J. Christian B. Kirsch (Secretary General, International Delphic Council)

31.07.2010 - Interview conducted by Olivia Parish

Q1. Thinking of globalization and the development of civilisations do you consider nation branding as a new phenomenon or has it been developing over the centuries?

Nation branding as also a new word is a new phenomenon within this world and we have to be very careful not to be misled by the so-called promoters and moneymakers. If I would have any chance to interfere in Dubai or Abu Dhabi with all their buildings and constructions you can have unlimited money but you will see that one can not substitute money with identity, you can not buy identity. You can just explore the past. When you think of all the museums and exhibitions in Dubai and for instance the works of Sir Norman Foster (English architect), you see that this does not represent Abu Dhabi and this is something that I am really concerned about. What are we telling our grand children about our identity and things like sand, wind or water? In ancient Arabian times the serials were a combination of construction and water, shadow and sand. If they would have even sensed that there are.

Q2. Why did you choose your headquarters in Berlin? Do you find it particularly vibrant in terms of culture?

Berlin has advantages and disadvantages. At the time I founded the Delphic Council the advantage of Berlin was that it would connect East and West, North and South as a former divided city. Later I realized that this could not be achieved because there is no consistent strategy among the responsible persons of the city of Berlin. They believe that it is enough to be open-minded but in my point of view they are not sensitive enough to look twenty years ahead.
Berlin as a geographical point is wonderful since there are many organizations like the ICD and for instance many embassies. It is one of the most vibrant cities of Europe.

Q3. You mentioned in your speech in reference to the ‘be Berlin’ campaign that you did not feel that it really represented the city.

Berlin has a broken identity not only because of the war. The official Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate; this shows disgrace to past centuries and heraldic and shows an absolute loss of identity. This is a rather young city that is not inevitably visible on the first sight. The Berlin Bear for example was the official coat of arms on the shields, and when you today receive letters from official institutions of Berlin it shows the Brandenburg Gate and this makes clear the we do not have any idea of what is genealogy, heraldic, tradition and what it is taking the past to create the future.

Q4. The symbol of the Delphic Games is quite similar to the emblem of the Olympic Games. Do you see the possibility of a joint cultural exchange? What are there similarities?

The symbol of the Delphic Games reflects the six categories of art and the interlacing ring on the white background shows that one art cannot live without the other. The upper colours are the bright colours, the lower are the hidden and mystical colours. Uniting the Delphic with the Olympic Games would not make any sense, but maybe one day the president of the Olympic Games could be honorary president of our Games and our president could be honorary president of the IOC in order to give mutual respect and to share ancient traditions.

Q5. In your presentation you mentioned an example of Chinese art performance that you were invited to attend and you said that it was not really an authentic tradition but has been adapted to fit the audience. I wondered if within the Delphic Games with the focus on winning, is there a similar danger that in order to win the artists focus more on how the audience perceives it and not about holding the tradition?

One cannot measure everything in terms of gold, silver and bronze when it comes to art and performances. This is why we created the Delphic Lyre with which we point to exceptional single presentations as part of a larger artistic symbiosis. Then we have the laurel for those who are incomparable to anything and that is exciting and brings this all to another dimension.

Q6. Isn’t there a danger that you look at arts such as painting and sculpturing only subjectively in order to award them?

Every evaluation of art is subjective just like also about 50% of the disciplines of the Olympics Games. If you gather and advice sophisticated and honourably jurors at least one of the jurors always has to be an expert in at least one particular discipline. The others are all of a certain experience, humbleness and skill and come rather close to each other regardless if it is singing or dancing. If you are deeply involved you develop a sense for art and quality and also for fake. And so most important is that among the seven jurors are real experts and in most cases the experts from other disciplines will adjust and I recognize that even with me being juror in poetry slam all of the sudden I have the same opinion as the so called professionals.

Q7. Do you think that the idea nation branding is too commercial?

I do not have anything against commercialisation and business. Everything needs its source of income. I am just criticizing that they are now a copy of Western style. I believe that you should not substitute hundreds of years of history by other traditions.

Q8. You also mentioned the predominance of Western culture as a result of being best promoters. Do you think there could be a change in the future?

I am hoping that people are staying away from the Western influence at some point and I wish that the decision makers are proud and strong enough to promote their own culture, for example when it comes to fashion in order to show where one comes from. However, I just hope that there will be wise men and women that make decisions based own their traditions.

Q9. What role do you see for the Delphic Council as a whole in promoting cultural diplomacy and organizing events?

Cultural exchange is the essence of my work. We are initiating a world cultural forum three days before the Olympic Games take place so that the participants can also see the opening ceremony. Cultural diplomacy is the most important essence of diplomacy. You can not act diplomatically by means of weapons or economics because those are demanding powers: whether you take it or you don’t. Culture gives us balance and delivers respect for each other. Without respect nothing will change to a better tomorrow. This is the aim of our work and I see similar approaches at the ICD.