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Informal Working Body Gulliver

Eind december 2012 was het 25 jaar geleden dat in het Hilton Hotel te Amsterdam de “Informal Working Body Gulliver ” werd opgericht op initiatief van o.a. Nobelprijswinnaar Günter Grass foto oprichters + silhouetten met namen. Wat Gulliver in de eerste jaren na de val van de Muur betekende is te lezen in deze brief van ION BOGDAN LEFTER: ION BOGDAN LEFTER “Gulliver” 1998: Amsterdam, Wien (A Notebook) After celebrating its ten‑year anniversary back in 1997 in Bucharest and Sibiu, Romania, ”Gulliver”, the European group of artists and intellectuals went on with its meetings in 1998 in Amsterdam (April) and Wien (October). As usual, these were basically small numbered gatherings, according to what Gulliver means to be: a small symbolic space open to dialogue, within the frame of the complicated process of European integration. To those convinced it will not be accomplished on a large scale without a mutual accommodation of so many diverse European cultures, it is clear that on a small scale of firsthand communication humanist intellectuals and creative people have to meet, know and understand each other and one another. This takes place not only in large formal congresses and symposiums, but during such small encounters with enough participants to represent the variety of European mindsets, but at the same time few enough to contribute each and every of them to a relaxed atmosphere, so to say a “family‑like” one. The fact that the group is at the same time open and exclusive ensures the going on of its encounters, although they never gather exactly the same “Gullivers”. Some of them return after a while, others miss, absorbed by their obligations, so that each time, among people you know, you can see new faces as well. In Amsterdam there were about 30‑40 people, each time adding some occasional people, such as cultural local authorities, and administrative staff. The second encounter was paralleled by a session where there were invited 25 young cultural managers from ex‑communist countries involved in the cooperation program called “Gulliver’s Connect”, supported also by KulturKontakt, the Austrian correspondent of the German Goethe Institut or British Council networks, and at the same time the host of both “Swiftian” reunions in Wien. Topics Therefore, the discussions of “Gulliver” group have on the background the notion of European integration. Not in the least formal, they “bond” very tight and naturally, connecting, on the one hand, different things from different cultures, and on the other, valuing unchanging patterns of thinking and mindsets. The topics that function as departure points, not necessarily as arrival ones, can be formulated the following way: q Cultural “rights” and their implication in cultural policies (general title in Amsterdam) q What do professional artists understand by “rights”? Which of them are their concern and, therefore, pertain to human rights in general? q What are artist’s duties towards other individuals and society? q To what extent is his nation relevant for artist’s rights? Should an artist be considered more valuable given his work is presented, interpreted and read as being created by “an important Ukrainean artist” than if s/he were just “an important artist”? q Who has to pay for the artists to exert their cultural “rights”? Is it the market customer or public authority? Does the governmental support have in view citizens’ benefits or professional artist’s? q How should a state (or any public authority) select those works it envisages to reward, promote or support? q Cultural rights in a changing international context (general title in Wien) q Contemporary cultural conflicts and the way they affect artists’ work and status, and working conditions q Relationships artists‑institutions‑audience‑governments‑market‑media q Individual versus group: religion/ generations/ interculturalism q Internationalism and local cultural policies — a change or a threat? q Inward and outward glances — European viewpoints on the relationship art‑state q Instrumentalization of Culture q A new cultural policy. How can “political incorrectness” be supported? Ambiguity of policies based on strict criteria. These are witty, luring, and challenging formulations. Other topics freely tackled during sessions can be added as well. Each time, some texts forwarded by participants are distributed in their turn, these being short essays that sum up problems in a more or less focused way. In Amsterdam I submitted my own paper, called Professional Artists: Artists? Professionals? A Romanian Case Study. Virtual/Concrete Spaces (1): Felix Meritis As an open, mobile project, “Gulliver” exists as a virtual space of intercultural dialogue. It has also created another virtual space of trans‑border communication: scattered in their countries of origin or where they live, the “Gullivers” make up a symbolic community. Still, they need some concrete spaces to hold place for the periodical reunions of the group. Those in Amsterdam and Wien deserve to be described in detail as very special “topoi” on the real/virtual map of a cultural Europe that has become metaphorically and strictly speaking a communion, as in both cases there are some centers with acknowledged international connotations. The April meeting was hosted by the Felix Meritis Foundation in Amsterdam, which administratively supports “Gulliver”. It is an extraordinary space, with an extraordinary working project, briefly an extraordinary example of an independent cultural institution. Its history is amazing too: The Felix Meritis Society, founded as a center for arts and sciences was founded in 1777! Middle‑class Amsterdam inhabitants at that time, the founding fathers started with their contributions for building up a headquarters. Ten years after, in 1787, the building that hosts the foundation today was ready. Here we have continuity and stability truly out of common: over 200 years living on the same