How do the arts create a new narrative for Europe?

The Dream, a project by Efva Lilja The Dream, a project by Efva Lilja (Photo: Hans Skoglund)

We shit, spit, bleed and weep. We chat, argue, laugh and cry out loud. We provoke, activate, stimulate and initiate. We talk and we move. We communicate. We narrate. Why is the word being said? Why is the movement in motion? Why do we insist on action? These are questions about the transmission of language, the politics of listening and about the roles of representation in art. We move politically on an excursion in search of miracles.

We live in a benevolent welfare state that has fallen on hard times. Un-necessities spread out amongst all the worry, and the glitter blinds you (spit). With all the sparkle you become myopic and your existence narrows down to trifles (shit). Europe is in a financial crisis. A large portion of the European population is on the dole, in a cultural void. Cultural policies are in a state of vacuum, most often with fuzzy leadership whose actions are based on a materialistic view, where art is seen as goods and products and the artist is steered toward usefulness and adaptation to the ”creative economy” (bleed).

The journey to the many mansions of power provides a host of opportunities for reflection on powerlessness and impotence. If we want a society with creative, innovative, strong citizens that are able to apply and utilize their voices and creativity, we need a belief in our common commitments (argue) (move). The dominating political philosophy puts art into the ”icing-on- the-cake” box (weep). Is this what we want?

Culture is what we live, our common foundation, our societal contract. The arts are part of this culture. Through artistic expression we can both gauge and affect the state of our culture, creating our story (talk). Keep ignorant people on the hold! They can deprive us of the possibility of knowledge, of creativity and linguistic awareness that the qualitative experience of art can provide (cry out loud). They hinder the narration!

We must work for strong cultural policies, integrated into all political areas (communicate). I want to see policies that don’t just put survival and material well-being in focus, but have a good cultural climate as its ultimate goal for a long-term sustainable development (initiate). A decent, humane attitude to people with plenty of room for curiosity and the creativity that makes it possible to support other market forces than those that blind you (laugh).

For that which we are after, we need policies that create possibilities for deeper artistic processes with an outlook that places us not only in Europe, but also in a global perspective (chat). Policies that create both understanding and legitimacy for art’s specific power to contribute to a good society where we can all live in awareness, creativity and empathy as seeing humans (stimulate). Art simply makes it more fun, more interesting and more challenging to live. Europe needs artists (activate). Art defies borders.

Art is created in the eyes of the beholder. It is created in the instance when the onlooker affords the action of discerning a meaning that is legitimized as art. But art isn’t just there. Art authors itself in a void, in the space between the public and the private, and it cannot excuse itself from its political, social, cultural or private contexts. The artwork articulates the self and puts its work within the framework of what the viewer is able to interpret. This ability depends, in turn, on the position that our culture affords to man as a body. Art does not exist in itself.

Suggestion 1: Enjoy and engage in artistic activities.

Art queries the current state. We live a need for faith in the future based on curiosity and respect for who we are or who we long to be. Art contributes greatly to the knowledge about the uniqueness of being a human being with her senses intact. To make art a natural part of everyday life in the good society, one needs policies that deal not only with the broad cultural perspectives, but also with art’s availability, credibility and topicality – as art. This demands forums, where artistic narrations/presentations question and query the current state of affairs and generate new insights into what would otherwise remain hidden. Artists create art and push it toward a widening of both cultural norms and formal regulations in society.

Suggestion 2: Support the development of artist driven forums.

Art produces experience. Our bodies are archives for all they have lived, their memories and experiences of concrete meetings, events, historical heritages, cultural and philosophical attitudes. They are archives with many departments. An archive is a society’s collection of documents. Our bodily collections have not found their material form. It is as we make our way through the midst of our memories and experiences that we make a leap and create new ones. Our bodily archives collect this in different layers of consciousness, that turn into action.

Suggestion 3: Invite artists to be part of the development of strategic culture policies, and don’t forget the young generation.

