Presentation of the Cultural Events for the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union Over recent weeks, there have been a multitude of occasions both linked to institutional events and appointments and those directed to the world of communication and information to present the guidelines of the action our country’s foreign policy plans to initiate during its Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Today’s meeting is dedicated exclusively to culture.
We will be illustrating the cultural events that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is planning world wide, a programme that accompanies the Italian Presidency and enhances its meaning and, on the other hand, offers an additional showcase for Italian culture and renewed visibility in Europe and the world.
Italian Foreign policy needs the imagination and talent of Italian culture and Italian culture can and must find new friends and a new audience throughout the world.
That way, Italian policy and Italian culture will stand together and make a name for themselves, together.
The idea of culture seen also as a vehicle for foreign policy is an established one today, and is a decisive starting point to develop the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ strategy of cultural promotion.
In short, culture influences, and largely determines the image of Italy and Italians. We have an extraordinary cultural heritage, we are dedicated to rediscovering and preserving it (to the point that we even have peaks of excellence in the restoration professions), but most of all, we have learned how to breathe culture: the Italian landscape, its geometries and the mirror of centuries our gaze embraces every day in the cities where we live and that we visit continuously inspire Italian talent, imagination and taste.
A great heritage of the past is also great imagination for the future.
For that reason, our culture is both ancient and young. And if we learn to foster appreciation for its worth systematically and without checking its freedom, we will find there are important results both politically and economically. The results will not only be traditional and outside our national borders and here I am obviously thinking of tourism but also and most of all, for Italians and those of Italian origin all over the world. Results for business and trade on one hand, and for a renewed tie and sense of belonging on the other.
As you recall, we spoke of these themes right here in this conference room at the end of March, when, just a few months after my appointment, I met with the Directors of the Italian Institutes of Culture along with some of the intellectuals and leading cultural figures in our country.
Then, as on other occasions for meetings and discussion, we found that there is a growing demand for Italian culture and Italian language. The demand is for classics and tradition in homage to the contribution Italian culture has made to the development of modern civilisation, but it is also open to the future, with an eye to the present, a demand for opportunity, including professional opportunity, and an innovative presence in contemporary knowledge, art, science and technology.
The role of the Farnesina has thus been enriched with a new mission. We must be increasingly and better prepared to meet the demand for culture, we must make contemporary Italian culture a goal in which to invest time and resources.
That means: - a reform of the legislation regulating promotion of Italian culture abroad; - enhancement of the role of some of the Italian Institutes of Culture, the Brussels Institute, elevated to a high level to underline the importance that Italy attributes to its Presidency and the future of the EU. And also to contribute with a director who comes from the world of the mass media and therefore capable of holding a dialogue with the international media community living and working in Brussels to the success of the Italian Presidency. The Institute of Brussels will be organising conferences on some important themes over the upcoming months, from Mediterranean dialogue to transatlantic relations, from Italy’s contribution to the European ideal to the Italy of business and captains of industry. It will not only be a showcase: instead, it will be an occasion to discuss, share views and exchange knowledge. This is a step further ahead in that idea of made in Italy, which today is worn-out and superficial. - inclusion of the issue of Italian Institutes of Culture and their network in the more general mission of promoting Italy’s image and identity. This is an important aspect of our 2003 Communication Plan and new forms and systematic intervention will be needed for 2004, starting with a web portal for the Institutes.
We also need to develop through intranet in-depth screening of the Institutes’ organisation and activities. The Institutes’ network must be a way of creating a dialogue, exchanging information or dossiers or ideas, set up common initiatives and thus set up a genuine Italian circuit worldwide. - I would also like to recall the growing importance of the Farnesina’s 20th century art collection, renewed and enriched with a new section dedicated to young artists, and initiatives such as, for example, the New York Prize.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not working alone in all this: there is close, consolidated collaboration with the Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities. And this is destined to expand in the upcoming months. We are planning a joint promotion of books by important Italian authors, offering the public of the libraries of our Institutes of Culture the chance to read Italian books that have won prizes in the fields of literature and non-fiction.
