Jury Report: 2016 European Cultural Foundation Princess Margriet Award for Culture

Jury Member Chris Dercon reads the Jury Report at the Ceremony. Photo by Xander Remk es

Jury Member Chris Dercon reads the Jury Report at the Ceremony. Photo by Xander Remkes

Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, distinguished guests, laureates:

Tonight, we honour Medialab-Prado and Krétakör. Their work is a dynamic example of how cultural activity can contribute to and even create the world we want to live in. Resonating with ECF’s belief that social and political change requires artistic and cultural engagement. Both test the boundaries of their disciplines, opening doors to new forms of participation, a critical involvement in social change that stimulates solidarity between young and old, and across differences of background, temperament and education. Participation that spurs real social change.

The jury applauds Medialab-Prado, an interdisciplinary laboratory for digital culture in the heart of Madrid. Over the years, Medialab-Prado has worked to establish a dialogue between media culture and digital networks within the local urban environment. Medialab-Prado understands that building a dedicated community requires not only a strong online presence, but also the physical location that this presence gave rise to. For this reason, they continuously seek to bring together artists, scientists, activists, architects, hackers and other inquisitive minds – not only in Madrid, but across Spain, elsewhere in Europe and throughout the world. Their workshops cover subjects ranging from launching open source data to multi-generational programming, encouraging the many artists and communities who participate in the lab to take up the tasks that most appeal to them.

Medialab-Prado is a manifestation of the networked world. Ordinary citizens can learn, experiment and become actively involved in shaping culture through technology. They enter into a process of political emancipation, becoming able to access the tools of technology not for commercial gain but rather to serve the common aim of reinventing the public arena.

In alliance with the municipality of Madrid, Medialab-Prado feeds into a fluid civic-public partnership in which citizens have a direct stake and influence in public institutions. It learns from citizens, in turn shaping their ideals of citizenship. Public institutions across Europe have much to learn from Medialab-Prado’s provocatively open-minded cultural model, which may enable them to join in and create global networks, founded on the day-to-day interconnection of local citizens working to shape societies according to their own visions of social justice, liveability and affordability.

Theatre group Krétakör has never shunned the daunting task of addressing burning political issues. Fervently independent, the group employs innovative dramatic approaches to stimulate discussion and debate on people’s experience of the world, their dreams, and the contradictory realities of belonging.

Krétakör was founded in 1995 by Arpad Schilling and has grown into a socially committed and renowned theatre company in Hungary and abroad. The jury was particularly impressed by Krétakör’s 2008 shift from purely stage-based performance to social forum. Directly wresting with social themes, Krétakör has focused on pedagogical projects such as ‘The Free School’, which prepares Hungarian secondary school students to become self-aware, active members of society and to exercise a degree of critical thinking which bypasses dominant social constraints. In its other projects, Krétakör has used role-play to provoke empathic discussions between Roma and non-Roma populations in towns where relations between the two groups are tense. Krétakör’s performance-based interventions demonstrate that art is capable of asking serious questions and unpicking ideological assumptions. Rather than shunning the difficulties of dialogue by retreating into familiar cultural constructs, Krétakör devises social interventions in the field that bridge wide gaps using exciting, poetic gestures. Its persistent questioning of conventions and stereotypes helps us address the complex realities of democracy: precisely the kind of questioning that fans the flames of social emancipation, encouraging us to re-imagine democracy as community-building in progress rather than an end state.