The arts explore and experiment with the seemingly impossible. The risk you take when you engage in an advanced artistic process is experimenting with supposedly known facts. At times the work feels like a deadly threat to all we’ve taken for granted. Otherwise we just trod on, repeat ourselves and get lost in the ruins of established conventions that scream out what is proper. We cannot build our selves into a context that we’re unable to reproduce. It demands a challenge, critical reflection as a trigger to give our resistance enough power to reformulate itself. Through those new voices we can envisage new spaces and opportunities to penetrate. We train to keep our senses alert but also help sharpen other people’s vision with our deeds.

Suggestion 4: Recognize artistic research and its impact on society on the same terms as scientific research.

The arts produce common values. We need each other. It is a mutual dependency: policy/art/culture. It is not enough just to be good. Artists train. Artists do research. To develop the knowledge needed for good artistic activity we build networks and forums where we can share, provoke, stimulate, narrate, present and perform. Many artists take part in networks and processes that contribute to a development of society. In different corners of Europe there are examples of artist driven forums aiming at offering artists a chance to develop and enable art that is topical, engaging and reflective. Artists develop knowledge and methods that open-mindedly bring us forward, push the development and nourish hope.

Suggestion 5: Invest in creative bureaucracy and modernize the systems of financial support of the arts labelled as budgetary allocation instead of subsidies.

Art provokes. Active and radical cultural policies welcome criticism and provocation, they highlight and make available art as an indispensable stimulus of curiosity, well-being, cultural and societal development. They enable arenas needed for this. They make it possible for us to live prepared for that which we cannot predict. Art is an integral part of society’s survival strategy!

Suggestion 6: Create public forums that embrace also uncomfortable and critical expressions.

Art becomes political action. The arts rely on a broader definition of the concept of language: what we do not say may convey as much meaning as what we express in words. Out of this insight, a respect for our fellow human beings comes into being, and we become not only better at expressing our selves but also at listening and participating — abilities needed in a democratic society.

Questioning the present is a prerequisite for development. It is not good enough to focus on policies of grants and money hand-outs. Development doesn’t always translate into national currency or euros. A good strategy for cultural policies must translate into actions as an expression of the mature view that means seeing the value of building culture together, seeing the value in everything from cooking, study circles, football and handicraft to the most advanced and experimental in the groundbreaking art world.

We share everyday life and individual exclusiveness. We know that living comes with a cost. We must make use of multiculturalism, complexity and diversity. Cultural identity is the foundation of a developed self-image. Our thoughts and experiences bring us forward to new insights, innovation and new positions vis-à-vis the present. We take action!

Suggestion 7: Turn the political hierarchy upside down and let culture policies infiltrate all other political areas.

Art stimulates the will. We set limits to the moment in order to keep our focus trained on it. We put up boundaries around the time we want to defend and break down the boundaries that surround what we are attracted to. We stretch things out, reject them, blow them up and resist them. But we also manage to find those moments that are capable of containing eternity, passion and the splendour that inspires the obstinate grubbing used in our search. Composing a life, a painting or a dance demands the same tools. It demands an approach to life, politics, ethics, aesthetics, skills… and it demands a great amount of will.

Suggestion 8: Speak up for the arts on every opportunity you could possible think of.

Art sharpens our senses. Art demands participation and reaction. At times it offers peace and a moment of reflection, at other times it demands activity by provocation and confrontation – “screaming in your ear”. Art helps to develop both the individual and the societal senses of self. Through art we continue to develop society and our culture. Artists are trained to handle creativity, critical thought, reflection and articulation. We sharpen our senses.

Suggestion 9: Invest in higher education in the arts.

The arts develop knowledge. There must be accessibility to art, credibility and a belief in art as an integral part of our cultural consciousness at all levels, a force for good and a strong field of knowledge – a knowledge that must be tried, retried and given new nourishment. Art is a significant factor in knowledge development with particular emphasis on the ability of man to communicate with his own species.

When artists follow the lead given by the latest artistic research, then the audience too, will be able to encounter something active, something that functions but would otherwise remain hidden: a story; a narration; an object; a process; an encounter charged with expectation that has to do with what is vital, what has to be done; positive challenges; having things demanded of us; being seen; being free to make use of ourselves; being moved and being free to touch and come in contact with the kind of things we never believed we could ever get close to. Surprise!

Suggestion 10: Create a well-funded infrastructure for artistic research.

