Niccolo MilaneseEuropean Alternatives has for 6 years been promoting and exploring the emergence of a political subjectivity beyond the nation state based on democracy, equality and culture. It has been our conviction that in order to create a society beyond the nation state that we would be happy with (because there are plenty of possible societies beyond the nation state that we would not find attractive) not only would we have to work across thematic areas – dealing at once with democracy, migration, social issues, feminism, economics etc. – but also between different kinds of people with expertise and skills in different areas: artists, philosophers, lawyers, activists. It seems essential to us that the emergence of a new society must involve also the creation of new imaginaries, new symbols and new vocabularies as well as new and greater rights, new and more democratic institutions.
Amongst many campaigns that European Alternatives has run over the past years, it perhaps finally unsurprising that media pluralism and media freedom has become a key campaign – aiming to collect one million signatures and calling on the EU Commission to legislate to protect media pluralism. Not only has the situation deteriorated dramatically in Europe over the past ye ars, but much more fundamentally for European Alternatives the possibility of sharing information freely is a sine qua non for the creation of a society beyond the nation state. The nation is created and recreated every day in the national media – and that means an alternative to the nation state must be created, recreated, and allow the ongoing possibility of recreation and remixing in transnational media. The internet is of course a tremendous resource for this sharing and exchange to happen and we must fight for it to remain free and uncensored, but the ‘established’, largely ‘national’ media (also present on the internet, of course), still significantly shape the political contours of debate and possibility in most EU countries, and also aggressively prevent the emergence of alternative medias.
The exhibition ‘How to Tell a Story’ of European Alternatives in DEPO in Istanbul (image left), which closed last week, took as its starting point precisely the challenge of looking for new vocabularies and symbolic registers in which collective stories could be told. From examining samizdat publications and revolutionary underground publishing in former communist Europe to the possibilities and limits of historical re-enactment and memory, montages of newsreels, sound-maps and reconfigured plot structures, the exhibition tried to open a space in which the ways in which information is shared between us could be critically problematised.
On the closing weekend of the exhibition we held a debate on media freedom and freedom of expression – entitled ‘Media freedom in Europe, or the difficulty of telling true stories’ (image below), which brought together cultural theorists, publishers, lawyers and others. In addition to the totally unacceptable imprisonment of journalists and artists in Turkey that was highlighted – a situation of repression which is significantly more aggressive than in most other parts of Europe – it was most striking to me the similarities of challenges for all those across Europe aiming to tell an alternative history, articulate an alternative collective identity, or present an alternative imaginary. The Turkish state censors and silences on the basis of ‘preserving Turkish identity’. Even though the Turkish state is much more brutal than other European states in this, there is still a strong sense in many parts of Europe that criticising or questioning dominant identities is something problematic and to be condemned or silenced, if not legally, at least socially. When media monopolies reinforce this conformity, they not only distort the national public sphere and silence some of its members, but prevent the emergence of alternative social arrangements beyond the borders of the nation. It was in this regard symbolically and politically important that we held the debate and the exhibition in Istanbul, on the borders of the current EU.Not all alternative histories, collective identities or imaginaries would I agree with, but the freest possible expression of them within the limits of protecting privacy and dignity, the exchange amongst peoples endeavouring to imagine a better world, must be at the heart of European Alternatives’ mission.