Anna Consolati and Pontus Lidberg
When did the word sustainability change meaning? Until recently, for most of us, the term sustainability referenced the financial dimension of individual realities.
For the cultural sector, the need to ascribe new meanings to the word became apparent perhaps with the new rules determined by the reform of the Third Sector.
This prompted us to think of ourselves increasingly as cultural enterprises, making us aware that we were no longer just event organizers of but producers of ideas that look to the future, with all the responsibility that this entails.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development approved by the United Nations in 2015 is a global action plan for people, the planet and prosperity: 17 goals that make sense only when read in all their complexity, in the interaction and correlation between the various objectives that trace an overall future improvement.
The world of culture cannot escape them and is called to examine where attention is needed in producing, supporting and presenting live art now that thinking about the future for those who will come after us can no longer be postponed.
Having grown in a neo-liberal system that tends towards fragmentation, we are getting used to working in networks and bringing new skills and stimuli to the decision-making tables in the national cultural sector.
The creation of cultural ecosystems based on collaboration and sharing instead of competition is already common practice and represents a clear example of the implementation of these ideas. All of us are slowly and painstakingly realizing that the most important thing is no longer putting on world premieres but working in collaboration with international companies and other programmers to make sure a show can circulate nationally by going to multiple locations, thus
rendering costs more accessible and the relationship between investment in international travel and the sharing of possibilities for audiences and artists fairer.
The same companies are asking for longer residencies, spaces for sharing, the possibility to forge relationships with the wider region and local communities also in order to feed artistic creation.
The public reaction is wholly positive. For a festival like Oriente Occidente, which for 42 years has cultivated a trusting relationship with its audiences it is not self-evident but also not impossible to put forward a new proposition as long as the reasons for the choices are clarified.
Who still needs to get on board? Artists are asking for slower ways of working in which there is space for reflection that is more sustainable by definition, the publichas welcomes these new proposals positively and there is real collaboration within the system of producers and programmers. It is therefore now essential that the funding bodies adapt their evaluation methods, which are still based primarily
on quantitative parameters (such as number of shows, number of spectators, number of productions, ...). Quantitative measurements bring with them a tendency towards hyper-production and don’t allow for value being given to repertoires and shows to grow, mature and circulate.
This is an awareness that the cultural sector now has and that it frequently lays claim to and celebrates. Moreover time and space give works the possibility to expand beyond their limits and reach more audiences. In fact, sustainability also means building a society in which equity is guaranteed: making shows accessible to audiences with disabilities is a practice that needs time and study but that is now necessary to reach the objectives of the 2030 Agenda, but also because it is no longer an option to exclude a part of the population from cultural enjoyment and production.
We are increasingly invited to consider other gazes, minority visions, new possible imaginaries, sometimes even including approaches that do not seem to fit in the world of culture or dance but that offer us stimulating horizons located somewhere between ethics and aesthetics. Sustainability must be understood in a prismatic way and implemented through a series of macro and micro actions along the entire supply chain: in artistic production and distribution, in internal work methods, in marketing activities and communication strategies, in public development plans, in scheduling, in artistic choices and visions, so that it has an impact across the board on the way things
work and the model we are aiming for.
On the practical side Oriente Occidente - which usually presents companies from every continent - must now consider the issue of travel, choose train travel where possible, combine activities and opportunities, implement connections in the region in order to offer more possibilities to artists, work for and with the new generations and select a programme that invites reflection on the theme of sustainability. This means promoting cultural activity that makes people rediscover slower ways of doing things, fostering an unprecedented relationship with tourism promotion that proposes out-of-season cultural events and a more equitable re-appropriation of both artistic and natural spaces.
It is also simply a matter of printing much less promotional material and when doing so using certified paper, investing mainly in digital marketing and communication, eliminating the use of plastic, creating merchandising material in collaboration with social cooperatives by reusing old promotional materials, reducing the consumption of paper in offices, choosing partners and suppliers who embrace the same values and disseminating best practices so that everyonecan make their own contribution. But also reducing business trips, using videoconferencing
and smart working systems, reducing electricity consumption and
choosing energy-efficient electronic and IT equipment.
A sustainable festival today can no longer just be a festival. What does that mean?
It means considering oneself, and behaving like, a cultural entity that knows how to have relationships with different interlocutors. It means always looking out for social change and highlighting the urgencies. It means making pacts with communities and following a vision that is both global and local.
Sustainability in Contemporary Dance
by Pontus Lidberg
Danish Dance Theatre is very aware of its climate footprint and has made active choices to reduce its footprint, e.g., through a conscious choice of materials, the repurposing of costumes and scenography, as well as the use of energy-friendly LED lamps. The company chooses trains for touring, whenever feasible. In addition, the company has chosen to minimise its printed materials and instead go digital with programs as well as the predominant part of its advertising (supplemented by some well-considered printed materials).
Sustainability from the perspective of creating performing art is not as intuitive as sustainability in manufacturing, as what we create is mainly experiences as opposed to products. However, there are things to consider that are fairly easy to implement, e.g., costumes and scenery, choosing to recycle or repurpose existing clothes/objects as opposed to creating or purchasing new ones.
The costumes for my last two creations were all vintage/rejects/upcycled garments that were given a second life. In a collaboration with Swedish fashion house Filippa K Studio, the costumes of “Roaring Twenties” (2022) were created from upcycled archival garments, rejects and returns. The main set element of
the same work is 11 chairs that fill the space – the classic Thonet 214 – with its characteristically bent wooden back. We chose to source and refurbished vintage chairs as opposed to purchasing new ones (they are still in production). The cost to do so was higher, but a large chunk of money spent went to work hours for a carpenter. For “Icarus” (2022), the costumes were curated, sourced and re-purposed
from vintage stores and flea markets, then dip-dyed in environmentally friendly indigo to give them a coherent expression.
Anna Consolati, graduated in Management of cultural events at the IULM in Milan, she has been working in the East West since 2007 especially on international projects. From 2021 to the general management of Oriente Occidente, he deals with strategic planning and relations with stakeholders. In recent years he has built and
coordinated networks between funding bodies, cultural institutions and artists on issues related to the 2030 Agenda, aware that diversity is an engine of creative and innovative propulsion.
Pontus Lidberg, coreografo, regista, ballerino e vincitore di una borsa di studio John Simon Guggenheim nel 2019, Pontus Lidberg ha creato opere per compagnie di danza tra cui Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Royal Swedish Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Beijing Dance Theatre e molti altri.
Il suo lavoro è stato commissionato e presentato da festival e luoghi tra cui Montpellier Danse, Théâtre National de Chaillot, The Joyce Theatre, National Arts Center of Canada, Fall For Dance Festival del New York City Center. Nel 2021 ha vinto il Lumen Prize, Nordic Award for Art and Technology per Centaur.
Cresciuto a Stoccolma, in Svezia, Lidberg si è formato alla Royal Swedish Ballet School e al Conservatoire
National de Musique et de Danse de Paris. Ha conseguito un MFA in Arti dello spettacolo contemporanee presso l’Università di Göteborg, Facoltà di Belle Arti applicate e dello spettacolo. È Direttore Artistico del Danish Dance Theatre di Copenhagen, Danimarca.