European Alliance of Academies
Rights and Freedom of Culture in Times of Political Change
Shortly before the elections in Poland, the Polish Alliance partner Villa Decius invited the European Alliance of Academies to a study trip to Krakow from 21-22 September. In discussions with prominent representatives of independent museums, theatres and houses of culture, it became clear how the Polish government is pushing for the renationalisation of art and culture and increasingly influences artistic decisions.
The cultural workers painted a picture of political and financial pressure. The targeted spread of misinformation about artworks, personal hostility and accusations, and even physical attacks are the conditions under which Polish artists and cultural workers are increasingly working.
In her keynote speech at the public roundtable “Rights and Freedom of Culture in Times of Political Change”, UN Special Rapporteur for Cultural Rights Alexandra Xanthaki pointed out how these methods can lead to artistic self-censorship and that the right to artistic freedom is a state obligation that must be legally enforced if necessary.
The most recent example is the personal hostility of the Polish Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro against the Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland and her film Zielona Granica (Green Border), which was awarded at the 80th Venice International Film Festival with the Special Jury Prize.
Jeanine Meerapfel, President of the Akademie der Künste and initiator of the European Alliance of Academies, commented: “To compare Agnieszka Holland with the propagandists of the Third Reich is an attack on the dignity of a highly acclaimed filmmaker and colleague and a violation of the right to artistic freedom”. In an official statement the members of the European Alliance of Academies expressed their solidarity with Agnieszka Holland.
Discussion of freedom of artistic expression with young Britons
European Alliance authors discussed the freedom of artistic expression in literature with UK students at Cambridge on 26 and 27 August. Censorship has many forms. Who has the power to raise their voice? And who can silence other voices? Four writing workshops and two public discussions on this year’s topic “Building a Sustainable and Healthy World” were part of the annual student conference at the Homerton College campus.
After events in Budapest, Madrid, Amsterdam and Berlin, members of the European Alliance of Academies debated the necessity of artistic freedom for a functioning democracy for the first time in the UK. Together with the Royal Society of Literature, the transnational network which has been committed to the freedom of the arts in Europe since 2020 is organising the programme aimed at the younger generation.
The opening discussion “How does self-censorship work for a writer?” with authors Marina Warner (UK), Bianca Bellóva (CZ), Ferenc Czinki and Réka Borda (HU) looked at the political pressure on the freedom of expression in many countries and its impact on the artistic work of writers. The event “Who has the right to speak? Whose voice is heard?” with Kenan Malik (UK), Annelies Verbeke (NL), George Whitley (UK) and Cécile Wajsbrot (FR) explored the question of which voices are underrepresented in literature, who can speak freely and to what extent, and who is silenced.
Academy member Cécile Wajsbrot initiated “Café Climate” with the young persons present. This project explored how the climate crisis affects our daily lives, endangers democracy and has an impact on art and culture. The outcomes were:
- Information: For the students, democracy means getting more access to information.
- Education: They insist upon the fact that at school, the importance of climate issues is not approached.
- Responsibility: They point out the fact that they are aware of the responsibility weighing upon their shoulders, at the same time, they feel powerless because they are not in charge.
British writers Bhanu Kapil and Mariah Whelan conducted creative writing workshops with the topic of eco-poetry and „What would you say if you could?“
Text excerpts of each author can be found here: allianceofacademies.eu
An event of the European Alliance of Academies organised by Akademie der Künste and the Royal Society of Literature. In cooperation with the University of Cambridge, Czech Literary Center, Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature, Society of Hungarian Authors
„Artistic Freedom. A Core Element of the European Project“
From 30 to 31 May 2023, the European Alliance of Academies held a conference of solidarity with the Society of Hungarian Authors Szépírók Társasága in Budapest.
