Gathering leading figures from the realms of government, arts, media and technology, CultureSummit holds its second edition as an international conference that sees diverse programming using culture to tackle and try to propose innovative solutions to contemporary concerns.
Under the theme Unexpected Collaborations, the DCT Abu Dhabi-backed initiative in collaboration with The Rothkopf Group and TCP Ventures is the amalgamation of like-minds who understand that culture is a possible alternative when it comes to global issues. Working to foster relationships between disparate disciplines, the summit aims to create connections and draw parallels in understanding the overlap between social impact and cultural output. "You often hear people refer to ‘soft power’ when they talk about culture – but there is nothing soft about the power of culture,” says David Rothkopf, founder and CEO of The Rothkopf Group and co-organiser of CultureSummit Abu Dhabi.
“It is what binds nations together and throws them into war, it shapes aspirations and defines the boundaries within which we live our lives. We've seen how frightened of that power weak leaders are because they try to crush it ... We also live at a cultural turning point in history – when for the first time, thanks to technology, connectivity will create a single global cultural eco-system. That raises immense questions. Grappling with those questions and seeking to harness that power for good is why we conceived CultureSummit – the first truly global leadership event convening many of the most important voices in the global arts, media, policy and technology communities."
L to R: Carla Dirlikov Canales, David Rothkopf and HE Saif Ghobash
Delegates from 80 countries are attending – making it the largest international gathering of government officials, philanthropists, arts administrators, business leaders, technologists and artists to date, the CultureSummit team notes. Discussing topics ranging from arts education in marginalised and at-risk communities, the destruction of heritage and women’s empowerment through to climate change and production in times of conflict, each day will have a specific theme. Day one will follow Unexpected Collaborations, day two looks to Art, Tech, New Media and Culture Redefined, day three sees Setting Goals and An Agenda for the Year Ahead, while day four will close with Celebrating the Fruits of Unexpected Collaborations.
With individuals ranging from UNICEF through to the UAE government present the multiple workshops, panels and discussions, there will also be a diverse grouping of arts figures presenting their insider perspective on the impact and effects of culture. Highlights include sessions entitled Emerging Trends in the Arts and Media Worldwide: What’s Next and Case Studies in Unexpected Collaborations where attendees will be able to hear Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum artistic director Nancy Spector; Facebook artist-in-residence programme founder and director Drew Bennett; and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair founder Touria El Glaoui; and Smithsonian Institution's director of international relations, Molly Fannon.
Also speaking will be Abdul Waheed Khalili, director of Turquoise Mountain Institute for Afghan Art; George Richards, head of heritage at the Art Jameel Foundation; HE Omar Ghobash, UAE Ambassador to France and author; Jack Lang, French politician and former French Minister of Culture; and Isao Matsushita, vice president of Tokyo University of the Arts, among several others, who will partake in talks such as Art Education and Cultural Preservation; Case Study: The Transformative Role of Art and Culture in the Gulf Region; Tech & Art: The Unexpected Collaboration Between Past and Future; and The Evolving Culture of Culture: The Changing Role of Women.
Along with numerous musical performances by the likes of Yo Yo Ma, CultureSummit 2018 will air a special screening of prize-winning film Kailash from the Sundance Institute, which will feature a discussion with namesake Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, while the summit’s artists-in-residence programme will feature alongside performances and exhibitions each day. This will include works by British photographer Jimmy Nelson, who uses digital means to document indigenous cultures on display, performances by violinist Gidon Kremer and poet Afra Atiq, as well as pieces from American-Peruvian interdisciplinary visual artist Grimanesa Amorós, who says, “The art world is not just a world, but a community. We seek truths of expression, whether it be through sculpture, through painting, or through any other media. Art is attainable for all, and even with minimal resources, can be produced. This summit enables and gathers people that represent all the different aspect of the arts, and promises conversation on how art can be impactful in any situation. Something that we all share here is our love of art. This summit reminds us of the importance of our voices not only in the art community but also our global one.”
As an intensive roster of panels, discussions and workshops takes place, along with performances, exhibitions and interventions by artist and musicians, CultureSummit aims to close its five-day event with a strong foundation of initiatives and projects in place that can be developed in the coming year, including the ideas of the 40-50 artists from the Artist Incubator programme, who will concretely identify upcoming creative collaborations. With the intention of next year’s summit taking form as a moment to reflect on the progress made, this year’s edition will wrap with the announcement of all the projects and deliverables established throughout the conference, with comments from HE Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman, Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi; HE Saif Ghobash, Director General, Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi; Carla Dirlikov Canales, CEO & Founder of TCP Ventures; and Rothkopf. With the Abu Dhabi Department of Tourism and Culture surging forward in its goal to make Abu Dhabi a cultural hub that celebrates the arts, CultureSummit is an example of an initiative that calls up on entrepreneurship and strives to harness the arts as a tool and vehicle to promote and instigate positive change.
CultureSummit Abu Dhabi runs 8-12 April at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. Culturesummitabudhabi.com