|*2 IETM is an international contemporary performing arts network based in Belgium. It was founded in 1981 as the Informal European Theatre Meeting. In 2005 its name was changed to the International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts.
*3 ISPA (International Society for Performing Arts) is a membership-based international non-profit organization founded in 1949 for the purpose of building a network of performing arts professionals.
*4 CALQ is an agency of the Quebec provincial government with a name equivalent to Quebec Arts Council in English.
*5 SODEC is a company for the development of cultural enterprises.
|The “platform” as a place where people meet and build relationships
You have been using the term “platform” instead of “arts market” in our conversation.
Yes, “Platform” is certainly a keyword, and this is something we had a lot of discussion about. In a recent roundtable discussion on “arts market,” I said that we should change the terminology “arts market” that does not accurately described what we are doing today. More appropriate words are “networking” or “meeting.” What we are doing is getting together with people from many countries and different disciplines and we are there to share information and expertise. It is an event or a “place” where we gather with the aim of discovering new creations, new artists through this exchange network.
Besides CINARS and TPAM (Tokyo Performing Arts Market), we have congresses such as IETM (*2) and ISPA (*3) where performing arts representatives and art festivals gather together to exchange information about artists and works from the different regions. We don’t go to these events just to “buy and sell.” The purpose isn’t just to secure contracts or agreements. In order to promote creations and artists, we need to honor the long-term process. We need to go back to those congresses or platforms repeatedly and get to know each other by meeting often and do the follow-up in order to build trust and human relationships. In the last few years in particular, I asked people not to call it a “market” anymore, but to call it a “platform” since those events are more like “windows” or “places” where people can meet and get to know each other and learn about their interests.
Would you say that in reality the actual finalizing of contracts and decisions on selections of artists and their works are based on trust and human relationships between the field colleagues?
Yes. In my opinion, that is precisely how it is and should be today. In the past, I think we made a mistake by thinking that we could do everything by e-mail and with the web, but that is not true anymore. We need to have real human contacts and to discuss the work, the artists and the trends. One presenter told me that he gets about 50 DVDs and promotional pamphlets every two weeks and he doesn’t have time to look at most of them and finally, promotional materials pile up in the corner of his room and end-up going to the recycle bins. It is sad but I understand it. He said, “When I select artists, I first look the work of those with whom I have built up a human relationship (with an agent or a company). I actually go to see their works again.” This is the way it is. The competition is tough.
In the past, we would get a DVD and find it interesting and then, approach the agent or company, but not anymore. I think that method is wrong. Now, I think of a promotional DVD or CD is like a business card. But as you do with a business card, you have to actually get in touch with the person and have a human relationship before discussing business. It’s important to talk in person topics like the issues artists are facing today and the latest trends in dance, for example. We also talk about what the audience wants to see. You have to actually see and feel the works to be sure that that is what the audience must see, what we must show them.
You attend TPAM here in Japan almost every year.
Yes. It’s important to network, to create contact and to maintain close relationships. It also helps ensure that we can have many people from Japan participating to the CINARS Platform. Also, I feel that it is important to see the maturation process of Japanese artists. It is important to see artists here in the Japanese context, talk to them, and share the situation and expectations at the end. In order to do that, of course, you have to come to events like TPAM repeatedly. It is a long process through but with the years, we established partnerships with other platforms.
So, if someone asks me if it is worthwhile going to TPAM only once, I say forget it. If you intend to go only one time, it will be a waste time and money. You have to go repeatedly, at least four or five times in order to understand the creative activities going there. The same thing is true for any other country. When I come to Japan, I want to see works that reflect Japanese culture. I am not interested in seeing a copy of American culture in Japan. I want the Japanese people to be Japanese. We want to see artistic expression that is truly unique to Japan and that we will never see anywhere else. We want to see works that are original and professional. Over the last ten years, I have been watching many young artists here in Japan and I have seen very clearly a definitive maturation occurring among them.
Quebec Province’s support for CINARS
Please tell us about the support that the provincial government of Quebec provides for the arts, which also supported CINARS over many years.
In 1992, the Quebec government issued a 150-pages long paper titled Quebec Cultural Policy, Our Culture, Our Future. The vision set down in that policy paper is basically the same today and it supports what we have been doing. The policy is based on the understanding that international market is essential to the development of arts and culture in Quebec. When an artistic work is able to tour overseas, it keeps the work alive for two or three years and provides a livelihood for the artists. Still in 1992, the Quebec Ministry of Culture established CALQ (Quebec Arts Council) (*4). Funding for performing artists touring abroad and funding for CINARS both come from CALQ. In 1995 the Ministry of Culture of Quebec also established another organization, called SODEC (*5). SODEC specializes in supporting the industries of film, craft, recording, publishing, and so on. SODEC also provides support for the commercial sector of the arts and cultural business, while CALQ supports mainly non-profit performing arts companies and projects.
What about support from the Canadian government at the federal level?
The government of Quebec continues his investment in culture, and the federal government saw, about 15 years ago, the success of Quebec and started funding for the arts. Unfortunately, last year, we had a new government that started cutting support for the arts and culture. Due to this situation, we had a special meeting with our Minister of Culture at the federal level in Ottawa and we were able to show him statistically that for every dollar the government invests we are bringing back five dollars and 50 cents into the government. Arts and cultural business has a positive economic effect because it creates jobs and it also promotes the image of Canada abroad. We also pointed out the fact that the majority of the incomes we received for tours abroad actually comes in and stays in Canada because our artistic companies fly on Air Canada, for example. Perhaps the only part of the incomes that goes out of Canada is the accommodation and restaurant fees. The Minister was impressed with the presentation and has said he hasn’t considered some of those economic benefits before. The arts and culture also attract international tourists to Canada and brings more business, and these economic returns have to be articulated and recognized.