U.S. Department of Art & Technology

Press Secretary

For Immediate Release: June 19, 2002


WASHINGTON, DC - On June 19, 7:00 PM (EST), the Secretary of the US Department of Art & Technology, Randall M. Packer, will deliver the following speech at the World Mediation Summit in Washington, DC, minutes before the signing of the Covenant of the Articles of Artistic Mediation. Department staff, members of the Washington arts community, and cultural officials from six nations will be participating in the event. The Covenant, collectively co-authored by artists, curators, and cultural critics from around the world, is being presented to the US Department of State.

The following is the transcript of the speech:

Speech by Randall M. Packer
Secretary, US Department of Art & Technology To the World Mediation Summit
Upon Signing of the Covenant of the Articles of Artistic Mediation
June 19, 2002
Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes
Washington, DC


It's an honor to thank those artists who have heeded a great call: those who collectively co-authored the Covenant of the Articles of Artistic Mediation, which we are presenting tonight to the US Department of State. It's a universal call, and it's a call that has been applicable throughout history. It's really needed right now.

The reason we're here tonight is to unleash the talents of the artist as a mediator on the world stage. I appreciate the cooperation of the Goethe-Institut to stage this event right here in the nation's capital. Because this is a critical gesture that I hope will encourage cultural dialogue and understanding throughout the nation. It's an urgent time for the artist to act. And I think it's going to help America, along with the rest of the world, cope in these times of crisis and national insecurity.

This really isn't about any political party, I want to assure you. It's a way to make sure citizens of the world are as hopeful as they possibly can be.

The events of September the 11th were an incredibly dark moment. But the thing I'm most proud about is, through the darkness, is the emergence of a new era of socially engaged art. This is really an unbelievable country we live in. A place where heroes risked their lives, and where artists responded with incredible insight. It was a remarkable moment, it really was. It was a test of our character. While many were busy waving the flag, artists and cultural critics in America and throughout the world have probed deep into the issues of cultural divisiveness in order to help guide us through these perilous times. They have rallied together, via the Internet, through their art, their writing, and their vision, to point out that everything is at stake, and that we have everything to lose, in these apocalyptic times. In the words of our Deputy Undersecretary Robert Atkins, "Being the most complex form of knowledge, art IS the best hope for subtle, nuanced communication."

This power of cultural action can go well beyond military aggression, and can help us rise above the hopeless notion of "overcoming evil" or "rooting out terror." Yes, we will take action, I want to assure you, but we don't seek death and destruction, we seek a victory of the human spirit. And I believe that if we're patient and resolved and united, that out of these acts of artistic mediation could come lasting peace - peace in regions of the world that might appear now they cannot be peaceful.

I believe we can achieve peace by listening to the artist. Peace is the cornerstone of the artistic sensibility, it's what we aim for. As the Iowan artist Ava Su GanWei said so well, "Our society has it backwards, art should be freed from the museums and galleries... it should be on the streets. But violence and war - they belong in a place where they can be studied." There are going to be some tough moments achieving this peace. But you need to know that we're going to be plenty tough when we need to be tough. And we're going to stay focused on fighting homeland insecurity, caused by those who would foolishly believe they can root out every trace of evil from human existence. That's our call. History has called us into action, and we must and we will respond.

But we need to do more than just make the country less insecure. We need to make our country and the world a better place. We must be more than just a military might. We must show our resolve through cultural understanding: for according to John Young, our Under Secretary of the Bureau for the Blurring of the Real & the Virtual, "As we inhabit the 21st century, do we choose to take up the challenge of crafting a new vision of global compassion, or fall back upon antiquated notions of diplomacy at gunpoint?"

We have got to recognize that because we're a rich and powerful nation, we inspire despair and hopelessness in countries that suffer from extreme poverty and political instability. There are too many people throughout the world who wonder whether or not America is a destructive force. And so part of our struggle in making the country and the world less insecure is to mediate these differences in the universal language of artistic expression. As David Baime, our Assistant Secretary for Legislation & Congressional Affairs so eloquently said, "art alone provides the reflection of reality. Art is as perennial as the grass, and may our good government sow its seed, so as to reap its splendor." And the place to start is understanding that the world can be changed one word, one note, one frame, one pixel at a time.

The artist can't do everything. But the artist can do something to help. And their job as social provocateurs, appropriators, liberators, and citizens deeply committed to virtualization and the suspension of disbelief, is to gather that great compassion for critical insight, the spectacle, and distaste for the status quo, to change our ineffective paradigms, to change the world. And for those who have contributed to the efforts of the US Department of Art & Technology, including tonight's World Mediation Summit, they are doing a great job of that, and I want to thank them.

My job is to continue to address the spirit of the artist, their role in society, to call upon the best, and I will do so. Let this be a reminder to those who want to confront the human reality of terror, they should turn to the arts and its many forms of expression. "Violence is an expression of speechlessness, of lack of communication," according to the German media artist Agricola de Cologne. The artist recognizes problems when they exist and works to solve those problems, to eliminate the hurdles and barriers that lead to violence and aggression.

Government must not turn a blind eye to the artist. There must be a level playing field available and a role for the artist as a mediator and a player on the world stage. We need to remember that in our society, artists can move people in ways that government never can.

In order to understand the eternal, existential struggle between good and evil, that now paralyzes our government, we must invent, we must create, we must virtualize, and we must use our imaginations! As André Breton said, "perhaps the imagination is on the verge of recovering its rights."

In the gathering momentum of these acts of artistic mediation, which reveal what the artist is truly made of, we stand on the first promontory of the new centuries. Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible!

And so, I now have the great honor of joining my colleagues in signing the Covenant of the Articles of Artistic Mediation and delivering it to the US Department of State.

Thank you.

US Department of Art & Technology: http://www.usdept-arttech.net
Covenant of the Articles of Artistic Mediation

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