The Language of Art and Music

"An International Symposium on the Potential for Artistic Expression to Cross Cultural Barriers and the Relationship between Art, Culture, and International Relations"

(Berlin, 17th - 20th February 2011, Held Parallel to the Berlin International Film Festival)

Event Report

The four day conference ‘’The Language of Art and Music: An International Symposium on the Potential for Artistic Expression to Cross Cultural Barriers and the Relationship between Art, Culture, and International Relations’’ took place from February 17th to February 20th 2011 in Berlin. It brought together a group of speakers consisting of 24 leading figures from international politics and diplomacy, award-winning artists, leading academics, prominent civil society practitioners, and other experts from music, performance art, visual arts, as well as cinema, including nominees from the 61st Berlin international film festival. More than 100 participants came to take part and discuss salient issues surrounding the role of art and music in global politics and civil society.

The symposium explored the theory behind art and music as cultural bridges, exploring in particular their universal nature. Academic experts considered how we interpret and experience these cultural forms, and how these experiences can be compared across national boundaries. The conference also looked at a diverse range of case studies from across the world that featured cinema, music and art. Artists, film directors, musicians, politicians, diplomats, practitioners and participants offered their perspectives on these initiatives and the impact they have had at the local, national, and global levels.

Conference Speakers

Ambassador Andras Simonyi Former Hungarian Ambassador to the USA (ICD Advisory Board Member)
Andres Veiel German Film Director and Screenwriter
Colin Tweedy Chief Executive of Arts & Business UK
Dobrila Popovic Senior Adviser for Music and Performing Arts in the Ministry of Culture of Montenegro Department of Cultural and Artistic Creativity
Erna Hennicot-Schoepges European MP; Former Luxembourgian Minister of Culture and Religious Affairs (ICD Advisory Board Member)
Dr. Eva Vass Lecturer, Department of Education, University of Bath
Gareth Reeves Prize Winning Actor, New Zealand
Ints Dalderis Former Minister for Culture of the Republic of Latvia; Director of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra; (ICD Advisory Board Member)
John Ferguson Executive Director, American Voices
Dr. Kaberi Chatterjee Leading traditional Manipuri dancer and authority on the dance form created by Rabindranath Tagore. Produced and performed in authentic film versions of all three of Tagore's dance-dramas.
Ambassador Karl-Erik Norrman Former Swedish Ambassador; Secretary General of the European Cultural Parliament
Dr. Marina Apaydin Deputy Director for Management at the World Heritage Centre, UNESCO
Dr. Matilda Mroz Specialist in Cinematography and Film, University of Cambridge, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow
Meenakshi Shedde India Consultant to the Berlin; Locarno and Dubai Film Festivals; Winner of the National Film Award for Best Film Critic in 1999
Mohammadreza Farzad Award Winning Iranian Film Director & Poet
Per Ekedahl President, Jeunesses Musicales International and Senior Manager at the Swedish Concert Institute
Renen Schorr Award-Winning Film Director, Screenwriter, Film Producer; Former Head of Israel’s first independent, national school for film and television, and Founder & Director of the Sam Spiegel Film & TV School, Jerusalem
Ribal Al-Assad Founder and Chairman of IMAN; Founder and Director of the Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria
Rocco Buttiglione, Vice President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies; Former Italian Minister of Culture; Former Italian Minister of European Politics
Prof. Dr. Rokus de Groot Musicologist and Composer; Chair of Musicology, University of Amsterdam
Spyros Mercouris Co-founder of the political party PASOK & Honorary President of the Network of Cultural Capitals and Cultural Months of Europe
Professor Timothy Emlyn Jones Dean, Burren College of Art, Newtown Castle
Prof. Tomur Atagok Professor and Dean of the Art and Design Faculty in Yildiz University
William Harvey Director and Founder, Cultures in Harmony

