re:future Lab featuring

Emma Scribe

Emma Scribe is Corporate Patronage Officer at Philharmonie de Paris since 2018. As an expert for cultural management, she previously was in charge of patronage and venue events at Palais de Tokyo Paris  (since its renovation in 2012 the largest center of contemporary art in Europe) and has spoken at a number of conferences such as "Trends and Challenges of Private Funding in Culture" earlier in 2020. With the ultimate purpose to convince and attract corporate sponsors, foundations or individuals for private support, Emma brings an expertise that combines values and ethics, communication and marketing skills, along with an unfailing commitment to the cultural cause.

To that extent, her mission is to define and drive a fundraising strategy for Demos - the Socially Oriented Music and Orchestral Education project for children from urban policy neighbourhoods or rural areas with insufficient cultural institutions. The Philharmonie de Paris combines all approaches to music to contribute to the renewal of the artistic, educational and cultural offer. As such, the institution brings a new cultural model in which a vast transmission project supports prestigious artistic programming in order to offer an enriched musical experience shared by all.

If we stop looking for new stories to tell, humanity will be lost!

Démos,  a musical and educational program and a socially responsible symphony orchestra, celebrating 10 years, 2020


In your opinion, what influence can art have on social change? Can artists stimulate personal and social change? In your opinion, what is the mission of contemporary art and what is the role of artists in society?


I don't believe in aesthetic shock, in revelation in the face of art when the individual has not been prepared for it. Sensitivity to art is a capital that is transmitted, acquired and cultivated. Art does not revolutionize a social environment or an identity quickly, suddenly. For it to be a powerful lever for changing social patterns, classes, hierarchies, it takes time.

The major power of art on our society is the dialogue it proposes, the opening it brings. When an individual has been trained, sensitized by means adapted to artistic expression, then a door opens: that of otherness. What does the other say? Why does he say it? What form does this expression take? Does it touch me? This tiny step aside, this step back is in my opinion the greatest power of art. A child who doesn't know what classical music is: he has never heard it, nor his parents. He discovers it through a program that really accompanies him in this discovery, that shows him that everyone can grasp it, even him, and he succeeds. This child will then have all his life, the awareness that there are things he does not know, that he can (he has the power and the right) discover them, that he can understand them and dialogue with them. Being aware of this otherness and feeling capable of taming it gives the essential keys to dialogue.

The artist has the power to propose a form of expression that is pure, strong, sometimes committed. Through this proposal, he engages in a dialogue, he establishes a channel of interpersonal communication. When we succeed in dialoguing with art, we access our emotions, our interior, the dialogue then becomes also internal, deep. However, the artist also has the mission to listen, to meet society and groups that have no voice. Indeed, it is undoubtedly the artist who has the greatest capacity to invent modes of expression, both new and faithful to the major issues of our societies. If the artist remains on the lookout for the voices that surround him or her and seizes them, his or her practice becomes all the richer for it.


What role does storytelling play in times of great crisis and upheaval? In the light of the disasters and crises that characterize our world today, is it possible for us to dare to hope and imagine a better future?


History is made of stories. Storytelling is what brings women and men together, what stands the test of time. Imagination is what makes everyday life, crises and fears bearable.

The power of speech is that it is not always performative: something does not necessarily happen in reality when we speak. On the other hand, the richness of language allows us to say everything, to invent everything, to change everything. For me, narration has several roles: it puts a framework to our thoughts, it allows us to dialogue and to confront ourselves, it proposes and stimulates. Stories are vast drawings that fill notebooks with possible perspectives. Imagining a better future and telling it is indispensable, it is even the only thing to do. If we stop looking for new stories to tell, humanity will be lost!


What form could a dialogue between art and other disciplines take in order to promote social change and shape the future? What new impulses and ideas might emerge? What other disciplines would you like to interact with?


Today's art tends towards a gradual blurring of the boundaries between disciplines. The risk of course is to lose know-how and expertise. Doing everything, a little bit, quickly becomes disappointing.

Nevertheless, performance, syncretic art, taken seriously and at a high level, undoubtedly offers a richer and fairer way to express oneself. Especially if you want to unite as many people as possible around the same artistic project: everyone is touched by different things but at the same time, in the same performance hall. Practicing dance, singing, plastic work at the same time can also provoke new emotions: a dancer who sings, a white light that becomes matter or a painting. I think it's interesting not to just put a painting and a video, a dancer and a sculpture side by side in the same gallery. 

Creating projects that, from the beginning, are the fruit of a multidisciplinary collaboration between several artists creates new modes of expression, closer to the public. The inaccessible dimension of art lies in the codes it conveys: the one who knows how to behave distinctly in a gallery, an opera, a theatre and a cinema is the one who dominates. If artists now propose moments when several disciplines meet, these codes become less powerful and open the eye. In my opinion, the best example of this syncretism to date is the staging of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Les Indes Galantes by Clément Cogitore and Bintou Dembélé (2019). On a musical score from 1735, an intense visual and pictorial work and a score danced at the crossroads of the contemporary register, hip-hop, voguing and krump, they manage to bring out the violence of social conflicts and human dramas that are still prevalent today. Beyond establishing a dialogue between several socially connoted disciplines, they manage to create totally new emotions, which makes the perfect symbiosis they achieve all the stronger. Abolishing the boundaries between the arts is then a political act but also an aesthetic one.


What do you personally wish for a better future? Assuming that a better world could be built on the ruins of the old world - what would it look like in your opinion?


I don't believe in tabula rasa, in an after radical world. The current that is leading us towards ecological totalitarianism, for example, is very dangerous in my opinion. If humanity is only a tiny portion of the life on our planet, I am convinced that it is gradually settling down, like a fossil. For a better future, we should not forget the geological layers that preceded us, both real and symbolic. I believe in the strength of this dialogue between our collective history and the totally new solutions that we will propose. I believe that a better future will be slower although more digitally connected. There is an urgent need to reconnect the frantic urban dwellers to the rhythm of the ground they walk on every day: I hope that soon everyone will know that a tomato does not grow in November and that meat does not grow in trays. Far from being a neo-hippie, I think that knowing where things come from, how they are made, gives us an indispensable psychological and physiological anchor. Many of us live in a world that is completely above ground (like tomatoes) and I can't help but think that deep down, this creates immense anxiety for many of us. To live anchored is to live happier and to take full measure of one's responsibilities.

A better future is also a world that is less poor and less ignorant: value creation for all and education seem to me to be the two key factors for moving forward. When I ask myself the question "who among all the members of society has the most power to build a better world between the State, civil society, companies and associations? "I cannot bring myself to choose just one. For me, this question is necessary but insoluble. Therefore, I believe that in order to move in the right direction, each of these entities must take the full measure of the difficulties that await us and activate the levers that are theirs. Laws, citizen actions, corporate philanthropic policies and community initiatives all contribute in their own way. Nevertheless, we must arm ourselves with patience and circumspection: even in the face of an emergency, we must take the time not to forget anyone along the way.


What strategies, rituals or techniques do you personally use to find your way into a new work and start from scratch with a new project?


I write and settle down in a cabin in the forest for a few days. Put words on paper, breathe, walk, slow down to hear my own thoughts.


Dearest Emma, thank you very much for taking time to answer my questionaire in such a profund way. Your reflections trigger further thoughts on how important education is to shape the future of society.

The interview was conducted in May 2020

Interview: Madeleine Schwinge

Text:  Cécile Nebbot

Translation from French: Cécile Nebbot

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