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“Porto Santo Charter”: from democratisation to cultural democracy

28 Apr · 17h15

Graça Fonseca, Portuguese Minister of Culture © PNA

On the occasion of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture, the Portuguese National Plan for the Arts today presented the “Porto Santo Charter”, a guiding document containing principles and recommendations for the promotion of full cultural citizenship.

 

This “charter” – the name of which is taken from where it was presented, the Madeiran island of Porto Santo – is the result of a participatory process that has been ongoing since early March. It gathers the contributions from meetings between representatives of the EU Member States and from non-governmental organisations and networks active in the fields of the arts and culture. It is thus a document whose contents and formal construction process are in harmony, bringing cultural democracy to the fore.

From democratisation to cultural democracy

The presentation of this document marks the closing of the Porto Santo Conference, which was held on 27 and 28 April. Titled “From Democratisation to Cultural Democracy: Rethinking institutions and practices”, the conference was an opportunity to debate the meaning of “cultural democracy” today and to transform an insular, peripheral condition into a centre of reflection on and dissemination of cultural policies for Europe.

 

At a time when the cultural sector, artists and institutions are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, the aim of the Porto Santo Conference was to:

  1. promote a cultural vision that appreciates the value of pluralism, knowledge of the audiences, inclusion, participation, social cohesion and citizenship, and takes a strategic view of the way in which cultural and educational policies intersect
  2. encourage the expansion of cultural institutions into educational areas and of educational institutions into cultural milieus
  3. reflect on how cultural institutions and their processes contribute (or do not contribute) to a more democratic and free society, and on how they promote access to the fruition of culture and the production thereof
  4. develop a conceptual framework and practical recommendations for the various instances involved (governments, institutions and civil society) as a guidance for more inclusive and plural cultural practices, recognising the value of diversity and the cultural output of communities that are frequently marginalised
  5. critically debate the opportunities and challenges in the relationship between the arts, heritage and digital resources
  6. publish a key document, the “Porto Santo Charter”, that defines the guiding principles and recommendations for promoting democracy at the heart of cultural institutions and also make the greater participation and emancipation of the citizens possible.

 

The conference, which was held in a hybrid format (in-person and digital), featured the presence of Portuguese and European policy makers from the areas of culture and education, as well as two of the most influential philosophers of our time, Jacques Rancière and Chantal Mouffe. Further participants were the specialist on the relationship between the arts and education, Maria Acaso; and the reference figures in thought on post-colonial and inclusive cultural institutions, Wayne Modest and Maria Lind.

 

There were also had speakers who renowned for their experience in the relationship between the arts, heritage and digital territories. In addition, the conference featured a presentation and reflection on the “artivist” work of the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, and other art projects that contributed to reflection on the relationship between art and the community.