Summary of Events

Thursday, February 17th 2011: The first day began in the morning with a welcome address by the director and founder of the ICD, Mark Donfried and Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, the former Minister of Culture of Luxembourg. This was followed by a welcome speech by the Honorable Dr. Rocco Buttiglione, the former Itailan Minister of Culture and former Italian Minister of European Politics. His well received speech was on music as a universal language. The last welcome speech was on the diplomacy of rock & roll, given by Ambassador Andres Simonyi, the former Hungarian Ambassador to the US. After refreshments, Mr. Donfried moderated a panel discussion on the subject ‘’Nation Brands, State-Supported Cultural Institutions, and Cultural Identity: The Role of Art and Culture in Expressing, Protecting and Promoting National Identities’’, in which the Honorable Dr. Buttiglione, Ms. Hennicot-Schoepges, Ambassador Simonyi, Professor Dr. Timothy Emlyn Jones, and Professor Dr. Tomur Atagök took part. Following the lunch break, Dobrila Popovic, the senior adviser for music and performing arts in the Ministry of Culture, gave a lecture on how music and stage projects can act as models of international cooperation. Ribal Al-Assad then gave a speech on his experience with his nonprofit organizations Iman and the Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria. Ms. Hennicot-Schoepges then gave a speech on the role of culture and music in building the EU. A panel discussion, moderated by Ambassador Simonyi, on free speech, protest art, graffiti, and controversial artwork then took place, which brought together the voices and opinions of Ms. Hennicot Schoepges, Dr. Jones, Mr. Donfried, and Dr. Atagök. The last event of the evening was by Mohammadreza Farzad, who presented his short film Into Thin Air. The participants and speakers concluded the day with a welcome group dinner at the Greek restaurant Ach Niko Ach.

Friday, February 18th 2011: Day two began with a presentation by Renen Schorr on the work of his film school, the Sam Spiegel School, and introduced one of his former students, Yael Reuveny, who then screened her short film Tales of the Defeated. The following lecture was on art and music as catalysts to end the cold war and and what the making of cultural policy means from both an EU and a Latvian perspective by Ints Dalderis, the former Latvian Minister of Culture and current national symphony orchestra director. The morning’s panel discussion was on the intriguing topic ‘’Moving Beyond the Clash of Civilizations: the Role of Art and Culture in Changing the Paradigm of International Relations’’. The former Swedish Ambassador and Secretary General of the European Cultural Parliament Karl Erik Norman moderated and Mr. Dalderis, Ms.Hennicot-Schoepges, Ambassador Simonyi, Mr. Donfried, Dr. Atagök, Dr. Jones, and Colin Tweedy participated and fielded questions. After breaking for lunch, the conference resumed with a special lecture by the former Greek politician and president of the Network of Cultural Capitals and Cultural Months of Europe, Spyros Mercouris, who focused on the power of culture to bring people together. Dr. Rokus de Groot, composer and chair of Musicology at the University of Amsterdam spoke on polyphony as a model for globalizing societies, playing many examples of polyphonic music to illustrate his findings. Next was Per Ekedahl, who spoke about his work with Jeunesses Musicales International and how it contributes to cultural diplomacy.  Before the next panel discussion, Dr. Marina Apaydin spoke about her work with UNESCO and cultural heritage as dialogue between cultures. The panel discussion was dedicated to the power of music to transcend political borders, and the following speakers took part: Mr. Dalderis, Mr. Donfried, Ambassador Simonyi, Mr. Ekedahl, Ambassador Norman, William Harvey and John Ferguson. The latter two speakers both head nonprofit organizations dedicated to crossing cultural borders through music education and performed a very moving and diverse concert in the evening with an Iranian flutist and pianist, with Mr. Ferguson on the piano and Mr. Harvey playing the violin.

