Die wirtschaftlich erfolgreiche Stadt Linz an der Donau hat 2009 das Areal der ehemaligen Austria Tabakwerke gekauft, ein Areal, dessen Nettonutzungsfläche dreimal größer ist als die des Museumsquartiers in Wien — und das bei gerade einmal 186.000 Einwohner, rund einem Zehntel der Wiener Bevölkerung. Seither wird versucht, Visionen zu finden und das Gelände zu entwickeln, mit — wie ich meine — wenig Erfolg.
Rory Francis hat im Vorfeld der Kulturhauptstadt Linz 2005 einen Vortrag gehalten, den ich mit seiner Zustimmung schon einmal auf linz09.info veröffentlicht hatte. Dieser Beitrag könnte einen Impuls für die Entwicklung des Areals der Linzer Tabakfabrik liefern. Daher mache ich ihn an dieser Stelle erneut zugänglich.
The Long Revolution
I like to explore some ideas in relation to my experience of living and working in and around Manchester for the last 15 years or so - and also of finding myself reflecting upon ideas about culture and art and cities and change in relation to Linz. And doing this in a very concrete way - that is using and reflecting upon Linz - the cultural institutions - the cultural strategy - the bid and aspirations contained in the plans for the forthcoming Capital of Culture in 2009; and also in a indirect way - as if from a point of view of looking at Manchester / and Linz from the outside - and consider its place and how it may be perceived.
I hadn't been living in Manchester for very long - this must be 12 or so years ago now when I met someone - a family friend - who had known Manchester 20 or 30 years ago when she had been living in the region. She was interested that I was now in Manchester and asked a question that I have never forgotten. She said 'Is the centre of Manchester still a bus station?' I've often thought about this curious question over the years and it has been by way of a marker for how I perceive Manchester. The centre of Manchester has very little public, open and green space - these sort of spaces tend to be on the edges of the city - or at least, certainly out of the city centre - except for Piccadilly Gardens. And Piccadilly Gardens was, and still is, a bus terminus. In a very literal sense the centre of Manchester was a bus station. And also in a metaphorical sense Manchester could be seen as a place of transit - a place you pass through. Yet, is that how Manchester still is? Do I still consider the centre to be a bus station? No, I don't. Over the intervening years there has been something of a revolution. What we might consider to be a cultural revolution - or rather a revolution in the role and place of the cultural in our understanding and aspirations for the civic, in our ideas of what we want and mean by a city. This has certainly been happening in Manchester. But not only there, but also here in Linz and in many other cities across Europe, that have and continue to explore the impact of the cultural as both a symbolic and literal reconfiguring of what might be understood as the 'centre' of our cities.
And this makes me consider the benefits and gains in the process - both in the sense of the people, places, the institutions and structures that make up the city - and in the sense of the use and meaning of the words themselves. The benefits and gains - and perhaps the coercion and damage - that may have happened and continues to happen, at an epistemological level, to the knowledge and meaning of the concepts themselves. Have we changed the meaning of culture out of all recognition to fit our new project? Have we distorted our histories and excluded parts of our peoples who makeup the broader 'us' of the city? Do we know what we are doing? Will we know when we have done it? Will we ever know when it is over?
These questions make us consider and reconsider our ideas of art and industry, about history and democracy, about public and private space, buildings and transport - and all of these issues and considerations will have gone into the making of the cultural strategies in both Linz and Manchester - and in the development of the bid for Capital of Culture here in Linz - and will continue to be part of the conceptual framework of ideas and issues that will continue all along the way to the year 2009 and beyond.
Raymond Williams, the Welsh cultural theorist and critic, drew all these ideas under one heading which he called the 'Long Revolution'. And it seems absolutely appropriate to think of Williams' idea of the Long Revolution when we are thinking about change and Linz and Manchester. In his book of the same title, which was published in 1961, he draws the ideas of industry and democracy and culture together. He considers that the democratic revolution and the industrial revolution and the cultural revolution are continuing and ongoing. He considers that we cannot think of them as three separate processes but as part of a complex interaction between all three - which make" up the Long Revolution.
There is a sense in which we can consider the story of both Manchester and Linz in this light. Manchester looks back on its own history as having been the birth place of the industrial revolution - it reconfigured our ideas of wealth and exploitation, of pollution, poverty and progress. It also gave birth to early ideas of emancipation and liberation with its aspirations for democratic reform symbolically expressed in the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 in St Peters Fields in Manchester. Here an early movement for universal suffrage and representation in Parliament was brutally crushed. Manchester is also the hometown of Emily Pankhurst an women's activist who as part of the suffragette movement campaigned for the right for women to vote. Linz has played its part in the process of industrialisation, the steel works and heavy industry, and has experienced the impact of national socialism, and the then loss and the sijbsequent return and gains in democracy. Yet, these histories as part of the past inform on the present as both demons and inspiration - however, what Williams is suggesting is that all three revolutions are continuous and ongoing - that the cultural revolution, which may be the main reason we are gathered here this evening, does not stand alone. That in foregrounding the cultural we are also considering the industrial and the democratic. In other words - that in celebrating Linz as the Capital of Culture in 2009 - the programme of events and activities that are planned will raise issues of the' industrial' changes which are taking place in this city. Issues of how the economic viability of this city is sustained well into this the 21"1 century cannot be separated from the cultural aspirations for this city. And these ideas cannot be considered in isolation from the democratic - who is this city for, who will participate in its future, who is being governed, for whom and by whom.
This leads us on to consider the way we use the word' culture' now and in this context. There is a sense in which this really doesn't matter. We use the word as we can and its sense becomes clear though use and discussion and controversy. When we hear the words 'Cultural Capital' we may be led to consider the assets of a city, the museums, galleries, orchestras, libraries etc, using capital in this way as a metaphor for money. Or, as in the description 'Capital of Culture' we know we are talking about the place, the city and the European project that moves its way around the nation-states of Europe like a caravan. Then again there is the same words' Cultural Capital' which is the sociological term introduced by Pierre Bourdieu for the forms of knowledge, skills and educational advantage which secures differences of status in society. And this is when I begin to think that it does begin to matter what we mean by culture, and to have an understanding of its multiple meanings. For here with Bourdieu' s use of the term we begin to get the idea that culture is not simply benign, neutral and generally 'a good thing'. It may be more problematic. And we can go on to consider another term that should go unquestioned, as generally benign, and once again a good thing, and that is learning. Learning is good. And we can bring these two words together and we should have another good thing, that should go without saying, as unquestionably good, and that is 'Cultural Learning'. Yet, this could be taking part in the process of acquiring' Cultural Capital' in Bourdieu's meaning of the term. That cultural learning may be about acquiring the knowledge and skills that secure and / or maintain advantages of status of one group of people in society over another. This mayor may not be the intended outcome of cultural learning - but if we do not want a stratified social system, or if we are wanting to challenge the established differences in society - then we need to be aware that the process of 'cultural learning' may be ambiguous - that cultural learning may not be the benevolent, emancipatory and democratic process we intend it to be - that, with the best will in the world, we may be engaged in the process of both an emancipatory and a discriminatory activity. Or to use a very simplistic example that does injustice to both schools and galleries, and to the ideas of learning and culture, but will serve to illustrate the point - the school visit to the local art gallery or museum can lead to greater knowledge of the dominant culture represented which we can either agree with or challenge. In other words you can ask yourself the question 'Can I see myself represented on the walls here?'
Once again Raymond Williams is helpful here. Helpful in the sense that he knew we had a problem when it came to the word 'culture'. In his book 'Keywords', which is like a dictionary of terms and ideas in the field of cultural studies, he tries to distinguish between}. main uses of the word in use today. These he defines firstly as the 'intellectual world' we may operate within, secondly the 'objects' and artefacts that have been accumulated and gathered as art, and thirdly as a 'whole way of life'. He traces the history of the word through time and across languages - and considers the memory of some of these meanings and uses still to be found today. But he starts with the observation that is the most memorable. He describes the word 'culture' as one of the most difficult in the English language. And I can assume he intended that to mean across all languages. But I do find his attempt to begin to unravel the meanings we give to this word helpful.
