Building on its geographical location, its past as a land of immigration and city of refuge, and its experience of sharing and integration, Marseille has focused its project on the dialogue between Europe and the Mediterranean shores of Africa and the Middle East.
After the announcement of his city’s victory over its competitors, Bernard Latarjet, the director of Marseilles Provence 2013, emphasised that the major cultural questions being asked in Europe today were “eminently Mediterranean”, for instance migration, racism, gender relations, clashes between cultures and religions, and the future of natural resources such as water. He suggested that the European jury had no doubt decided to reward “the most cosmopolitan and intercultural city” with “an experience of integration through culture that other cities do not have”.
Themes of conflict will be the main thread running through some of the many events planned between now and 2013. For instance gender relations around the Mediterranean will be the focus of a large exhibition entitled “Sex, gender and minorities”, which will offer artists and philosophers an opportunity to air their views on this highly delicate issue.
The highlight of the Marseille Provence 2013 programme will be the particularly original concept of the Ateliers de l’Euro Méditerranée (Euro-Mediterranean Workshops), defined as “a major European project of intercultural dialogue and mobility for artists”, which will produce “an original and exemplary experience” within Europe. Two hundred to 250 of these training and creativity workshops for artists from Europe and the Mediterranean will be set up between now and 2013, for the most part in businesses but also in laboratories, schools and cultural institutions in the Marseille Provence region. Open to artists, researchers and scientists, they will, explains Bernard Latarjet, be “places of creativity where things are passed on from teacher to pupil, not only from the North to the South, but also from the South to the North”. Ten pilot workshops have already been set up in 2008 to test the ground and also to see how people get involved in the project.
The original concept of these workshops, which will continue beyond 2013 in both their mission and activities, is to turn Marseille Provence into “a European platform for cultural cooperation with the players and countries of Europe and the Mediterranean in all artistic and cultural fields”.
Two new European festivals will be created, which are also expected to become perennial: InterMed, a festival to “celebrate contemporary arts in the Mediterranean”, and Via Mars, which will examine art and the city, and new forms of artistic activity in the public arena.
The year 2013 will also see the First International Biennale of Circus Arts and a funfair for European artists.
One great hope: the long awaited opening of the MUCEM, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, a project that has been under way for several years but which depends on “significant financial input” from the State. The MUCEM is one of ten construction sites of cultural institutions such as the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Research, the Street Arts Centre and the FRAC (Regional Contemporary Art Fund), which are hoped to be completed by the end of 2012.
One special figure will be watching over Marseille, European Capital of Culture: the writer Albert Camus, the centenary of whose birth will be celebrated in 2013. An exhibition entitled Camus and the Mediterranean will be devoted to the humanist values he espoused, a conference will discuss Camus and the Pense de Midi and an original opera based on one of his plays, probably Les Justes (The Just), will be performed for the first time.
And from 2009 to 2013 Euro-Mediterranean programmes will be part of every major international cultural event in Provence, such as the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie (International Photography Encounters) in Arles, the International Opera Festival and the Ecritures Croisées literature festival in Aix-en-Provence, the International Piano Festival in La Roque d’Anthéron and the Festival of Arab Cinema in Marseille.
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