Saturday, February 19th 2011: The third day of the conference began with a speech entitled, “I Want to Believe Art is for Everyone’’ by Professor Dr. Atagök. Mr. Harvey followed with ‘’The Role Music Should Play in America’s Future Relations with the Middle East’’, where he went over his own experiences with his organization Cultures in Harmony. The third lecture and discussion session was by Dr. Jones, who assessed art and what it does and how it does it from both an international and an academic perspective. Following lunch was a special appearance by award winning German director Andres Veiel, who presented parts of his film Balagan, who explained the inspiration, making of, and implications of this very international film. Following in the theme of film, the next speaker was actor Gareth Reeves from New Zealand, who explained the role of art and film in his country and its effect on its image in the world. He ended with an interactive activity, teaching all the speakers and participant members the haka, a traditional Maori dance. Next Matilda Mroz illustrated Andrzej Wajda’s film Katyn as a vehicle to pass generational and national boundaries. This was followed by Mr. Tweedy’s lecture on international business and arts partnerships and their role in cultural diplomacy. The last event of the day was an outing to see Zhang Yimou’s film Under the Hawthorn Tree, which was showing at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt as part of the Berlinale film festival.

Sunday, February 20th 2011: On the fourth and last day of the program, the participants met at the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery for a guided tour. Everyone met back at the ICD House at noon to hear Mr. Ferguson give a speech entitled ‘’Doing Art in Difficult Places: Best Practice Models for Performing Arts in Nations Emerging from Conflict or Isolation’’, where he went over the work of his own organization American Voices to illustrate the power of music in areas of conflict. In the afternoon, famed Tagore dancer Dr. Kaberi Chatterjee performed and presented her studies and work with the history of this form of Bengali dance. Indian film critic Meenakshi Shedde followed with a lecture and discussion on the influence of Bollywood film on international audiences. Next, Dr. Eva Vass presented her work and research with the lecture ‘’The Power of Music-Movement Experiences to Break Down Barriers within the Self and between the Self and Others.’’ Three participants helped to conclude the day with their own academic essays, which included participants Regina Höfer, Judith McKinn, and Reginald Patterson. The last event of the conference was a final speech on what arts and music can inspire, what it can play and the potential of humanity.

Thursday, February 17th 2011

Central themes:

