Towards a cooperation in the performing arts

Carlotta Garlanda
If we try asking ourselves “what time is today?” for the performing arts, it is difficult not to take into account the health emergency that has forced a whole country to a long compulsory stop, with the suspension of all activities and the severe consequences for the lives of all workers. We are watching the fairly rapid disintegration of the performing arts sector which even beforehand was experiencing difficulties due (not only) to the well-known dynamics of public finance. These dynamics are characterized by delays, problems of availability of funds, not always suitable assessment criteria, as well as a market which did not support growth or circulation in a sustainable way. Not to speak of the many workers who are not entitled to grants from public bodies.
If until now the situation in some way allowed us to “float” and in many cases only keep our heads above water rather than being able to have a good standard of living, it is clear that now such a fragile system risks crumbling in on itself.

If the continuous situation of job insecurity has until today almost been taken for granted, now it seems that this is the moment when strong voices are emerging asking for new and wider forms of welfare both for intermittent workers and freelance workers of the arts, which in many cases are not included within the types mentioned in the Dpcm “Cure Italy” (in the same way it seems that up to now the Third Sector is not adequately considered in the debate to support the country’s economy).
Obviously, the reasons are much more complex, because our lives as workers strongly depend on a market which has made us used to standards which do not hold their own when compared to some of the most advanced European countries, both regarding the themes of protection and of average incomes. However, in one way or another, the evidence of the total fragility of the area is triggering a process where people are standing up for their rights and – hopefully- liaising. This will certainly help to indicate new viewpoints and different approaches, as is already happening with associations and collaborations among various sectors, besides observatories and scholars. At the same time, concerning the international networks, for example IETM1 and On the Move2, collective processes are being carried forward where the theme of solidarity and sustainability are voiced with ever   increasing determination.

For several years now, operators and professional workers in the cultural field have been analyzing and experimenting new forms of organisation and new models of governance, these can give interesting and motivating ideas on how to re-imagine the role and work of our organisations. In line with these experiences, together with my four associates Cristina Carlini, Cristina Cazzola, Giuliana Cancio and Giulio Stumpo I have created the social enterprise Live Internationalization Gateway, a “bossless” company whose aim is to give support to the cultural and performing arts sectors especially in the processes of development and training, favouring learning by doing, working in a shared mode in order to discover efficient strategies to compete in international markets.

In the first year and a half of our existence we have reflected greatly on positive models to create community on one hand and to encourage a continuous growth of cultural enterprises. In one way or another we have continued and still carry on insisting on the importance of the skills and competences of operators and artists (for whom for example- referring back to what was said previously about welfare- ways to support lifelong learning are not provided for). We are also trying to create projects to allow exchange, knowledge, and the creation of new occasions for work and new models of sustainability. Internationalizing ourselves- even at a time when physical mobility is on hold – means cooperation, thus putting in evidence a dynamic which can never be in one direction but rather in two directions or better still multi-dimensional, or multi-focused, because the “focus” is multiplied by opening new possibilities and viewpoints.
The preconditions on which we have built this collaborative project – which we, in the first place, need to rearrange in order to give ourselves a new role in this unexpected scenario- continue to be all the more urgent and necessary in a moment when we are all invited to plan new ways of living and working: we can hope to find answers to the current emergency and get going again with a renewed spirit only by initiating collaborative processes at local, national and international level.

During our first networking event “Life on Mars”, which took place in September 2019 in Milan, we created a think tank around the theme of cultural resistance understood as “transformative attitude aimed at giving shape to cultural organisations that reimagine their own artistic, political, social mission in favour of a more inclusive society while experimenting with different approaches and practices of collaboration and sustainable development.

Despite the fears of a future that still continues to be extremely unclear, I hope that we can lay the foundations around this definition of resistance to create new ways of global solidarity so that (borrowing a recent title from the “Manifesto” newspaper) we do not go back to our previous normality, because the real problem was precisely that previous normality.

1IETM (International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts) is a network of over 450 members (organizations and single practitioners/artists) in Europe and in the world, in the field of performing arts. Its mission consists in advocating and promoting professionals through international relations, research and exchange of procedures. 
2On the Move (Cultural Mobility Information Network) is a network made up to over 50 members in 20 countries. Its mission is to encourage and facilitate mobility and cooperation and so contribute to the buildings of a European cultural hub which connects and relates to the whole world


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