DIY Cultural Diplomacy is a project in development. It is introduced here in order to welcome comments, conversation, thoughts and hopefully inspire collaboration and/or partnerships. I’m currently looking for funding and opportunities such as residencies, but I am also strongly considering a PhD.
In March 2019, the Swedish Arts Council announced a vacancy: Cultural Attaché in Beijing. The job description mentioned overarching tasks such as stimulating and deepen contact zones between cultural institutions and the independent cultural sector in China and Sweden. The job description informed that the Cultural Attaché’s mission is to facilitate the advancement of the cultural relationship between China and Sweden – the use of culture to promote Sweden and its values: Democracy, Equality & Openness. The Swedish Arts Council wanted someone with experience of initiating, leading, managing, and presenting cultural projects; someone that is deeply anchored in Sweden’s cultural life and knowledgeable of cultural policy. But what does that mean? What is Sweden’s cultural life, and what counts as knowledge of Swedish cultural policy? These are important questions because, as of recently, the legitimacy of Swedish cultural policy has been questioned; its stated objectives in relation to the acheived results (Swedish Agency for Cultural policy Analysis 2019).
While firmer anti-discrimination and anti-racism doctrines have been institutionalized in the EU since the early 2000’s, ethno-nationalism is increasing. A similar parallax is present in publicly funded culture: Nationalism permeate old and traditional cultural institutions, making inclusivity conditional and diversity divisive. Questions of why one should and how one can participate in such order are hereby being raised. This challenge is not only political but, to me, mostly epistemological. New methods and faculties to engage with segregated yet empowering cultures need to be explored. And I believe that an engagement with Hip-Hop can inform that purpose.
Hip-hop culture has a number of characteristics that make it suitable as a framework for such profession. It is historically aware, aspirational and always locally rooted with a transnational sensibility. Two fundamental questions are at the forefront of the culture and they are answered with endless variety and creativity: Who are you and Where are you from?
Different cities. Different countries. Different cultures. Different continents. No matter where I went, a different kind of hip-hop existed. I knew the artists had stories, and music was the way they shared.Christian Virgil Reyes, Aug 13, 2018
The project’s method revolves around a central concept: Appropriation. In this project, appropriation relates to a) one of hip-hop’s performative characteristics and b) aestheticization of the profession of cultural attaché. It is an active, subjective and motivated process. The possibility of doing this lies mainly in the fact that the profession is abstract and offers a high degree of freedom of interpretation. DIY Cultural Diplomacy has thus been designed based on what is available to read about the expectations on the cultural attaché. For example, the announcement by the Swedish Arts Council in March 2019 about a position as cultural attaché in Beijing. It made evident that the daily work includes subjective judgments of what is constructive, relevant, productive, interesting and representative. Then, what does a cultural attaché actually do? They act as curators, cultural producers, attend conferences, create contact zones and promote cultural collaborations internationally and spread democratic values. They monitor and write reports and blogs. DIY Cultural Diplomacy is therefore about appropriating that activity.
There is a point in realizing the freedom of the cultural attaché. It is a privilege under great responsibility, and it requires that the person in question is well aware of the norms and procedures included in that work – to be exposed. However, most importantly, DIY Cultural Diplomacy appropriates this freedom, and demonstrates a political agency based on Hip-Hop culture.
The simple and core idea here, then, is that politics is more than what the established institutions choose to privilege or recognise. It exceeds established spaces, routinised practices and procedures, but it does not occur ex nihilo, and it needs, as Arendt recognised, the security and stability granted by them.Mustafa Dikeç, 2016
DIY Cultural Diplomacy unfolds transmedially, a free and accessible experience. With time it becomes a resource in the form of a mosaic of thoughts, art and scientific elaborations. It aims to create a new political Hip-Hop aesthetic and agency that is accessible and free for others to re-appropriate. The project includes a DIY diplomatic visit to China, in order to stimulate and facilitate subcultural relations, and promote values such as: Respect, Keeping it Real & Knowledge of Self.