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  • the European Meetings (1) - Culture & transitions

the European Meetings (1) - Culture & transitions/

the European Meetings (1) - Culture & transitions

From 16 to 18 November 2023, the ACCR organised the Rencontres européennes "Patrimoines & création face aux transitions contemporaines" at the Saline royale d'Arc-et-Senans. In partnership with the Ministry of Culture, the Saline Royale, the FNCC and the Relais Culture Europe, the ACCR wanted to mark its 50th anniversary and reaffirm the specific identity of the CCR network: a sustainable, inclusive and innovative approach to heritage.

During these three days, the role of culture as a driving force for action, commitment and change was highlighted at length. Subjected to contemporary risks and challenges, whether economic, environmental or social, culture is reinventing itself and tending to propose new models. The Rencontres européennes highlighted the interconnection between these three challenges, one having repercussions on the others. Working on them together seems necessary.

This framework for reflection was based on Unesco's definition of culture: "Culture, in its broadest sense, is regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group. In addition to art and literature, it encompasses lifestyles, fundamental human rights, value systems, traditions and beliefs.

Acting for tomorrow/
Faced with a diverse humanity and environmental and economic uncertainty, culture, its institutions and its stakeholders are readjusting their outlook, which means mobilising global strategic tools such as the seventeen sustainable development objectives.

Cultural players see themselves as links in a system governed by chain reactions. As part of this dynamic, and if the measures taken are to have any meaning, we need to think in terms of the planet's limits, which goes well beyond climate and energy issues. This global approach requires us to think about limiting both direct and indirect negative impacts, and to define a positive impact strategy to mitigate and adapt the repercussions of our actions.

To help raise awareness and encourage action, the Shift project has defined four types of transformation: transparent, positive, offensive and defensive.

The fresco of the ecological renaissance offers a site for showing the world of tomorrow: how can human activities be organised in a world that has managed to stay below 1.5ºC? This projection tool shows the interconnections between economic sectors and value systems. It enables us to think about all the possibilities for action and, consequently, the direction we want to take with a view to positive impacts. For example, an opera house might invest in agriculture or the textile industry, in order to gain greater control over the costume-making process.

Thanks to their capacity for innovation and their daily practice of multi and cross-disciplinarity, the Centres culturels de rencontre are reservoirs of creativity and interculturality. These multiple encounters, both human and artistic, bear witness to the sector's infinite capacity to reinvent itself in the light of contemporary concerns.

The power of stories/
In this projection towards a desirable, sustainable future, cultural players can offer models for reconstruction, for changing trajectories. In fact, cultural players have the capacity to shape societies' imaginations through the stories they create and share.

Faced with a crisis of the imagination that promotes dystopias and pessimistic discourse, collective passivity in face of climate and social emergencies is taking hold. And yet, culture can offer new images: what makes us dream, what do we aspire to? Imagining where we want to go gives us the capacity to project ourselves and act in that direction.

The human species is by nature a fabulist, inventing stories to give meaning to the world around us. Stories shape our vision of the world, our lifestyles and our actions. The more models that inspire change are disseminated, the more our collective consciousness and behaviour will adapt. By trivialising what creates conflict and tension through an ever-increasing range of cultural events and programmes, we can avoid them and focus on the hard core of the problem, not just what revolves around it.

Working for change means focusing on people who feel they have little to do with it. If this fringe of the population joins the convinced activists and gradually imitates their behaviour, the societal tipping point will be reached, enabling the mass and widespread adoption of new habits. By educating the sector, culture can make a major contribution to reaching this tipping point.

Turning heritage into places of welcome/
History is no longer written solely in museums, nor by and for a restricted fringe of society. On the contrary, there are many different places and ways of telling the stories of the past. Narratives, like heritage, are plural. Whether the heritage is monumental or not, tangible or intangible, it is H(h)istory(ies) insofar as it offers common roots. Heritage allows us to feel that we exist, enriching our identity.

Because of their openness to contemporary social concerns and the collaborative and/or participatory way in which they are programmed with local residents, the Centres culturels de rencontre are seen as landmarks, places where debate is permitted and where social democracy can be put to the test.

As well as being ideal places for local players to meet and collaborate, the CCRs also provide a forum for discussion between cultures, thanks in particular to their international residency programmes.  

In short, through their innovative and democratic approach to heritage, the CCRs tend to symbolise the transition from the expression "heritage is ours" to "heritage is us".

This re-mobilisation of citizens, this emphasis on individual empowerment and action, echoes the words of Gaston Berger, a 19th-century philosopher: "The future is not written, tomorrow will not be like yesterday, it will be new and it depends on us: it is less to be discovered than to be built".