On 19 January, Culture at the Core invited a selection of cross-industry experts who elaborated on the cultural paradigm shift needed to welcome a new era of cultural production that cultivates natural intelligence into infrastructure, technology and community.
New media artist Refik Anadol opened Culture at the Core with a keynote. Anadol represents a new generation of artists that focus on creating art with life rather than dead matter. His emblematic work, using the means of the digital, dives deep into the understanding of natural processes: from neuronal activity to environmental processes. This approach is exemplified by Coral Dreams, the work commissioned for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of 2023 and curated by Joseph Fowler. Refik Anadol’s recent research trip to the territory of the Yawanawa community started a unique collaboration that will explore the very source of our human existence kept alive through Indigenous wisdom.
“During the Impact One trip to the Yawanawa territory, one night whilst looking at the sky, we learned from their leader Nixiwaka that as humanity – even without VR, AI and datasets – we have memories that we physically share in this giant universe. It was a powerful message, going straight to humanity’s heart everywhere.” — Refik Anadol
The keynote was followed by a conversation ushering in a forward-thinking, transdisciplinary approach to global cultural production, in which human genius and culture is guided by the intelligence and wisdom of the natural world, rather than isolated from it. Speakers included new media artist Refik Anadol, Chairwoman of Impact One Roksana Ciurysek-Gedir, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Dreamscape Immersive Ronald Menzel, VP of Global Growth Strategy of Therme Group and CEO Therme Capital Partners Sheikha Al Mheiri, CEO of Therme Group Robert Hanea, Head of Human Insights at To.org Rachael Ferguson, and CEO of Impact One Mikolaj Sekutowicz.
Rachael Ferguson opened the panel on the fundamental importance of culture by discussing her mission at to.org, in facilitating the preservation and revitalisation of culture in communities affected by climate-related and politically-driven displacement. She argued that only through the protection of traditions and cultures, including those of indigenous peoples such as the Yawanawa and Sapara, would we be able to heal the world in its current state.
“It comes down to three main things: providing people with a sense of agency, that they have control over what’s going on in their life; self determination—the Yawanawa, Sapara nations, they need to know that what they care about in their hearts is translated into what happens on a daily basis; and authenticity.” — Rachel Ferguson
The subsequent speakers built upon this notion of the need to centre human activity around cultural understanding. Robert Hanea spoke on the crucial role culture plays in the advancement of technology, in dictating the trajectory of the built environment, and the aim of Therme Group to allow culture to positively and holistically influence infrastructural developments.
Sheikha Al Mheiri expanded on this by illustrating the intrinsic link between culture and the natural world, particularly water, and its evolving role to suit the needs of humanity. Ronald Menzel discussed his intentions with Dreamscape, a series of immersive virtual reality adventures, to create a global culture of experience and connection. Roksana Ciurysek-Gedir spoke of her own experiences in meeting the cultural demands of different industries, ultimately deciding that a transdisciplinary cultural approach was most fulfilling.
“If you want to shape a sense of space, a sense of healing, you need infrastructure that can enable that. So, we built a company that harnesses information points from everything in society, from technology to culture to build that infrastructure.” — Robert Hanea