address! They also have a much envied location: on Keizersgracht, on of the circular canals in the historical center of the city, in one of the most attractive and posh and Bohemian areas in all Europe. This is how the building looks like, a dream‑like place for any cultural institution: an aristocratic, generously ornamented façade with colons, remarkable among the narrow houses terraced along canals in Amsterdam; spacious, high rooms, distributed on three stories on Keizersgracht side, on four behind that end in a large rounded parlour, Koepelzaal (The Hall of the ), notwithstanding the intermediary balconies; large wooden spiralled stairs with high doors each leading at each half story in one of the multifunctional spaces of the Foundation: Teekenzaal (The Hall of Signs), Zuilenzaal (The Colons Hall) and all the others, in which you can rehearse and perform shows, can hold conferences, debates a.s.o. It is a building made up on purpose for cultural gathering and preserved along the centuries as such. Europe is crowded with old castles, palaces, and aristocratic residencies transformed in government buildings, in guesthouses or museums. Seldom one can find though, locations built hundreds of years ago to host what we call today cultural non‑governmental organizations. Hence, one can notice that Felix Meritis is in fact a rare case of an institution whose longevity highlights the genealogy link between the ancient or medieval Maecena‑like attitudes and the institutional network of cultural foundations in the modern and postmodern world of the twentieth century. Well, the old building of the foundation passes now through contemporary changes. A vast restoration project was started in 1994. Since costs were estimated first at five and then at seven million florins, which is hard to collect at once, the enterprise is supposed to last for several years. First steps have already been taken. On the ground floor, while stepping on the stone dales of the entrance hall, one discovers instead of a missing window, another over which you can see water from the old collecting canal now unraveled because of the restoration. On each side, the doors facing the main street have been replaced with large thick glass surfaces, without any wooden or metal frame, kept only in their joints, so that, as they are sliding, you can open them by both pushing and pulling them. The front desk is on the right: a spot for information and publications of all kinds —either belonging to the Foundation or to any other local or from other places cultural managers. Many leaflets, posters, and festival programs. The left side room hosts a cafeteria. On both sides, the windows do not separate one from the outside, they almost draw both and the street and the canal closer together, that is the unique atmosphere of old Amsterdam. The tokens of present age are visible furthermore. The circular hall surrounding the round room from the ground floor of the backside building advances to the underground that the architects recovered as a space for offices. These are crammed with computers, copiers, library shelves and stuff like that. In point of scenery, the building has got everywhere you go a very fashionable “poor‑like” style. No sign of opulence. Luxury is absent. Either just lime, or gray, bumpy paint is used, like in the underground where the suggestion is that of a working studio, a “site”. Cafeteria is nice and unadorned, without installations or ornaments. Tables and chairs straightly on the floor. The bar is improvised on under pressure beer recipients. Large gray metal foils caught in big visible nails were used for the compartmentalization of the ground floor rest room. The sinks are like in a site as well. The necessary comfort is there but discreetly minimalist. The general notion of restoration relies on preserving this style of a historical public building, meant for everyday use, elegant but without having benefitted of the privileges of a private residence; therefore, it lacks sophisticated finishings, expensive rugs, paintings on the walls, etc., etc. The wood is old. The floorboards creak. So do the stairs. The banisters are polished by time. The teams that started the project discovered that the sustaining pillars were rotten, and the whole resistence structure shallow. All interventions did not and will not move out anything. Everything stays the same; only adding new layers makes the consolidation. These are not and will not be “hidden”. On the contrary: as the glass on the boards on the floor of the entrance hall gives a glimpse of the historical truth from underground, almost like the small old paint patches that church restorers preserve as witnesses, the architects chose to place in sight the old building. The lift is the vehicle allowing the visit in the so far invisible bowels. It is very modern and placed in one lateral wall under the stairs. One of its inner surfaces being glass, you can see through it, floor by floor, the layers of the entire building, the rotten, blasted, old wooden panes, the floors, ceilings and scaffoldings, but the resistance recently added metallic and solid structure like an orthopedic skeleton that allows the patient stand triumphantly still. Moreover, at each floor the lift glass passes at close distance from a window that faces higher and higher over the roofs of other city houses. Past and present, the inside and the outside reality meet in a — isn’t it? — metaphor of the palimpsest that is culture in time, culture in history. The restoration goes on and the venerable Foundation Felix Meritis will stay as a material proof of success for a project emerged out of an exemplary cultural consciousness then at the beginning, and now, when it merges past and present in a new — internationalized — utilitarian dynamic. The very palpable reality of the building on Keizersgracht and the virtual dialogue space “Gulliver” sketches overlap in the utopia of communication above — or through — fashions and time Portraits (1) (with some debts from 