Press conference at Acropole Pallas, Athens, 9 October 2018
After a 40-day period which we devoted to briefing, planning and collaboration, we are today in a position to present our strategic orientation for the upcoming period.
In the dialogue between the Ministry of Culture and other institutional agencies, independent creators and cultural-productioncommunities, on use and consumption, we deem it important to establish a contemporary discourse on culture in terms of its conceptualisation, strategic priorities and management. We need dialogue with independent creators, who continuously renew our perception of the world, and dialogue, too, with the so very different community groups, because culture lives and breathes in their everyday, and because citizens do not only consume culture, they also produce it. Our aim is to articulate a contemporary discourse on culture, share with you the meaning behind our strategies and priorities, and to try to turn management into a political process.
Our approach will be firmly sociopolitical. The term might sound technical but, actually, it describes something simple. We will not limit our attention to those organisations which produce culture; we will be equally attuned to the public, namely the plural, inexhaustible public of everyday life, with its rich layering and unmediated expression which exceeds conventional classifications. We wish to pay close attention to those who are resoundingly absent from the established cultural scene, the non-public, and to the reasons keeping them from participating. We need to chart the field of their wishes and also keep an eye out for the invisible, non-legitimised aspects of everyday culture which decisively impact on attitudes, mindsets and behaviours.
The keywords for this process are participation, rather than mere access; cultural rights;inequalitiesand discrimination; cultural communities– whether visible or invisible; difference; multicultural society; cultural biodiversity; and, finally, social cohesion. By means of these tools, we will be able to interpret new and often volatile cultural phenomena, to initiate dialogue at many levels, to pay closer attention to scientists and intellectuals, to design cultural regulations and interventions that are fairer and more inclusive, all of which is, by definition, the task of public cultural policy.
There are many questions worth posing in a public dialogue on the culture we are entitled to and want, on our cultural identity and its formation, especially with regard to the younger generations. There is value in sensibly and courageously pointing out cultural conflicts instead of repressing them and allowing them to poison our life in common. Also, in revisiting the role of state organisations and private institutions (particularly in relation to their public and their non-public), their proposals on what is meaningful and the fostering of new subjectivities in which they engage.
There are many sociocultural phenomena which are often interpreted superficially and without due consideration. Perhaps you also share the sense that there is indeed a hegemony of banality from where critical thought is, by and large, absent and which prevents the political economy of meaning from being productive. This needs to change and it is the ministry's task to elicit and foster a pluralistic dialogue on all these issues.
The main body of the ministry serves, as is well known, cultural heritage and, to that end, there is continuity, consistency, an overview, central and regional structures, scientific tools and, overall, a steady and active policy and intervention. Within the ministry, there are important scientific staff (not just archaeologists but from all necessary specialisations), large-scale works in progress, museums, excavations, research in sectors that can be unwieldy or, on occasion, groundbreaking, as well as educational programmes. There are also, as can be expected, delays, problems, bureaucratic entanglements that cannot, as experience shows, be anticipated or avoided. To better address these issues, we decided to assume shared competence with Deputy Minister Konstantinos Stratis, in boosting the requisite organisation and political will and, with the critical support of the Secretary General, Maria Andreadaki Vlazaki, to form not a hierarchical group but, rather, a team that addresses all issues jointly and in close cooperation with each other. This, I believe, is a change that will prove beneficial for both the ministry's organisation and its prospects, as we've already started making decisions that will be helpful in the future, when others will occupy our places. With Deputy Minister Giorgos Vasiliadis, on the other hand, we have had intensive discussions on the showcasing of athletics as a cultural activity, the need for dialogue on physical culture, lived culture, initiatives that will repel elitism and diminish the perceived distance between physical and intellectual toil.
Allow me a few words on the legal persons and regulated entities of the ministry which implement policies with independent management boards and directors. We have initiated dialogue with them, holding a common conferencefor the first time, which could lead to side collaborations, while we are also looking at new budgets and the end of the term of service for some of the people involved. The issue on which we sought everyone's views at the conference concerned their common denominator, i.e., their public itself which, at all events, is the reason for their existence. That that dialogue remains open, as a fair amount of thinking and input is required. We had the same discussion with museum directors, with whom we also share many concerns in common and dialogue is to be continued.
The day-to-day public administration, organisation and management of the ministry requires thoroughness in decision making and the utilisation of every possibility available to us. We will try to bridge the gaps, initiate new ways of collaboration within the ministry with all the staff, and capitalise on particularly useful knowledge. From the very start, we addressed all staff with no exception and without narrow hierarchical criteria, wishing for them to know what we think and plan, to find out their own ideas and thoughts, to constitute a cultural community first and foremost among ourselves, those who work together in the present circumstances. There is a positive climate and I'm optimistic, despite the time pressures and the need for our planning to be realistic.
