Swimming Pool

Summer time is the time to enjoy outdoors. Hiking, biking, climbing as well as swimming are high on the agenda. With the Olympic games 2024 around the corner we rise to the challenge and get started again with more sports activities. Swimming has many health advantages. Most people think of cardiovascular training and relieve of back pain. Exercise without carrying your body weight is great for your joints and ligaments. The benefits for psychological wellbeing have long been underestimated. Diving into silence under water even if it is only for some seconds or a minute calms your spirit. The water pressure holds you tight without restricting your movements. Breath control is an almost meditative experience. Everyone can do it, again and again. Childhood memories, good and bad, are associated with swimming. Choose your style, costume and pool. The summer break is an ideal occasion to test the marvelous experience again of cold or warm water. The cold water bucket challenge of everyday life takes a break. Time to find your pool again. (Image extract from Susanne Hay, Swimming Pool II, 1996 in private collection, exhibition in Yerres, summer 2023)

European Voters

Elections of the European Parliament are more about a learning and participation experience than about crucial political influence. This seems to be the lesson learned from the relatively low voter turnout in many countries in 2024-6. Belgium reached by far the highest percentage (90%) of participants, but it had federal and regional elections at the same time. Croatian voters could not be bothered with these elections with just 21% of turnout. Many countries hovered around the 50% participation mark like France, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Sweden. Germany reached almost 65% which is relatively high, but due to its population size, it sends the most MEPs to Brussels later on. The most surprising result is the extremely low turnout in the former Eastern, Southern Eastern and Baltic states of the European Union. Apparently, the voters in these countries care little about their political option to vote for MEPs. This should worry all other parts of Europe profoundly as we invest billions in infrastructure and social cohesion to keep the European Union an open house for all East and West, South and North. The challenges for the next 5 years are huge. The expectations are high, but the commitment to democratic procedures like voting and decisions through the ballot box are not to be taken for granted throughout Europe. (Image European Parliament 2024-6-11)

Democracy celebrates

With all the bad experiences of Nazi-Germany and the failure to defend democracy in Germany against its fascist enemies in the 1930s, it was a pleasure to celebrate democracy in Germany together with a huge crowd. 3 days of information and party around the major institutions of democracy Parliament, government, federal governments, constitutional court and all ministries joining in with pavilions in the parks nearby allowed a bottom up feeling of democracy. Visiting the chancellery as well as the parliament in a single day shows the openness of these institutions and the ease of access to our political system. People of all ages and all walks of life strolled around and enjoyed the day. Freedom to voice your opinion was easy and many took their time to do it. Civil society organizations were a natural part of the show. We seem prepared to stand up for our democratic values and principles. This will be tested in all the forthcoming elections.

Jury Competition

We can enjoy a lot of competitions in the field of the arts. In each of these competitions there is a different kind of rationale about how to judge the performances of candidates. The composition and competence of the members of the jury are of particular importance. We all tend to agree on this. However, the basic aim or direction of the competition needs to be defined or even redefined from time to time. Some perceive a competition useless if for example nobody takes notice of the results or the event. A good fight or drama within the jury helps to attract attention to it even if candidates suffer at times. The Belgian Music competition „Concour de la Reine Elisabeth“ has an annual major competition of young musicians competing for the beginning of a career as soloist. All phases of the competition are up for streaming so we all can watch and form our own opinions on the many candidates. It is not just the solo performance which counts but also the team performance with orchestra and the openness to new compositions in the realm of classical music. There is no vote of the public (yet?) like in the widely followed „European song contest“ but public acclaim does not leave a jury unmoved I believe. Tough work for jurors to single out small differences of fairly high standards to even enter the competition. The success of a jury has probably another evaluation criteria which consists in the follow up of candidates 5 or 10 years after the event or the awards. The making or destroying of careers as solo performers might hinge on very small differences on a single day. One competition with several prizes awarded is an encouraging way to promote musicians or other artists.

