Making nothing happen: art and civil society in troubled times

This talk, for the Tandem Exchange programme, highlights the distinctive value of art and culture at a time of multiple crises. It’s posted on another site because its focus is wider than participatory and community art, but its argument is relevant to that practice. It proposes that art matters, above all, because it gives us space to meet the inescapable differences between us and the chance to grow in our capacity to live with them. To read the full text, click here to download a PDF or follow the link to the Parliament of Dreams site.

Parliament of Dreams


Here is the text of a talk given on Saturday 3 September in Berlin at an event to mark the fifth anniversary of the Tandem Exchange programme. 

On the morning after Britain voted to leave the EU, the novelist Philip Pullman tweeted:

‘We had a headache, so we shot our foot off. Now we can’t walk, and we still have the headache.’

This image seemed to catch something important about the world we’re living in. We face grave problems – everyone knows that – but we and, more importantly, our leaders, often seem confused about what those problems are. Without a clear understanding of the actual challenges that face us, we thrash about in pain and fear and choose bad solutions. To take one current example, it’s hard to see a connection between controlling how women dress and overcoming terrorist murder, yet politicians still ban the burkini because action of…

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