Fear has always been a very effective tool to control societies, and is especially present in contexts of crisis such as those we are experiencing today. In the cycle organised a few months ago by the Beckett Room and the UOC – Terrors of the City – it became clear that today’s fears have very deep roots that are projected into the uncertainty of futures that the current civilisation crisis has called into question.
Cinema or television series are a clear thermometer of this as are theater or literature. A simple review of the current film listings reveals that they are mostly apocalyptic in nature.
In the 2018 annual report, the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, Karima Bennoune, points out that not all artistic and cultural practices aspire to shape more inclusive and peaceful societies that favor the practice of human rights. Commitment to this goal is a possibility, but not an obligation; it is led by freedom of creation and expression, limited only by other fundamental rights.
Be that as it may, when the arts and culture are committed to these challenges, they achieve high levels of positive impact in the acceptance of cultural diversity, overcoming fear and prejudice, strengthening resilience and restoring trust or fostering reconciliation.
This brings us again to the reiterated question of the relations between culture, education and communication. To what extent does the uncritical consumption of these literary, theatrical or audiovisual stories contribute or not to overcoming our fears? How can we learn to look at, let alone read, languages and aesthetic codes in which we are often functionally illiterate?
The answers to these complex questions are not simple, but there is a new parameter that is altering this debate and that is that we can no longer understand participation in cultural life only in terms of access; we have to do so also from the contribution of everyone to the reflection, and artistic or aesthetic expression of our opinions and perspectives on, in this case, fears.
Interarts works from this perspective of cultural rights. The project DECIDES Europe is designing a collaborative strategy to address the issue of gender-based violence with young people, which can be exported and adapted to other contexts, realities and scenarios. Theatre, music, dance and literature are languages that convey reading, but, above all, the writing of their thoughts and emotions that help to channel in a creative way the contradictions and certainties that liquid society raises as regards love and relationships.
As Eduard Miralles said, we have to think big about cultural policies, focus on reading more than libraries. Addressing social problems such as gender-based violence is obviously a free choice for creators but it is also a fundamental right of citizens.
Gemma Carbó, chair of the Board of the Interarts Foundation.