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Swiss culture sets sail for Genoa

Genoa will host hundreds of cultural and artistic events in 2004 Keystone

Switzerland will be showing off its cultural heritage in a series of events organised by the Italian city of Genoa, the 2004 European Capital of Culture.

This content was published on February 20, 2004 - 19:01

The city has chosen “Travelling” as the theme for its year-long exploration of different cultural frontiers.

“It’s hard to define the role of the European Capital of Culture. It certainly isn’t an Olympic Games, nor is it a cinema festival or a trade fair,” say the organisers of the hundreds of cultural events to be staged in Genoa throughout the year.

The European Union has been conferring the title on cities since 1985. In 2004, the honour was bestowed upon the French city of Lille as well as Genoa.

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and its cities cannot apply to become capitals of culture.

But the country’s artists and performers are still able to make their presence known in cities which do win the right to the coveted title.

“We’ve been warmly welcomed in Genoa. Almost adopted, one might say,” says Domenico Lucchini, director of the Swiss Cultural Centre in Milan.

“We’re the best represented of all foreign countries, with 16 programmes extending throughout the year,” he adds.

A cultural voyage

When it was chosen as the European Capital of Culture, Genoa decided it was going to do more than display its own history and cultural heritage.

As a home through the ages to navigators and explorers, Genoa chose to focus on travel and voyages - a theme which aptly conveys the idea of exploring different cultural and artistic worlds.

Swiss participants believe the theme is particularly suited to their home country, pointing to the fact that Switzerland’s comparatively small size encourages home-grown artistic talent to look for opportunities abroad.

“The motto of our presence in Genoa is ‘Svizzera e (é) altrove’. This play on words – which means both ‘Switzerland and the others’ and ‘Switzerland is elsewhere’ - is intended to recall something of the history of the country and the fact that its artists have been attracted to foreign lands, “ explains Lucchini.

Photo and film

Switzerland’s presence in Genoa will begin with an exhibition of photographs by Nicolas Bouvier, who travelled the world with his camera.

Film director Alain Tanner – who says he has always been intrigued by port cities - will present his 1984 documentary, “Dockers”, which was shot in Genoa.

Exhibits by the sculptor Jean Tinguely will be on display together with works by his Italian colleague, Bruno Munari.

But Switzerland’s most striking contribution in Genoa is likely to come from the world of dance.

One of the highlights of the city’s cultural festival will be a series of productions by independent Swiss dance companies that already enjoy an excellent reputation in Italy.

Cultural ties

“Being in Genoa is an important opportunity for us, “ says Sabine Schwarzenbach of the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia.

“This is an international event that will attract a large audience not only from Italy but also from other European countries and the reason we’re here is not so much to represent Switzerland in Italy as to encourage cultural exchange and dialogue between the two countries,” she adds.

Pro Helvetia’s office in Milan is coordinating Switzerland’s contribution to the festival in Genoa.

Its director says the task of promoting Swiss culture in Italy is not always an easy one.

“Switzerland has never done much in the past to shed its rather conservative image - even in terms of culture,” says Lucchini.

He hopes that Switzerland’s voyage to Genoa should go some way towards banishing some of the clichés.

“By crossing the border, we wish to present a creative Switzerland that is open to dialogue and constructive confrontation.”

swissinfo, Armando Mombelli

In brief

European Capital of Culture is a city designated by the European Union for a period of one year during which it is given a chance to showcase its cultural life and cultural development.

The project was launched by an initiative of the Greek Cultural minister, Melina Mercouri, in 1985.

It has become ever more popular with the citizens of Europe and has seen its cultural and socio-economic influence grow through the many visitors it has attracted.

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Key facts

2004 - Genoa and Lille, France share European Capital of Culture
2005 - Cork, Ireland
2006 - Patras, Greece
2007 - Luxembourg
2008 - Liverpool, Britain

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