No Boundaries #2: For the Love of All Things Without Boundaries

Arts, Bristol, Events, Inspirational, York

“The cultural map is being re-drawn… by new behaviours, new technologies, new models of funding and new local, national and global thinking. On 25 and 26 February 2014, No Boundaries considers the role of culture in 21st century society, bringing together leaders and activists and connecting discussions across two venues and the web.”

For the last two days I’ve been working with Watershed as one of their young journalists for No Boundaries, an open symposium on the role of culture and the arts in 21st century society. I can’t wait to share all the incredible things that I’ve been able to be a part of! Day 1 done, now…

Day Two

The beauty of Dr Benjamin Barber’s talk was that he sparked and incited a passion within me about defining cities and democracy amid shining a light on how the private versus public space conflict affects both. He seamlessly lays the foundation of the ‘No Boundaries’ theme and how it does and doesn’t correspond with Session 5′s Internationalism theme.

If you were following the #NB2014 Twitter feed you may have read my tweet: “Can’t quote @BenjaminRBarber fast enough. Could I link people to his talk and be done with my opinion? Everything he says is spot on #NB2014″. And to be honest I still stand by that so as soon as the link to his talk goes up I’ll be the first to tweet about it.

No Boundaries, The Guildhall, York. Image: Matt Baker

Having never encountered democracy in the way Barber expressed in my personal life, amid growing up in a society where ‘democracy’ equivalated to politics and voting, not communities and understanding, I couldn’t agree with him more about how ‘democracy is a way of life, a way of living that takes into account our diversity and encourages our collaboration and imagination’. It has taken seventeen years for the identity of our society, ‘democracy’, to be presented to me in a way that makes a lasting connection that makes me proud to be part of it instead of the systematic impersonal association I’ve grown up with. And isn’t it sad that this intimate concept wasn’t instilled with me in the ritualistic system of academia where I could have grown up with a healthier outlook on the ‘intercity intercommunity world without boundaries’. Oh no, it was a ten minute talk in the fifth session of a two day event. The chance of me being present for Dr Benjamin Barber’s talk is so slim and against me it only makes me more grateful for this innovative way of thinking. I use innovative loosely because it’s simply too ironic: I wouldn’t be surprised if the founding fathers of democracy looked upon Barber’s definition of it ‘taking into account our diversity and encourages our collaboration and imagination’ and offered up high fives all around. It’s so obviously the original meaning and intention it’s sad how it’d now be regarded as a creative new age way of thinking.

‘The city is the human habitat and community, it’s what defines us; where we’re born and grow up and get married and are buried.”

But that’s just it, ‘cities oddly, though made up of communities, are all about private space’ and even though ‘communities can’t thrive without public spaces they are defined by private space’. It’s this insidious war on public spaces ‘over the thirty or forty years of market commercialization and privatization of public space’ that needs to be addressed. We need to acknowledge that there’s ‘not enough public space to do the public work culture needs”. After all, guess who’ll be the first ones to complain about a culture deficit? Us.

So for the love of all things without boundaries can we inspire, support, nourish, develop and maintain our public spaces and remember they are for the people by the people, not by ourselves for ourselves.

P.S. had experienced my first and only technical difficulty during Session 5: Internationalism but I love how engaged the standby punk-poet Henry Raby had me from his infectious high energy right from the get-go with his spoken word. Even with hindsight, I’m still pretty sure his slip up was staged – he pulled that one off with amazing craft. I loved his energy and I’m ashamed to say part of me was sad once I found out he was just providing mid-technical-fault entertainment for York.

P.P.S no seriously, he deserves some credit:

IBT: Early Days (Of a Better Nation)

Performance, Uncategorized

Last weekend, I took part in Coney’sEarly Days” performance, which was part of the IBT program at the Arnolfini. The resulting show had me immersed in the absolute chaos and destruction of politics; revolutions, corruption, bickering, throwing money, and cake-based assassination attempts. The show perfectly presented the hysterical absurdity within the workings of government.

The show was driven by the audience, who became the government of a fictional, post-revolution country, desperate in the need of order and reform. Audience members became grouped representatives of different regions of this country, and tried to build the most wealth in their particular region. This could be done through deciding on popular policies in response to issues brought up by the public, investing (or should that be gambling) in a stock market, and creating culture for the new nation.

I found myself in the role of a civil servant, to which I had to deliver information and regional issues to the representatives and reward them money based on how well I feel they had decided on certain policies. This instantly made me realise that I had a good amount of power over the representatives, in the way that I could personally favour one person’s view over another in rewarding them with more money. I soon recognized that I could be a part of corruption within this system. Nail biting stuff indeed.

The way the auditorium was used for the show was inventive. The centre of the space was used primarily for the audience, and the tables for particular regions for which the audience had to debate around were illuminated with colourful lights, giving the atmosphere quite a spooky, almost theatrical feel (see picture).

Around the audience, there included a roulette-wheel (symbolising the stock market), a cultural corner (to create chalk-drawn art and to sing national anthems), a library (to discover the history of the country), an army recruitment corner (for those regions that had become bankrupt to join) and an embassy to a neighbouring country to which we had just become independent from. A 24-hour live news bulletin was projected onto a big screen, which was satirically funny, but also informative of the narrative around us.

I had really enjoyed the show. It was playful and humorous, but also thought-provoking and alarming, highlighting the confused, hectic nature of politics, which is especially relevant after the events of the Arab spring and the 2011 summer riots.

Jacob M