Concours de la Reine Elisabeth 2024 RTBF

Puppets Museum

The puppet theatre is still a tiny part of the theatre world. The century old tradition has roots in all cultures across the globe. The Puppet Theatre Museum in Tallinn has a fine selection of puppets to perform theatre pieces from India, China, Indonesia and Europe. Storytelling is part of humanity and learning through narratives distinguishes us from other species. Religious traditions have appropriated these techniques just as modern performing arts. From the carnival tradition of using masks not only children adore playing with characters. The famous founder of the Estonian Puppet Theatre has his small monument outside the historic building in the old town, but a big puppet theatre with 400 seats. The adventures of Jules Verne have been played there just as most well known operas or children’s tales. Puppets comment on puppets (Mickey Mouse) just as they take on political debates. The forthcoming piece on the Ministry of Solutions sounds promising indeed. We envy the puppets that have a Ministry of Solutions rather than lots of ministries and ministers but no solutions.

Korallenriff

Kinder verstehen direkt, dass es sich lohnt, Korallenriffe zu erhalten. Plastikmüll in den Meeren gefährdet die Korallenriffe und die bunte Vielfalt an Fischen, die darin leben. Ein kleines Theaterstück dazu von Kathrin Brunner begeistert Kinder, weil es sie erleben lässt, wie einfach Lösungen aussehen können. Den großen Leuten zeigen, wie traurig die Welt aussieht ohne die farbenfrohe Pracht der bunten Fische, wird sie schon zu Veränderungen bringen. Das Theaterstück und Buch dazu wurde am 16.3.2024 im FEZ in Berlin aufgeführt. Das Figurenspiel mit überleitendem Refrain, das vom Publikum gleichsam der Promenade in den „Bildern einer Ausstellung“ (Mussorgsky) mitgesungen haben, bildete jeweils eine gelungene emotionale Überleitung und Aufmerksamkeitspause. Wir wünschen uns noch viele kleine und große Besuchende für diese Aufführungen. Die Kinder werden es uns schon lehren, den blauen Planeten noch zu retten.

Fighting Fascists

On february 3rd 2024 Berlin has seen the Parliament (Bundestag in the old Reichstag building) surrounded by young and old to raise their voice against the rise of right wing extremism in Germany. The broad alliance against extremism finds grassroots support from a very broad and diverse community. 1700 organizations have joined forces to send a strong signal that they are ready to act against the inhuman propaganda and persistent hate speech. The creativity to express the discontent in clear messages is impressive. Civil society is showing that diversity offers multiple benefits to find new ways to unite people. Great that European flags and balloons in Ukrainian colors where present as well. A movement of solidarity was felt with these people and that provides a strong message for the months ahead with so many elections taking place at the local, regional, national and European levels.

Berlin 2024-2-3

Luftschloss

Im K21 der Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen ist ein Luftschloss eingebaut worden. Es ist das einzige mir bekannte Luftschloss, das für alle Besuchenden begehbar und fühlbar ist. In wahrhaft luftiger Höhe von 25+ Metern über der Eingangshalle der Kunsthalle K21 und zentral unter der gläsernen Dachkuppel platziert, lässt sich mal so richtig abhängen. Nahezu schwebend kann die weiträumige Installation von Tomás Saraceno erklommen werden. Die Schritte und wippenden Bewegungen der anderen BesucherInnen lassen sich unvermittelt ebenfalls erspüren. Du bist nicht allein, im originären Sinne des Wortes. Die buchstäbliche Vernetzung mit allen anderen Personen werden durch Schwingungen des Netzes zu anderen Kletternden oder Chillenden übertragen. Eine unmittelbar erlebbare Erfahrung der Verbundenheit mit unbekannten, anderen Menschen stellt sich ein. Die Verbundenheit innerhalb einer Gesellschaft wird eindringlich verdeutlicht. Die Angst, durch die Höhe verursacht, weicht rasch der freudigen Erfahrung der Schwebung und der kindlichen Erfahrung der Suspension. Nahezu freischwebend in der Luft, im Orbit erlebt jede/r sein eigenes Luftschloss inmitten von transparenten Kugeln, die wie Planeten wirken. Gleichsam real, aber dennoch imaginär durchwandern wir die Installation immer im Bewusstsein, dass andere um uns sind, die unsere Schritte, Möglichkeiten und Haltungen mit beeinflussen. Vom Luftschloss träumen oder im Luftschloss träumen, beides ist dort machbar.
CO2 freundlich lässt sich die Erfahrung in der APP Aerocene fortsetzen. Der für unser Wetter so bedeutsame Jetstream wird zur imaginären Flugerfahrung genutzt und mit recht aktuellen Daten gespeist. Die Verbindung zu „Earth and Space Sciences“ ermöglicht die Einbettung der sozialen Erfahrung in einen noch weiteren Kontext.
Die eigenen 4 Wände sind die Grenze. Das galt schon früher nicht. Weit darüber hinaus lassen sich neue Möglichkeiten erschließen, die nicht umweltbelastend sind. Selbst die Reichstagskuppel in Berlin sehe ich plötzlich mit ganz anderen Augen. Mehr als Möglichkeitsraum, statt der traurigen Vergangenheit und der zerstrittenen Gegenwart. Was wäre die Kunst, wenn sie nicht zum Träumen anregen würde.

