Sometimes you don’t notice how important something is until it’s no longer there. And so it goes with the cultural sector. The lockdowns over the winter months have left us sorely missing concerts, exhibitions, theatre performances, cinemas and so much more. As individuals, we miss the shared experience of culture and the joy and inspiration it brings to our lives. But much more is missing: culture serves as a space in which we reflect on emerging trends in a playful and artistic way. And it is in this space that we ask ourselves, “How do we want to live? How will we live?”. Through culture we imagine, explore, and connect the many possible answers to these questions. The capacity of culture to strengthen the imagination and spur speculative thinking is particularly lacking in these times, as the pandemic calls into question our habits and our very understanding of the world and evokes in us a longing for the familiar.
The pandemic will be over one day soon hopefully. But the questions remain and are made all the more acute by the unfolding climate crisis. The need to limit climate change and curb the loss of biodiversity is abundantly clear. The question of how we can create sustainable societies requires a process of social dialogue in which culture can provide important insights. There is no doubting the great desire and capacity of many artists to tackle the big questions around this transformation through research and in cooperation with the sustainability sciences. But the funding instruments that could support this work do not exist: We need other, more sustainable, overarching forms of funding if we wish to harness the potential of art and culture to drive change with new ideas and enable cooperation with the sciences.
The Aesthetics and Sustainability Fund (FÄN) aims to close this gap by opening up new spaces of possibility and expanding the scope for artistic action. This funding instrument would encourage artistic interventions and foster participation in transformations towards sustainability, creating opportunities for cooperation and ensuring that culture-makers have the resources and time. The fund would facilitate projects that promote holistic thinking around socio-ecological challenges by situating them within a broader context and exploring problems from new and unfamiliar angles. It is also high time that we empower cultural institutions to do their part in tackling the climate crisis by using energy and resources more effectively. The Aktionsnetzwerk Nachhaltigkeit, an initiative in the spirit of the Aesthetics and Sustainability Fund, is one pioneer in this space.
It was Adrienne Goehler who brought the idea of a fund to foster an aesthetic practice of sustainability to the IASS and developed this concept further. Since then, the Institute’s Board of Directors and the research group on “Narratives and Images of Sustainability” have taken up the idea, which also enjoys the support of numerous figures from the fields of culture and science. All this suggests that the time is ripe for FÄN. And as we all know: Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come ...