Symposium: “(Hard Talk on) Soft Power”

Rijksmuseum , Amsterdam, Netherlands
26 Nov 2015

Symposium: “(Hard Talk on) Soft Power”

Alexis Blake, Allegory of the Painted Woman, 2012-2015

ArtTable Netherlands, the leadership organization of professional women in the visual arts, celebrates its 10th anniversary with an international symposium at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The symposium will take place on Thursday, November 26, just prior to the opening of the Amsterdam Art Weekend.

Prominent international speakers
John Holden (British writer on cultural diplomacy), Renilde Steeghs (Ambassador, International Cultural Cooperation), Beatrix Ruf (Director, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam), Wim Pijbes (Director, Rijksmuseum), Abdellah Karroum (Director, Mathaf, Qatar), Reem Fadda (Curator, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and 6th Marrakech Biennale), Touria El Glaoui (Founder and Director, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair), Hedwig Saam (Director, National Military Museum), Hedwig Fijen (Director, Manifesta), Katerina Gregos (independent curator and Artistic Director of Art Brussels), Clémentine Deliss (independent curator and Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin), Defne Ayas (Director, Witte de With), Guus Beumer (Director, The New Institute), Saskia Bos (Dean of The Cooper Union, New York), Barbara Visser (artist, President of the Academy of Arts), Wendelien van Oldenborgh (artist) and others. Moderator: Stephan Sanders (columnist, writer, presenter).

Tickets (incl. lunch, performance and guided tour of Rijksmuseum)
75 EUR non-members / 25 EUR students (limited spaces)
Book your tickets here

“Soft Power”
Subject of the symposium is the concept of “soft power,” coined by the American political scientist Joseph Nye in the 1990s as the ability to convince others of certain values and ideals, without resorting to “hard power”—that of muscles, weapons or money.

In today’s globalized world, the need for cultural understanding and constructive relationships between countries and cultures is perhaps more important than ever. Museums and cultural institutions play a crucial role as agents of social change. This development raises a number of questions: Can we call the arts a form of “soft power” when they are used to achieve other goals (military, economic, geopolitical)? What exactly are the motives behind these “soft power” strategies?

Another aspect that is addressed during the symposium is the role of women in this power play. “Soft power” is based on seduction and negotiation, on cooperation and mutual understanding—a leadership style that fits well with women. But is “soft power” actually feminine? Is there a “feminine” way to exercise power?

Nina Folkersma, Chair of the board of ArtTable Netherlands: “The promotion of ‘soft power’ is not a call for ‘more women at the top,’ but a plea for deep cultural change. How can we move on from our ‘hard power’ world—with its excessive risk, competition and reliance on military power and money—to a ‘soft power’ society, where there is room for cooperation, mutual understanding and reciprocity?”

The symposium also includes a special performance by Alexis Blake. The performance Allegory of the Painted Woman is an encounter between two female dancers in a choreography based on poses of women in classical painting. The performance takes place in the Gallery of Honour of the Rijksmuseum, amidst the masterpieces by the great male artists of the 17th century.


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