1997) Steve Austin. “Gulliver”’s leader and the chair of the Foundation Felix Meritis. It all started from an idea that Gunter Grass launched in 1985 with the occasion of The European Forum in Budapest. There the German novelist pleaded for the cultural dialogue between the by then two halves of Europe still separated by The Iron Curtain. The wind of change was already blowing, The Soviet Union started its way on the “glasnost” road, and many communist countries relaxed the repression and centralized control upon economy (unfortunately, not Romania, which was going to preserve its tough neo‑Stalinist policy up to the end, together with DDR, Bulgaria and Albania). Steve was involved in 1987 in the organization of the complex of festivals that Amsterdam hosted under the title “the European cultural capital”. He took advantage of the general focus of attention and adapted Gunter Grass’s idea, assembling the group “Gulliver” by inviting some few great European writers and artists, some prominent intellectuals and journalists, as well as certain representatives of Eastern and Central European cultures, either invited on purpose or visiting the West. So “Gulliver” started due to one single person’s tenacity and abilities. We have to add right away, a special person. A fanatic of independent cultural enterprise, Steve proudly says that he has been working for thirty years in the non‑governmental organizations field. A cultural manager, a head of small and large institutions, an innitiator of various projects, coordinator of festivals, publications a.s.o. A fanatic of the “networking” as well, of building up international connections meant to put in direct contact artists and intellectuals in different places and countries, to engage them in an “intercultural” dialogue. Therefore, he has become gradually well‑known not only in Holland but in other places in Europe as well. Personalities and NGOs know him, along with politicians and bureaucrats. He admires the former, attracts and encourages them, whereas the has been telling the latter for ages how futile and ignorant they are when it is about culture, so that he has managed to persuade some of them to make themselves useful, understand the rules of the game, offer support. Effficient and determined, Steve plays on the surface the “strategic” and attaching role of the scarebrained, someone who walks in the clouds.A funny look: short, big headed, plumpy face, eternally sleepy eyes behind the glasses, dishevelled, gray hair, although he looks ageless. A drowsy mouse air. In fact, he is a visionary of the cultural Europe that gets built by assembling diversities in a not only economic and monetary unity. The future will prove him and others of his kind right. Andrei Bitov. The well‑known Russian novelist, the author of The Puskin House. He is among the founders of “Gulliver”. His book was finally published at home, in the Soviet Union, over a decade and a half after he had written it. Meantime, it was published in some other places, a 1978 Russian version in The United States, and then several translations. Out of censorship, Bitov could travel abroad and he came in 1987 to the first “Gulliver” encounter. Ever since, he has been seldom absent. I met him in Bucharest‑Sibiu, in Amsterdam, and Wien. Photos show him gray‑haired in 1987 as well as at present, when at 61 years old he looks fine and hides his age. Black eyebrows! On the other hand, he has a certain slowness in his motions. He is all made up out of oppositions: young‑and‑old, black‑and‑white, slow‑brisky. He keeps aside for a long while, but when it’s time, he starts talking, fluently and abundantly, but mumbling, inteligible though, but making mistakes and revealing a strong Slaav accent. He smokes non‑filter cigarettes, and like any self‑considered Russian likes drinking. When he was young, he studied mining engineering! He has the most peculiar nail form I have ever seen in my life: incredibly large, slightly curved towards laterals, and curved from one side to another almost covering the tips of the fingers! Stories, ideas, special, weird formulations whimsy. The audience well‑prepared to have fun will always wait for his interventions. He himself will always accept this role and becomes the “trickster” of the group, sliding sometimes towards the witty, (self) ironic clown. In fact, he has something of a clown in his face with naively rounded child‑like brows, with dark pouches under eyes and very black, very vivid eyes. He looks in a way like Eugene Ionesco, not really when it’s about details as in the jester air, which so dramatically enhanced itself towards the latter’s life. Heiner Muller. I remember him from the “Gulliver” encounter in December 1991 hosted by our friend Coen Stork, the Dutch ambassador in Bucharest, in his residence on Atena Street next to the Dorobanti Square, in the “diplomatic district”, next to the embassy. I had just returned from overseas. The atmoshere was troubled in those first years after our “Revolution”: incredibly many things to do, write, protest against, big big plans, politics, journalism, university, running around, contacts, travelling and so on and so forth. A new miners’s upheaval had lead to the replacement of the government less than two months before. This had started the breaking off in two of the power that had taken over in December 1989. The opposition was gaining new ground. Every day was another site of new scandals, pros and cons, abuse disclosures. Political fights, press fights, fights of all kinds were carried along. Families, friends, colleagues, and neighbours were engaged in bitter polemics. All conflicts were high‑pitched. Local elections were on their way, and they were going to be won by the opposition in the big cities. Tension, haste, fuss were growing. What was this “Gulliver” all about?! It was not very clear at that time. Coen called enough “posh people” in Bucharest, artists, before‑and‑after December stars. Steve Austin was there too, together with a group of more or less fresh “Gullivers”. I remember Heiner Muller and Dragan Klaic best. The Felix Meritis folders mention the names of Andrei Bitov, and Antonin Liehm, the Czech editior of Lettre Internationale, and others. I don’t remember them. I keep instead a very clear picture of Heiner Muller, in sharp contrast to the local atmosphere at that time: silent, somehow mysterious, steamy (he was a smoker of cigars), but not dramatic, I’d rather say “white”. Almost motionless. His expressive face had imobile, rigid features. Very small, miopic eyes behind glasses with a strong minus prescription. He looked like a mask — that must be why I preserve this strange image of a flat relief, of a face without protuberances, like in a two‑dimensional projection. Like on a cover! I do not remember his words. His fame had preceded him not only with regard to theater and his plays: he was very involved in the “media” debates about intellectuals “naming names” in the former Eastern Germany. If I well remember, he may have seemed mysterious to me for I knew his confessions and thoughts, and I knew about his intricated background. So I remember him, so I pictured him in my mind some years later, when I found out about his death: a mysterious person with motionless, small eyes in a two‑dimensional projection. Dragan Klaic. I didn’t know back then in 1991 in Bucharest that both Dragan Klaic and Heiner Muller were participating for the first time in a “Gulliver” meeting. That one was the fifth. Meantime, counting the two in 1998, there have been seventeen in all. Living now in Amsterdam, Holland, Dragan became the manager of the Dutch Theatre Institute in 1992. In December 1991, he had been a exile for one month or one month and something! As he is a Serb, he never left Yugoslavia — I think (as I have never asked!) — just to escape the blast of nationalisms that replaced communism, but following his international communication creed. His frenzy in the theatrical field — a critic, a professor, a playwright, and a consultant — lead him to a European activity in the field. He was among the founders and publishers of the trimestrial magazine Euromaske. He participated in several festivals, congresses, debates, and he held lectures in Europe and The United States. As he is sophisticated and cosmopolitan, movind graciously among ideas, languages, cultures, and institutions, connected to the hot issues of the moment, aware of artistic and political, social and cultural evolutions as well, he will think, talk, speak, and act like a natural European. He may very well illustrate the remarkable potential of a certain category of intellectuals belonging to the young‑and‑mature generation in the former communist countries in Eastern and Central Europe. They, rallied to international debates and cross‑cultural exchanges in the nineties, cannot bear the pressure of their home context, which exiled dissidents of the previous decades had protested against. Their relaxed message is no longer belonging to some fugitives escaped from the terror of totalitarian regimes, tragic figures bearing testimony against almost “outworldly” atrocities. These people now picture their cultural spaces of origin only as a hypostasy of diversity within the European singleness. Here we have this still young Serbian (born in 1950). I have not had the opportunity to read his plays and theatrical essays. I met him though, I listened to him and we were in the same debating team. He is one of the most active of the “Gullivers”. His present fellow‑citizen, Steve Austin, will always request his presence and ask him to “facilitate” rounds of discussion in the group. He also included one of his essays in an English volume published by Felix Meritis under the auspices of “Gulliver”. These are a few pages on the topic of the “post‑Yugoslavian exile”. One can infer out of it that the more relaxed and liberalized Tito regime had afforded him some non‑traumatic university years, which he furtherly pursued at Yale in the seventies. He never thought then to immigrate. He characterizes the latest years experiences with an emblematic word: “challenging”. A positive, constructive, future‑oriented word. This is how Dragan is: a young‑and‑mature European intellectual facing the future. He even confessed in Wien that he has been reading for a few years economic and financial newspapers in order to understand the language of the new elites that have taken over at present. He recounted having talked to some bankers and having realized that they had a broader knowledge than many cultivated people! When we met we reciprocated with our pros for a new model of postmodern creative intellectual: released from the “ivory tower” and down‑to‑earth in the middle of the complicated life of our more and more troubled, consumerist, information highway oriented, politicized, internationally sophisticated, and multicultural age etc., etc. When referring to such things, Dragan inspires calm and self‑possession. His beaming energy, underlined somehow by his wide and carved features, makes a good combination with the poise of a person who also knows when not to involve, and how to wait, and who, when talking, becomes passionate as much as needed to be persuasive. Cesc Gelabert. Catalan choreographer and dancer. He was one of the group founders in 1987. I met him in 1997 at one of the reunions in Romania. Distinguished, discreet, one can’t fail noticing him. Elegant: black suiting trousers with refined cut, black leather shoes, black or white shirt. Slender but well built. An expressive head: a shaven skull, bony face, high cheek‑bones, straight nose, round, big nostrils, pointed chin. Sparkling black eyes. Gentle, a bit childish smile. As soon as he starts moving he betrays his profession: vaulted steps, graceful gestures (I don’t mean something lyrical and ridiculous). A Barcelona man with an international career and reputation. Beside choreography as such he worked for theatre, operas, cabarets, cinema, video recordings, and TV. He studied architecture as well. Hard to