Genius generates beauty: the experiences of the European Capitals of Culture at Expo 2020 Dubai

The “European Capitals of Culture Day at the Universal Exhibition 2020 Dubai” is an initiative that Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation is organising on the 30th October 2021 in the Italy Pavilion at the Expo of Dubai, in partnership with the Commissioner General of Italy and under the patronage of the European Commission. The event is of highly symbolic value considering the fact that it will see the European Capitals of Culture reunite for the first time at the biggest international event post pandemic. Taking its cue from the concept that inspired the Italy Pavilion itself, the initiative is designed to present the European Capitals of Culture that, with their enormous and varied potential of cultural experiences and practices, transform cities, generating beauty and inclusiveness.

The day’s events will start at 11:00 am (9:00 am CET), in the Anfiteatro space, with an International Forum on “The European Capitals of Culture and the New European Bauhaus: how to build beautiful, sustainable, inclusive places”. The conference aims to bring to the fore the contribution of the Capitals to the New European Bauhaus, an innovative initiative launched by the European Commission aimed at fostering cooperation between thinkers and doers in imagining and creating places that are “beautiful for our eyes, minds and souls”. The examples that will be presented will show how the Capitals are redesigning our living spaces by bridging the worlds of culture and science, getting citizens involved, leaving no one behind and promoting accessibility. The conference, moderated by the RAI journalist Barbara Carfagna, will be opened by Paolo Glisenti, Commissioner General of the Italy Pavilion, followed by Benedetto Della Vedova, Deputy Foreign Minister, Barbara Gessler, Head of the “Creative Europe and ECoC programme” Unit - European Commission. Rossella Tarantino, Development and Relations Manager of Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation, will introduce the key topics of the Forum, followed by the keynote speaker Carlo Ratti, director of Senseable City Lab at MIT, who is also one of the designers of the Italy Pavilion. The European Capitals of Culture projects will be presented by Thierry Kruchten, Head of Tourism, Mobility and Sustainable Development - Esch 2022, Sara Vuletić, Programme Director - Novi Sad 2022, Dovilė Butnoriūtė, Head of International Relations- Kaunas 2022, Kaja Širok, Head of the EPICenter programme of a joint cross-border European Capital of Culture - Nova Gorica 2025, Rita Orlando, Project Manager at Open Design School of the Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation. Concluding remarks will be drawn by the Mayor of Matera, Domenico Bennardi.

“Urban/rural: designing through culture new connections between overcrowded and sparsely populated areas” will be the focus of the second International Forum, scheduled for 4:00 pm (2:00 pm CET) in the Anfiteatro space. This conference will centre on several urgent issues raised by the pandemic, such as the need to imagine a more sustainable world based on a more balanced connection between these geographic areas, the role that culture can have in regenerating rural areas, overcoming stereotypes and building contemporary narratives about the resilient communities inhabiting these areas, and the “temporary citizenship” of artists and 21st century nomadic communities as a new way of repopulating these places.The Forum, opened by Rossella Tarantino and moderated by Beatriz Garcia, Associate Director of the Centre for Cultural Value at the Universityof Leeds, will host the following speakers: Chryssa Martini, Director of Premises & Infrastructure, Location Planning of the Artistic Programme - Eleusi 2022, Friderika Mike, Director of Programme Development - Veszprem Balaton 2023, Mika Vierimaa, Head of Administration- Oulu 2026, Giovanni Oliva, Director General of the Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation. The Mayor of Pietrapertosa, Maria Cavuoti, and the Mayor of Tricarico, Vincenzo Carbone, two of the Lucanian communities that still retain traces of Arab culture, will also be in attendance.

Both forums will be streamed on Italy Expo’s and Matera 2019’s Facebook pages, as well as on the pages of the European Capitals of Culture involved.

The Accademia space will be host to an event (with both a morning and afternoon session) called “The ECoC game”, a moving workshop on cultural geography developed by the Open Design School, a Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation initiative offering best practices at an international level in the field of new design practices, which has also become a partner of the New European Bauhaus. By playing live in an immersive and engaging way, Expo visitors will be able to embark on an imaginary journey into present and past European Capitals of Culture, in order to discover the highlights, curiosities and characters connected to the history of this project, which is fundamental to the lives of dozens of cities across the entire European continent.

The day’s events will end in the Anfiteatro space at 6:30 pm with the performance of “Dubai Session”, presented by Open Sound, an original project by Multietnica, co-produced by the Foundation for the official programme of Matera European Capital of Culture 2019. The format creates new repertories and stages original collective performances based on the fusion of contemporary electronic music and traditional sounds, transforming a musical archive into a promise for the future. The  performance designed for Expo 2020 will be a moment of acoustic dialogue which will offer a live return to the result of the artistic co-creation and cultural hybridisation with Arab culture, generated by the encounter between Gaetano Dragotta, known as go-Dratta (the producer), the Arab musician Imad Kawala (caval) and the traditional percussionists from Basilicata - Agostino Cortese (percussion and cupa cupa friction drum) and Alberico Larato (zampogna bagpipe and lyre). The event will open with the spoken DJ set “Road to Open Sound” by Alioscia Bisceglia, where he, in the dual role of performer and project ambassador, will narrate, using music and words, the genesis and journey of Open Sound from 2019 to today.


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