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Schriftzug Talking Culture © Goethe-Institut London

A Podcast from the Goethe-Institut London
Talking Culture

Talking Culture is a platform for thought-provoking discussions about the future of Europe, the UK, and the world. Through fascinating interviews with thinkers and doers in the arts and culture sector, this show investigates how creative fields are emerging from the tumultuous present into the future. What role will culture play in a post-Brexit, post-COVID-19, post-colonial world? And how can it contribute to a future that prioritises sustainability, collaboration, diversity, and inclusion? From the Goethe-Institut London, this is a podcast about the critical role and value that arts and culture have in our societies.



Episode 20 logo for talking culture with three portraits and the number 20 in front of the portraits Images: Ben Fisher, Lucy Rose Sollitt and Keith Williams The Synthetic Sacred is a new action-research initiative curated by Lucy Rose Sollitt that explores pathways for ecological restoration amidst hybridity. For this episode, we consider biotechnologies within the context of indigineous cosmologies. 

Might reframing biotechnologies in the context of the sacred web of life be useful in guiding innovation towards the creation and restoration of flourishing and generative ecologies? When formulated within the modern paradigm the products of biotech tend towards the extraction, alienation and entrapment of life, both natural and synthetic. These tendencies disregard (willfully or otherwise) knowledge of the intricate web of life found in many indigenous cosmologies, whereby each living thing is able to fulfil its (sacred) purpose within the ecology it is part of.


Talking Culture #19: Synthetic Life: A future of 'Natural History'?

Image of the three guests with a number 19 in front Janek Zamoyski, Leo Darwin Vogel & M. Scott Brauer The Synthetic Sacred is a new action-research initiative curated by Lucy Rose Sollitt that explores pathways for ecological restoration amidst hybridity. The notion of the Synthetic Sacred is both a provocation and an attempt to forge sustainable narratives and practices. Weaving together posthuman and Indigenous knowledge systems, it explores the sacred as a means to transform fractured relations with nature and resist capitalist-colonialist extraction and alienation. It proposes the sacred as a framework to guide and detoxify our synthetic creations, ensuring all ecologies flourish. 

For this episode, we explore what becomes of nature when life is synthetic and ask what role biotech can play in ecological restoration. What becomes of nature when life is synthetic? Who or what controls life when nature is bionic? And can biotech ever be part of ecological restoration?

Talking Culture #18: The Healing Power of Cultural Practice

Image of Gugulethu with #18 in front of it Odelia Toder The Goethe-Institut provides funding to enable professional as well as newcomer and amateur artists, whether in groups or individually, to carry out projects in Germany or abroad. For this episode, we speak to multidisciplinary artist Gugulethu Duma aka Dumama about her involvement with the Goethe-Institut over the years and across continents, which includes film festivals, music performances, a podcast project and workshops. We discuss the complex poetics of curating in a space that is scarred by colonialism and apartheid. Gugulethu will welcome us into her multidisciplinary world to vindicate the healing power of artistic practices and the challenges encountered along the way.


Talking Culture #17: (Re-)Collecting Europe with Marta Bausells

Image of Marta with #17 in front of it Marta Bausells (Re-)Collecting Europe is a residency programme devised by the Goethe-Institut London, which gave two journalists the opportunity to travel through the UK for four weeks. It aimed to reach emerging journalistic voices, encouraging critical thinking and creative debate. Against the backdrop of the UK’s departure from the EU the journalists-in-residence examined the social and cultural impact Brexit had on the civil society in the UK.

For this episode, we speak to Marta Bausells about her residency written piece: Cold Tea, what it means to be European three years after Brexit and creative writing endeavours.



Talking Culture #16: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

An image of Esther and Louis with the number 16 in front Georgia Metaxas and Esther Leslie For this episode, Esther Leslie and Louis Porter join us to unpick the mind of one of the 20th century's greatest thinkers Walter Benjamin. In 1935, he wrote an essay called 'The Work of Art in the Age of its Mechanical Reproduction', which set out his ideas on the media and culture in general whilst retaining an edge that has managed to get under the skin of almost everyone who has read it. During the episode, we reflect on some of the core ideas from the text and apply them to modern-day cultural phenomenons, from machine translation to grand-scale digital art exhibitions. 