Participative Art

Beyond participation in the performance based on Yoko Ono’s Cut piece 1964, you had the possibility to imagine yourself as a sculptor by touching a sculpture of art attached to the Genzken exposition, nothing less than the head and bust of Nefertete, also a piece transformed by Genzken and exposed, untouchable, in the exposition. You can hardly get more involved and incited to participate with hands-on experience, so to speak.
Additionally, there is the perspective from the performing artist in “Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece” to confront the spectators with a silent, stoic expression hardly moving during the more than 90 minutes performance. Imagine, what kind of vulnerability you are risking. Artists give a lot from themselves to the public. Imagination is even going beyond the act performed. Mastering your own fear of mutilation or being exposed to views, touching and multiple other forms of sensation.
This surely is an exercise of mental strength. Spectators also interact with other participants as, for example, spontaneously another spectator too the scissors to cut his own shirt in front of the performing artist and covered the shoulder of the performer. The personal interaction assures a more intense experience of art.
After all, this is a well-known principle to enhance learning experiences as well. Imagine all the people, each taking just a tiny little piece and remember their experience that they, as well, can be actively contributing to art. Reviving this participatory experience is leading beyond imagining only your participation. Democracy is built on this stimulating experience as well. It is ever so necessary to foster participation and to overcome indifference or abstention. Learning  by doing, or experiencing through touching, offer many additional insights.
(Images and videos taken on 2023-9-12, Berlin)