forget his memorable figure dancing in — a rather kitsch context ‑ a village near Sibiu, where the “Gullivers” had been taken for the local picturesque, for a “traditional” dinner (but which was only half traditional), the night before the departure, in a yard where the fiddlers were performing their traditional number for the foreign tourists, dancing the Romanian reel; Cesc started dancing on his own, improvising on the accordion tune, in wild rhythms, partly continuing the tune and subtly standing in contrast with it, as he was interpreting modern choreography, not “folk” one. He very much enjoyed the energy of music and movement, he would laugh while performing a pirouette, he talked to us in a language of gestual dynamics which had become for him a way of being, of communicating; we could notice when he was tired but the moment he realised this, his tiredness would miraculously reabsorb itself and the improvisation would go on, he wouldn’t pause, he enjoyed it, he would laugh and beam (again, we should avoid the lyrical connotations of the story). “The Open Sessions” Beside the debates open only to its members, the Gulliver meetings have always scheduled an “open session”. Its participants depended on the organizer’s options and the venue chosen. In 1997 there were two such reunions: the first one in an University of Sibiu amphiteatre, and the second, in one of the National Theatre auditoriums, called by coincidence The Amphiteatre. In accordance with the rule there were open sessions in Amsterdam and Wien as well. None of them resembled the other. In Amsterdam, the building of Felix Meritis Foundation, in Zuilenzaal, gathered a small number of local artists. Together with a Greek, an Israeli, and a Slovenian we were the panelists of the “open session” whose moderator was an English. This is a way to dusplay the group’s multiculturalism. Lively questions from the audience, demonstrating a real interest in our different cultural experiences and in the intellectual and creative European dialogue. A very relaxed atmosphere, continued with friendly talks in the cafeteria downstairs. As for Wien, a bank hosted us. Taking three very luxurious elevators one reached the luxurious conference hall on one of the luxurious floors of a very luxurious building, all marble, crystal mirrors and dark windows. A large and unexpectedly passionate audience. No sooner had we tackled topical Austrian cultural issues that we could hear protests on the part of the audience. It’s not this way!, it’s the other way! Explanations were required. A grain of patience was required. At a certain moment, a guy declared himself appalled and left. Another one, a young German artist just settled in Wien, tried to offer us a more detached “imagological” perspective on the local cultural realities. A lady from an Austrian radio station asked ‑ if for example — there were anything that we knew in Bucharest about Wien and Austria, something in general, beside creative stuff. Later, I offered explanations on her tape recorder during the filling cocktail offered by the bank, in a room by the conference hall: a saloon all in marble, of course with expensive velvet drapes at the windows Real /Virtual spaces (2): The Arnold Schonberg Center In Wien the venue of the “Gulliver” reunion was the Schonberg center. Another marvel of an independent cultural institution. An extremely new one, this time. It had opened only six months before. This should be related to the strategies Austria, a new member of the European Union, employs to reshape its international policies today. The small Austrian state, within the post‑communist context of bringing together again the two halves of the continent, a continent acknowledged as “Western” by our partners in the West and liberated from the neighbouring tension of Eastern militia‑like dictatorships, and extreme left totalitarianism, returns to its integrative Central‑European vocation. Consequently, the cultural dimension is essential. Therefore, important investments in museums, centers for creation and research an increasing number of international exchanges, meetings and all kind of contacts are being made. More or less important personalities who gave voice to the Austrian spirit are rediscovered, reappraised. Schonberg for instance. Didn’t we have in Wien a proper space to treasure its celebrity? Never mind, we create one! An International Schonberg Society has been founded and various subsidies were found in collaboration with the local administration, either from the state or from banks or from private institutions, including personal donations ‑ Austrian, American, or Japanese ‑, funds due to which the centre has been organized. As simple as that. The result is amazing. Starting from the very location: the address is Schwartzenbergplatz 6, one of the most famous historical squares from the imperial Wien on the southern slope of the Ring and not far away from the Opera House. An old, imposing building which holds the offices of some business companies. Consequently, everything inside is equipped with the latest technological facilities. In the evening, the light from the immense hall downstairs automatically switches on when somebody enters. From the elevators dropping you on the Center’s floor you enter halls and rooms combining the old elegance of the building, of the varnished parquet with up to date design. A very simple functional furniture, an “ergonomic” style: tables, chairs, stands. Plastic and nickelled metal. Gray panels cover the walls and the ceiling. The acoustics has been improved in this way. Necessary technical facilities for the sound effects of all events organized were added as well: amplification equipment, small cubicles for adjustments and translations in space. The austere simplicity mingles the pleasant simplicity of the comfortable utilities offered to the visitor. So situated in a real space, the Schonberg Center has become the virtual site for various types of cultural events: first of all, it goes without saying, musical