Artists' Mobility - Aspiration or Reality - the annual conference of the European Council of Artists took place in Dublin on the 7th and 8th of November, with approximately 60 participants representing artists organisations, ministries of culture, arts councils etc. from 20 European countries.
ECA President Michael Burke and Noel Kelly, Chief Executive of Visual Artists Ireland (VAI) who co-organised the event, welcomed delegates to the conference which aimed to highlight various impediments to the mobility of artists and works of arts and to discuss solutions or improvement to some of the problems.
Eva Lichtenberger, MEP, drew the attention to the growing fear in the European population concerning new regulation mechanisms for the control of citizens. Blasphemy, anti-racist laws and other restrictions of freedom of speech and artistic expression are normally under national jurisdiction, the existence of the European Arrest Warrant in an environment of an ever-greater mobility of artists and works of arts results in a real danger for challenging and provocative artists.
Helena Dvorosek Zorko, the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, informed the conference about initiatives to implement the EU agenda for culture in a globalised world by promoting cultural exchange and co-operation in Western Balkans. Involvement by civil society had turned out to be essential for obtaining sustainable results.
Lithuanian curator and ambassador of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue Lolita Jablonskiene presented the latest edition of VAI's Printed Project, titled The Art of Living with Strangers the magazine focuses on artistic and literary perspectives on intercultural dialogue, cross-cultural experiences and hybrid expressions.
Piper Seán McKeon of Na Píobairí Uilleann and fiddle player Jesse Smith made a musical intervention, greatly appreciated by the international audience, which facilitated discussion on the particular issues effecting musicians travelling on aeroplanes.
Ole Reitov from Freemuse, an international organisation fighting against music censorship, presented a recently released white paper VISAS | the discordant note, which documents how visa regulations and administrative practice hinder third country artists entering the European Union, in a manner which is clearly in contradiction with the provisions of the UNESCO Convention on The Protection And Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and with severe economic and cultural consequences.
Pauline Hadaway from Belfast Exposed described the practical difficulties for a small institution when dealing with the British Home Office requirements when inviting artists from outside EU. The risk that artists from complicated areas are excluded already at preparatory stages is obvious.
In the subsequent discussions a range of mobility problems within Europe were exposed as well as the difficulties to cross borders to Fortress Europe and the US. It was pointed out that consciousness among artists, operators and others involved is necessary in order to resist the general development towards more closed societies. The Conference clearly enunciated the desire to maintain the global freedom of co-operation and exchange, while accepting that some sectors may require reciprocal conditions in order to maintain their activities on national level.
A conference report will be issued, and concrete follow up activities will be discussed among ECA members interdisciplinary artists councils and organisations from 27 European countries and other partners involved in the coming months.
The conference was arranged in co-operation with Visual Artists Ireland, Irish Museum of Modern Art and Na Píobairí Uilleann. For further information, please contact Elisabet Diedrichs at the European Council of Artists or Alex Davies at Visual Artists Ireland.