Eleven European countries were represented. Both internal and public podium discussions focused on the increasingly restricted freedom of art and artistic platforms in Hungary and other European countries. In internal discussions, representatives from non-government-run cultural organisations drew attention to a lack of funding, production and distribution for alternative artistic work. During a public discussion with the writer György Dalos, filmmaker Béla Tarr, poet and novelist Katharina Schultens, director Bartosz Szydłowski and others, it became apparent that, unlike individual freedoms, institutional independence is mainly endangered.
Jeanine Meerapfel – filmmaker, president of the Akademie der Künste and initiator of the European Alliance of Academies – stated: “We have come to Budapest to learn more about the situation facing artists in Hungary. The European Alliance of Academies will continue to pressure the European Parliament to insist the Hungarian government support independent artist associations.”
During the upcoming Spanish EU Council Presidency, the European Alliance of Academies is planning artistic actions and conversations with members of the European Parliament before the 2024 European elections to raise awareness about increasingly restricted freedoms in the arts.
More information on the programme and livestream.
An event of the European Alliance of Academies in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste and Szépírók Társasága. With the kind support of the Central European University and the Freeszfe Initiative.
"The Freedom of Art in Times of War and Crisis" (December 2022)
From 15 to 16 December 2022, 42 members of the European Alliance of Academies from 19 different countries came together at the Akademie der Künste to discuss the restrictions that war and crisis have placed on artistic freedom. Numerous actors from the realms of art and culture commented on their experiences.
In his online message of greeting, Victor Sydorenko, President of the Ukrainian National Academy of the Arts, appealed for solidarity between arts and cultural institutions in Europe and invoked the possibilities of cooperation. The Ukrainian Academy was recently admitted to the European Alliance of Academies, with a large majority voting in favour.
Following his expulsion from the Ukrainian Film Academy, filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, a member of the Akademie der Künste, warned against "replacing one form of propaganda with another". Hanna Bilobrova, co-director of the documentary Mariupolis 2 and fiancée of the murdered documentary filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius, showed film clips illustrating the absurdity of the war, the destruction and anguish it brings and the lives lived behind the headlines. Bilobrova took the film footage from Mariupol to Lithuania so she could finish the film after the death of her partner.
The internal working sessions included reports from artists and cultural workers from Poland and Hungary who have to contend with financial constraints and restrictions imposed by the government on the content of their work. The conference came to a unanimous decision to support the institutions concerned, be it through projects involving transnational cooperation or through local actions that generate positive publicity. A newly developed and jointly adopted agenda defines the future activities of the Alliance.
Responding to the question of what politically engaged art means, filmmaker Andres Veiel made the case in the closing discussion that doubts, contradictions and ambiguities should be tolerated in the process of artistic creation. Composer Iris ter Schiphorst called on the art academies represented at the conference to create space for debate between artists and members of civil society as a means to address inequalities and set in motion the much-needed transformation of society. The writers Cécile Wajsbrot and A. L. Kennedy used the power of their art to describe the global situation: their words had a profound effect on the audience. The video messages from Minister of State for Culture and the Media Claudia Roth and UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Alexandra Xanthaki highlighted the importance of the European alliance and pledged their continued support for it.
The newly developed digital platform LOOM – Interweaving the Arts in Europe will allow artistic interventions to take a stance on socio-political issues and facilitate artistic cooperation between members of the European Alliance of Academies. Further artistic projects resulting from the cooperation between the Alliance institutions are to follow.
You can find the livestream of the public programme here.
Funded by the Federal Foreign Office, the Society of Friends of the Akademie der Künste and the Federal Agency for Civic Education.
"LOOM – Interweaving the Arts in Europe" (October 2022)
The European Alliance of Academies launches LOOM – Interweaving the Arts in Europe, a digital platform for artistic cooperation among the institutions and artists of the network, providing possible answers to current social and cultural questions. LOOM is a digital space for the cause of freedom in the arts – a space in which artistic positions are juxtaposed with current political challenges. It aims at creating a digital territory that transcends the local reach of artists and institutions and "weaves" artistic practices in Europe, across borders, into a colourful tapestry.
