An update on Therme Art’s programme of discussions, debating and developing necessary cultural adaptations in our cities in the wake of COVID-19.
Therme Art, the international art initiative of global wellbeing leader Therme Group, recently launched the Wellbeing Culture Forum, a programme of public and private online discussions. The events take place online at Therme Art’s ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ sessions.
To date, the cultural aspects of COVID-19 have been largely ignored, and the insufficiency of a purely scientific approach in tackling the crisis is becoming increasingly apparent. Driven by the urgent need for extensive cultural adaptation, the Wellbeing Culture Forum aims to generate the collaboration and insight needed to put culture at the core of understanding human life and wellbeing.
With an interdisciplinary approach, the forum sessions are led by questions such as:
- How can COVID-19 be understood as a cultural problem, and why is culture an essential element of the solution?
- What role can art and culture play in the creation of healthier and more sustainable urban environments?
- What would a manifesto for a ‘Wellbeing City’ look like, and what steps are needed to create it?
At this time when cities are largely standing still, Therme Art takes the view that there is a window of time and space to devise cultural adjustments for the problems of interconnection between modern life and the natural world. Often described as the year of ‘environmental consciousness,’ 2019 saw many landmark moments for the global environment, with wildfires across the world, rapid melting of polar ice, and rising sea levels. Many have linked the pandemic to climate change, and the Wellbeing Cultural Forum series considers the specific responses needed to place COVID-19 alongside broader global challenges.
Inspired by the ambitious and interdisciplinary impulse of Bauhaus – the last major revolution in city planning, which occurred at the same time as the global Spanish Flu pandemic – the Wellbeing Culture Forum is founded on the need to diverge from the technocratic logic driving urban environments towards a more complex, holistic approach. It takes the view that, if humans are to survive on this planet, it is essential to listen to the environment, and as a complex system, art opens perception, enabling modes of human existence in harmony with the natural world.
Commenting on the Wellbeing Culture Forum, Mikolaj Sekutowicz, CEO and Curator of Therme Art commented:
“While the immediate global response is mainly addressing the symptoms of this crisis, there is a deep underlying human socio-cultural condition which is to some extent responsible for this outbreak, and the consequences can only be addressed through a wide-ranging interdisciplinary perspective on the organisation of human life.”
Each panel discussion is co-hosted by Mikolaj Sekutowicz together with various partners and partner institutions from the private and public sector throughout 2020.
- The highly anticipated first public session, Art in Architecture, took place on 27 May and was moderated by Curator and Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries, Hans Ulrich Obrist in conversation with the current and past architects of the Serpentine Pavilions Sumayya Vally (Counterspace), Frida Escobedo, and Junya Ishigami; as well as the artist Torkwase Dyson and architect and Chairman of the Triennale di Milano Stefano Boeri.
Inspired by the Serpentine Pavilion Programme, the session focused on the relationship between art and architecture, emphasising the systemic change that can be brought about by fostering greater exchange between these two distinct fields, and trying to find answers to the urgent question, “How art can liberate architecture?“
- On 17 June the second session Culture of Live Events: Redesigning Common Rituals was directly prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions faced across the world. As large events and gatherings were cancelled or postponed, there was an increasing realisation of the importance of being together in groups. It has become clear that our culture needs to provide adequate space for the voices and concerns of all parts of society.
Co-moderated by Marc Spiegler (Global Director of Art Basel), the panel comprised several leading figures in event planning and production including Es Devlin (artist and designer), Zoé Whitley (Director of Chisenhale Gallery), Franklin Sirmans (Director of PAMM Miami), John McGrath (Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Manchester International Festival and The Factory), Constantin Chiriac (President of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival and General Manager of the Radu Stanca National Theatre Sibiu) and Robert C. Hanea (Chairman and CEO of Therme Group).
- As part of the ongoing partnership of Therme Art and the British Council, the third iteration of the series took place on 24 June. Led by the British Council’s Director of Visual Arts Emma Dexter, The Social Culture of Cities, the session invited among others Sonia Boyce RA, OBE, Artist, representing the UK at La Biennale d’Arte Venezia 2022, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Director, The Showroom, London and Gavin Wade, Artist-Curator and Director, Eastside Projects to examine the role of architecture in individual and collective wellbeing, along with its potential for renewed civic and political consciousness.
Speaking on the Wellbeing Cultural Forum programme, Dr Robert C. Hanea commented:
“We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in living memory – one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives. The Wellbeing Culture Forum is a gesture of hope – laying the foundation for creative and sustainable solutions that will place humanity in a much more secure position over the years to come.”
The Wellbeing Culture Forum aims to encourage major initiatives as part of the global wellbeing movement. Its diverse conversations about culture are designed to create ‘insights for action,’ culminating in the creation of a Wellbeing Manifesto. This will be made freely available worldwide, for individuals and organisations to implement and influence positive cultural change.
For further information regarding the full series of events, including dates and participation, please visit the Therme Art website: www.therme.art/forumlive