9 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.

Installation view of

Installation view of “Master Mould and Copy Room” © The Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing 110 exactly what Koreans are reluctant to be confronted with. They’re born in their convention; if your dad died in the Korean war, then you must become a doctor, you know? The whole society is coded like that, so Wanderlust has no place at all. And there you have an interesting starting point. So, we decided to make an exhibition in which we would bring five wonderful Wanderlust artists from Belgium to Korea. And that worked fantastically, because at the end of the year 2012, an art magazine in Korea asked fifteen critics to discuss the exhibitions that had taken place that year and nine times Wanderlust ended up being number one in the list. In your analysis work, to find a good approach for your events in other continents, how can you be so self-assured that you are right? Take Korea, the image you convey is that “leaving their village, going to the top of the mountain and looking across” is something Koreans will never do. How do you explain then the international embedding and fabulous export performance of the big Korean multinationals? In my view, that has a lot to do with the fact that they imported their economic model. Let me try to explain. It’s interesting that in the seventies North Korea was much more prosperous than the South. So, “the Korean multinational” is a relatively recent phenomenon, because the country was completely destroyed and they had to build everything from scratch. That gives a lot of space to entrepreneurs, it gives lots of space to a kind of complicity between governments and economic players … and that is very strongly present in Korea. I mean, everything is really borderline corruption, right? We’ve seen that now with the Samsung scandal … I was not surprised at all. These corporations in Korea are considered the vital bodies of the society and, since they emerged from scratch, imported Japanese models were the most appropriate. What does that mean? It means that your “real” family name is not your name but the corporation’s name. Koreans have an incredible labour ethic, they’re all living for the prosperity of their firm and their whole lives are determined by that. They live in conditions in which the “individual” worker is hardly considered, only the prosperity of the firm is considered important. I’d like to come back to my first question on cultural diplomacy, when you said that you’re now taking more and more distance from this terminology. You recounted an extremely interesting story, but you didn’t fully answer the question why you’re now distancing yourself from the term cultural diplomacy. Can you pinpoint more exactly why you’re doing that? The fact is that by using a term such as cultural diplomacy we accept the idea that there can be confusion. Why? Because diplomacy is a well described activity that’s part of the international relations between countries and culture plays a crucial role in that. So, when you use the term cultural diplomacy, governments stick to the term diplomacy and glue culture on top of that. Hence, you’re automatically incorporated into an official network of relations, but we’re not working in an official network of relations. We’re working for governments, we’re offering services to governments but our base is the university, not a government authority. It should be like that. Since we’re based in the university and the university network, we have the freedom and the framework that allows us to come up with the best possible projects and to execute those projects as a mandate of a government. But we’re not part of the original diplomatic body itself. We deliver added value but we do it starting from the university’s background. I think that is an important difference. In that sense, we’re a bit closer to institutions

Cao Fei, Whose Utopia - My Future is Not a Dream © Bozar like the Goethe Institut or the British Council. For us, the primary value is culture, and so we work intensively with artists and all the players in the cultural field. Diplomacy is still something different, although in what we do the bilateral bridges are, of course, extremely important. You said that your home base is the university and indeed community services and the creation of societal, economic and cultural impact beyond our peers has become an integral part of the university’s mission. It’s therefore assumed that this impact is based on unique university know-how, insights and research results. The obvious next question is: how is the activity you sketched rooted in your research? This is a very good question, and the answer is complex. The projects that we do, allow us to develop new formats of research that are often rooted in art history but that lead to new opportunities. I’ll give some examples. If I teach my students in the classroom, and I do that in the most open and creative way, I’ll still stick to articles and projections of powerpoints with images. Now, those exercises, those projects that I outlined before, allow me to enlarge the field of experience and experiment on the museum floor. And that’s extremely interesting. Why? Because we’re going to work with the real artworks, with artists. We combine art historical knowledge with artistic knowledge. And it’s that combination which makes the project so rich. By creating and enabling environment for close collaboration between the museum and the world of academic reflection, we allow some difficult artworks to be explained in depth. Our projects are very didactic. I want every Chinese person who comes to our exhibition to understand what those artworks are about and not to feel excluded. That’s fundamental. Now, to come back to the idea of research, let me give another example to make my point. I remember that, for the exhibition we did in Milan in 2015 called “Forme e Anti Forme”, we wanted to stress the fact that the very famous paintings by Lucio Fontana, called Concetto Spaziale, 111