In 2021 – in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – the European Alliance of Academies developed its first call for projects based on the topic of biopolitics: Ignorance is Strength? Artistic Expression and Biopower in the (Post)Pandemic Age. Digital residencies provided artists who are associated by the institutions of the European Alliance of Academies with the space to reflect on their own practices in the aftermath of the pandemic and in the context of current social and political changes.
The first ten virtual residencies were announced in January 2022. The artistic projects are now published on LOOM – Interweaving the Arts in Europe:
Iulian Bisericaru, I prefer the old Green
Larisa Crunțeanu, 12 Years
Cássio Diniz Santiago, Synthax of Care
María José Crespo, Govern yourself accordingly
Luïza Luz, Privilege of Dreaming
Rebecca Merlić, Željko Beljan, Truth Is a Forgotten Memory
Karina Pino Gallardo, Ricardo Sarmiento Ramírez, Mund auf
Dimitrina Popova, The Five Houses
Jovana Popić, Controlling Future: Technologies of Resistance
Anahita Razmi, Generics
The artistic positions were selected by an international jury, composed of Liesbeth Bik (artist, chair of the Akademie van Kunsten KNAW), Arnold Dreyblatt (artist, composer, musician, member of Akademie der Künste), Kristoffer Gansing (director of the International Center for Knowledge in the Arts – The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts), Anca Poterasu (director of the Romanian Association for Contemporary Art), Cristina Stoenescu (curator of the Romanian Association for Contemporary Art), Josip Zanki (artist, vice president of the Croation Association of Fine Artists) and Siegfried Zielinski (media theorist, member of the Akademie der Künste).
The artists will have the possibility to present their projects at the next conference of the European Alliance of Academies, entitled "The Freedom of Art in Times of War and Crisis", taking place 15-16 December 2022 at Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
"Contested Histories, Shared Futures" (June 2022)
The third conference of the European Alliance of Academies (28/29 June 2022) took place in cooperation with the Akademie van Kunsten in Amsterdam and focused on the question of how historical events influence art institutions, artistic practice and cultural goods in public space.
In the public programme, artists, cultural practitioners and representatives of institutions from all over Europe dealt with the effects on artistic and cultural practice by means of concrete examples and discussed approaches to overcoming one-sided levels of meaning. In the internal working sessions, the Alliance partners discussed how to continue the joint cooperation.
With this conference, the European Alliance of Academies is emphasising the necessity to re-evaluate narratives and own practices of action - in order to be able to meet the future challenges of European societies. She is hereby responding to a debate that is becoming increasingly controversial and politically.
With contributions by Liesbeth Bik, Vasyl Cherepanyn, Charles Esche, RAAAF Rietveld Architecture Art Affordances, Andreja Kulunčić, Jeanine Meerapfel, Amina Menia, Joanna Rajkowska, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Paul Spies, Aleš Šteger, et al.
The livestream of the third conference is available here.
An event by the European Alliance of Academies initiated and organized by the Akademie der Künste and Akademie van Kunsten (KNAW), Amsterdam. Funded by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb).
„The Power of Art: Defending a Transnational Understanding of European Culture“ (December 2021)
The second conference of the European Alliance of Academies (2 — 3 December 2021) focused on artistic cooperation - and how it can be used for a European understanding of art and culture. In three public discussions, the participants dealt with the influence of nationalistic approaches in cultural policy and their impact on artistic work as well as on the autonomy of cultural institutions. In internal meetings, they discussed how the alliance can better network in the analogue and digital space and take action against political restrictions.