Talking Culture #15: Lives of Objects: Gala Porras-Kim and James Webb

Two images of Gala and James with a number on top of it Pieter Hugo and Eber Lee We are currently thinking of Practising Freedom as Phase 1 of an even bigger project, which we have launched called Lives of Objects. Working with cultural  practitioners, researchers, museum professionals, and existing collaborative initiatives, we have envisioned Lives of Objects to consist of workshops, residencies, panel discussions, lectures, podcasts, artistic interventions and exhibitions.

This is the first podcast episode of the Lives of Objects series. For it, we invited eminent artists Gala Porras-Kim and James Webb to discuss the ways in which we think about the lives of objects through an artistic lens. The two have been breaking boundaries within their own disciplines to rethink how we present museological objects and artefacts, particularly those with historical, socio-political and spiritual importance. 

The Lives of Objects and Practicing Freedom projects were realised in collaboration with the British Council


Talking Culture #14: Beyond Hearing

An image of Matthew Herbert with the number fourteen in orange over him Matthew Herbert To celebrate 60 years of the Goethe-Institut London, we held three Goethe Annual Lectures in 2022. For our third GAL, we invited Dr Matthew Herbert for his talk "Beyond Hearing". Through a series of extraordinary sound recordings, he pushed us to hear further than we might have thought possible, and asked the question: “How can systemic listening lead to meaningful action?” The talk was moderated by Ella Finer, whose work in sound and performance spans writing, composing, and curating with a particular interest in how women’s voices take up space; how bodies acoustically disrupt, challenge, or change occupations of space. 


Talking Culture #13: The Culture of Artificial Intelligence

An image of Mercedes Bunz with a number 13 over her face King's College London To celebrate 60 years of the Goethe-Institut London, we held three Goethe Annual Lectures in 2022. For our second GAL, we invited Professor Mercedes Bunz to discuss “The Culture of Artificial Intelligence”. In her talk, she explores the particular power of AI systems using work from contemporary artists to reveal the human misunderstanding regarding AI. The talk was moderated by Eva Jäger, curator of Arts Technologies at the Serpentine.



An image of Mithu Sanyal with a number 12 over her face Regentaucher As German writer Mithu Sanyal confirms, it's a preconceived idea that love and politics don't go together. They are in fact polar opposites. Moreover, love has become a dirty word in politics. We can talk on social media about sex till the cows come home, but love, it's too cute, too lovey-dovey, and too unpolitical.

But this has not always been the case. Most movements for social justice had a love of ethics. Gandhi placed love at the centre of his campaign to free India. Martin Luther King preached and practiced love. And James Baldwin called for a Love of Politics. What has happened to marginalise love in the political discourse and what can politics informed by love look like?

In light of recent events, a discussion about the role of love in our world seems more relevant than ever before. But this isn’t the romantic notion of love we are more commonly familiar with, it’s the love that cultural scientist and journalist Mithu Sanyal claims is sorely lacking in our world. A political love. It's the absence of this love that she believes is responsible for so much social injustice and inequality.


Talking Culture #11: How can art help us understand quantum computing?

Talking Culture #11 Lucy Rose Sollitt, Eduardo Miranda and Emily Haworth © Christoph Hohmann (MCQST Cluster); Eduardo Miranda; Lucy Sollitt What exactly is a quantum computer? Have you ever wondered what all the media hype is about or how quantum computing may impact our everyday lives? In this episode, we talk to quantum expert Emily Haworth, curator Lucy Rose Sollitt and Professor Eduardo Miranda to learn about quantum technologies and the arts. Over the coming weeks, the Goethe-Institut will explore these questions and more under the umbrella of a new project and international events series called ‘Living in a Quantum State’. For more information and all event listings, see Goethe.de/quantum or follow @livinginaquantumstate on Instagram. 


Talking Culture #10: How we wanted to live

Talking Culture #10 Isabel Raabe, Thomas Schaupp © Andreas Roth; Luca De Vitis Imagine life beyond crises. A world beyond catastrophe, wars and climate crisis. How would you like to live? And now think ahead to 2050. Looking back on your present self, how would you have wanted to have lived? In this episode we talk to curator and project developer Isabel Raabe of Talking Objects Lab and curator and dance dramaturg Thomas Schaupp, one half of the curatorial team behind Goethe Morph* Iceland: How we always wanted to have lived.


Talking Culture #9: Contexts of injustice - Dismantling colonial legacies from Berlin to London

Talking Culture #9 Dan Hicks © Dan Hicks Author and curator Dan Hicks, best known for his book The Brutish Museums (2020), takes stock of the debate around the enduring legacies of empire in our museums, universities and society at large. In this episode, he talks about recent events in Europe and North America, from removing statues and un-naming buildings to returning artefacts from colonial museums. As a society how can we make amends for the past? And what are the next steps for upholding antiracism in the future?