ones, but also all sorts of debates, editorial or musical launchings, exhibitions, and even . “Gullivers”! A Schonberg museum was organized in one part of the Center. Researchers, musicologists, biographers have access to the valuable documents of the archive. A “Newsletter” is published quarterly. Although very young, the Arnold Schonberg Center is well known and respected. It may be considered a small instance of an institutional example, a mobile multifunctional structure, a connection between the decent celebration of tradition and a link to the contemporary dynamics of cultural action Portraits (2) Almeida Faria. Part of the team from the very beginning, but since the first meeting, in 1987, he has participated only in the Amsterdam session where I met him. 55 years old. A successful Portuguese novelist. He teaches aesthetics in Lisbon. Slender, elegant with discretion (wearing a suit sometimes with or without a tie). Dark‑haired, searching eyes, olive complexion, Iberian. Interested in reading samples from literatures unknown to him, but interested in being translated as well. The Gulliver reunions are not such an opportunity, but one shouldn’t miss an occasion. I have come to understand that his strategies are efficient. Leafing through the bundles of cultural supplements of the Dutch newspapers my friends collect for me, I discovered a review to one of Almeida Faria novels translated at one of the important publishing houses from Amsterdam. Michael Kustow. Imposing presence, one couldn’t fail noticing him. Stout, bald, a speck of a gray beard. Pouches under his eyes‑ giving the impression that he has just waken up. Not at all sleepy though! Impetuous, eloquent, he is

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one of the first, even the very first, to but in a discussion. It’s a question of temperament: he can’t attend anything without involving himself. He has got a vast creative, media, and cultural management experience. He wrote books, articles of cultural commentary, scripts for TV series. As an associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the sixties, he had the opportunity to collaborate with Peter Brooks, to whom he had become later the producer for TV versions of some remarkable performances, and one of them was Mahabharata. He wrote about his master’s work in one of his books. He took different leading positions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The National Theatre and Channel 4, the British intellectual and artistic TV Channel. When he turned 50 in 1989, he became an independent TV , radio, theatre, and film producer. He has two companies of his own. For him such a career does not mean ‘importance’, arrogance or conceitedness. On the contrary, he is good‑natured, open, and friendly. As he talks from experience, he will always have interesting opinions. Conditioned by the tough rules of the media market, to which he has to adjust, he revealed for the ‘Gullivers’ his real propensity towards a more genuinely elitist attitude. However he accepted to ponder his views as a result of our reactions when it was about the ‘conjunction’ and not the ‘disjunction’ between high and low, popular culture. Michael has his own particular way of combining remarks, subtle comments and candid wonders. Sometimes he is as passionate as a teenager, other times as wise as a grandfather. He is one of those who succeeded to devote himself to Art ( with a capital A) without being a camp actor or just ridiculous. Gary Schwartz. An American born in New York in a family of Central‑European descent. At 25, he crossed the Ocean the other way round settling down in Holland. Art critic and historian. A publisher and curator, an author of monographs and articles addressed to both specialists and the large public of the daily press. He wrote a novel about the artistic world. Completely gray at 58, tall and slim, Gary has an innate distinction. In Wien he did well as a ‘moderator’ to the debate on the artists’ ethic responsibility. He made use of an unfolding scenario, gradually revealing details about some scandalous instances during the past few years, until he managed to involve the whole group in an ardent discussion. The fact that to the end of it I revealed his ‘scenario’, that is the way he manipulated the others, could only please him. Peter Schat. Composer. He studied with Pierre Boulez., among others. Around 1970, he dealt with ‘electronic‑instrumental’ music production. Committed with his compositions to anti‑establishment socio‑political movements. He writes musical reviews as well. He talks slowly, and he is brief. He did not shrink from telling us in a loud voice when it seemed to him that our discussions rambled. He defended art as a radical moral concept, but aesthetically, more moderate, if not already got ahead by the postmodern speed. Being such an aestheticist, he treats disdainfully John Cage’s exhibitionisms, as well as any type of consumerism. Stout, blonde, ripe ear blonde hair, almost white. Among the “Gullivers” more literary or cultural analysts, he will add his sometimes extremely useful personal note. Nissim Calderon. This one hundred percent Israeli, born in Tel Aviv in 1947, just before the proper constituency of the Israeli State, is also part of our group. Tiny, thinnish, with a pointed face he has an overflowing energy. He talks passionately working oneself up. He would always demonstrate or support something. He utters sentences in a staccato way, with an intense accent (in English, of course, as this is the ‘Gullivers’ language). He reaches high pitched tones at every few words, underlining them with tumultuous gestures and short noddings. At the same time he succeeds to be always serene, to have a large smile on his face. His nervous and playful intelligence is concentrated in his small and lively eyes. Nissim studied literature and drama in his native town and he teaches there at the University. He writes editorials and articles, and organizes a poetry festival. He is concerned