Thanks to the intensive cooperation with the partner Círculo de Bellas Artes, the event could be held with the participation of the Spanish Minister of Culture Miquel Iceta, the regional Minister of Culture Marta Rivera de la Cruz, the German Ambassador to the Kingdom of Spain H.E. Wolfgang Dold, as well as active members of the Academy of Arts and the European Alliance of Academies, among others. Liesbeth Bik, Christos Carras, Jean-François Chougnet, Manuel Gutierréz Aragón, Wolfgang Kaleck, Juan Miguel Hernández León, Jeanine Meerapfel, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Dominika Kasprowicz, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Norbert Palz, Jurko Prochasko, Aleš Šteger, Cécile Wajsbrot. Musical contribution by Zambra Barroca
Livestreams of the events can be viewed here:
The Power of Art - European Alliance of Academies
An event of the European Alliance of Academies initiated and organised by Akademie der Künste and Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid; in cooperation with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Madrid. Supported by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb) and Region Madrid. Media partner: Radio 3
„Battle with the Empty Sky: Language, Nationalism and Freedom of Art in Early 21st-Century Europe“ (October 2021)
The European Alliance of Academies launched a series of events on the freedom of the arts in Budapest with a public discussion
involving authors from all over Europe and with workshops for students and in close cooperation with Society of Hungarian Authors.
Under the title "Battle with the Empty Sky: Language, nationalism and freedom of art in early 21st-century Europe", Academy member and writer Robert Menasse, Hungarian author László Márton and Hungarian literary critic Anna Gács examined the interaction between language, society and politics: How are language and literature affected when politics moves in a populist, nationalist or other radical direction? The British poet Daljit Nagra moderated.
© Akademie der Künste
In preceding workshops with the authors Luc Devoldere (Belgium), Sophie Collins (London) and László Martón (Budapest), different aspects of the topic were discussed on a European level: Which terms are reinterpreted by politics? What vocabulary do we need to describe future challenges? What possibilities are there for authors to become socio-politically active without neglecting their linguistic aesthetics?
The event was an expression of the solidarity of the European Alliance of Academies with the Society of Hungarian Authors. In December 2020, the latter had vehemently defended itself against anti-Semitic statements by Szilárd Demeter, director of Budapest's Petöfi Literary Museum. Various Alliance institutions - Royal Society of Literature, Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature and German Academy for Language and Literature - then joined forces to bring more public attention to the issue.
„Artistic Freedom in Europe – Mission (In)Complete!?“ (May 2021)
On the occasion of the European Union's Europe Day on 9 May, the European Alliance of Academies is lodging a complaint with the UN Special Rapporteur on Culture, Karima Bennoune, and launching an online petition to the European Parliament.
Together with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the alliance is calling for the violations of artistic freedom in Hungary to be opposed with the legal instruments available and for the legal framework to be enforced to protect the independence of cultural institutions and cultural workers wherever it is threatened.
© Akademie der Künste
In an accompanying online event, the procedure is discussed with key players in the cultural and the political spheres in Europe. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas opens the discussion with a welcome address. Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the Committee on Culture in the European Parliament, comments on the situation. Alliance members from Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Slovenia and Germany present their proposals for action.
The event is sponsored by the Federal Foreign Office and the Society of Friends of the Akademie der Künste.
On the Origin of the Alliance: For the Freedom of Art in Europe
At the invitation from the Akademie der Künste, around 70 representatives of European art academies and cultural institutions gathered for a hybrid conference to initiate a "European Alliance of Academies" in October 2020. The institutions involved come from almost every country in the European Union as well as Norway and Great Britain and they stand up for the freedom of art in Europe.
The joint manifesto sets out the mission of securing the European Union as a cultural project for the future. New forms of cooperation has been established that guarantee mutual support whenever there is a threat of political restrictions or the freedom of art is at risk.
Opening event, 8 Oct 2020
Video © Akademie der Künste. Foto © Marcus Lieberenz/bildbuehne.de
Contributions by Academy President Jeanine Meerapfel, writers Robert Menasse and A. L. Kennedy and publicist Basil Kerski as well as agreeting by Minister of State Prof. Monika Grütters and perspective views of Europe by art historian Bénédicte Savoy and contemporary historian Philipp Ther.
Supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media within the framework of the German EU Council Presidency 2020.
More information, videos and documents: