'Imagination is what makes crises and fears bearable' (Emma Scribe)
credit. Emma Scribe 2020
Démos celebrating 10 years, 2020
credit. Emma Scribe 2020
Emma Scribe is Corporate Patronage Officer at Philharmonie de Paris. She is in charge of the fundraising strategy for Demos, a socially-oriented music and orchestral education project for children from urban policy neighbourhoods and rural areas. Through such an initiative, the Philharmonie de Paris aims to bring a new cultural model in which a vast transmission project supports prestigious artistic programmes to enrich musical experience shared by all.
Emma holds an expertise that combines values and ethics, communication skills, and an extensive knowledge of the fundings and art market in Paris. As an expert for cultural management, she has been in charge of patronage and venue events at Palais de Tokyo and has spoken at a number of conferences.
What influence can art have on social change? Can artists stimulate personal and social change? What is the mission of contemporary art and what is the role of artists in society?
I don't believe in aesthetic shock, in revelation in the face of art when the individual has not been prepared for it. Sensitivity to art is a capital that is transmitted, acquired and cultivated. Art cannot revolutionise a social environment or an identity all in a sudden. To be a powerful lever of change for social patterns, classes, hierarchies, it takes time. The major power of art is the dialogue and openness it can bring.
When an individual has been trained, sensitised to artistic expression, then a door opens: that of otherness. To me, this tiny step aside, this step back is the greatest power of art. It is what our programs aim to offer to these children who are lacking classical knowledge of music: awareness and trust to understand, grasp musical education, and finally the essential keys to enter in dialogue.
The artist has the power to propose a form of expression that is pure, strong, sometimes committed. Through this proposal, he engages in a dialogue, he is able to establish a channel of interpersonal communication. However, the artists also have the mission to listen and meet individuals and groups that have no voice. The artists have undoubtedly the greatest capacity to invent particular modes of expression, new and faithful to the great social issues. If the artists remain alert to the voices around them and captures them, their practice will then be richer.
What role does narrative play in times of great crisis and upheaval? In the light of disasters and crises of our world, is it still possible to dare to hope and imagine a better future?
History is made of stories. Storytelling is what brings women and men together, what stands the test of time. Imagination is what makes everyday life, crises and fears bearable.
The power of speech is that it is not always performative: something does not necessarily happen in reality when we speak. On the other hand, the richness of language allows us to say everything, to invent everything, to change everything. For me, narration has several roles: it puts a framework to our thoughts, it allows us to dialogue and to confront ourselves, it proposes and stimulates. Stories are vast drawings that fill notebooks with possible perspectives. Imagining a better future and telling it is indispensable, it is even the only thing to do. If we stop looking for new stories to tell, humanity will be lost!
What form could a dialogue between art and other disciplines take to promote social change and (re)shape the future? What new impulses and ideas might emerge? What other disciplines would you like to interact with?
Today's art tends towards a gradual blurring of boundaries between disciplines. The risk is to lose know-how and expertise. Nevertheless, performance, syncretic art, taken seriously and at high level, offers a richer and fairer way to express oneself.
Creating projects that, from the very beginning, are the fruit of a multidisciplinary co-construction between several artists creates new modes of expression, closer to the public. The inaccessible dimension of art lies in the codes it conveys: the one who knows how to behave distinctly in a gallery, an opera, a theatre and a cinema is the one who dominates.
If artists now propose moments when several disciplines meet, these codes become less powerful and open the eyes. One of the best examples of such a syncretism to date is, to my opinion, the staging of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Les Indes Galantes by Clément Cogitore and Bintou Dembélé (2019). On a musical score from 1735, an intense visual and pictorial work and a score danced at the crossroads of contemporary register, hip-hop, voguing and krump, they manage to bring out the violence of social conflicts and human drama that are still prevalent today. Beyond establishing a dialogue between socially connoted disciplines, they manage to create new emotions, which makes the perfect symbiosis stronger. Abolishing the boundaries between the arts is then a political act, though an aesthetic one.
What do you personally wish for a better future? Assuming that a better world could be built on the ruins of the old world, what would it look like?
I don't believe in tabula rasa, in an after radical world. The current that is leading us towards ecological totalitarianism, for example, is very dangerous in my opinion.
If humanity is only a tiny portion of the life on our planet, I am convinced that it is gradually settling down, like a fossil. For a better future, we should not forget the geological layers that preceded us, both real and symbolic. I believe in the strength of this dialogue between our collective history and the totally new solutions that we will propose. I believe that a better future will be slower although more digitally connected.
There is an urgent need to reconnect the frantic urban dwellers to the ground they walk in every day. Many of us live in a world that is completely above ground (like tomatoes) and I can't help but think that deep down, this creates immense anxiety for many of us. To live anchored is to live happier and to take full measure of one's responsibilities.
A better future is also a world that is less poor and less ignorant: value creation for all and education seem to me the two key factors to move forward. If I ask myself: who has the power to build a better world: the State, the civil society, companies or associations? I am not able to choose just one. Such a question is necessary but insoluble. To move in the right direction, each of these entities shall activate the levers they hold in their hands: laws, citizenship actions, corporate philanthropic policies and community-based initiatives. Nevertheless, we must arm ourselves with patience and circumspection: even in the face of emergency, we must not forget anyone along the way.
What strategies or rituals do you use to find your way into a new project?
I write and settle down in a cabin in the forest for a few days. Put words on paper, breathe, walk, slow down to hear my own thoughts.
The interview was conducted in May 2020
Translation from French: Cécile Nebbot