with the relationship between art and politics, is a social militant involved in the Israeli peace movement. Being an European due to his cultural tradition, he brings to our group discussions the perspective and the problems of the Near East. It’s the same with Ahmed Abdalla. Thanks to him, our group gets a glimpse of the Arab world of difference. Ahmed is Egyptian. But “Europeanised” as well. He is won over on the side of democracy and universal human rights, for which he militates in Cairo, he activates institutionally, he writes and publishes books. He resembles Nissim both in statue (he is thin as well), accent and staccato‑like, pattering speech, and torrential demonstrative discourse. If you don’t stop him, you run the risk that he will never stop. Levan Khetaguri. A young Georgian drama critic and theatre manager. Portly, a speck of black beard, always dressed in black and gray, with a shirt and vest full of pockets and zips. Calm, taciturn, passive. Involved however in unbelievable many theatre and more general cultural projects: President of Art Critics Association from Georgia (since 1990), head of a cultural production centre (since 1993), head of International Cultural Programme Department from the Minister of Culture (since 1996), General Secretary at the Georgian office of the International Institute for Drama, director of the Georgian representation of the European Institute of Dramatic Research ‑ more and more! Therefore he travels, establishes contacts, releases strategies for collaboration and diverse programmes, organizes festivals, exhibitions, cultural days, cinema retrospectives, various intellectual debates, research projects. To succeed in carrying them out, he is probably ‑ with the exception of instances in which he participates ‑ calmly, quietly, passive ‑ in the “Gulliver” reunions, he would have spun all day long like a restless top. Simon Mundy. He first joined our group in Wien although he had been collaborating for some time with the Felix Meritis foundation. Simon is a very busy multi‑talented intellectual: writer, poet, author of biographical works, cultural journalist with career in print media, radio, TV, associate professor invited to hold university lectures, festival manager, organizing campaigns in the benefit of arts, adviser for some Europeans cultural organisms (the Council of Europe and the European Parliament among them). In Wien we talked about one of his texts entitled Cultural Rights and Democracies in Transition, written on the basis of our recorded discussions from Amsterdam (where he could not attend because of an obstinate flu). 35 pages that fall into 6 chapters: coherent pleading, fluently formulated in the new style of actual cultural debates, in that language in which the artistic circles on the one hand understand the political and financial ones, including the coordinating Eurocracy of the continental integration, on the other. Modest, Simon did not defend his text (distributed in advance to each of us via mail), considering it only a proposal, a draft which happened to be that way but could have been as well different. This attitude suits him: his extremely active personality, very popular and very institutional‑like, entails a certain type of discretion. Stout, bald with round glasses, he has a gentle, smiling expression, almost always red‑checked, intense congested. Nothing to resemble a media or a high expertise ‘shark’, the one you meet in Brussels or Strasbourg. He himself is ‑ after all ‑ an Eurocrat (a cultural one) ‘with human face’! From “Gulliver’s” Birth In Wien we watched a film with images and declarations shot in 1987 at the group founding. The first to come into our sight is Steve Austen, with the same smiling bewildered expression, but younger and thinner. The decade gone by didn’t change much: Gyorgy Konrad, Bitov or Gunter Grass who were then as they are now in the relative constant middle age. Heiner Muller looked exactly the way I saw him some years later in Bucharest. Cornelius Castoriadis’ image, whom I did not know, compels recognition (he faded away meanwhile). Extremely eloquent is the group image described by the objective which starts with Bitov and Grass, placed high up on some elegant interior stairs, then the frame enlarges, taking in the others, on the following steps, arranged in a compact, silent group, as if filmed with a slow motion device. (the “Gulliver’s” press release even contains a picture with the group on the stairs. It’s only the discreet murmur of journalists’ whispers that can be heard as they are present on the hidden side of the camera.) But the surprise of the video tape is Vaclav Havel, filmed then, in 1987, at home in Prague. The images had been sent to Amsterdam as a message addressed to the participants. Willing to support the project, Havel was explaining the reason he couldn’t join them in person: he was afraid that had he left Czechoslovakia, the authorities wouldn’t have left him come back; or he didn’t want to emigrate, he wanted to remain in his own country and to fight there for democracy. Taking it as a joke and with our whole approval we could say now, that instead of coming to the “Gullivers” foundation, the anticommunist dissident had stayed at home to become the post‑communist president! What is amazing on the video tape is his nervousness: he is thinner and more lively than the punctilious would‑be head of the state in the ‘90s, wearing a blue sweater, sitting on a couch; Havel talks calmly to the camera, but he gestures continuously with his hands, baletting his fingers as if unable to control his movements. An intense moving contrast was created this way between the determined calm of his moral beliefs and the difficult to bear tension in which he lived, an inner tension, which still betrayed, involuntarily, tells a lot about liberty and communism, dissidence and repression, about a whole history in fact. In the filmed photography from Amsterdam one could also see Enzenberger, Danilo Kis, Tadeusz Konwicki, Vosnessenski