  • Does culture matter? Is it a necessity? Should our policies be reflective of that? If so, how?
  • Culture is not who we are, but where we come from.
  • The problems of the world cannot be completely solved by regulation or legislation; music can help. The EU tore down barriers between European countries, now we must tear down the barriers in peoples’ minds.
  • Art and music should flow also from politicians, not just self proclaimed artists and musicians.
  • I do not possess truth, it possesses me; others see truth from different vantage points. To find truth, we must talk to one another.
  • Culture and immigration: assimilation or multiculturalism? Assimilation essentially means becoming one of us and accepting our truth - but does the host culture actually have that right to dictate? Multiculturalism means many cultures living side by side - but can we really become one nation? Integration is the best option, which enters into dialogue and demands that everyone respect one another.
  • Who speaks when I speak? My national culture, my family, university, experiences...
  • Culture is a system of relations that is always changing with new challenges and conflicting perspectives.
  • The universal language of music creates a community much larger than a singular culture and creates a transcultural experience that all can understand.
  • Culture is not about successes, such as fine art, but about listening, reconciliation and addressing weaknesses.
  • Creativity is our industrial revolution. There is no creativity without culture; countries that embrace it and create new values will succeed, while those who don’t embrace it will be left behind. This is not an exclusive revolution because it is something to which all countries can contribute.
  • Why would rock and roll deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? It is powerful, promotes incredible energy, and is easy to understand (not simple, but accessible), and paved the way for the culture of freedom of expression to expand eastward as well as open peoples’ mind to the West.
  • In the 1960’s, when the West embraced rock and roll, they wanted better democracy. When the East embraced it during the same time period, they just wanted democracy.
  • Diplomacy cannot and should not be done the same way as it has been done in previous decades; what with the ever rising importance of the internet, ie Wikileaks, it is apparent that culture needs to make its way more into international politics. At the Hungarian embassy in the US, they had Hungarian artists decorate the building and had rock musicians play and this projected an image of Hungary previously unknown to the US by using a special language that had a shortcut to the American mindset.
  • Where was soft power when the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt happened? Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other networking sites are the new rock and roll. Rock and roll a mindset.
  • A person is more willing to hear about other cultures from someone who understands their own culture.
  • Hard and soft power should be used together to deal with the problems of the next generation.
  • In the US, culture is involved in the private sector, not the government; the US has no Ministry of Culture. Instead, there are tax incentives for charities that allows most cultural organizations to be entirely privately funded; the US are renowned for being the biggest donators in the world, while Europeans expect that their governments will fund or subsidise culture.
  • Should governments be involved in culture, and if so, how much? If culture is handled entirely by the government, does it end up being propaganda?
  • In Turkey, everything cultural is under the control of the state (museums, etc). However, the small private museums that do exist are more active and interactive and better at dealing with the public, peoples’ interests and needs. It is then apparent that economics are valued more than maintaining sustainable and modern cultural institutions.
  • Italy has some of the best works of art in the world, but museums need to become more interactive and teach the people why it is that these arts are important and what they mean.
  • Countries should invest in culture like they invest in health and education, though there is a worry that the government could dictate what is important.
  • Some assets of culture, such as rock and roll, would not work if it were government funded. If the US backed a music group going abroad, it would seem like propaganda, but if the group goes independently, it can be a real success. Moreover, just money is not enough to make a cultural institution work.
  • Art and music know no boundaries; as in the case of an organization in Montenegro, opera can be used to shape musical expression of Europe, as it combines world heritage, an orchestra, costume design, skilful singing, and brings together groups of people to inspire international dialogue.
  • Iman is a non-profit organization that brings people together from different backgrounds and with different perspectives to promote interreligious and international dialogue to fight extremism.
  • Social media can be used to show peaceful protesters that they are not alone and that the world is watching and  engaging and debating about the causes they are fighting for.
  • ‘’Islamism’’ is a perverted view of Islam: intolerance must be fought in Europe and new ways of interacting and engaging with Muslim immigrants must be found; politics and the media make Islam something to fear; Iman can help present moderate views that represent the majority of Muslims.
  • Cultural diplomacy must not remain the dream of the privileged, but become realized and promoted. As the economy is weak, it must be used to build peace.
  • In the case of the EU, it is hard to collect funding for cultural programs. It has been recognized that diversity is the identity of the EU; there have been jobs created in the arts, money given for filmmakers quotas made to improve financing and diversity.
  • Children who learn music tend to have better grades and be less violent in school; those who grow up in poverty no longer feel poor when they learn an instrument; they learn to use full capacity of their brains and senses.
  • Has graffiti become mainstream? It has at least become tamed and absorbed by the market, as shown in the film Exit Through the Gift Shop, directed by the most famed graffiti artist in the world, Banksy. It is no longer as radical as once intended.
  • While some graffiti messages may not seem political, it actually is; those doing it have no other outlet for self expression. For example, in Pakistan, the name of a famous Pakistani hip hop artist was scrawled on a wall with a curse word in English in between his first and last names. It seems like useless graffiti, just a name on a wall written rudely. However, this person cannot express how he would like to be governed, the blasphemy law will not be repealed, and it can be inferred that he is upset that this hip hop artist raps in English, not Urdu, making the music inaccessible to many Pakistani people.
  • Better art tends to come during times when free speech is repressed; it seems that people can express themselves more freely when the spoken word is taken out of the equation.

Friday, February 18th 2011

Central themes:

