7 questions with: Blanca Perez Ferrer
Get to know Innocult – a European residency programme for the media and content industry
In the fifth edition of the creativeSHIFT newsletter, we interviewed Blanca Perez Ferrer, Residency Programme Curator and EU Project Coordinator – for example for Innocult, a European Residency Programme for the Media and Content Industries. Read her full interview here!
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a new media art curator and art historian who graduated from the University of Zaragoza, where I also completed three years of law studies. I also hold a Masters degree in Cultural Mediation from the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. I went to Paris for my masters and ended staying there for almost ten years. During that time, I first worked for the Paris city council on cultural projects for young people. Later, I was in charge of the mediation and audience development service at the Institut des Cultures d’Islam, an experimental contemporary art centre at the heart of the Goutte d’Or, a multicultural neighbourhood in the north of Paris.
At the end of 2015, I moved to the UK to work at Falmouth University and Goldsmiths College, London on EU research projects. I also completed a course on green management for the cultural sector while organising three festivals on new media art. Since 2020, I have been back in Spain, where I work for the Fundacion Zaragoza Cuidad Conercimiento (FZC), as the curator of the residency programme at Etopia Center for Art and Technology. I am also in charge of European projects for the cultural sectors.
What do you feel is special/unique about working in the creative industry?
As a new media art curator, I mostly deal with artists working at the crossroads of science and technology. Therefore, mixing with scientific researchers and people in the tech industry is an interesting and fulfilling part of the job. I believe I'm well placed to compare different working cultures because I have worked within a number of different European countries and on pan-European projects. Perhaps the most striking thing about the creative and cultural sectors is the energy and the passion most people have for what they do. It's often the case that ingenious and curious people are very happy to learn new things. Often they have the perfect skills to build bridges to establish new dialogues and collaborations.
Which legal/political/economic development/change has helped/supported/changed your work over the last year/this year?
Covid has been a massive life changer for all of us. We had very different situations across Europe regarding the length and difficulty of restrictions. Nevertheless, generally speaking, the situation has been and still is particularly dramatic for the cultural industries, with many institutions fighting for survival. There is clearly a crisis luring on the horizon that concerns me. The sky-rocketing of energy prices is a clear indicator that we are already very late on the transition to renewable energies. Our dependence on fossil fuels has a double danger.
While climate change consequences are well known, we depend on fossil fuels to build and deploy a new energy model based on renewables. I believe we are running out of gas and petrol far too quickly to orderly transition to a new model. The rise in energy prices is already having an impact on high-energy industries. The cultural sector also needs energy and has small margins. The risk of not having the resilience to cope with a sustained rise of fixed costs like energy bills is real. We need to prepare for rapid changes and try to adapt our behaviours and practices to build more sustainable practices.
What are some major changes in the industry/your work style since Covid-19 and what have you learned from them?
For the last six years, I have been doing lots of remote work. My previous position at the university in the UK enabled me to work outside the campus as often as I’d needed. I even worked remotely from Spain for almost a year. However, for most people, home working was quite a shock. They never used to work there and, suddenly, they were forced to do it every day for months. In general, after the initial shock, most people adapted quite well. We then realised that so many tasks we used to do 100 % in person could be done, as well, remotely.
Overall, we have learned that meetings can be done virtually and having a flexible approach to remote working can be positive. It can enhance life quality. By reducing the time we spend on commutes, we also achieve a better work and family balance. On top of that, cutting travel is a contributing factor to tackling carbon emissions. Therefore, extending flexible working patterns can give people the room they need. I believe that a blended approach to the working environment would be a very good thing to have as a result of the pandemic.
Why are projects/platforms like Innocult and creativeSHIFT important, and how can everyone (big players as well as people working in creative jobs) in the industry benefit from them?
One of the creative SHIFTS working groups study how to break the SILO mentality and that idea is so important. Only by working together, we could make our voices count on the noisy and troubled public debate. First, we need to realise where are our strengths but also our flaws as a sector. Once we know that, we can talk about what is moving us forward and what is, on the contrary, making us stalled. Then, we can finally help to shape the rules.
One of the causes of mental illness and human suffering is probably isolation. We are social beings and unions are fundamental to human wellbeing. Breaking that circle that says we are on our own is so important. This type of platform is a good place for everyone to be part of something bigger and to have a voice.
What is your moonshot goal with Innocult?
I think both projects aim to be useful to participants and create a community where people feel again connected to something bigger. We would like to see projects growing and new collaborations starting, allowing people to give themselves the time and space to stop and rethink their practice. The goal is somehow to contribute to more sustainable projects in the cultural industries that can collaborate and learn from each other by speaking with a louder voice.
In Innocult we also have a focus on the capacitation of participants on the usage of new technologies. We are particularly interested in experimenting with new approaches to traditional residencies by having a more holistic approach. My moonshot might be to create a blended space to think and create, a safe learning environment where participants have tailored guidance form specialists but also can learn from peers.
Can you recommend any recent online courses/seminars?
I'd like to invite readers to join the Innocult platform. It's a place where they can find resources (like documentation and videos) for the cultural industries. The topics we have worked on in the project are audience development, digital technologies, new business models and funding opportunities. The platform intends to be a place to meet creators, companies or to find a partner or a provider.
Thank you for your time, Blanca!