the tears shed while struggling with the Master’s thesis.
11 questions to answer…
Q1. Hello, Lora. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
– Hello, The Euroculturer! I come from Bulgaria and I completed MA Euroculture with an Erasmus Mundus Grant at Deusto University, Bilbao as my home university and Georg-August University, Göttingen as my host university between October 2010 and March 2012. During my third semester I conducted a research track at Pune University, India – a great opportunity for intercultural interaction, and theoretical and empirical studies. My research interests focus on (new) media arts, interactivity, modes of contemporary spectatorship and transmedia, transculturality and cross-cultural exchange of aesthetic codes and cultural repertoires.
Q2. What did you study for your Bachelor’s degree and where? Did your previous studies help you when you were writing your Master’s thesis? If so, in what way?
– I graduated with a BA in Animation Cinema and Visual Arts from the New Bulgarian University, Sofia with a Socrates/Erasmus exchange in Semiotics at the University of Torino, Italy. After this rather practical training in creative arts I shifted towards art theory and graduated with a MA in Media Culture and a MA in Arts Management from Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Within my studies I carried out internships at the Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN), also in Amsterdam, and a Blue-Book traineeship at the European Commission, Brussels. Living in different European cities and shifting cultural contexts triggered my interest to explore Europe as a cultural project. Thus, Euroculture was a unique opportunity to revisit my knowledge of arts and media in a European context and to enrich my research scope with intercultural communication perspectives. In this sense, my previous experience was helpful in writing my thesis, but gaining novel theoretical and methodological knowledge and ‘Eurocompetences’ was also central for my research.
Q3. What is the ‘Euroculture approach’ that the jury of ALBA thesis prize emphasise when grading a Master’s thesis? (It is written on the ALBA thesis prize webpage of the Euroculture website that a ‘Euroculture approach’ is important in order to be awarded the prize.) Could you give us one or two examples, in your opinion?
– I guess that the approach of a truly interdisciplinary programme as Euroculture involves conducting interdisciplinary research that reflects current European socio-political and cultural dynamics and deals with Europe as an entity always in an on-going process.
Q4. What does “approaching the related problems in an interdisciplinary manner” mean (as also seen on the webpage)? They said it’s important in order to be awarded the prize. What is an example of ‘interdisciplinary manner’? How do you think it applied in your thesis?
– I understand the interdisciplinary manner as approaching your research problem from multiple (theoretical) perspectives, overcoming disciplinary boundaries and establishing a ‘third space’ between academic fields. Within my thesis I explored transculturality (as a philosophical paradigm and a cultural praxis) in between cultural studies, film and media studies, art history, reception studies, sociology, human geography, post-colonial perspectives and psychology. What I find helpful in this direction is to study carefully the various texts and theories suggested by the Euroculture lecturers and to conduct in-depth research on your chosen topic.
Q5. Who sits on the jury of the prize?
– Academic staff from each of the European universities in the consortium, I believe.
Q6. Could you please tell us about your experience working with your two supervisors? Were they helpful? Professors are usually extremely busy, but how did you managed to get useful advices from them? Do you have any tips on this?
– Of course, it was very helpful receiving feedback from Dr. Asier Altuna and Dr. Lars Klein, as their remarks could indicate to what extent I had expressed and managed my research objectives and outcomes. Indeed, tutors are very busy, and thus it is necessary to be enthusiastic about your own research project, revise your text periodically and question your supervisors and yourself as to whether deeper insights can be achieved.
Q7. When you were writing your thesis, how did you deal with ups and downs in your mood?
– For me writing my thesis was quite an immersive experience and I devoted my time exclusively to it. In order to cope with procrastination I tried to exclude other activities. Still, after finishing each chapter I would take a day off for travelling and meeting friends so that I could create some space between the text and myself before proceeding further. What helped me in terms of time management was to think of writing my thesis as just writing three or four very good IP papers!
Q8. When did you know that you were going to be awarded the ALBA prize?
– Shortly before the award ceremony (during the Gala dinner of the IP), or three months after submitting my thesis.
Q9. Do students for whom English is not their native language have to get their Master’s thesis copy edited (or, at least, proof read) before they submit it? Did you?
– That sounds like a good idea! While writing, I shared and discussed the paper only with my supervisors, appointing specific time to edit each chapter before submitting it in order to minimize possible mistakes. Still, I guess it might be effective to use external help when dealing with such a volume of text.
Q10. What are the three most important things to keep in mind when writing a good thesis, do you think?
