The fifth and last episode of the European Conference 2020 took place on September 28. Under the theme “Tempestuous times –the crisis- recovery and change” the session analyzed the role of culture in our lives and what we have o could learn from this pandemic moment. Nico CarpentierRichard EvansArundhati GhoshOlga Wysocka  and Inês Bettencourt da Câmara (on the chair) discussed how cultural organisations can deal with the fearful environment of the new normal.

Nowadays, society as a whole is experimenting a systemic failure moment in which social logic and political logic are not at the same point. It seems that unexpected new opportunities are appearing from this pandemic moment for cultural organisations. Nevertheless, things are very confused and there is a sense of crisis. How can COVID-19 crisis turn into an opportunity?

We are living a historic moment of change. In order to navigate complexity, cultural organisations need to do something different and rethink their relationships (internal and external). Therefore, it is time to move and apply the logic of change and renegotiation, but how can we foster new opportunities if fear and funding go hand by hand?

More than ever cultural sector is dealing with uncertainty. In order to make disorder generative is necessary to question and let go stablished practices. The different questions cultural organisations can ask themselves have to be related to three specific areas:

  1. Known: Relying on procedures.
  2. Knowable: Managing expertise.
  3. Unknown: Navigating complexity.

(Re)Imagining cultural organisations should be the main task of cultural managers at the moment. Change doesn’t mean necessarily improvement so it should be created through alliances. The lockdown has brought a new reality where artists and cultural practitioners will need to be the power to heal and build solidarity. Consequently, cultural sector is talking about care, emotions and relationships as a structural part of their modus operandi. According to this new vocabulary, the recipe to (Re)Imagine cultural organisations should contain different ingredients such as:

  1. Leave safe zones, take risks, be audacious. Fail.
  2. Connect knowledge and practices, thinking and making.
  3. Be critical, empathetic, free flowing.
  4. Relationships with stakeholders: intimate, participatory, co-creative.
  5. Diverse and collective leadership, focusing on marginalised voices.

The idea of returning to the normality we know is deeply attractive. Nevertheless, return to old behaviours and structures can lead cultural sector into failure and paralysis. Definitely, this post pandemic moment is a time in which cultural institutions need to delve into change, stopping and reflecting in the uncertainty. As Arundhati Ghosh mentioned during her intervention this approach to change cannot be done as drawing rooms, cultural organisations need to become kitchens, combining and confronting emotional management versus organisational management.

You can read the experiences about the Adeste+ partners new normal in our experience area.

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