My zoom told me that …
Episode 1: Culture

During the Corona times, the stages of the whole world are empty. The ability of the cultural sector to create and distribute new artistic expressions and new cultural content beyond the digital environment is being tested.The entire cultural value chain - creation, production, distribution and access - is considerably weakened. For vulnerable groups who already suffer from a lack of access to technology and their intellectual property rights in general, the "digital divide" further exacerbates their difficulty in accessing culture, thus accentuating already existing inequalities.




Despite everything, culture has once again proven its strength in being resilient in its vulnerability and precariousness. Movements drawing from a multilateral and global effort to support artists appeared in a series of virtual debates, mixing discussions and reflections around the most burning issues at the moment ; What has this crisis been able to reveal, in terms of the particular challenges to be faced, the new opportunities to be seized, the new forms and expressions that will emerge, and what will happen to those that are doomed, perhaps to perish and disappear? Faced with the prevailing uncertainty, my Zoom account ended up highlighting a reality almost common to the entire sector and culture professionals ; the battlefield on which we stand shares the same characteristics and the enemy is one, uncertainty.

Videoconferences have multiplied, one after the other, each dealing with the need to support the most vulnerable and to draw up a recovery plan for the sector in order to fully absorb the impact of this global crisis. We were among the first to ride this virtual wave while trying to adjust to it. International Video Conference: covid-19 crisis and emergency art mechanisms, in partnership with Culture Funding Watch, drew up a three levels inventory: at the level of public institutions, private institutions and the community of practitioners. On the other hand, there is UNESCO's ResiliArt which highlights the current state of the creative industries in times of crisis through global discussions with key industry professionals; and finally, Creative Dignity, which addresses the unprecedented challenges faced by 200 million artists in India.

In Tunisia, we were quick to join these movements of dialogue, data sharing and awareness raising. ATUGE raised the questions shared by all "how are cultural professionals impacted by the crisis? How do they adjust? What are the solutions and ways to revive this sector? ", and for other cultural professionals at El Qotb, the concern lies in the return to normal, the “before” covid-19" how to avoid going back?”

The webinars picked up on several points that are and will always be raised in debates and conversations around the arts and culture sector. At the ResiliArt video conference organized by UNESCO, panelists discuss the importance and place of culture and art in the world today, an art that stands as "art oxygen" rather than " art luxury "which we are most often familiar with. What we watch through our screens in terms of artistic performances, art is experienced as a way to breathe air at home, to be entertained and to stay connected to each other by finding our respective community of artists.

The situation today is a reflection of the vitality, but also of the vulnerability of the sector and mirror of the reality of inequalities in fair pay, marginalized communities, the absence of a legal framework and policies to protect the intellectual property, particularly contested in the ATUGE conference by movie directors. However, the solutions are not only found in the law but in large digital structures. The debate must contain online protection mechanisms. In El Qotb's live Facebook, it is emphasized that “if culture ought to be nationalized, inclusive and strong, it must include social equality as its foundation. In this regard, the role belongs to the large institutions which must be complementary and participative by forming an act of political resistance to teach other actors the critical thinking.

" Funding remains at the heart of the current concerns and frustrations encountered by artists. A.A Azzouzi, advisor in the ministerial cabinet gave an overview of the quantitative impact, during the international virtual conference Covid-19 crisis and emergency funding mechanisms organized by Culture Funding Watch in partnership with the Rambourg Foundation, with more than “20 cinemas , 57 art galleries, 40 theaters and over 700 closed, canceled or postponed cultural and creative activities, including major music festivals and fairs, in a country of 11 million people." The panellists expressed their difficulties in conceiving at this present time the economic and social recovery measures.These measures differ from one country to another, and depend on the systems previously developed by governments for culture and art and adopted before the pandemic (measures for independent artists, SMEs, grants, support, etc.) Several countries found themselves limited by what can be strategically put in place, by their lack of experience.

On Al Qotb's live, E. Baccar points out the importance of the emergence of a discussion around cultural policies in Tunisia, after the 2011 revolution, which previously were decided by the Ministry of Culture according to the dictatorial agenda and then applied according to predefined programs.

An undeniable meeting point appears between all these webinars and the concerns of the actors who took part in these discussions, the feeling of indignation and revolt about the status of the artist, craftsman, designer, technician and others forgotten in the sector, not recognized in a legal framework "Is it possible and imaginable that there is still this lack of conscience, this political laxity or would it be the case to serve other ends?" The identification tools, known as - professional card - remain in this sense, themselves archaic in their design and do not meet the current requirements of the era in which we live.

However, in the turbulence of these reflection cells that have been created, the panelists express the need to take a step back, and to invest in a reflection focused on research in these times when production stopped or slowed down. Experimentation, real artistic research and training are at the heart of the opportunities to be seized.

"We are the soldiers of the senses" specifies A. Hefiane in one of his interventions on Al Qotb, "and a life without sense, does not make any sense." The current context raises the essential questions buried under the evils of humanity, to which we had not had time to find the answers, and shows that today more than ever we need culture. It reminds you that the most vulnerable are not alone, and that those who are at the top of the pyramid share the concern of those who build it, who make its base, a solid base. The will to unite, to go forward and leave the “normal” behind is revived, who is the citizen we are looking to have today, so that we can help build it? What is the role of each, and the mission of all? My zoom told me that we will have to relearn how to learn.