– First, it is necessary to choose a topic that you care deeply about. Thus, spending several months on your thesis can be satisfying and interesting for you. It is also helpful to start the research process early and to communicate your ideas to a broader audience (e.g. already during the Intensive Programme, conferences and workshops). For example, I presented one of my case studies at a Human(i)ties Perspectives conference in Hamburg University in 2011, which was an opportunity to gain impressions on the peer reception of my research. Moreover, writing on issues that you are passionate about will allow you to use and expand your thesis after graduation. Last month I participated in the Young Cultural Policy Researchers Forum within the ENCATC Annual Conference, Networked Culture, at Goldsmiths College in London which is another platform for knowledge exchange. I mention these events as potentially valuable opportunities for a greater range of Euroculture students.
Next, I would say try to use “Chekhov’s Gun”. As you probably know, the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov formulated the dramatic axiom claiming that if there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, the gun should be fired in a later act; otherwise it should not be displayed at all. In this sense, everything you mention in your thesis should be for a reason. Thus, it is helpful to delineate your scope by excluding certain topics and to keep some research questions for further studies.
Finally, it is important to be familiar with the ALBA criteria, as they signify academic excellence, and to consider which topic can be innovative in the context of the existing Euroculture titles. At the same time, I think one should not worry about any award while writing as it is beyond the knowledge of the students whose paper will be nominated. For instance, with regards to the high quality and diversity of approaches, I was able to imagine that at least five of my friends and former classmates could have qualified for the prize as well. Thus, I find it as relevant to establish your own standard – let’s say, write in a manner you would like to be published. Then, try to turn the whole process of working on your thesis into an intellectually rewarding experience and hopefully it will be ‘awarding’ as well.
Q11. What is your plan for the future?
– As a member of the Union of Bulgarian Artists I have been involved in several art and cultural projects in the last few months, and so my intention is to continue in this direction. I will keep you updated, and thank you, The Euroculturer, for inviting me to share my experiences as a Euroculturer.
Thank you very much for your answers, Lora. We wish you the best with everything you do!
The European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the city of tartes flambées and of storks. These are the most popular visions associated with the city of Strasbourg. But actually the city, whose Pont de l’Europe connects France and Germany, besides being a “European Capital” due to the many European institutions and NGOs located there, enjoys a vibrant cultural life.
This can be easily guessed thanks to the Boutique de la culture which stands in front of the impressive Cathédrale Notre-Dame and sells all the possible tickets of cultural events in town. At closer look, if we talk about music, there are several venues, from small spots to bigger concert halls, which stage good live music performances.
Firstly, La Laiterie is a cultural institution. Situated in the city’s former milk factory district, it now offers a great variety of concerts all year long. Here, in the last saison, bands such as M83 and Django Django performed: the first, French guys concluding their European tour creating an intense atmosphere; the latter, British boys putting the room on fire with their electronic beats. Frànçois and the Atlas Mountains are also worthy of attention. They play indie-pop/indie-folk and, if you check them out, you’ll probably not get the romantic tune “Les plus beaux” out of your head.
Secondly, Stimultania’s principal vocation is photography. Last February it hosted an exhibition-conference of and about the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and his photo-reportage, “Images d’Algérie”, about Algeria in the years 1958 to 1961. This exhibition-conference coincided with the 40th anniversary of the end of the bloody Algerian war and successive Algerian independence. Stimultania also organises des apéros-concerts and, after having presented artists of such calibre as American dark-rock group Xiu Xiu, the next few months will see some concerts within the framework of the Festival Jazzdor (8-23 November 2012).
Likewise, Apollonia – European Art Exchanges is a cultural institution which occasionally offers special musical events, as happened, for example, with the photo-concert of the duo Grand March and Stéphane Louis (which you will be able to see again on 16 November at La Laiterie).
Actually, there are many more cultural venues, such as Molodoi – Centre Autonome Jeunes (a self-managed space), l’Artichaut (Thursday jam sessions), Mudd (a small venue for underground rock, punk, psychobilly, and jazz bands) and Zénith (a big concert hall)… So for the coming semester, if you are there working, studying, as a stagiaire, or if you are simply passing through Strasbourg, do try to discover its musical rhythm as well.
Here are some suggestions for the next season in La Laiterie (October and November 2012): Wave Machines (electronic, 17 October), Johnny Winter (king of rock-blues, 31 October), Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (great electronic beats, 2 November), Animal Collective (whose new album was released this summer – rock, 3 November), Blood Red Shoes (rock duo, 8 November), Eiffel (French pop-rock, 10 November), and Grand March (rock duo, 16 November).
Student tip: don’t miss la carte culture which gives you great discounts, and be sure to take advantage of the cultural ticket office inside the university campus.
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.