Interview: “Creativity is related to the communication process”

24 September 2010

“Involving people and sharing the artistic and creative process with many people has to be at the heart of the work of cultural organisations,” says Fabrizio Grifasi, Artistic Director of the Romaeuropa Festival, in an interview in the framework of the “Open The Door” project of the European Festivals Association (EFA). This is what is done in the Romaeuropa Webfactory: Thanks to the platforms available on the website, that constitute an enormous interactive catalogue, easily modified and updated and without barriers of space and language, one can experiment without the need for any mediation, showing oneself immediately to the critical observation of the web users. A contest takes place, to which all those who intend to exploit the potential of web 2.0 are called, in order to express their form of art. EFA: Which project in your festival shows your social relevance best? Fabrizio Grifasi (FG): The project WebFactory. It is a 3-year project; we are going to start the third edition in September this year. Nowadays, creativity in music, in art and in writing is concerning more and more people, especially young people, and not necessarily only people who are attending an art school or course. Creativity is more and more a necessity. With the use of new technology it is possible for people to express themselves and to realise some art work which could be really innovative. What we are trying to do with the WebFactory is to open a new door, a new window in the Romaeuropa Festival. We aim to give the possibility to young creators to present their work in music, video art and writing, to upload their work on the web platform and to participate in contests. Thus, we have the opportunity to get to know their work. The second aspect is a social one: through working on a web platform we create an open space where people can look at all these creations, post their comments on and vote for these works. They can participate in the creative process in a completely different way. In 2009 and 2010, we have received more than 1500 files/works. Today, the community counts more than 12 000 people from all over Italy. Of course, we were able to involve “normal” curators. The combination of the curatorial eye and the kind of horizontal democratic participation was very interesting to follow. This is a completely new process for festival organisations. We are of course very much aware of our responsibility as artistic curators to make our choices in a way that supports the artists. We strongly believe that it is time to be open to new ways of discovering the creativity of people and to foster a dialogue between the artists, the public and us. EFA: How does the communication process work? FG: Creativity is related to the communication process. Involving people and sharing the artistic and creative process with many people has to be at the heart of the work of cultural organisations. We shared with Telecom their know-how in terms of setting up a web platform. We are working with structures which are taking care of all the web marketing in order to inform the different communities in Italy about this new project and to sustain the discussion on the platform. We built up a very flexible and easy-to-use platform where people are able to describe themselves, to use several kinds of Creative Commons, creative international standards concerning (copy)rights. It is completely up to the artist himself to decide what kind of ‘freedom’ he wants to give to the community. For example, some artists allow people to use their works and to remix them. Others only allow people to use parts of their works. This creates a completely new environment which is very useful for us in terms of democratisation. The whole communication was web based and reached out to the artistic communities in Italy. There is no limitation concerning the age of the curators participating. What’s more, the WebFactory attracted a group of people that were a little bit outside of the very well-known artistic community. This was another aim of the project. EFA: Do you bring up societal issues through your festival activities? We always take care about social issues. The Romaeuropa Festival is working on contemporary creations. This means we do not do repertoires or classical music. When we are presenting theatre and performing arts it is normal that we are also talking about our time and about social questions and responsibilities. Of course our point of view remains an esthetical one in terms of choice. But we recognise that the arts are able to give us an overview about major social issues – this is really important and we work on that in our festival. What is the impact of these activities in your artistic/cultural/social environment? The impact of the Romaeuropa Festival is very important because since the foundation of the festival 25 years ago it has developed in itself. We have brought the most relevant international artists to Rome but we have also supported local artists. And we will continue to do so in the future. What’s more, the Romaeuropa Festival has the capacity to reinvent itself regularly and develop new projects. This is important for cultural organisations. They need to reinvent themselves. They need to remain coherent with their historical mission but they also need to update their mission. This is possible through a process of discussion that involves the teams and the community around the festival. You have to learn carefully from your experiences and from the suggestions of your partners. You need to look at your own context, all the time. What are the limits and challenges you face? There are structural limits in the performing arts of our time. The economical situation is very difficult at the moment, especially in Italy. When the economical situation is difficult, the investment in and subsidies for arts are in danger. This is an awful mistake. Because cultural investments are one of the key factors for the development of our societies. The challenge is to understand these problems, to face them and not to be crashed by the crisis, to continue to be coherent with our mission but at the same time to understand and push the changing process. What is the ONE recommendation you would make towards public authorities to improve this situation? I think nowadays it is very important to have the courage to understand that we need to invest in culture. The full interview was published in the latest edition of the EFA newsletter FestFlash that explored the importance of suitable communication approaches and the use of new and innovative (communication) technologies in festivals for the fostering of access to culture. The interview is part of a series of interviews with festival directors in the framework of the EFA “Open The Door” project. During the 2010 EFA Conference on “Open The Door” (9 April) Fabrizio Grifasi explored the above issues together with EFA members in a workshop entitled “Open the door for new artists and arts disciplines”.