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  • Writer's pictureTomislav S. Šola

Festivalization, Intangibility and Heritage Occupations

Every heritage is immaterial only some is materialized. The field of meaning possessed by every museum object invariably reminds us of "immateriality". Without the added interpretation, every subject is a mute puzzle. The heritage reduced to objects, even to precious objects, is neither complete nor true.

Isolated in institutions, showcases, and shelves it is merely a reminder that only the heritage that lives or that we live with, is important. In order to be complete, it lacks its integrity, the inexhaustible, fluid part that is naturally connective tissue. Public memory institutions (museums, archives, libraries) are not the luxury of wealthy societies, nor can they be the pastime od idle scientists. In the world of confused values, of continuing loss of quality, in a world that is getting uglier and increasingly inhospitable, the interpretation of heritage, especially its impalpable part, is the question of the correct perception of development, - hence of life. To live and develop, cities are turning to all forms of "soft power", sometimes (ironically) because they have lost their industrial and other developmental power to fight the crisis or match their competitors. Only those which impose as important and creative survive, acquiring the reputation of attractive destination for tourists and investors. There are many interpretations of how this is achieved and not all are correct.

Cultural manifestations (exhibitions, festivals, competitions, congresses, performances, concerts ...) are the best when they come from a perfect, scientifically based knowledge of the identity or spiritual potential of the city in question. Most often the enterprising creators of the events, especially the increasingly numerous festivals, content themselves with the prospect of profit (whatever the content is) and, often, embrace all the simplifications as they are proposed by the so-called brands. But, only thorough understanding of the particular identity must be the basis. Yielding to the all sorts of managers and PR experts, it becomes obvious that the occupations of the public memory sector do not participate enough in this business. However, any occasion when they take part, when they are at their best, they represent, glittery, barely exploited potential.

This sector is pushed aside and seems to have accepted its position. Namely, the city decision-makers allow the event business function upon strategies which are not based on quality criteria; the media (turning yellow) and general public (turning into mob) are of no help. They are losing/lacking the support of professionals and professions that guarded the sense of measure, the criteria and civic taste for what is appropriate, worth and sustainable. Thus sensationalism This involution is ruining values. The indispensable professionalism gives way to resourceful amateurs and dilettante disguised by instant managerial education. The post-modern paradigm of "everything goes" (taking it as freedom), has changed through the mercantilization and the loss of the value system into "nothing matters" (which is just a chaos of passing fashions). The former socialist countries are getting more than a fair share of trouble. The wit, the templates, the organizers of the events and the festivals, are expected from the West (as the Eastern Europe is turned into its "supply zone" and colony) whereas the West is itself shaken in its standards of quality. Uncritical acceptance of foreign experiences jeopardizes also cultural institutions and the possible positive contribution of the festivals and other events - if they are organized with care and professional responsibility. The frenzy of quantity of festival demonstrates clearly indicates the lack of quality. The more intensive participation of heritage occupations and cultural institutions can improve the situation. If those creative and enterprising in culture receive support from responsible media, the soft power of heritage can represent a realistic chance for development and, very importantly, maintain the circumstances for self-esteem. Without it, no culture can endure the strains of entropy of globalization.

(the text has been part of public discussion raised in Serbia, where I was invited at the occasion of the publishing translation of the book “Eventful cities”)

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