Yoko Ono Cut Piece 2023 Berlin

Wessen Wetter

Wessen Wetter ist es denn? Mitten in einem Gewitter deklamieren Leute heute noch, “Um Gottes Willen“! Selbst in 2023 vereinen sich Leute und beten für Regen. Dabei wissen wir längst, wie der Regen entsteht, Feuchtigkeit in Wolken über weite Strecken zieht und schlußendlich als Regen über uns kommt. Dafür haben wir Dächer vorgesehen, mehr oder  weniger solide und dicht. Regenwasser sammeln, sickern lassen, Rückhaltebecken erweitern; das sind alles Vorkehrungen gegen größer werdende Unwetter des menschengemachten Klimawandels. Beten sowie Meditieren kann dem Einzelnen helfen, sich zu fokusieren und Kräfte zu sammeln. Gemeinschaftserlebnisse stärken Resilienz.
Wetter ist in der Tat eine tägliche Art von Gemeinschaftserlebnis, oft lokal begrenzt, aber meist regionenspezifisch und manchmal ein landes- oder gar europaweites Phänomen. Neben den staatlichen Meteorologischen Instituten gibt es bereits immer mehr “citizen science” Projekte zum Wetter. Das belgische Beispiel (s.u.) zeigt eine Vernetzung von Bürgerinnen, die Spaß und Interesse am Wetter und am Teilen sowie Partizipieren haben, kann das Messstationsnetzwerk der staatlichen Wetterdienste erweitern und eine alternative Vorhersagemöglichkeit bieten. PollenAPPs nutzen ebenfalls die Leidensstärke von allergischen Personen, um ihre Pollenbelastung spezifischer zu erfassen und Prognosen zu verbessern.
Ciitzen Science ist ebenso ein wechselseitiger Lernprozess, der das Wissen und Methoden einzelner Wissenschaffenden quasi basisdemokratische “bottom up” Wissenschaft gegenüberstellt. Stärken und Schwächen der jeweiligen Vorgehensweisen müssen untersucht werden, besonders mit Blick auf “fake news” oder “fake data”. Nicht nur erschreckend viele Forschende in der Wissenschaft produzieren “fake data and science” (Sabel et al. 2023) für fragwürdige Reputation und Karrieren. Bürgerinnen, die Daten sammeln und eigene Analysen, Vermutungen oder Hypothesen vornehmen, können Wissenschaft erweitern, andere ermuntern und wertvolle, viele, kleine Beiträge leisten.
Schwarmintelligenz beim Wetter praktizieren bereits die Schwalben. Das könnten wir vielleicht von diesen lernen. Bei Vervier in Belgien sowie an der Ahr in Rheinland-Pfalz sind mehr als 100 Menschen gestorben, wegen unpräziser Vorhersagen und Verzögerungen bei der Übermittlung der akuten Gefahrensituation.
Citizen Science kann Leben schützen, genauso wie es andere dringend nötige Freiwilligendienste bereits bewiesen haben. Das sind mal ganz andere vielfältige, bunte Wetteraussichten.

Smurf SDGs

The smurf series of comics has been a world-wide success as children-books. Many adults enjoy re-reading some of their old comic books to their children or grand-children. Now let us try it the other way around. Our children try to sell us the concern for the environment by talking to us through the designs of smurfs, Schlümpfe or Strümpfe, as they are called in various translations. Maybe this way we are more open to take a serious look at the Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN. Easily accessible and getting us through an emotional connection might work better than tedious lengthy documents and statistics of continuous failure (e.g. on hunger) of most parts of the world.
Tell the story of the smurfs with the SDGs in mind. See how far you get in remembering the whole list of 17 stories. Build a narrative around each of the images. There is no way around getting nearer these goals for our very own survival as a species. Intergenerational communication works both ways from young to old as well as from old to young. Design your own characters, if you like, with the same SDGs in mind. Only this way we shall broaden the supporters for the goals beyond the expert circles of politicians and policy advisers. Happy drafting and rapid implementation! We can do it, if we want to.

Avers

Der kurze Titel „Avers“ der Sammlung von Novellen des Autors J.M.G.Le Clézio lässt keine Wundergeschichten erwarten. Der kleingedruckte Untertitel „Des nouvelles des indésiables“ noch weniger. Dennoch, aus der Sammlung von Kurzgeschichten werden die kleinen Heldinnen und Helden des Überlebens in unserer komplexen Welt vorgestellt. Mal mit, oft ohne „Happy End“ werden Kinderschicksale erzählt, die uns nachhaltig berühren. Schule ist für die kleinen Helden ein Fremdwort. Der tägliche Überlebenskampf für Nahrung, Gefahr von Kinderarbeit, einfach in Ruhe gelassen werden oder dem Krieg zu entkommen, steht im Vordergrund. Fluchtwege wäre für mich ein möglicher Titel einer deutschen Übersetzung. Flucht vor Missbrauch und die Brutalität des Alltags in Kriegsgebieten sollten uns sensibilisieren für „la Misère du Monde“.
Die unerwünschten Novellen von Le Clézio kommen auf leisen Sohlen oder eher barfuß daher. Sie lassen uns die ständige Herausforderung der Humanität spüren. Menschen, Kindern, Menschenwürde ermöglichen, ist nach wie vor eine riesige Aufgabe. Der Ansatz an konkreten Schicksalen aufzuzeigen, wie wenig es oft braucht, damit Kinder eine faire Chance bekommen, muss uns aufhorchen lassen. Obdachlose werden bei Le Clézio zu „fantômes dans la rue“. Wir ignorieren ihre Präsenz allzu gerne.
Nach 60 Jahren Heinrich Böll „Ansichten eines Clowns“ rütteln uns die Novellen von Le Clézio wieder wach. Wirkliche Humanität braucht uns alle und das ständig, nicht nur sonntags. Aversionen ablegen und sich dem Unerwünschten zuwenden, das fordert den ganzen Menschen. Überforderung gilt nicht als Gegenargument. Wir sind viele, helfen wir. (Image: Extrait, Atelier Albrecht Dürer um 1500).