and our fellow country man Augustin Buzura, eloped then in the West. On Wien Cultural Administration (thinking of Bucharest) The guest of one of the sequences of the Wien reunions is Peter Marboe, the city cultural counselor, that is the local minister of culture. An absolute remarkable and distinguished figure but inspiring a pragmatic attitude. Well‑informed, precised, convincing. He ponders between applied explanations and generalizations on the level of high cultural policies and social “philosophy”. A detached discourse, abundant without being redundant. Mobile intelligence, quick reaction. He worked before in the Austrian Foreign Affair Ministry, being in charge with cultural policies. An excellent example of the high level reached by bureaucracy at its peak, where the difference between a civil servant and a notably speculative, academic or creative intellectual, is no longer discernible in speech or behaviour. This difference does no longer exist as the first rate civil servant is an intellectual who thinks or acts for cultural remodelling of the society ‑in a broad meaning. Details: 25.000 tickets less than in the former theatrical season were sold: 50% less teenagers read books, in comparison with 72% 10 years before, and so on. According to such figures one can draw a careful analysis and can release, launch serious cultural policies. I can’t help wondering whether in Bucharest, ‑ or Prague, Budapest, Warsaw, or Sofia ‑ we know how many theatre tickets were sold last year. Are we in the least aware of the importance of such a sociological investigation, a so‑called “primary” and “quantitative” one? Do we really understand without knowing exactly more specific figures, which cultural world we live on, can we imagine or at least influence ‑ but only in a very amateur‑like way ‑ the one tomorrow? Ahmed’s Anecdote Ahmed the Egyptian tells the way he managed to shock the fundamentalist participants in a debate about Islamic art, offering them a very concrete example of an essential difference between art and society: a man who appears naked on the street will be arrested, while a statue presenting a nude, shouldn’t be arrested.! Although ‑ Ahmed said ‑in both cases we have the same situation. The example was enjoyed by the Arab audience, it was convincing. What one should immediately add is that in fact we do not have the same situation: not the object as such is important,but its relation to the two systems of reference. In the first case, nudity is interpreted as an indecent assault as it offends the codes of behaviour, codes accepted by the majority of community members, norms juridically acknowledged. As for the second example, the nude statue has as a reference the ” standards” of beauty, and these standards have legitimized themselves during a long cultural tradition. Other Notes (Instead of Portraits) I could go on for instance with the portraits of other “Gullivers” I met in the three reunions I have participated in so far: the German Nele Herling, an artistic manager and producer, a participant at the group founding, the Pole, Krysztof Czyzewski, an animator of alternative cultural and theatrical events and periodicals, but the leader of a cultural foundation with its location in a .monastery, the Slovenian, Dusan Jovanovic, director, dramatist, and drama specialist, the Dutch essayist Abraham de Swaan, a graduate of Political Science and Psychoanalysis, once a TV and documentary producer, a researcher interested today in “comparative historical sociology”, “the features of the modern” and the language circulation around world, the Belgian Hilde Teuchies, who is involved in cultural organisation and management around the European Union (studied acting and sociology), Panayote Elias Dimitras and Nafsika Papanikolatos, the Greek militants for human rights, the Russian cultural manager Sergey Zourev, the Austrian Ruth Beckerman, author of films and film reviews ( studies in Philosophy), and Elisabeth Reichart, a prose writer, the Swedish essayist and journalist Arne Ruth, recently retired from the very influential position of editor‑in‑chief at Dagens Nyheter, the most popular morning paper in his country, the young Hungarian attorney Andras Pap, and the young Dutch Getrude Flentge, hired in 1997 at Felix Meritis and who took over the “Gulliver” organisation even before the jubilee reunion in Romania, and not only them. Many compatriots in Bucharest or Sibiu, naturally some of them coming back to Holland or Austria. My former student, Ramona Mitrica participated in the Amsterdam reunion, she is involved in artistic management, after studying first theatre theory, and in Wien the veteran “Gulliver” Augustin Buzura and the architects Mariana Celac and Augustin Ioan joined us. There are many more or less significant things not written down here. First of all, many more details lending colour and individualizing the picture. Discernible only down there, in their concreteness, in the gatherings as such, and whose memories can’t be rendered in any narrative, evocation, photography. The atmosphere as such, moments of concentration and relaxation, regards, an eyebrow raising, the tone of one’s voice, jokes, inspired phrases, a gesture, an expressive hand describing a an arch of a precise circle as in an engraving, a corner of a room, a window set ajar, the police or ambulance siren, a table full of books, a sheet of paper hovering in the air . More important things in their right than “cultural rights”, “cultural policies”, “the citizen’s intercultural competence” and the whole stuff. More important ‑ as without them, with only abstract ideas, no matter how grand they might be, there is no real dialogue, commitment and understanding. That’s the very thing “Gulliver” tries to recuperate: the human dimension of the intellectual dialogue, the “micro‑dialogue” that shouldn’t be lost, but come to make complete the “macro” one, the global one on the information highway, of global community, of …

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