Communication - Exchange, Dialogue & Art

“Our task is simply to be like a transparent web, through which pass those things which are given” Koulsy Lamko, extract from a documentary the Missing Book by Frouwkje Smit.

In todays’ society there seems to be a lack of care for one another, for society and the environment. Probable cause for this is the detachment of self and of society. There is concern about the impact this detachment from self and society has on the development of our societies and in preserving our fragile environment.

In order to examine and engage in this subject we invite artists and scholars of different disciplines. What is the state of our (western) society, our world, its challenges and what role can art play, not only as a practice / thinking process but as the nexus of communication, knowledge production, exchange and critical dialogue?

Reflection on and examination of this subject can only start from a different perspective than we are used to, we have chosen to step out of our comfort zone and begin this process from the Zulu philosophy of Ubuntu– the essence of being human.

To have Ubuntu is to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all humanity and nature. Ubuntu “embodies all the invaluable virtues that society strives for towards maintaining harmony and the spirit of sharing among its members.

Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – meaning (to be human is due to other human beings), taken from Ubuntu and being the opposite of individualism means that “the existence of one is due to the existence of all” - S’thabile Mlotshwa.

It is with the above in mind that we have chosen the theme: Communication - Exchange, Dialogue & Art.

Since communication is central to the on-going processes of culture and society, how can we utilize it to address the urgency for change brought by our current climate? Can artists through their work force us to stand still and to re-examine the way we live today?

Putting in mind that one can't exist as a human being in isolation and that due to our interconnectedness and the fact that what we do affects the rest of the world, what impact can the arts as a powerful tool of communication have in re-awakening Ubuntu and our sense of collective purpose?

Towards Ubuntu:

NUNC! Initiative, promoted by the Permanent Delegation of the Kingdom of Spain to UNESCO and co- organized by UNESCO, consists in a series of debates on the role of New Humanism against the
challenges that Science, Culture and Communication are facing in the new Digital Era. NUNC, Latin for “Now”, is a response to the necessity of immediate action for the current political, economic, ecological and social crisis. The future starts now, and it is our responsibility to face it.

In reflection to the NUNC conference at Unesco on New Humanism against the challenges that Science, Culture and Communication are facing in the new Digital Era, more questions than answers began to emerge. Are we conscious of the urgency to rethink humanity, our role and responsibilities in relation to each other, our planet and the impact this has on future generations? What role can art play in bringing about this consciousness and a call to action?

Can collaborative efforts address obstacles affecting human advancement?

Since the Digital Age is allowing rapid global communications and networking that shape modern society, what role does it have in the development backlog brought by a communication barrier to those unable to access it and vice versa.

Questions we propose for reflection:

• What are the missing links in communication and what impact do these have?

• Does language in all its facets hinder or limit fruitful - communication?

• Since Communication is central to the on-going processes of culture and society, how does a breach in communication affect these processes?

• Does internet contribute to widening the gap of inequality between different parts of the world?

• What are the unseen obstacles and or possibilities internet and the digital age can offer?

• While internet technology seems to have broken the physical borders of communication, has it at the same time become a communication barrier to those unable to access it creating a huge development backlog and vice versa?

• Although the ability to communicate is bringing about great changes in our world, how can we utilize ready available communication possibilities to bridge the gap in communication, to create more access, to build and preserve knowledge resources for the betterment of our societies and our environment?

• How can artists, scholars and the public respond or contribute to this discourse?

In reflection to the above, it is undeniable that; while we are connected, we are not connected; while we communicate and share we are not communicating or sharing. In the interest of preserving our world we are plundering our precious resources, taking away from ourselves and future generations. What can we learn from our transmitting way of communicating, exchange and dialogue? To us, there is an urgency to address these questions, by using the cross-disciplinary mediums of art. We are curious how the collaborating artists and partners will respond to this theme and look forward to engage in dialogue with them, the students from UCL, the professors, thinkers, the cultural institutions and the broader public.

It is with the above in mind that we have brought creators based in different parts of the globe – to Louvain la Neuve in order to reflect on and respond to the above mentioned questions. To us artists have the power to inspire change and due this, our take-off point will be based on sharing knowledge, through cross disciplinary collaborations that can foster fruitful dialogue.