Corruption EP

Corruption is a severe crime. Not only in administrations, organisations and enterprises, but primarily in democracies it is discrediting political systems. Autocracies rely on corruption as a major tool to be able to persist over time. They are used to such practices. Democracies rely on meritocratic systems, where ideas, effort and winning elections should be the major ingredient of achieving higher positions in organisations, enterprises, political parties and democracies. This is not easy to ensure. The European parliament has a tough time to get rid of an enemy of the democratic Europe. Rather than stepping aside for the time of the legal procedure, Eva Kaili, accused, but not yet convicted of corruption is willing to destroy the European project as much as she can. If money can buy political decisions, the European project will no longer find wide-spread support. Big interests will always have a strategic advantage, however, the ethical principles on which democracies are found have to guard against corrupt misbehaviour. The same applies to the business world. Even low corruption countries like Sweden still face a risk of adverse effects of corruption like the negative impact on entrepreneurship on the local level. It is another context, but the same conclusion.
Additionally, it is part of the strategy of corrupt persons to portray themselves as victims of other persons’ wrong-doing. The major function of this strategy is to remind other persons in the corrupt network that the network has still some clout on its members as well as outside the inner circle. Hey, we are still alive and in powerful positions, they proclaim.
Therefore, the fight against corruption is a long and persistent one. Reducing the guards against early onsets usually is very lengthy to fight later on. Always a painful lesson for believers in democracy and the European project. (image Jacques Jordaens before 1678 “The King Drinks! Musées royaux des beaux arts, Brussels).

Democracy is key

The ETUC congress in Berlin 2023 prepares the working agenda for the next 4 years. A lot of support across political parties is voiced in favour of the important role the ETUC plays in coordinating the European Trade Union Movement. The democratic forum of all delegates works before and during the congress on a comprehensive list of essentials for the movement. It is much more than about wages, as most people might believe. Of course, minimum wages and fair wages are always high on the agenda. The strength of the 2023 Berlin congress for me consists in the widespread and loud call to intensify democratic structures and broaden participation of workers at all levels. The power of the unions to fight for democracy is dearly needed in all European nations with the threat from far-right populist movements. Strengthening workers is the best way to foster democracy. Throughout the congress several support facilities have been mentioned like the SURE instrument as a step into a European labour market policy.
Public services have also enjoyed more popular support, since essential services were the jobs that kept our countries running during the COVID crisis.
A just transition to a green economy in a democratic spirit means taking everybody with us on this journey. Fighting poverty, inequality is still high on the agenda and most people are convinced that democratic societies are highly sensitive to injustices caused by education systems, remuneration systems, retirement systems and tax systems. Even industrial policy, to guarantee our independence and values, is also linked to essential workers cooperation.
Weak social policies erode the trust in our societies to handle crises. The engagement of trade unions is felt far beyond Europe. Gilbert F Houngbo (ILO), hopes that due diligence is rapidly implemented in Europe, because it will benefit workers well beyond Europe across the world.
Union leaders were arrested in Belarus and in many other countries where they stand for democratic values. Trade Unionist from Europe have shown their own commitment to fight for democracy and mobilize to convince more people and youth to join the movement. “Donner l’envie de s’engager …” (LeMonde 26-5-2023 p.28) “Raise the urge to get involved” – that is the democratic challenge.