Monday, November 14, 2011

Uncensoring the Capital

While in Essen, I made time to visit Zollverein. This industrial mining complex is a perfect example of how the coal mining and the coal processing industry of the 19th and 20th century was. 
The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex (German Zeche Zollvereinhas been inscribed into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since December 14, 2001 and is one of the anchor points of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. 

Entrance to the Ruhr Museum

The sheer size and the near perfect condition of the complex makes the place impressive. But not only that, what's also very interesting about the place is its use today. Zollverein has become a cultural and artistic centre with a multitude of buildings being used for different things like museums, conference halls, artist's workshops, exhibition spaces, concert halls, dance halls, casinos, restaurants and whatever you fancy. This was partly the result of Essen being the European Capital of Cultural, something that Valletta will be in 2018. There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from places like Essen. On the plus side, what they managed to to with Zollverein is impressive. The down side of all this is that from what I heard while talking to locals, those that lived and worked around this complex don't feel part of the transformation. The elite just took over their space in the name of culture.  

Main Staircase inside Ruhr Museum
We still have a long way to go to 2018, and that's on many levels. We need a change in censorship laws, a change of mentality of what art is, we need to create contemporary art spaces, we need....well the list is endless really. But what we should do, as a country, is to take this opportunity to place art where it deserves, not just as a touristic attraction but part of who and what we really are, our true identity, if there is one. And also regenerate Valletta and keep the city alive not just during shop hours. Because lets face it, Valletta is half dead (or half alive if we want to be positive). Shops and offices alone won't keep the city alive. In a way, the capital has only half a voice, that of commerce. What we need to do is infuse art in the everyday (and night) life of our capital...and to do that we need to involve the people. 

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