  • The Sam Spiegel School in Jerusalem challenges its students to ask themselves many questions before beginning the process of making a film. Is the film relevant? The idea original? Are you the only one that can tell it? Do you have an obligation to tell it? Is it personal? Is it personal to the audience? What does it mean? Can it address an international audience?
  • A project began in 2008 with the goal f bringing together student film makers to foster global understanding and a more compassionate world. German, Israeli, and Polish film makers were challenged to each make a film about each other’s countries. The products were incredibly successful and achieved their goal of overcoming historical conflicts and making something personal become something universal.
  • Music was one of the catalysts that helped to end the Cold War; the ‘’singing revolution’’ in Estonia brought together musical culture and protest. In the late 80s, people sang songs previously banned by the Soviets, bringing together both art and politics for peace.
  • Today, Latvia’s economy is weak and the role of culture has changed; cultural tourism is being developed, which stimulates growth, increases competitiveness, creates jobs, stirs innovation, and provides sustainable development in the realm of culture and education about culture.
  • Moving beyond the clash of civilizations in the modern world is difficult. One person’s globalization is another’s imperialism; the question remains: can we really respect everyone?
  • The problem is not necessarily clashes between civilizations, but conflicting and competing thoughts. Clashing is the product of extremists.
  • Culture has always been international, whether through trade or brute force (colonialism). Today, technology is helping to spread art and politics, either through media (Chinese artist Wei Wei’s imprisonment was brought to light when his work was displayed at the Tate in England) or through other internet sources (Google’s art project, which provides intense views of art never seen before, shared internationally).
  • When we understand each other through art, we will understand each other through politics.
  • It is dangerous to see the world as constantly clashing; people must recognize diversity and break stereotypes.
  • Art won’t save the world; there were Nazis who were musicians as well. Art can shift your attention and change how capable you are of changing your attention. A passive experience with art will change nothing.
  • Jeunesses Musicales empowers youth, provides performance opportunities for young musician, and holds concerts to help understanding develop through music across all boundaries - national, cultural, ethnic, etc.
  • Music is the great communicator and creates a dialogue between cultures; it is inherent in human nature and can be introduced without mediation.
  • Culture molds the present and shapes the future; it demands respect for diversity and the opinions of others.
  • Culture is the center of political, economic and social life and is the basic heritage of thousands of years; Europe could be pivotal in cultural dialogue to better the quality of life worldwide.
  • Polyphony is different voices or melodies playing at the same time, but are in tune to each other. This can also apply to a cultural and personal idea, where people atune and relate to each other while speaking with their own voices at the same time; voices transform each other acoustically. 
  • Truth is not limited to one voice, but many. Polyphony allows space for differences while being harmonic, though without clashes, music is not possible.
  • UNESCO strives to promote and preserve cultural diversity worldwide to develop a culture of peace, social integration, and create sustainable intercultural dialogue.
  • In order to foster dialogue, one must both listen and hear; about 75 percent of communication is misheard, misunderstood or misinterpreted. You must listen to understand others and speak to understand yourself.
  • Music obviously has power in politics; in authoritarian regimes, music is banned before books.

Saturday, February 19th 2011

Central themes:

