Dear Lord Mayor Thomas Kufen,
Dear Minister Isabell Pfeiffer-Poensgen,
Dear MEP Dr Christian Ehler,
Dear Ms Barbara Gessler,
Dear representatives of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Economc Affairs,
Dear NICE Jury and the winners of the NICE Award 2017,
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Aesthetics, knowledge and ethics fused into a new human ideal with the dawn of humanism. Today, the centrifugal force of art is expanding into business, society and politics.
Art established itself as a distinct category from that of crafts over 500 years ago, and gradually came to be recognised as one of the artes liberales, increasing artists’ scholarly and political standing. We are currently experiencing another rapid expansion of the realm of art. It has brought plenty of heated controversies and disputes with it, which nonthelesse are important when it comes to art and culture and their actual or supposed new role in society.
As the Frankfurter Allgemeine notably remarked, "the social contract that divided art from life in exchange for autonomy appears to be unravelling".
Or else consider the words of Olafur Eliasson, who does not exactly argue in terms of art for art’s sake: "Just like a building, an artwork is, essentially, a relationship. It is reality-producing." And then there’s also the technology, or rather the digital revolution, that is really shaking up our perceptions and ways of communicating and participating. This was aptly summarised in a speech by Tessa Jowell, the former British Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport: "This is a time of dramatic change. The worlds of culture and technology have collided, creating a universe of new possibilities, and new opportunities to access, consume and create content." This also, of course, applies directly to art and culture – taking a positivist approach, with enormous opportunities for society to expand its knowledge, creativity and horizons.
To recap: with humanism, aesthetics, knowledge and ethics fused into a new ideal. Today, as I have just described, the significance of art and culture is expanding into the spheres of society, politics and, last but not least, business. The European Parliament describes this in its ‘Draft report on a coherent EU policy for cultural and creative industries’: "The Commission recognises the key role of cultural and creative industries for the social and economic development of the EU; whereas Culture and Creative Industries have dual value, as they preserve and promote cultural and linguistic diversity, and strengthen European and regional identity, while sustaining social cohesion. Culture, art, creativity: this is the true image and asset of Europe in the world! In 21st century Europe, with the transition to the digital economy, Culture and Creative Industries are increasingly replacing traditional manufacturing processes and traditional value chains. Today, the production of quality content, the ability to innovate, to narrate, to imagine, to evoke emotions, have become our most precious materia prima. One to cultivate, support, promote and defend."
To recap: over 500 years ago, a new concept of art emerged that improved artists’ scholarly and political standing. We are currently once again witnessing an expansion of the boundaries of the realm of art, something that has been the subject of intense discussion. Anyone who wants to unterstand the aesthetic shock and fascination experienced by contemporaries of an artist like Michelangelo only need to put on a virtual reality headset. Glimpses of infinity, immersive worlds –new sensory experiences that were not previously possible are opening up today as well. New digital developments are enhancing the creative possibilities of art and culture. A revolutionary expansion of our horizons, or even – in the words of Peter Weibel, director of ZKM Karlsruhe – a "scientification of art like in the Renaissance – a Renaissance 2.0?" Are the outlines of a new concept of art emerging? Art, artists and creative professionals are acquire ideas and achievements from the worlds of business, technology and society. Companies like Google, as well as public networks like medienwerk.nrw, are playing an increasingly important role in the promotion, reception and development of art and culture. Traditional ideas about culture, politics and business are in flux. Art and culture are causing debates across society.
What does that mean not just for modern cultural policy? How can one design funding programmes that meet today’s requirements? Is it time to expand our understanding of art and culture, as artists themselves are increasingly calling for, and develop a conception that doesn’t just cut across disciplines and media, but across sectors as well?
These questions are the focus of this year’s forum. They are questions that we want to and need to discuss, both at Forum Europe Ruhr and beyond.