Declaration concerning the Universal Value of Free Cultural Spaces.
What would the world look like if there was no room for culture? For places where people think, talk, sing,listen and laugh. What would the world look like if there were no cultural spaces? If there were no free spaceswhere expression, community and explicit implicitness reign supreme? Then the world would be flat, dull,silent.
From time immemorial, there have been places recognized by the administration as cultural spaces. Spacesthat have been created, supported, embraced and maintained by the administration. Public places, markets,streets, circuses, squares, open places within and outside settlements, remote areas where communitiesacting and expressing in a self-regulating way, were considered Free Cultural Spaces throughout the centuries. From Plato’s Akademia1, the Academy, outside the walls of Athens where everyone was welcome to express
themselves and to discuss, to the development of the Artes Liberales2, the Free Arts, where language skills, logical reasoning, eloquence, music and knowledge about space, time and space-in-time were the essential core. The same goes for the more recent concept of Freiraum3, Free space, standing for those public spaceswhere no behavioural constraints are exercised, and in which the self- created Free Cultural Spaces where visual arts, prose and poetry, theatre, film, music, dance and expression meet, alternate, influence and merge without losing their individual character traits.
People from all walks of life meet in Free Cultural Spaces. They are the places where the unknown is explored and where boundaries are pushed. In Free Cultural Spaces it is the residents and users who take responsibility
for the interpretation and internal organisation. Their existence strengthens the connection between city,country and neighbourhood residents, and through their hospitality they promote a versatile cosmopolitancommunity.
In the knowledge that a society exists by the grace of equal living, working and being together, it is important to elevate these values as the norm. A society cannot exist without breeding grounds, without a place wherenature and culture meet, where people can be themselves together. Spaces like these can also be seen as gardens and laboratories for interpersonal actions and activities in relation to forms of alternative economies, immaterialism and both individual and collective self-sufficiency, among other things. A society that takes itself
seriously creates space for this growth and learning because it respects what the space is being used for whether it is taken or provided.
Over the last fifty years, quite a number of Free Cultural Spaces have been created, developed, spatiallyembedded and administratively tolerated. The presence of Free Cultural Spaces makes the existence of the political and administrative system an environment in which it is more pleasant to be human, regardless of where in the world. Free Cultural Space initiatives have always existed and always will. Many have since disappeared, others survived and new are in the making. We note, however, that under pressure from primarily economic considerations in many parts of the world, Free Cultural Spaces have less and less room to be created, developed and maintained in order to enjoy their fundamental cultural and social rights to the same extent as, for example, the established cultural expressions.
Rights and regulations
There is at least a moral and social right to have, hold and maintain free cultural areas and thus Free Cultural Spaces. Free Cultural Spaces are there for everyone. But the simple moral and social appeal is no longer sufficient.
Given the increasing pressure on international Free Space Culture, now is the time to embed Free Cultural Spaces in political and/or administrative discourse. Even though this is precisely a contradiction in terms from the rationale of Free Cultural Space, it is currently the only way to prevent further international erosion of Free Cultural Space. We consider that government bodies and administrations want to linger in these spaces just as much as citizens and country folk actors. The need to transform moral rights into a slightly more regulated body, to embed free cultural spaces in the system, therefore seems feasible. Freedom, Culture and Space are part of society, make room for free culture and embed Free Cultural Spaces in the administrative landscape.
Some rights are hard-won, precisely by and for members of a society that should not be overlooked. Some ofthese rights, for example those on cultural freedom, are so obvious and common that it is sometimes forgotten to actually notice them. This also goes to, for example rights of equality and inclusiveness.
Acknowledging the rights on cultural freedom by recording and anchoring them could thus be helpful. The existence of declarations and manifestos on fundamental human rights and on cultural uniqueness4, lead to the thought that the fundamental rights on Free Cultural Spaces should also be embraced by the
international ruling community, in this stage no matter if consent is expressed by signature, ratification or accession. Naming freedoms, giving culture a place and putting space on the map are sufficient reasons to articulate the right to Free Cultural Spaces, to enshrine it and to assert it in the administrative system, just like Plato’s Akademia, the Artes Liberales and the concept of Freiraum.
Free Cultural Spaces contribute to a society and thus are part of that society and precisely that is reasonenough for the integration of its concepts. In fact it is the re-introduction of Free Cultural Spaces in society, since Free Cultural Spaces have been silent witnesses from long times past, but have actually never gone away and have never ceased to exist. Nevertheless many Free Cultural Space initiatives have not been given the attention they deserve. Some of the Free Cultural Spaces have been dissolved, others are endangered, new
initiatives sometimes meet compatible interests, but incompatible interests too.
Embedding the concepts of Free Cultural Spaces in United Nations guardianship is a way to ensure the continued existence of the current and the development of new Free Cultural Spaces by means of political and administrative preconditions.
Amsterdam 22nd October 2022
Team Free Cultural Spaces Amsterdam
(Aja Waalwijk, Ernst Du Pon, Patrick van Ginkel, Myra Driessen, Jefta Hoed, Hans Waalwijk, Hay Schoolmeesters)
1 Wikipedia, lemma ‘Platonic Academy’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Platonic_Academy&oldid=1072847280)
2 Wikipedia, lemma ‘Liberal arts education’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Liberal_arts_education&oldid=1081613196).
3 Wiktionary, lemma ‘Freiraum’ (https://en.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=Freiraum&oldid=65724490).
4 In this case the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity of 2001 as adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 as adopted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), and the Declaration concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries of 1989 as adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO),
5 These words have a specific meaning in the way a state expresses consent in its acceptance of a United Nations treaty. Based on the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the significance of these words is given withing the so called ‘Vienna formula’. See Wikipedia, lemma ‘Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties’