Traditions in Transition
New articulations in the arts therapies
“… In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be… For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts…”
Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931
Le Conquête de l’ubiquite
The 14th international ECArTE conference gathers in Krakow, Poland. Historically, Krakow grew from a Stone Age settlement to Poland’s second most important city, with an extensive cultural heritage. The entire medieval Old Town was among the first to be selected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, joined in 2013 by the nearby Bochnia Salt Mines. But whilst Krakow breathes tradition, it has also welcomed development and innovation and is alive with cultural and artistic innovation. Krakow is now an important academic and artistic centre and was European Capital of Culture in 2000.
Krakow offers examples of the tensions inherent in the conference theme. Traditions in transition suggests movement, an openness to the new, with a simultaneous reviewing of custom and the established order. It questions the relevance of traditions and their operation, whether artistic, cultural or religiously embedded. It asks at what point traditions become custom-bound and the impact of cultural revolutions such as the reach of digital and social media? We are living in borderline times in which questions of communication, territory and the mass movement of refugees generate questions of humanity, belonging and place. On the one hand, this borderland speaks to possibility, new vision, looking outward at the edge of the known. On the other, it suggests instability and prompts states of confusion and lack of cohesion.
Walter Benjamin questions ‘tradition’ as a concept in his 1936 essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. The essay opens with Paul Valéry’s quotation above. If we translate Benjamin’s concepts to our time, we observe a fundamental detachment from the domain of tradition, where new processes in technique, social and national relations, religions, and mass movements can lead to a shattering of tradition. How then do the arts and arts therapies respond to this shattering, to a zeitgeist of shifting sands and boundary crossing? How do they offer a mirror to culture and its emerging concerns, prompting fresh and radical perspectives in both clinical work and educational practice? The arts therapies draw on tradition, but must also recognise the diversity of contemporary cultural practices and beliefs. Tradition may both support and limit developing research, theories and practices.
This conference is a chance to engage in a critical and aesthetic examination of such questions, prompting a re-evaluation of techniques, established orders, theories, philosophies and approaches to education. This call for papers, workshops, performances and posters is a call for new articulations of how arts therapies engage with the emergent concerns of the times in which we live.