The arts stimulate the encounter. We have to make everything on offer available, and we have to be willing to get close. We have to want the encounter. We have to trust the movement. Out of trust comes the readiness to let oneself be carried away, transported both by dreams and intellectual stimulation and so move into the arena of the unconscious or out into entirely new worlds of experience. That is when the encounter comes into being, when mind meets mind, and body meets body, and our creativity is really made use of. We all become co-creators of meaning, of significance. We assign values; we give opinions; we think. We look at what happens in different ways. We create different meanings and assign different values to various goals. In this way, we become more clearly defined to each other and can go on to reach a dialogue.


This text was written as a response to the invitation to the General Assembly on forms of imagination and thinking for Europe in Warsaw July 11, 2013 and is dedicated to all in power, with a special address to President José Manuel Barroso, the Cultural Committee and politicians in the field of cultural policies in all member states of the EU. Previous versions were published on the website of the European Commission and Efva Lilja’s website

Efva Lilja

Efva Lilja is Artist, Professor of Choreography and the Vice-Chancellor of DOCH, The University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm, Sweden.

Tagged: ,

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.

Legal note

1.    Terms and Conditions

2.    Privacy Policy

3.    Cookies Policy


1.    Terms and Conditions

Contact data for the web owner

This website has been created by KATOIKOS to promote their products and services.

– Name: Katoikos, S.L

– Co. tax Code:  B87123162

– Address:  Calle Campomanes 10, 28013  Madrid (SPAIN)

Registration details: Registered in the Commercial Register of Madrid.

Intellectual and Industrial Property

The various elements of this page, and website as a whole, are protected by Spanish legislation on intellectual and industrial property. The trademarks, trade names or logos appearing on this website are the property of the company, or, where appropriate, of third parties, and are protected by Trademarks Law, and of which KATOIKOS holds the legitimate license.

The information provided may not be used for commercial or public purposes, or modified. If the user downloads materials for personal and non-commercial use, warnings shall be kept about copyright and trademarks. To download and use the company logo that appears on the website, prior authorization is required.

Any unauthorised use of the images may violate copyright laws, trademark laws, the laws of privacy and publicity, and communications regulations and statutes.

Liability for Damage

KATOIKOS assumes no liability for damages you may suffer when browsing the web or in the use of computer applications that are part of it. Neither are warranties given as to the correction of malfunctions or updating of content.

Content you share with us

We may include features on this website that allow you to share your content with us and other users of the site. Please note that by sharing content it may become publicly accessible. You grant to Katoikos a worldwide, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license, without compensation to you:

 (a) to use, reproduce, distribute, adapt (including without limitation edit, modify, translate, and reformat), derive, transmit, display and perform, publicly or otherwise, such content, in any media now known or hereafter developed, for Kaotikos’ business purposes, and

 (b) to sublicense the foregoing rights, through multiple tiers, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. The foregoing licenses shall survive any termination of your use of the site, as further described below.

For all of the content you share through the site, you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary for you to grant these licenses, and that such content, and your provision or creation thereof through the site, complies with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations and does not infringe or otherwise violate the copyright, trademark, trade secret, privacy or other intellectual property or other rights of any third party, and is furthermore free from viruses and other malware.

Rules of Conduct

When using this website and/or sharing content with us, you are prohibited from posting or transmitting :

1. any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, racist, obscene, scandalous, deceptive, false, fraudulent, inflammatory or profane material or any material that could constitute or encourage conduct that would be considered a criminal offence, give rise to civil liability, or otherwise violate any law.
2. Any virus, worm, Trojan horse, Easter egg, time bomb, spyware or other computer code, file, or program that is harmful or invasive or may or is intended to damage or hijack the operation of, or to monitor the use of, any hardware, software or equipment;
3. Any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letter,” “pyramid scheme” or investment opportunity, or any other form of solicitation; and
4. Any material non-public information about a person or a company without the proper authorization to do so.

