Thursday, 26 December 2019

Resistance: to change, but also to tradition

Cellist Patrice Jackson performing back in 2002 (Photo: Andrew Sacks for The New York Times)

My first ever post on classical music, written in 2012, was entitled “
What’s the problem with classical music? Apparently none…”. Seven years later, I still believe there’s nothing wrong with the genre itself, but there are many wrongs in the way it is being managed.

A few days ago, an article in the New York Times informed me that women were not “allowed” in the Vienna Philharmonic until 1997. Even today, only 15 of its 145 permanent members are women. And they actually still make a maximum of 30% in classical orchestras in continental Europe.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Plural Lisbon

The intense public debate regarding the creation of a “museum of the discoveries” has slowed down in recent months. However, it significantly and, it seems to me, irreversibly marked the discussion about the role of museums in the Portuguese society, the ways in which one can and should look into the past, the reasons why this past is preserved and researched.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Peace, Justice, Strong Institutions

Here's my introduction to the panel "Peace, justice, strong institutions: How can and should museums play a role in an increasingly unbalanced, politically challenged age?” at the NEMO conference in Tartu.I´ve included references to other presentations made during the conference. Ler aqui

Monday, 2 September 2019

Guest post: Making things public through exhibitions - 'Our' Cosa Nostra, by Foteini Kopiloglou

Palermo, Sunday morning, sun was long up before Sicilians, and there I was toiling endlessly up the Corso Vittorio Emanuele in the historic centre, pushing my feet obediently onto the pedestrian area following the recognition of Arab-Norman monuments as a World Heritage Site. Walking around Palazzo Gulì again and again, I found myself standing in mute astonishment and dumbfounded disbelief (how could I not see that?) in front of a NO MAFIA MEMORIAL. I suddenly felt grateful for abandoning my normally “prudent” expedition since the holidays began, and I plunged into the challenge of investigating a socio-political exhibition, in a setting outside the traditional gallery.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The discomfort of change: is “white fragility” our main concern?

Image taken from Cyprus Mail.

In a post last year, Nathan “Mudyi” Sentence (Australian Museum) wrote about his involvement in a museum programme for university students discussing the Stolen Generations (the removal of children of aboriginal descent by the Australian government and church missions along the 20th century) and intergenerational trauma. “After the program, one of the students anonymously commented on a feedback form that they felt like they were being reprimanded and made to feel bad for being White. I found this to be an odd response as we were just discussing a reality and an issue that affects many, many First Nations people, but they chose to disengage because it made them uncomfortable. This made me worried that White fragility will always get in the way of settlers engaging with programs that challenge the colonial structures that benefit them. This made me worried that White fragility is more of concern to some people than the truth.”

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

A new museum definition

MASP, São Paulo, Brazil (Photo: Maria Vlachou)

“A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”

The current museum definition of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) serves perfectly those museum professionals who know how to give meaning to expressions such as “at the service of society” and “for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment”. It serves perfectly those museum professionals who not only know how to give meaning to these words, but also how to share this meaning with other citizens, non-specialists, through both their thinking and their practice.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

For us and for our friends

From left to right: poet Odysseas Elytis, composer Manos Hadjidakis, theatre director Karolos Koun, Theatro Technis 1957, rehearsals of Bertolt Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle"  © Manos Hadjudakis Archive

News that Warren Kanders resigned from Whitney Museum Board left me truly pleased. After months of protests, the owner of Safariland (a company that produces “law enforcement products” – in other words, weapons, including the tear gas used against immigrants at the US border) was forced to leave, as many people felt that making money out of producing weapons and then philanthropically investing that money in culture and the arts is an oxymoron (to say the least).

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Memory that resists

A scene from the documentary The Silence of Others

A few weeks ago, I read in an article that the impasse regarding Brexit negotiations is considered, both by Remainers and Leavers, humiliating for Britain. According to one poll, 90% of the respondents agreed that the way the UK is dealing with Brexit is a national humiliation. The author of the article, Professor of Political Psychology Barry Richards, referred to an increasingly influential body of psychological theory which emphasises that “the need for dignity is basic to our psychological make up. To feel that we have been stripped of it is very threatening and destabilising.” He makes the distinction between feeling humiliated and feeling betrayed and his advice is to avoid endorsing and amplifying the sense of humiliation. He also suggests that the word “humiliation”, and others (such as “traitor”, “betrayal” or “treachery”) shouldn’t be used in the debate.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

First thoughts on the National Plan of the Arts

There were two occasions for a first appreciation of the National Plan of the Arts (NPA): its public presentation, on 18 June, and the reading of the document. I'll start by sharing my thoughts on the first.

The room where the presentation took place was packed. Many colleagues, journalists, people representing private organisations that support the cultural sector and the arts. One could feel the good mood and the expectation, mixed with some distrust (“Will this be it?”). I believe that that moment of encounter and everything one felt in the air was a positive sign that the sector is made up of professionals who are still very much interested and ready to get involved in a common effort that may value, support and strengthen their work and their contribution to society.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Sour lemons, sweet lemonades

National Portrait Gallery, Washington (Photo: Ben Hines)

In a training course for culture professionals last month, I showed the photo of a two-year-old black girl admiring the portrait of Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. She seemed awestruck and she reportedly told her mother that the woman on the painting was a queen and that she wanted to be a queen too. The point I wanted to make was that black people, or other so-called minorities, rarely do they see people looking like them as part of the mainstream narratives presented in museums; rarely do they come across the stories of people who look like them and who achieved something in their lives; people they could look up to.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

The great privilege of public life

Poster image of "The Coat", presented in 2017 by the Grupo de Teatro da Nova in Lisbon.

The recent blackface episode at a school in northern Portugal and the kind of comments it attracted was another indicator of the worrying lack of (non-virtual) meeting spaces for dialogue. Many did not understand the racism criticism of an initiative aimed at celebrating cultural diversity (from "countries" such as Africa, China and Brazil) and ended up accusing the critics of racism and hate speech. The exchange of comments on the Facebook page Blackface Portugal is revealing of the incomprehension, and even of the ignorance, around this matter. But can we say that we were shocked or surprised? Is this not a reality known to us on which, no matter how much we feel like saying "they should have known better", we cannot turn our backs? We cannot, because it continues to influence the education, thinking and notions which big part of our society holds on this matter and several others. It is these notions that end up conditioning the freedom of many citizens and perpetuating all kinds of racism and, in some cases, violence.