We are thinking of creating a circuit of friends of Italy again using the network of the Institutes centred around a prestigious review of Italian design, Capolavori/Masterpieces.
Many of the initiatives that we will explain briefly were possible thanks to the participation of the Ministry of Cultural Asset, whose representatives are here today and whom I thank.
The Institute for Foreign Trade was also our partner in organising some events, particularly for the promotion of Italian Culture We have also established good relations with the Italian regions, to be intensified in the future. Only yesterday, I presided over a meeting with regional council members in charge of the departments of culture to discuss concrete cultural initiatives to propose together.
The same thing is happening increasingly frequently with other local bodies, foundations and private groups, all of which quite rightly see the promotion of culture as an instrument that can yield important results.
Now, let’s take a look at the cultural events to be held all over the world during the next six months.The leitmotif is "Italian Culture Today and Its Roots". We will be attempting to highlight the rich contribution that Italy, today as in the past, gives to European and world culture, science and technology.
So, we will be visiting the present with a eye to the past. Today’s art will be studied following an itinerary that both contains and, at the same time, develops values and elements of its tradition.
This idea also inspired the poster and calendar (which will start at the same time as the Italian Presidency), in particular the images used: contemporary works that incorporate and give a new interpretation of a millenary tradition. We did not have to go very far to find the images we wanted: the two works Pomone by Marino Marini and Ange Rebelle by Oswaldo Licini are part of the Farnesina collection.
Over the next several month, Italian culture will be spread throughout Europe, almost an invasion with the Europalia.Italia Festival. I would like to take this occasion to greet and thank the Belgium General Commissioner of Europalia.Italia, Ambassador Antonello Pietromarchi.
The importance of the Europalia.Italia Festival can also be seen in the fact that on 1 October the President of Italy, along with the King and Queen of Belgium, will be inaugurating the exhibit Un rinascimento singolare. La corte degli Este a Ferrara (A Singular Renaissance. The Este Court in Ferrara). For the next four months in Belgium, we will be witnessing a succession of important Italian events. Our country’s cultural wealth will be represented by a rich series of exhibits, concerts, theatrical and dance performance, films and literary and scientific conferences. There will be over one hundred events, most planned especially for this occasion.
The Farnesina has thus contributed to build what we are certain will be seen as a superb frame for the Italian Presidency when our country has decided to enhance the locations of the European Institutions as much as possible, also holding the two European Councils in Brussels.
We will not only be highlighting the ancient world. We will also bring contemporary art to European institutions: the European Parliament will house the sculptures of Fabrizio Plessi and the exhibit Italian Factory, dedicated to contemporary tendencies in portrait and landscape painting: two extremely classic themes, today with a new interpretation and revived by the last generation of young Italian artists.
The Justus Lipsius palace will host the exhibition Futuro Italiano, an itinerary of Italian art from its origins to the 20th century, highlighting the impetus for innovation, from Futurism to the present, and the two main thrusts that developed after the Second World War: both non-figurative and figurative. Both grew through traditional techniques put to a contemporary use and ultimately used the new technologies applied to art.
Our events are not only dedicated to the arts although there are numerous exhibitions we should mention, first and foremost Venere svelata. Intorno a un solo quadro, la Venere di Urbino (Venus Unveiled, Dedicated to a Single Painting, the Venus of Urbino), created by Omar Calabrese.
There are a large number of musical and theatrical appointments. The Italian literary panorama will be amply represented poetry, the literature of emigration, women's literature, and detective novels in a rich programme of conferences, seminars and discussions among some of the most well known contemporary poets and writers. And there will still be room for the voices of writers and poets in a conference entitled Identità e diversità nella lingua e letteratura italiana (Identity and Diversity in Italian Language and Literature) which will be held in Brussels from 15 to 19 July on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the International Association for Italian Language and Literature Studies.
Italy and the Italian Government are therefore betting on culture as a trump card, important added value to reach its foreign policy goals.