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Inicio arrow Economía/Cultura. El pesimismo de la razón y el optimismo de la voluntad arrow Seminar Economics/Culture (Seville, 14-16 december 2004)

Seminar Economics/Culture (Seville, 14-16 december 2004)

Venue: Rector's Office of the International University of Andalusia (UNIA), located at the Monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas on the Island of the Cartuja in Seville
Date: 14th >> 15th >> 16th December 2004
Guest speakers: Susan George, Belén Gopegui, Precarias a la deriva, Agnès Varda




Economics/culture are two terms which are not usually associated because culture, or its artistic representations, has been generally regarded as something abstract that is not subjected to a series of socio-political and economic relations. It has also been unusual for women to talk about economics in public forums, as they had usually been consigned to dealing only with family and household economics, and their work had never been regarded as production.

We have invited Susan George, Belén Gopegui and the Precarias a la deriva group to reflect on this dichotomy. Their lectures will be followed by the screening of two of the most recent documentaries made by French filmmaker Agnès Varda and a fiction film which she made in the 80's.

Through political and sociological analysis, creation and activism, these women propose new ways of rethinking contemporary society, fighting social exclusion, forging alliances, transmitting knowledge, and creating a future in which there is greater social justice. With their words and images they try to understand and describe how power is deployed. They also call into question the current world situation, which is marked by an economicist dictatorship and regards "markets" as the ultimate legitimator of all kinds of conducts.

Their creative work and thoughts help to narrate the conflicts between individuals and society, whilst trying to prompt us to take critical actions to overhaul the structures of the neo-liberal model of economic globalisation, which reflects the current phase of capitalism. They also offer revealing diagnoses and analyses about the future of capitalism: a future which is hardly encouraging but which we should at least face with the "pessimism of the intellect and optimism of will" advocated by the famous slogan coined by Gramsci.



Tuesday, 14th December 2004

· 19:00 pm
Conference by Precarias a la deriva
Cultural production, feminisation of work and the precarious nature of existence

Culture has started to produce. It always did (it created images, affections, worlds), but it now acts like a strategic mechanism in the generation of value in terms of capital. Therefore, now more than ever, culture should be understood as a "superstructure" which is connected to the material production and reproduction of life. Women, either individually, or collectively through the struggle of the feminist movements, have fought to occupy their own place in cultural production. However, this has occurred in a context in which a precarious way of life and the "feminine difference" have been exploited for the sake of profit and steerability. What does being a culture worker mean in this new context?

· 21:00 pm
Film screening:
Sans toit ni loi
by Agnès Varda, 1985, original French version with Spanish subtitles, 105´

The trials and tribulations of a lonely girl-vagabond who is neither shy nor talkative, are narrated by the people she meets one winter as she drifts around in the south of France. A voyage which explore the lives of the others, the marginalised or self-marginalised people, those who have been confined by the system to a position of second-class citizens with no right to voice their opinion.

Wednesday, 15th December 2004

· 19:00 pm
Conference by Belén Gopegui
About Round Heads and Pointed heads. Six proposals for an organised art

In his educational piece Round Heads and Pointed Heads, Bertolt Brecht sketches a potential strategy in which a weaker army defeats a stronger one. The six proposals attempt to adapt this strategy so that it can be used by a hypothetical group of artists interested in working in a process which we could define as revolutionary.

· 21:00 pm
Film screening:
Les glaneurs et la glaneuse by Agnès Varda, 2000, original French version with Spanish subtitles, 82´

Throughout France, Agnès has come across numerous gleaners or scavengers who live off anything they can find and scour bins and tips for food. Out of necessity, by accident, or as an obligation, these people pick up things that others leave behind. They are in stark contrast with the gleaners from the past, the women who picked up the small grains of corn left in the fields by the harvesters. Potatoes, apples, leftovers, things that don't have an owner, clocks without hands, and TV sets make up the menu of these modern-day gleaners. Agnès herself is a kind of gleaner, as with her camera she goes around picking images to construct a highly personal documentary. The actual filming process is, in itself, a form of harvesting.

Thursday, 16th December 2004

· 19:00 pm
Conference by Susan George
Bush's victory, society's defeat

Although the result of American presidential elections can be analysed in many different ways, there is no doubt that it will affect regions throughout the world. One of the consequences will be the return of a political Puritanism which is comparable to that of 17th century Britain at a time which saw the onset of capitalism. This certainly entails the rejection of the 18th century principles of the age of "enlightenment" and the spirit of the American "founding fathers", such as Washington and Jefferson, who represented the determination by the ruling classes to reinstate the rights gained through social struggle a century earlier. This situation will be used as a starting point for analysing the neo-liberal approach promoted by the United States, which is today a worldwide phenomenon, and is in opposition to anything that makes modernity and life in society possible. In this context, Europe has a huge responsibility: it must preserve, improve, and promote, the principles inherited from the "enlightenment" and the revolutions, so as to save itself and the world from falling into barbarism. If official Europe does not lead the way, it will be up to the social movements to do it. Will they rise to the challenge?

· 21:00 pm
Film screening:
Deux ans après
by Agnès Varda, 2002, original French Version with Spanish subtitles, 63´

Two years after making Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, Agnès Varda revisits some of the people who appeared in the film to assess the impact that making it has had in their lives. The documentary offers an in-depth portrait of the protagonists and effectively demonstrates Varda's personal and independent style and her commitment to understanding the origins and causes of marginalisation.



