Surprises behind open lectures "Culture 2.0" at the Forum

Open Lectures "Culture 2.0," a special project of Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum, opened its discussion venue at Manege Central Exhibition Hall. According to an established tradition, most discussions and workshops were dedicated to technologies in culture and arts.

This year the events of Open Lectures "Culture 2.0" centered around the idea that any technological innovations, such as the artificial intellect, robotized mechanisms or neural networks not only make our lives easier but help redefine our creative abilities. Experts from 19 countries of the world discussed the influence of technological progress on such spheres as music, design, theatre, museum business, and dance, they also presented their unique projects and tried to predict the future development of culture.

For example, contemporary artist Ben Cullen Williams (United Kingdom) described his "Living Archive" project, which he implemented last summer in Los Angeles in cooperation with Wayne McGregor's Studio and Google Arts & Culture. "Living Archive" is an experiment of using artificial intelligence in art; one example includes analyzing dancers' movements from McGregor's archive over 25 years, and then suggesting new moves. Further on, McGregor staged an entire dance show based on recommendations of artificial intelligence.

Founder of AICAN and Artindex Ahmed Elgamal (US) presented CAN (Creative Adversarial Network), a system which allows artificial intelligence not only to copy images or retain its aesthetics, but also produce new interesting forms. Ahmed also commented that as of today artificial intelligence has not intent or idea: it simply creates digital images, designed by people.

As part of the discussion entitled "Where is This World Going to?" the participants talked about legal regulations of the work done by artificial intelligence: "I'm glad that at the last meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Helsinki issues of creating the regulatory framework were considered so that it could allow regulating design and use of artificial intelligence. This will allow us to make sure that use of artificial intelligence does not interfere with human rights but supports and strengthens them," said Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni (Italy), Deputy General Secretary of the Council of Europe.

The Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky shared the experience of using technological innovations in Russia. At the lecture entitled "Digital Technologies and the Cultural Sector" he talked about Artefact, a digital platform which uses the augmented reality technology. Artefact is a guide around Russia's museums, which includes 78 multimedia guides and more than 3,000 exhibits.

Suad Garaeva-Maleki (Azerbaijan), creative director of YARAT Contemporary Art Space, talked about the influence of art on the society as a whole: "Private museums have a great opportunity to shape the culture of the city not only through arranging exhibitions but also creating different programs. Now we already have educational programs for the general public, which include lectures, seminars, art residence programs. We also hold seminars for children and adults. We have even created the YARAT Academy, where we invite leading speakers from around the world, who come with lectures to various universities in Baku. This is a way for us to present an alternative not only to state museums but the state educational system as a whole.

The topic of education and its future came up several times during discussions. For instance, marketing specialist with Intel® RealSense™ Technology Suzanne Leibrick (US) said that it was very important to study the ways people interact with the world, so that later we could teach robots to do the same. Michal Eitan (Israel), lecturer in the master's program in design at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, said that design must become a part of educational programs in various majors, because it is design that brings order into chaos.

Theatre designers also shared interesting ideas. Sophie Jump (United Kingdom), Artistic Co-Director of Seven Sisters Group, talked about blurred borders between different disciplines: in her opinion, designers in the theatre today become visual dramatists and even architects of theatre events. Costume designer Louise Flanagan (United Kingdom) supported the idea with the example from her own experience, when the costumes that she created and that dancers removed in the process of the performance remained a part of stage design. Louise also said that out of all the novelties in her profession, 3D printing is most useful: if not for working on the entire costume, then for working on separate accessories and decorative elements.

Nevertheless, many experts agreed that technological novelties are not yet of prime significance in every sphere of culture and art: "We will not be able to automate everything in our profession. All of us understand well now that artificial intelligence will continue influencing our life more and more, but we believe that it must help the artist, and not stand in his or her way. The human creative core, I think, is never going to end," said Hannes Raffaseder (Austria), composer and Vice Rector for Research and Innovations at the Saint Pelten University of Applied Sciences.

The discussion entitled "Residences are falling asleep — The City wakes up". Representatives of night mayors' offices and specialists on cultural development of cities discussed the phenomenon of city night life. Lutz Leichsenring (Germany), member of the Executive Committee of Clubcomission Berlin, talked about the three directions in which nightlife is developing — economic, social, and aesthetic. The emphasis must be placed on the two latter: social aspects include, for instance, overall atmosphere, tolerance and inclusion, while the aesthetic aspects concern musical accompaniment and design. The city authorities provide economic support for the project: as part of the Noise Protection Fund project, the government of Berlin allocated EUR 1 billion for sound insulation of local clubs. There are some 140 clubs and more than 100 music venues in Berlin today, Lutz said.

At the public talk entitled "UEFA Cup 2020 in Saint Petersburg. One Continent — One Culture: What Will the Cultural Program of the Main Football Tournament of the Year Be Like?" the focus shifted from the nightlife in European cities to the cultural life of Saint Petersburg: 'Sport events, especially when it comes to football, are incredibly attractive. As for the FIFA World Cup that took place in Russia, the audience exceeded 4 billion people. It's difficult for us not to use a prospect of showing Saint Petersburg — such a unique city and cultural capital of the world. This is our chance to immerse guests and players of the European Football Championship in the atmosphere of the highest culture,' said Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Olga Golodets. She also announced that ballerina Diana Vishneva will serve as a new ambassador of Saint Petersburg at Euro 2020.