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The Arts and the Public in the Post-Pandemic World

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November 14-17, Teatro Tivoli BBVA

The beginning of 2020 “broke the nexus of the world”, as philosopher José Gil wrote, when the event for which several scientists and thinkers had been warning us about, but which we did not expect, finally took place. Taking us by surprise, a worldwide pandemic has suddenly paralyzed the planet and imprisoned us in several different bubbles from which we are slowly trying to break through. When we finally realized how unprepared we were for the pandemic’s sudden and quick global spread, it was already too late. In the art and culture sectors, the effects have been devastating. Between change and continuity, what kind of world can we expect now?

For months, we have said and heard that the crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic would have profound consequences on our individual and collective perception of society, on our ambitions and sets of values and, ultimately, on our own way of life. Indeed, the health crisis we are going through has unveiled a social crisis that, as several thinkers have pointed out, is both the result and the catalyst of an economic model built upon the devaluation of workers in essential sectors. This economic model believes – and wants us to believe – in the illusion of limitless growth and resources, and sees certain social and ecological concerns as an obstacle to that growth. The large scale gradual divestment in health care and other social provisions testifies the deviated priorities of this model. The perpetuation of the fantasy of complete human mastery over nature will lead us from one pandemic to another, as scientists and philosophers warn us, so that we will be unable to attend to the most vulnerable. With inconsistencies of the system uncovered, its unsustainability has become evident to many.

Philosophers, activists, environmentalists, artists, and professionals from various other sectors, have come together in a united plea for a new post-pandemic world. In May, two hundred personalities from fields ranging from cinema, to arts, philosophy and science (many of them regular guests at LEFFEST) launched a manifesto against a return to the prevailing “normality”, appealing to governments and citizens for a radical change in our ways of life, in our ways of consumption and in our economy. It is imperative that we discuss the creation of a “new normality”, a world where it is possible to rebuild support networks and where our lives are no longer guided by the interests of market economies. Having reinforced pre-existing inequalities, this crisis attested that we cannot simply return to the previous state of affairs, if that state was the problem to begin with.

To resume the state of the world as we knew it, as if nothing happened and these past few months were just a short hiatus, is to resume a model that has been pushing us toward a technocratic system blind to inequalities, where ethical and aesthetic values are dictated by the market, a model that has been precipitating us toward an imminent ecological catastrophe.

In the world of arts and culture, the pandemic has exposed the effects of year-long depreciation and divestment policies, of a culture of competition, of consumption and of overproduction. Concerts, conferences, festivals, international co-productions, tours and a series of other events have been canceled around the world. In the field of the performing arts, in particular, the effects have been catastrophic: artists and technicians passionate about an art of presence, made for the stage or the street, find themselves suddenly unemployed, without any source of income, lacking support and perspectives. At the same time, the frozen link between the arts and the public remains a matter of central concern, an aspect of the crisis which artists regard as equally or even more harmful than financial losses.

Before the mystery and the turmoil of new times to come, we persevere and carry on reflecting and questioning. What will be the medium and long-term effects of adapting to this new dystopian reality? What lessons may we learn from this unprecedented period? What should be the place and role of the arts in the social and economic regeneration necessary to overcome the crisis? Is it still possible to reverse a process of globalization and commercialization that has alienated people and stifled the arts? Where and how can change emerge?

It is imperative to keep the debate alive. To keep a live debate. That is what we propose to carry out at the symposium “The Arts and the Public in the Post-Pandemic World”, which will take place in Lisbon, on the first weekend of LEFFEST.

Symposium Programme

November 14 

09h Fashion

Screening of Phantom Thread (2017) by Paul Thomas Anderson
Followed by a debate with
Constança Entrudo, Textile Designer
Eduarda Abbondanza, Director of ModaLisboa

09h30 Cinema
Screening of Parlons cinéma: Chapters 1-7 (1976) by Harry Fischbach
Followed by a debate with
Frédéric Bonnaud
, Director of the French Cinemateque
Paulo Branco, Film Producer, Distributor and Exhibitor

November 15

09h30 Performative Arts and Visual Arts
Screening of The Golden Coach (1952) by Jean Renoir

Followed by a debate with
Bernard Marcadé, Art Critic and Curator
Marie-Laure Bernadac, Curator
Neville Wakefield
, Curator and Writer
Nithya Iyer, Artist and Researcher
Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Curator - video presentation

November 16


14h Literature
Screening of Passion Simple (2020) by Danielle Arbid
Followed by a conversation with the director
Release of the book "Simple Passion" by Annie Ernaux and a reading by Catarina Wallenstein
Debate with
Rui Cardoso Martins, Writer
José Pinho, Bookseller and Representative of RELI

November 17

16h30 Music
Concert by Piotr Anderszewski
Followed by a debate with
Bruno Monsaingeon, Violinist, Filmmaker and Writer
Martim Sousa Tavares, Conductor
Piotr Anderszewski, Pianist
Risto Nieminen, Director of the Music Service at Gulbenkian Foundation
Projections: Mathieu Amalric films Barbara Hannigan (Work in Progress –
Unseen Images of Hannigan playing "Les Heures" by Ernest Chausson, "Der Sommer" by György Ligeti and "Sure on This Shining Night" by Samuel Barber) + Music is Music (2017) by Mathieu Amalric

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