In addition, you will not:

1. Use this website for any fraudulent or unlawful purpose;
2. Interfere with or disrupt the operation of the website or the servers or networks used to make the website available; or violate any requirements, procedures, policies or regulations of such networks;
3. Access or use this website through any technology or means other than those expressly designated by us.
4. Restrict or inhibit any other person from using this website (including by hacking or defacing any portion of the website);
5. Except as expressly permitted by applicable law, modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble any portion of this website.
6. Remove any copyright, trademark or other proprietary rights notice from this website.
7. Frame or mirror any part of the webiste without our express prior written consent;
8. Create a database by systematically downloading and storing all or any content;
9. Use any robot, spider, site search/retrieval application or other manual or automatic device to retrieve, index, “scrape,” “data mine” or in any way reproduce or circumvent the navigational structure or presentation of this website, without our express prior written consent.


Kaotikos  reserves the right to remove any messages or statements or cancel any links.

This site may include hyperlinks to other web sites that are not owned or controlled by Katoikos. Katoikos has no control over, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices of any third party websites.

Content may be hosted on YouTube or other social media. Those operate their own set of terms and conditions and privacy policy which are separate to the ones presented on this website. Katoikos no control over and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices on YouTube or other social media.

 The right to terminate your access

Katoikos reserves the right to terminate your access to this website at any time if you do not comply with these Terms and Conditions or you infringe Kaotikos’ rights in the content provided on this website.

Governing Law

These Terms and Conditions are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Spain, without regard to its choice of law provisions.  You agree to the exclusive jurisdiction by the courts of Spain.

Changes to the Terms

Katoikos reserves the right to make changes to the Terms and Conditions from time to time. You acknowledge and agree that your continued access to or use of this website will constitute your acceptance of such changes.

2.    Privacy Policy

Kaotikos takes the protection of your personal data very seriously and collects, processes and uses your data only in accordance with the standards of the legal data protection regulations.

Data is collected, processed and used with technologyes of the provider web trends for marketing and optimisation purposes and also for sending news and information you may be interested in by any electronic services, such as email or SMS.

Our website user’s database is registered at the Spanish Agency of Data Protection. You have the rights of access, rectification, deletion and opposition, regulated in articles 14 to 16 of the LOPD.

For this, please write to:

KATOIKOS (Data Protection) Calle Campomanes 10, 28013, Madrid (SPAIN)

Or send an email to Your ID will be requested for these issues.

3.    Cookies Policy

This site, like many others, uses small files called cookies to help us customise your experience. Find out more about cookies and how you can control them.

This page contains information on what ‘cookies’ are, the cookies used by the Kaotikos’ website and how to switch cookies off in your browser.

If it does not provide the information you were looking for, or you have any further questions about the use of cookies on the Katoikos’s website, please email

What are ‘cookies’?

‘Cookies’ are small text files that are stored by the browser (for example, Internet Explorer or Safari) on your computer or mobile phone. They allow websites to store things like user preferences. You can think of cookies as providing a ‘memory’ for the website, so that it can recognise you when you come back and respond appropriately.

How does the Katoikos’s website use cookies?

A visit to a page on the Kaotikos’s website may generate the following type of cookies: Anonymous analytics cookies.

This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc., a Delaware company whose main office is at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View (California), CA 94043, USA (“Google”).

Google Analytics uses “cookies”, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information on our behalf in order to track your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google’s behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.

Anonymous analytics cookies

Cookier Name Origin Aim End
__utma Google Analysis 2 years since set –up or update
__utmb Google Analysis 30 minutes since set –up or update
__utmc Google Analysis When browser sesión ends
_utmt Google Analysis 10 minutes since set –up or update
__utmz Google Analysis 6 months since set –up or update

How do I turn cookies off?

It is usually possible to stop your browser accepting cookies, or to stop it accepting cookies from a particular website. All modern browsers allow you to change your cookie settings. You can usually find these settings in the ‘options’ or ‘preferences’ menu of your browser. To understand these settings, the following links may be helpful, or you can use the ‘Help’ option in your browser for more details.

Cookie settings in Internet Explorer
Cookie settings in Firefox
Cookie settings in Chrome
Cookie settings in Safari web and iOS.


© 2020 Katoikos, all rights are reserved. Developed by eMutation | New Media

Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
Your information will never shared with a third party.
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)
Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
Your information will never shared with a third party.
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)