In June 2021, European Lab will celebrate its 10th birthday! For 10 years now, this platform — born in Lyon at the heart of electronic culture festival Nuits sonores — has been identifying and connecting independent artists, activists, thinkers and journalists, all united in their conviction that culture and the media have the potential to transform our crisis-ridden societies. That to think is to celebrate, that art and activism are capable of rising to the challenges of our age.
Deprived of celebrations and cultural spectacles for over a year by a global pandemic that has given rise to a bewildering information war, from Wuhan to Sao Paulo, Brussels to Budapest and Paris, these creative communities are aspiring to create a new social and cultural contract that is far from the same world, just a bit worse. A world in which disinformation, dogmatism and the spreading of hatred and fear all prosper.
Over the course of the last 10 years and 26 forums, from Seoul to Delphi, Madrid to Lyon, European Lab has unearthed countless hotbeds of creativity and islands of independence which, weaved together to make networks, become archipelagos of resistance connected at the European and international levels.
The narratives produced by these interconnected communities make up the worldviews and citizen projects that European Lab aims to amplify through the creation of new spaces for dialogue and interaction. This commitment is complemented by its support for the development of new forms of storytelling, broadcast formats and emerging media.
In our age of storytelling, it is important to use words for the purpose of action: our capacity to amplify our actions depends on the power of our narratives. To transform the cultural and media landscape in Europe, not to mention our ecological and democratic destinies, we must fight the battle of the narratives.
To fight the battle of the narratives is to pledge not to monopolise debates nor to speak “on behalf of”; to listen as attentively to scientists as to poets; to open up forums of expression — media, events and places — that are diverse, plural, decentralised, multipolar and networked.
This means investigating, documenting and producing content that is original both in its editorial approach and in its technological nature or broadcasting format, and that encourages reflection and calls to action. It means striving to burst information bubbles and to stop manipulative algorithms in their tracks.
To fight the battle of the narratives is to hand over the microphone to a new generation of changemakers across Europe and beyond. To shine a light on all the new media, third places, festivals, labels, record shops, clubs, cause-bearers, artists, activists, charities and NGOs who are experimenting with new models and coming up with sustainable alternatives to counter the trends of commodification, concentration and uniformity and to promote new forms of solidarity and responsibility.
All of them, in their own way, are inventing narratives for the future. Creative, inspiring and catalysing narratives that resist nationalistic glories, that make up for the lack of imagination and adventure of the European project, and that renew the media landscape.
To take part in the battle of the narratives is to believe in the creative power of narratives and to stand up for our capacity to act; it is to lead the fight for freedom, pluralism, diversity and emergence.
Designed to take place entirely online, European Lab’s 10th birthday will be marked by a media forum featuring a radio station and a space for debate, as well as workshops and performances. Insofar as the latest social restrictions allow, it will be open to the public. And it will serve as a call to action for the networks of actors across Europe and beyond that European Lab stands alongside in the battle of the narratives.