Lecture at UBS Art Forum – “But What’s Actually Culture?”
On September 7/8, the UBS Art Forum took place at Wolfsberg castle. The conference, entitled “How Near is the Middle East?”, focused on the cultural production of the region. Apart from presentations by Sara Raza, Oussama Rifahi and Bib Naz Zavieh, Michael Schindhelm took a look at cultural export and import. Hereby focusing on Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Schindhelm asked, “But what’s Actually Culture?”
The presentation made clear that the notion of ‘culture’ is inextricably linked to political power. While in the 19th century, such claims to power became evident in the chauvinism of European colonialism, the relationship between cultural and political hegemony has become more complex: At first glance, franchises of Western museums, e.g. in the Emirates, seem to perpetuate the colonial history. However, it seems that cultural institutions in Europe and the United States are utterly dependent on financial support from the Gulf region. In turn, these Western institutions seem to be more than willing to agree on political concessions.