Talking Culture #8: Clubbing and culture in times of Covid

Talking Culture #8 Julia Huxtable © Juliana Huxtable The Goethe-Institut London and the Somerset House Studios are collaborating to establish a new, international artist residency programme to support a Germany-based artist working at the intersection of music, art and technology. For the inaugural edition from October 2021 onwards, we invited Berlin-based but Texas-born DJ, writer and performer Juliana Huxtable. It's time to discuss her artistic influences, visions and opinions on clubbing in a global pandemic.

Talking Culture #7: "A greener infrastructure for a sustainable metropolis"

EP 7 Natalie Taylor, Urban Radicals, Adam Harris © Natalie Taylor, Urban Radicals, Adam Harris Artist Natalie Taylor, architecture and design collective Urban Radicals and landscape architect Adam Harris talk about their SouthKenGreenTrail installations: "Foodbank for Pollinators" in Prince's Gardens and "Windflower" on Exhibition Road were both envisioned to bring greener infrastructure and more sustainability to London. Get an exclusive insight into their creative and sustainable ideas, the productive thinking behind them and the process of conception and realisation of the two installations.

Talking Culture #6: "Notes from a Grown Up Country"

EP 6 John Kampfner © John Kampfner In the summer of 2020, British author and broadcaster John Kampfner released a new book with a provocative title Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country.  In this episode, we share his 2019 Brady Lecture with the same title: Why the Germans Do it Better. And yes, the title made us a bit uncomfortable too. But don’t worry, this isn’t an episode about one nation being superior to any others. It's about what democratic countries in the West can learn from a unified Germany that they helped to create.

Talking Culture #5: "What Does it Mean to Be European?“

EP 5 What Does it Mean to Be European © Simon Strauß / Alice Boyd With Brexit in the rearview, the decades-long discussion and debate about the role and purpose of the European Union has taken on a new urgency. In this episode, we ask two young intellectuals–one from the UK and one from Germany–to reflect on what Europe means to them. Alice Boyd is a composer, theatre-maker and environmental campaigner from the UK. Simon Strauß is a German historian, writer and journalist. Both were born into the European Union and have used their work to think critically about what it means now and what it can mean.

Talking Culture #4: "Leading the Art World Towards Sustainability"

The number 4 over the photo of podcast participant Iwona Blazwick Photo: Christa Holka Art has the power to change the world by highlighting critical issues, but what responsibility does the art world have to make their own changes and take inventory of internal practices that are unsustainable or inequitable, to address the environmental cost of putting on exhibitions? In this episode, Iwona Blazwick, Director of the renowned Whitechapel Gallery in East London, grapples with these questions on the future of museums and galleries.

Talking Culture #3: "'Some Kind of Tomorrow': Honoring the Visions of Black Feminist Creative Authors "

The number 3 over the photo of podcast participant Sharon Dodua Otoo © Ralf Steinberger The creative writing of Black feminist authors has revolutionary potential. It challenges dominant assumptions and expands the horizons of the current literary audience. In this episode, activist and author Sharon Dodua Otoo honours her literary ancestors and mentors, condemns the racist structures that deprived them of deserved praise during their lifetimes, and explores how Black feminist creative writing can move our society forward.

Talking Culture #2: "Why Artists are Working with Blockchain to Reinvent the Arts"

Collage of portrait photos of six podcast participants and the number 5. Photos: private; Skye Bougsty-Marshall (Laura Lotti) Now, as the world is facing a new economic crisis, how could the arts and civil society benefit from blockchain technologies? Hear from artists, curators, technologists and researchers who are using blockchain to revolutionise their way of working. This episode features Ruth Catlow, artistic director of Furtherfield, Ben Vickers, CTO at the Serpentine Galleries, and artist collectives from Berlin to Moscow who are part of the DAOWO Global Initiative.

Episode #1: "Why Theatre Matters More Than Ever"

Episode #1: "Why Theatre Matters Now More Than Ever" © Sharron Wallace One month into the first lockdown of 2020, we called Kris Nelson, Artistic Director and CEO at LIFT: the London International Festival of Theatre to find out how theatres and their people were surviving. In this episode, we’re returning to that conversation because it captures a unique moment in the pandemic upheaval, and we’re calling Kris once again – a year later – to find out what has changed and how his predictions for theatre have shifted.