  • What has become increasingly important in the information age is the preservation of culture, which will demand increased funding in the coming years.
  • The International Council of Museums (ICOM) supports the promotion and development of museums and museumprofessionals at an international level, showing museums how to manage themselves, teach people the value of artifacts and the arts and holding international conferences, all with the goal of social harmony in mind.
  • Art is for everyone; it is a bridge between the mind of the artist and the viewer.
  • In the age of technology, there seems to be less communication and touch. People aren’t going to galleries as much, are quick to make judgments, and would rather gather their cultural information from the internet.
  • Children are key players in the realm of art and music, and should be motivated to ask and answer questions and be involved with cultural activities and education. Through them, traditions of art and culture will live on.
  • Globalization has brought many people from all over the world to come together in ways that could not be done before; meeting others teaches us how to live with differences and encourage social harmony.
  • Respect is what happens when you’re doing something else; during a weeklong exchange sponsored by Cultures in Harmony, focused mainly on music, cultural diversity was affirmed, cultural dialogue was fostered, and strong relationships were built using solely music as a bridge.
  • By engaging spontaneously, earnestly, thoughtfully, and sensitively, you can achieve a lot in cultural diplomacy. Letting the teaching be mutual and understanding your differences can open many doors for international discourse.
  • National culture isn’t about where you come from, but how you address it.
  • What does art do and how does it do it? It must take us where we were not already. The more convincing the illusion, the more convincing the work is as truth.
  • Knowing the work of science and art is to know the world; both require imagination to make and verify hypotheses.
  • To change a problem, you must first change your state of mind. People naturally resist change, but artists need to be daring and take risks, to go where you’re not supposed to in order to fulfill their need to change problems they see.
  • German director Andres Veiel’s documentary Balagan explores the deep relationships that people have with the Holocaust. He explains the sense of attachment and almost territorial view that some Israelis have when those who are not Jewish try to relate to it : ‘’Don’t intervene, this is our tragedy.’’ It poses the question, if it is appropriate use the Holocaust as a theme to be presented as art, and who may or may not make that art or tell that story.
  • The documentary is quite controversial, in many respects. One of the parts that caused outrage was a Palestinian character who previously knew next to nothing about the Holocaust, and through the course of making a play, came to identify with it personally. He no longer felt at home in his Palestinian village or with his Israeli friends. He became a symbol as an ambassador for crossing bridges and taking huge risks, making us ask who we are, where our roots are, and how much that matters.
  • A healthy film industry is indicative of a healthy society; it shows that the country has the ability to tell its own stories from their own point of view.
  • Theatre and film will not save the world, but it does make audiences more compassionate, empathetic, and open to new perspectives.
  • Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s film Katyn was made to heal the trauma of a war crime never officially dealt with, create awareness of the event to a generation seen to be forgetting or having a detachment to history, and to teach an international audience how Polish history is seen from a Polish perspective.
  • Film helps people deal with history and can be therapeutic; ghosts stand most forcefully in film, they look straight at us and talk right to us.
  • After the film was released, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Russian Prime Minister Wladimir Putin met to recognize the anniversary for the first time in April 2010. Russia is even starting to look into the event, which they only admitted to having committed in November 2010.
  • In the UK, money for the arts is generally seen as good if it comes from the state, but bad if it comes from the private sector. However, money from large companies can do great things in the realm of arts. Keeping culture alive is a huge challenge in Europe, and business can help save it.
  • Countries are cutting culture budgets the world over, so funding from the private sector is almost welcome; businesses such as HSBC, Hewlett Packard, BP, Travelex, Morgan Stanley, Unilever, Puma, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and more have contributed greatly to arts awareness, conservation, education, and availability (ie Chinese terracotta soldier exhibition in the US).
  • We can use arts and business to promote cultural diplomacy; culture can be seen as a brand, associated with a location, having specific content, its own creativity and authenticity, as well as provide entertainment.

Sunday, February 20th 2011

Central themes:

  • The East Side Gallery in Berlin is one of the few surviving pieces of the Wall still standing and relatively intact; in 1989, 102 artists from around the world came to Berlin to express their reaction to the fall of the wall. It remains a memorial for freedom, and expresses the joy and the intense optimism of the time for peace and a world without walls.
  • American Voices was created to help further accessibility and understanding of American culture and music, especially in developing countries or those emerging from conflict and isolation or lacking opportunities for cultural exchange and dialogue with the United States.
  • Those who took part in programs sponsored by American voices have gone on to found their own youth oriented organizations; for example, one former participant founded the Iraq National Youth Orchestra, which is now funded by the British Council, and another founded a dance company for children in Kurdistan.
  • By filming traditional songs and dances and putting the videos on the internet, culture and its authenticity can be preserved for future generations, be used as an educational tool both domestically and abroad, and provide awareness by making it easily available to those who would not have sought it out without technology.
  • Bollywood is a phenomenon that is intensely popular in India, though its influence goes much further than its homeland’s borders. Many films have received international acclaim, connecting different people around the world.
  • India has a strong history of theatre, folk tradition, music, and dance; cinema is just a product of this, and has no influence from Broadway. Bollywood films tend to look inwardly to India; it has no need (or want) to deal with the rest of the world. While most countries are fighting to create and fill national quotas for domestically made films, Indian films proudly control 90 percent of the domestic market. This should be an example for other countries in promoting their own culture.
  • Everything we know is social, and how we learn is part of sociological functioning. Collaborative creativity is how we influence each other, allow ourselves to be mutually influenced without argumentation not just with language, but emotions and body language.
  • Appreciating music through movement is sense-based, and leads to shared creativity, breaking barriers, empathetic attunement, creative attunement, and creative presence.
  • In Klara Kokas’s experiments with children’s movement experiences with music, she found that children would be creative and dance without being asked or told how. They would develop independently of one another and go to each other naturally in dance, telling stories or interpreting the music through body movements and dance.