The matter of the protection of archaeological and, more generally, cultural heritage has very much occupied our thoughts recently, despite the fact that we consider it self-evident and its institutional framework robust. The exception Law 4389/2016 makes for archaeological sites is not subject to dispute; nevertheless, we are in close contact with the Ministry of Finance and the process has been initiated for the Ministry of Culture to have at its disposal, as soon as possible, the complete list of the exempt propertiesthat are archaeological sites, monuments, museums, historical sites and properties, and which, in general, serve the public aim of the protecting and showcasing cultural heritage. Ratified certification, we believe, will end the cycle of doubt on this matter, once and for all.
Hence, we consider the strike that has been announced for Thursday as counterproductive because closed archaeological sites work against, not for, their public protection and abet arguments and plans that have been put forward in favour of private custodianship. It is regrettable, at a moment when we are moving towards processes capable of safeguarding cultural heritage more decisively than ever and in great detail, to be met with closed doors. It is my hope and wish that eventually the more sober arguments will prevail, along with respect for not just the monuments but also the visitors who honour and preserve them with their presence.
The creation of the National Cultural CapitalObservatory, with the goal of analysing what constitutes the country's material and symbolic cultural capital, and tracking its development on a yearly basis. This is a necessary tool if we wish to overcome a definition of culture that's limited to the arts and cultural heritage, and a prerequisite for proposing cultural practices which respond to real needs and utilise the rich dynamic of Greek society. This is the only way to establish sustainable development and enhance its contribution to the Greek economy and society, aiming ultimately to advance the terms of cultural democracy.
A regional policy for contemporary culture, with a focus on the coming decade, 2020-30, as a necessary parameter for setting up a new cultural model of sustainable development and sociopolitical cohesion. The living cultural cells in the regions, which already operate in multiple sectors, need to be vitalised and supported. We will proceed with networking and, where necessary, will design new, innovative frameworks for the organisation of culture in the regions. Our aim is the development of a regional network that is autonomous, equitable and outward-looking in order to formulate, express and showcase its own topical cultural choices, rather than reproducing inferior copies of a central, hydrocephalic model. Emphasis will be given to approaching contemporary creators and local communities, which are the prerequisites for the sustainable development of both cities and the regions, not to mention contemporary art at large.
A new organisation for books and reading, after consultation with the relevant entities and the community of books and readers, regarding its feasibility and design. The dialogue will take into consideration all developments in recent years in the field of production, circulation and consumption of books, reading practices, technologies and libraries, audiovisual media and digital applications, as well as the new status of the National Library, along with libraries and networks in the regions, in order to design a viable and future-oriented plan.
Culture and children: We are initiating research with the School of Education of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens on the relation of minors with the services and consumption of cultural products and services. The research will be used as the basis for political interventions and new programmes for children. This is a necessary tool so that art, communication and anything else that nourishes the imaginary and cultural identity of youth and children may cultivate free expression, provide creative resources and foster mature human beings and citizens.
Youth and childrenand New creators and artists: A programme of innovative proposals and the production of cultural plans with reference to younger age groups. A programme will be announced at the beginning of 2019 that will bring together creative groups of new artists and producers of very young ages as well as adolescents and post-adolescents. The gap is noticeable and the state ought to support and improve this critical aspect of artistic production.
Culture and Sports: cooperative interaction to develop forms of cultural expression and practices, inside and outside the sporting arena. Athletics is a large-scale, complex and multifaceted cultural entity. We wish to slowly and methodically create contacts that will contribute to its dynamics and open it out to other areas. We will take note of this sector and take initiatives to benefit both sports fans and people outside the playing fields.
"Poets, like soccer players, must be technically adept, disciplined, imaginative and capable of improvisation at any moment. That's because poetry is a game that demands high concentration and, indeed, the things I learned in the field, keep instructing me in my daily work, which is the composition of poems,"says Christopher Merrill, American poet and essayist, in an interview.
Acropole Pallas:We are looking at the possibility of creating in the building where we are gathered today a cultural hub, a space for artistic creation that will endeavour to operate as the "interim space" for joint determination and dialogue between public policy and contemporary independent production, centred on the needs of the public. A meeting point for many different, restive public groups, with emphasis on the paramount right of participation. Exhibitions, performances, music events, books and every form of contemporary art and creation will have a hospitable space, receptive to independent, and youthful, creative forces. We aim to create a hub supporting artistic activity in all its stages with open rehearsals, seminars, participatory meetings, exhibitions, conferences and festivals. We will provide the space and the support so that non-conventional cultural and artistic forms and practices have the opportunity to challenge and surprise us. Moreover, we want to have an international dimension whereby local discussion will be enlivened by contributors from other parts of the world and our own international presence will be strengthened through collaborations and similar initiatives outside Greece.
A number of collaborations and synergies are also being plannedwith ministries, public and private bodies, the Attica regional authority and other municipal and regional authorities with an expressed interest in cultural interventions in specific fields. We will listen to their proposals attentively and offer our own with due consideration.
Minister for Culture and Sports
Olive Tree Routes
The Restoration of the Acropolis
The return of the Parthenon Marbles
Archaeological Museums & Collections in Greece
Intangible Cultural Heritage
The Greek Portal of the MICHAEL European project
A 365 Day Destination (Narrative)
Archaeological Resources Fund
A 365 Day Destination (English)
Access to cultural heritage networks across Europe