Susan George
She was born in the United States and has lived in France for a number of years. She holds a degree in Political Sciences by the Smith College and a degree in Philosophy by the Sorbonne University. Her doctoral thesis focuses on how the North American food system has been forcibly imposed upon the rest of the world. She is currently the associate director of the Transnational Institute (Amsterdam), a decentralised research institute dedicated to studying North-South relations, whose members are strongly committed to social issues and actively participate in social and political organisations in their respective countries. Susan George is also the President of the Observatory on Globalisation and the vice-president of ATTAC. She has coordinated the development of combined actions undertaken by various French organisations against the WTO and has published several books, including: A Fate Worse than Debt, The Lugano report and Another World is Possible, If… in which she unveils the essentially perverse mechanisms of ultraliberal capitalism and the economic, environmental and social horrors which are intrinsic to its current phase: the so-called globalisation.

Belén Gopegui
She is a writer from Madrid. Since the publication of her first novel, La escala de los mapas (1992), for which she won the Tigre Juan Award and the Ibero-American Prize for First Novels, her work has been critically acclaimed for the way in which she approaches narrative strategies. Since then, she has published several books, such as Tocarnos la cara (1995) and La conquista del aire (1998). In the latter she describes how the relationship among a group of friends becomes destabilised as a result of a very specific material element - money - an issue which is very rarely addressed by novelists. Her prose and her ideological position reach its peak in the brilliant Lo real (2001), which questions the meaning of words such as morality and justice, and is an ambitious and experimental writing exercise which shows her strong commitment to social issues. This is also the case in her latest novel, El lado frío de la almohada (2004), which was controversial but critically acclaimed, and is considered a fine example of what could be described as social literature, a field in which Gopegui's strong opinions can in some ways be summarised by this narrative fragment: "… I do not admire writers who resort to suffering to make sense of things … evil is an intelligible organisational chart and not the last remainder of some unknown immaterial substance which just flies and then lands, as some people insistently claim. Why do they insist on saying this? Surely it must be something to do with a law, the law of human interest, an economic law which is just like any other law, but has been formulated in a simpler manner: he who pays the piper calls the tune". Gopegui has recently written the scripts for the feature films La suerte dormida and El principio de Arquímedes.

Precarias a la deriva
It is an investigation-action project which is currently being developed by a group of women who either had some previous experience of working collectively (Trabajo Zero, Sexo, Mentiras y Precariedad) or individually in, or wished to embark on, initiatives which focus on the transformation of the labour market. The concerns of this open project converged on the 20th of June 2002 during a General Strike called by the Spanish trade unions. As they says: "We are precarious. This means some good things (the accumulation of knowledge and multiple skills acquired through working and life experiences which are constantly under construction) and many bad things (vulnerability, insecurity, poverty, lack of social protection) but mostly ambivalent things (mobility, flexibility). However, our personal situations are so diverse and unique that we find it hard to find clear differences amongst each other, or a common denominator which we can use as a starting point and from which we can all benefit and learn. We find it hard to express and define ourselves from the common perspective that we share a precarious way of life. This precarious nature is perhaps devoid of a clear collective identity, which one can simplify and defend, but it urges us to address our situation collectively. We feel the need to express the shortfalls and excesses of our lives and working situations so as to be able to escape from the neoliberal fragmentation which divides us, weakens us, and makes us fall victim to fear. We want to be free from exploitation, selfishness, and the "every man for himself" attitude. Above all, we want to make the collective construction of other ways of life possible through a joint creative effort...".

Agnès Varda
The French filmmaker and "mother" of the nouvelle vague has made numerous films in which women have been the main protagonists. She gained world recognition with her second film, Cleo from 5 to 7, (1960). In 1977, the setting up of her own production company gave her the freedom she needed to produce her work, which she has always described as cinécriture.

She has been a true master of digression, transversal pathways, post-scriptum, the use of words to produce a visual effect and inserts, the superposition of images on Russian dolls, and the pleasure of the unforeseen, which she has shared with Jean Luc Godard. She is interested in fragments, small formats, jigsaws, non-linear circulation, and drifting, as she masterfully demonstrates in her most recent work, the documentary film Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (Gleaners and I). Filmed in digital video, the piece, which has become a cult film and has received numerous prizes, has sparked a huge debate in France and other countries. This prompted her to produce a second part under the tile of Deux ans après (Two years later). Filmed with a handy-cam, these documentaries are a product of her own feelings - about painting and the passing of time as seen through a subjective camera which looks at her own ageing process - and her personal concerns about social issues - as they show us the precarious existence of many people who live in today's welfare society.

Agnès Varda offers us a sociological study, a cinematic writing lesson and its changing essence in the current post-industrial universe of consumerism and individualism. Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond), released in 1985, tells the story of an unemployed young woman who leads a precarious life. The film, which won the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival, can be considered the forerunner of a series of documentaries made by the French filmmaker.



>> Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond) by Agnès Varda, 1985, original French version with Spanish subtitles, 105´

>> Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (Gleaners and I) by Agnès Varda, 2000, original French version with Spanish subtitles, 82´

>> Deux ans après (Two years later) by Agnès Varda, 2002, original French version with Spanish subtitles, 63´

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