Last week in Eleusis (Elefsina), Greece, Culture Action Europe held their annual Beyond the Obvious conference, “Beyond the Obvious: Handle with Care | Culture for Social Well-being.”
Located in the 2023 European Capital of Culture (ECOC), attendees of BtO were immersed Elefsina, a small, industrial town 20 km west of Athens. As early as prehistoric times, this town has been linked to the ancient Greek’s favourite myth, the myth of Demeter, goddess of agriculture and fertility of the land and her daughter, Persephone. The city was known since ancient times for the Eleusinian Mysteries, one of the most important religious ceremonies of ancient Greece. The Elefsina ECOC has built its artistic vision and year of programming around the concept of mysteries in order to heighten the historical curiosity and awareness of its citizens and visitors. Handle with Care, or Mystery 79, integrated into the program and connections between care and well-being to the history and cultural heritage of the town were made throughout the experience, especially through the visits and storytelling from the ECOC Artistic Director, Michail Marmorinos.
(Un)Conferencing Beyond the Obvious
This year’s BtO opened the floor to exploration and dialogue on the concept of care (following a series of two online talks – Different Takes on Care) from various angles. In a conversation moderated by Natassa Dourida (Greece), Philsan Omar Osman (Somalia/Belgium) who is an aspiring writer, activist and community builder approached care from the Ecofeminist perspective alongside Katerina Gregos (Greece), artistic director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), Athens who shed light on care and working conditions in the cultural and creative sectors.
“The importance of care is making it political, ecofeminism shows us. We need to shift care from the medical field, as during the pandemic, to our daily life, centering it in our economies and creating communities demanding for change.”- Philsan Omar Osman
The gathering also held participatory discussions – circles of care – addressing topics of Care and Mental Health, Care and Youth, Communities of Care, Curating Care, Care for Culture (and cultural workers), Care for Climate, Care for Commons and Care and Borders. The outcomes of these circles resulted in a co-written document: the “Elefsina Manifesto | Handle with Care: Envisioning a Future of Care” which was read out during the closing of the conference, and will be published in the coming weeks, alongside a conference report.
The Projects Agora showcased local and international/European projects working with the topics of care, community and individual well-being, health, mental health and culture. The marketplace brought together different perspectives from arts, heritage, human rights, health, research, politics, activism etc. sphere and mixed initiatives from Greece with similar projects coming from all over Europe and beyond to create an open space for networking and peer learning.
Re-connecting with CAE Members
With many new faces in attendance, BtO invited CAE members to connect and reconnect during a members-only reception and during the annual Members’ Forum. Members worked on supporting strategy-setting for Culture Action Europe and debating the most pressing priorities of the cultural sector. The Forum comes ahead of CAE Members’ Annual General Assembly (AGA) coming up online on 20 June 2023 from 10:00 to 12:00 CEST.
Vice President Margaritis Schinas’ keynote speech
On the final day of BtO, CAE’s project, “CultureForHealth,” held its closing event, celebrating the combined effort to make the influence of CultureForHealth an important driver towards common collaboration between the culture and health sectors. The programme focused on the final presentation of the results of the two-year-long marathon for the interdisciplinary bottom-up policy development project, including an overview of the CultureForHealth Report, as well as a presentation of the six pilot projects demonstrating the crucial need for collaboration and understanding between the culture and health and well-being sectors.
During the CultureForHealth programme, Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas took the stage alongside CAE Secretary General Lars Ebert to deliver a keynote address focused on the importance of supporting cross-sectorial work between health and culture at the European level. Vice-President Schinas also referred to the European Commission’s recently adopted Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health, as well as the Commission’s launch of the European Mental Health Capacity-Building Initiative worth 11 million euros to support Member States in building capacity for an approach that promotes mental health across all policies.
“Culture is part of it. It connects us to one another. Culture leaves nobody behind. It put us up even when we are unable to ask for help.” – Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas
Credit: European Commission
Announcing the next Beyond the Obvious…
The final moments of the program provided an exciting hand-off from 2023 ECOC Artistic Director, Michail Marmarinos to Pernilla Conde Hellman, the Culture Director of Malmö City Council, who will co-host Culture Action Europe’s 2024 Beyond the Obvious conference in Malmö, Sweden from 29 May – 1 June 2024.
Footage and recaps
Our photographers from LDSPRO | AUDIO VISUAL PRODUCTIONS made amazing documentation of these four days. Please, check out the Beyond the Obvious website for pictures, you will surely find yourself there! Do not forget to always credit the photographer (LDSPRO | AUDIO VISUAL PRODUCTIONS) when posting pictures publicly. Videos will be coming soon and will be found on Culture Action Europe’s Youtube page.