The Freedom of Art in Times of War and Crisis
From 15-16 December 2022, 42 members from 19 countries of the European Alliance of Academies met at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin to discuss restrictions on artistic freedom in the face of war and crisis. How are the working conditions of artists changing? What can artists contribute to peace? What opportunities does the digital space offer?
Numerous actors from art and culture reported on their experiences. Victor Sydorenko, President of the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine, appealed in his digital greeting to the solidarity between the European art and cultural institutions and the opportunities for cooperation. The Ukrainian Academy of Fine Arts was recently admitted to the majority into the Alliance.
In his speech, Sergei Loznitsa, filmmaker and member of the Akademie der Künste, warned against the background of his expulsion from the Ukrainian Film Academy, „replacing one propaganda with another“. Hanna Bilobrova, co-director of the documentary Mariupolis 2 and fiancée of the slain documentary filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius, showed film excerpts which expressed the absurdity of war, the destruction, suffering and life behind the headlines. In order to complete the film after the murder of her partner Bilobrova had brought the film footage from Mariupol to Lithuania. Reports from artists and cultural workers from Poland and Hungary, who are struggling with financial restrictions imposed by the government, were heard in the internal working sessions. In their speeches Resist to the Siren’s Songs and Certain Things, the writers Cécile Wajsbrot and A. L. Kennedy used the power of their art to describe the situation in the world and to move the audience deeply with their words.
Academy President Jeanine Meerapfel: „Art will not end the war, nor change the political situation. But we have the responsibility to read the books, show the films and perform the music that bear witness to it. That is what we are trying to do with the European Alliance of Academies, transcending national borders: We have soft borders, but clear goals.“ The assembly decided to support concerned institutions unanimously, be it through transnational cooperation in projects or through publicity campaigns on the ground.
In response to the question of what politically engaged art means, filmmaker Andres Veiel argued for allowing doubts and contradictions in artistic creation and to endure ambivalences. Composer Iris ter Schiphorst appealed to the art academies present to create spaces for debates between artists and civil society in order to address inequalities and initiate the necessary transformation of society.
In their video messages, Minister of State for Culture and Media, Claudia Roth, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, Alexandra Xanthaki, stressed the importance of the European alliance and pledged their and assured the European Alliance of Academies of their continued support.
Since its founding in October 2020 in Berlin on the initiative of Akademie President Jeanine Meerapfel, the European Alliance of Academies has been committed to freedom of the arts in Europe. With declarations, petitions, events and in discussion with political stakeholders, the European Alliance raises awareness about cultural policy shortcomings in a shared commitment to strengthening an open, solidary-based and democratic Europe.
As a means of furthering the artistic collaboration in the network, the European Alliance of Academies has developed the digital platform LOOM – Interweaving the Arts in Europe and present some of artwork as a video projection.
With Olena Balun, Hanna Bilobrova, Ferenc Czinki, Wolfgang Kaleck, A.L. Kennedy, Sergei Loznitsa, Leszek Koczanowicz, Jeanine Meerapfel, Andres Veiel, Iris ter Shiphorst, Cécile Wajsbrot as well as Minister of State for Culture and Media Claudia Roth and UN Special Rapporteur for Culture Alexandra Xanthaki (online) and Thomas Krüger, President of the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb). Music by AoA Impro Group: Antonio Borghini, Floros Floridis, Joe Hertenstein, Elena Kakaliagou, Almut Kühne.
See public programme for details
Press coverage by rbb Inforadio, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Deutschlandradio and Deutschlandfunk Kultur (Fazit)
Funded by the Federal Foreign Office, the Society of Friends of the Akademie der Künste and the Federal Agency for Civic Education