Néstor Garcia Canclini
In the last few centuries, artistic and cultural creativity has been extolled in the West as the focal point of modern aesthetics. However, in recent decades various trends have lessened its importance: (a) sociological studies presented creative activity as a result of community experiences; (b) post-modern thinking ceased to extol the break with the past introduced by avant-garde movements and encouraged a mingling of traditions from different periods; (c) the take-over of artistic activities by market forces reduced artists creative autonomy; and (d) cultural policies, redirected along business lines, set greater store by earning power or self-financing ability than originality and innovation.
But as the century draws to a close, creativity is being reinstated as an essential dimension of social life, not restricted to the field of art. In the first place, it plays a decisive part in the growth of the applied arts, such as graphic and industrial art, advertising, photography, television, large-scale entertainment and fashion. Secondly, creativity is recognized as an important component of technological innovations, industrial organization and the training and retraining of workers. As noted in the UNESCO publication Our creativity diversity, creativity is taken to be a vision of what is possible.
Thus redefined, creativity is not opposed to tradition. The historical heritage can be interpreted in the light of more rigorous studies, made known to broader sectors of the population and even given new life through dissemination by the mass media (radio, television, discs, videos). While uncontrolled media marketing and opening up to tourism involve risks for the cultural heritage, new facilities offer possibilities of recreating that heritage and extending its ownership, provided that public use is given precedence over private interests.
These changes have generated new challenges and opportunities for the promotion of creativity. A noteworthy example is the increased co-operation between public and private bodies and associations. The great cost of the innovations required for the industrialization of many cultural creations, high technology and the transnationalization of processes of communication make it difficult for states to continue on their own to shoulder the main responsibility. States can continue to grant scholarships and sponsor experiments and exchanges which are aesthetically and culturally valuable but produce little financial return; but to stimulate large-scale initiatives, they should act in association with private firms and independent movements. We must have a new vision of the state - not merely as an administrator or custodian of the historical heritage or the fine arts - in which it will participate in new cultural development trends stemming from the latest technologies. One obstacle to the performance of these functions by government bodies is the traditional training given to cultural administrators. For firms, especially in less developed countries, the difficulty is due to the lack of a patronage system and the absence of a service culture which is aware of the positive role of creativity as being more important for social development than gain.
Another complex transformation is the reconfiguration of local cultures through globalization and regional integration. While a broad sector of art and craft production, and the media, continue to express national cultures and circulate only within the country of origin, the art and communication markets are being increasingly organized on transnational lines: television channels, the production of films, discs and videos, opera company tours and music and drama groups.
1. In this new context, the first priority is to co-ordinate the policies of government bodies with those of private firms and voluntary associations. Co-ordination should take account of the innovations resulting from urban development, the industrialization of culture, and tourism, not as threats to the traditional heritage but as opportunities for revitalizing it and making it more widely known. Studies on crafts and folklore show that the producers and original inhabitants who created the heritage have always been interested in devising new designs and uses for pottery and textiles so as to attract new customers, improve local living conditions and avoid being forced to emigrate. Similarly, when it comes to the historical heritage of cities, the protective task of conservation is not enough; we must promote new uses for old buildings and open spaces which will encourage creativity and a commitment by local populations and users to the quality of the environment. The work of the state, above all through media education and regulations, and action by the media and voluntary associations, should seek to ensure that creativity, exercised with the responsibility of citizenship, is not confined to elites or environmental movements and grassroots minorities.
2. Another conclusion from the cultural reformulation resulting from globalization is the need to amplify national governments studies and policies. When the products of the creativity of each ethnic group and nation can be appreciated and appropriated through communication and tourism outside their territory of origin, but are also exposed to illegal trafficking and forms of commercialization from which their creators do not benefit, it is necessary to co-ordinate the activities of the national and transnational actors involved. More energetic action by UNESCO and continental bodies, and special attention to these issues in regional free trade agreements, can help the globalization of products and messages to enrich understanding between peoples. This transnational broadening of policies should protect both the tangible and above all the intangible heritage (media messages, traditional music and literature from local sources), the latter being the more vulnerable of the two heritages. With this in mind, there is a need to renew educational programmes and advise artists and artisans on how to administer their products and defend their rights in the new conditions prevailing in a worldwide market. Virtually everything remains to be done to regulate the use for purposes of tourism and advertising and the industrialization and commercialization of popular creativity.
3. Selected promising experiments on these lines might be disseminated and studied in other regions. One experiment is the constitution of a European audiovisual space, for which common policies have been drawn up for European countries (co-production of films and television programmes, common rules to protect the interests of creators and audiences). These policies preserve specific cultural profiles from encroachment by powerful external audiovisual and communication systems - the United States and Japan - and prevent cultural creativity from being watered down by transnational commercialization. They are pursued not only in the defence of identity but also take into account the major role of cultural industries in economic growth, job creation and the consolidation of more participatory democratic societies.
Some of the economic integration agreements followed up during the 1990s (NAFTA, Mercosur, etc.) provide for flexible co-operation structures between the countries of each region. Scholarships and grants to sponsor research and bi- or tri-national tours of performing companies, changes in customs legislation, and programmes to disseminate books, discs and films from one country to others, are among the initiatives which might be widely introduced to expand art markets and improve the living conditions and production of creators.
4. To complete this summary, it should be noted that these activities, taking place as they do in entirely new fields which make it difficult to foresee their effects, could be more productive if backed up by research and international study groups to investigate the new forms of cultural appropriation. Co-operation by artists, anthropologists, cultural social scientists and cultural policy managers would help to assess the different creative and organizational dimensions and to devise activities to correct the imbalances in the development of countries and the exchanges between them. This is another field where it would be valuable for international bodies like UNESCO to undertake studies and innovative ventures going beyond the sphere of national cultural polices. Between local actions and those of great multinationals, there lies a vast intermediate zone in which medium-range policies can compensate for the discrepancies between powerful and weak countries, and between public and private, and promote greater and more effective social participation.