The 2014 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture was presented to Teatro Valle Occupato from Rome and Teodor Celakoski from Zagreb at an official ceremony at BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, in Brussels on 18 March 2014.
Teatro Valle Occupato saved Italy’s oldest theatre from an uncertain future in 2011 by occupying it. Since then, the loose-knit collective of performers, directors, technicians and citizens transformed the space into one of Europe’s most ground-breaking cultural venues reinvigorating cultural life in the heart of Rome. The group focuses on keeping the Teatro Valle open to all by using non-hierarchical decision making to involve greater democratic participation. In constructing and defending culture as a process that is continuously shaped in public with others, this community inspires similar initiatives all over Europe. The jury has chosen to award the Teatro Valle Occupato in recognition of its collective energy in making culture a space for people to join in, where culture becomes a process that produces new values and forms of social life.
Guided by the idea that culture can be an agent for transformation, Teodor Celakoski has brought together and mobilised a broad range of citizens to explore new forms of public agency. Among the many initiatives he has been a catalysing force of are the Multimedia Institute with its cultural centre MaMa as a junction of various communities focusing on digital culture, human rights and critical theory; Clubture, a collaborative platform which connects independent cultural organisations in Croatia; and Right to the City (Pravo na Grad), an alliance engaging citizens and communities against the privatisation of urban commons. The jury described Celakoski as a pivotal figure in shaping Croatia’s independent cultural scene and praised him for his commitment to making real democratic processes possible.
In going beyond the traditional spheres of culture, Teodor Celakoski and Teatro Valle Occupato show us how collective forms of action can tangibly influence a wider civil sphere. As the economic crisis leads to public spending cuts in many countries, citizens and collectives are mobilising to create urgently needed organisational alternatives that reclaim cultural practice from neoliberal governmentality and marketisation.
Opening with defiant drum rolls from techno-percussive duo N.M.O, the tone was set for handing over the 2014 Princess Margriet Award to this year’s laureates.
The awards came in the shape of specially crafted tuning forks mounted on a sound box. They were handed out by HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, ECF’s former President, in the Horta Hall in BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels.
In her opening address, ECF’s current President HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands drew parallels between BOZAR’s impressive hall at the heart of cultural life and Brussels, packed with more than 350 people, and the ancient Greek agora – a gathering place where crowds of people would assemble to exchange goods and discuss all kinds of topics, from business to politics, from the daily news to the universe and the divine.
ECF’s Director Katherine Watson guided the audience through the evening’s proceedings, explaining that, although this year’s laureates come from a very specific local context, they each reflect a wider movement of citizen engagement from around Europe and across the globe.
Members of Teatro Valle Occupato – described by guest speaker Professor Ugo Mattei as “heroes of our time” – also shared their award via live Skype link with some of the 5,000-strong activists in Rome who have occupied one of Italy’s most prestigious theatres for the past three years.
In accepting his award, laureate Teodor Celakoski acknowledged that the recognition was hugely encouraging for the collective movement he has helped to set in motion.
Member of the jury Bojana Cvejic reading from the the jury motivation said "Both of this year’s laureates show us how shared forms of action – from within and beyond the sphere of culture – can inspire us all to become more directly involved in the political decision-making that shape our lives. In a wider context of European crisis and austerity, they show us how culture can animate the public sphere.”
2014 Award Jury
- Bojana Cvejić, Performance theorist and maker, Brussels/Belgrade
- Rana Zincir Celal, Program Manager, Columbia Global Centers | Turkey and Executive Board Member, Anadolu Kultur
- Chris Dercon, Director, Tate Modern, London
- Christian Esch, Director, NRW Kultursekretariat, Wuppertal
- Els van der Plas, General Director, Muziektheater, Amsterdam