State Anniversaries and Public Culture Politics. The Contradictions of Urban Boosterism
Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis
Keywords:anniversary, public cultural politics, cultural planning, European capital of culture, centenary of the state, urban boosterism
The aim of the article is to show the signs of unsustainability of public cultural politics in Lithuania in the last decade from the viewpoint of representational state cultural politics. Referring to the analysis of the opinions of social critics, columnists and politicians, two examples of state anniversa- ries are discussed in the text – the programme Vilnius, a European Capital of Culture 2009, which coincided with the commemoration of the Millennium of Lithuania, and the programme of the centenary of the restoration of the Lith- uanian state. Cultural planning and its reflections and contradictions in con- crete situations are analysed with the help of the concept of urban boosterism, which is in place when speaking about the communication of large-scale urban restructuring, or the organisation and implementation of state anniversaries. It includes both the promotion and communication of the approaching event, and the specific dynamics of the public space, when certain means are not only promoted, but also criticised (while the organisers respond with either giving excuses, pointing out new priorities, or correcting their agendas). The case of Lithuania illustrates that in the European paradigm of cultural planning emphasising democratic tendencies, the specific character of local laws and political traditions is “overlooked”, as is the element of nationalism and political emotions, which is necessarily present in the cultural politics of both the cities and the state. Besides the administrative hitches that were escalated in the public space, such as the disputes regarding the legitimacy of the competitions, a distinct factor in the contradictions of cultural politics in Lithuania is the fact that the organisation of state anniversaries “at the top level” lasts more than a year. The unfulfilled expectations, as well as the contradictions of urban boosterism, are for a large part determined by the fact that political life in principle lacks continuity – the processes of improving daily politics do not overlap with the representation of an approaching historical date. Thus, the planners of events of state significance should consider not only the functions of representational culture and the external needs of the country’s visibility or tourism boost, but also the cycles of political elections and the features of local public politics (e.g., the Law on Public Procurement). Research on the contradictions of cultural planning of this kind can contribute to solving the general issues of political efficiency raised in the field of analysis of public politics.