But when it comes to constructing a strategy or formulating policy we do not want to be confused by any uncertainty or ambiguity in the central term we are using. And in Manchester's cultural strategy this confusion is dealt with be giving definitions. In a footnote to the section in the strategy that is concerned with definitions of' culture', guidance is given from central government. In a document produced for local authorities by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (the UK central government ministry of culture) in December 2000the following definition is given:
'culture should be taken to include such activities as arts, sports, libraries, museums, heritage, archaeology, archives, architecture, crafts, children's play, reading, parks, tourism, countryside recreation, etc... entertainments, design, fashion, food, media-, visiting attractions and other informal leisure pursuits will also be part of at least some local cultural strategies"
A comprehensive list that I think collapses all of Williams' distinctions and any other ones around into one, and also by being so prescriptive leaves the word almost meaningless. I prefer the definition that Manchester puts forward and uses:
'Culture is about people and it is what makes a place different or special' Simple, succinct and memorable. It is the one they give and it is in the light of this that I read and interpret the document.
The report issued by the Selection Panel for the European Capital of Culture for 2009, which was published earlier this year in April 2005, covers the nominations from Austria and Lithuania. In their response to the bid for Linz the panel made the following curious recommendation concerning the instrumental use of the arts: 'The programme showed impressive instrumental aims by using art to benefit society and felt this was laudable but stressed that there was room for "art for arts sake" too.' On the one hand we have the sort of art that is of benefit to society and by implication, on the other hand, we have the sort of art that is not of benefit to society and exists to serve its own ends. It is a very familiar division that is made about the arts - the either / or of the arts in service of some other agenda. I'm not so sure how useful it is except in art historical terms - as, for me, all art operates within a broader social and political context, and it is more useful to consider whether it is good art or not - but then that opens up another can of worms which I don't want to go into here.
What I do want to pick up on is the issue of cultural impact - the question concerning the proposition that if art is of benefit to society then how do we know and in what way will we know it. When all the celebrations are over how will know if the Capital of Culture programme has been a success in Linz, or in Liverpool? Will it be through the number of visitors to the city, or the legacy of the buildings, or a boost in the economy - or in that realm of myth mingled with fact that makes us now consider Glasgow or Barcelona as destination cities worth visiting. The 'ugly duckling' cities transformed into swans. Liverpool is approaching this by setting up a research project known as the Liverpool Model. This is a 4 year project which is taking a longitudinal approach to assessing the socio-economic and cultural impact of Liverpool as Capital of Culture in 2008. The ambition of this project is not only to provide the relevant intelligence and track the changes in time of the Liverpool programme, but also to provide a model for impact research for future cultural programmes. If we look at the facts and the figures in the right way we should be able to understand what is happening and how and what it may lead to next. The reason I have been taking the time to consider the research into the impact of the cultural is for two reasons - the first concerns the value of culture and the second concerns the development of policy.
There has been a debate going on in the UK and no doubt elsewhere but the situation in Britain is what I am familiar with - and that has been what might be seen as a backlash against this search for validation in cultural facts and figures. That somehow the value of culture cannot be fully expressed in statistics that demonstrate the socio-economic benefits of the arts - that the value may lay elsewhere, and in a form that cannot be captured by such means. Almost an argument for art for arts sake, but with an emphasis on cultural value in terms other than the social and economic. This may seem an irrelavent issue if you still consider that culture can still be valued in cultural terms, whatever they may be, rather than in the search for evermore robust methodologies and accurate statistics. I will try to illustrate this problem in another way. There is an increasing desire in the UK for evidence-based-policy. That is policy that is supported and validated by the use of evidence. Maybe this could only take hold in an Anglo Saxon country which has a preference for pragmatism and the pragmatic. But the end result is that we begin to prefer the use of evidence to justify the policy on pragmatic terms rather than for ideological reasons. And I'm not sure that is the right balance for developing policy.
I can't point to any particular evidence that would support what I want to say in the way that I want to say it. Maybe the facts and figures are there, but in a sense it is more an article of faith, but I no longer consider the centre of Manchester to be a bus station. Culture, in the sense used in Manchester's cultural strategy as being 'about people and what makes a place different and special' has shifted the centre of Manchester away from the bus station to something more valued and maybe more intangible. It is becoming a bit like Glasgow and Barcelona - a city worth visiting. The facts and figures may be there but in the end it is something I can't put my hand on. And I have wanted to come to Linz since I heard about Arts Electronica, Lentos and OK - I have wanted to experience what seems to be another city worth visiting - I can't put my hand on the facts and figures but it seems that there is another Long Revolution taking place here.
Rory Francis, Manchester Metropoltian University, Department of Contemporary Art, Lecturer, 2005