Next Step: A Better European Future
A concert violinist, cultural ambassador, innovator, enthusiast and a man with vision - all of these, and without doubt much more, define Miha Pogačnik who is a man of many talents and ideas. He currently occupies himself with the idea of the cultural and spiritual awakening of Europe, endeavouring to bring it back to its core or more precisely to the land of the mythical king Parsifal and all he represents.
Pogačnik has always been involved in various art projects. First he was a successful violinist, then in the 1980’s he established Idriart, a non-profit organisation based on the idea that art is the bearer of social change. Idriart took him around the world to intervene in political, social and cultural situations in crisis areas and through it he has produced over 180 festivals in collaboration with local hosts. “There was enormous success. Thousands of people came with us to Prague, Estonia, Georgia, Tibet, the Amazon, but then in the 1990s the world changed,” says Pogačnik. “I noticed that if I kept doing the same thing, I would just be repeating myself.” He found himself in a “success trap” as he calls it – a situation when one gets stuck by being successful and restlessly starts asking questions about creativity and innovation, pushing them toward new projects to fulfil the need to create something fresh.
Music as an Answer to the Crisis
“I’ve always asked myself in what way can art contribute to changing the world and I’ve always tried to follow the call coming from the world,” explains Pogačnik who developed a special method, introducing a new concept for listening to music: “Of all the arts, music goes straight to the human heart and I’ve always felt that the experiences professional musicians get are not just pertinent to the life of artists but can be used generally.” As our extremely fragmented society, based on the economy, has found itself in a crisis, Pogačenik believes it is the time to start dealing with it: “Leaders are making decisions from their limited, specialised viewpoint and I, as an artist, feel I need to help them broaden their horizons, generate inner inspiration, motivation and energy.” He says that the basic reason he has been working with the economy and leadership is to make them aware that they can manage their companies in the way which composes society.
Pogačnik creates an environment in which questions are asked in a different way and casts new light on the immediate crisis and the general situation – through classical art created by geniuses who he sees as the greatest art substance Europeans have. And how does he trigger change? “I invite executives to enter the process of musical masterpieces in such way that I play and stop, comment and paint – I decompose the piece. They are seated among the orchestra and therefore get first-hand experience of the musical process,” explains Pogačnik who asserts no musical knowledge is necessary for this method to work, “just the willingness to permit the feelings to rise. I want to get people to the point where they let go of all the nervousness, distrust and animosity and open up to the possibility of a creative detour.” According to him, this happens because music moves at the archetypal level which is above everyday experiences, thus giving direction and solutions to problems which are then viewed from a new perspective and can later be dealt with by an out-of-the-box approach. “Art is full of meaning and if you go through the experience of meaning, you are transformed and find everything meaningful, also problems,” notes Pogačnik who points out that the lack of meaning is the heart of the current crisis, the financial aspect being its expression.
The method, which establishes a new relationship between art and business, has proven to be very effective – he has collaborated with scores of leading companies globally, business schools, research institutions, professional associations and also with UN agencies and the World Business Academy. In his opinion, his ideas work because they become ideals.
The Legend of (Slovenian) Parsifal
However, as he notes, ideas go through a process of hatching which requires time and patience. “Slovenia can be metaphorically viewed as a hen which hatches new ideas, useful for all of Europe,” says Pogačnik who goes on to explain the most intriguing story of the mythical figure Parsifal from the 9th century, “one of the most important European cultural legends comes from Slovenia.” The roots of the Eastern counterpart of the more famous King Arthur from the West are in Ptuj, as described in the magnificent epic poem created by Wolfram von Eschenbach around 1212. “Parsifal is everywhere, he is a European but originates from Slovenia. He is not historical fact but he is a mythical figure. Both kings existed at the same time, Arthur and Parsifal dealt with bringing order to society, however from the West came capitalism and globalisation, while from the East came philosophy, art and beauty. The two need to be balanced in a productive way,” says Pogačnik.
According to him, balancing would help the currently wrong relationship between humans and the economy in a way that the latter would start serving the former and also aid the European identity which has found itself in deep crisis. “European identity is based on the heritage of artistic geniuses like Beethoven, van Gogh, Shakespeare and Mozart who brought culture to the highest level and has many varieties. However, because of globalisation these varieties have lost power. Yet Europe is special because of its diversity. Every country is important in the creation of this polyphonic identity – it functions vitally like an organ in the human body,” notes Pogačnik who recognises the point of Parsifal, Slovenia and the Terra Parzival foundation he is part of: “Our country, with its trinity of landscapes, symbolising the trinity of body-soul-spirit, is perfect to become an instrument of the European identity as the time is right. Parsifal’s territory in Slovenia symbolises the rise of the spirit. Europe has also entered its third phase of development which is that of spirit. We are trying to inspire imagination in a creative way which would result in long-term, sustainable, meaningful development where the human being is in the centre.”
Terra Parzival Foundation of the Future
June saw the first of the three-day Terra Parzival Festival, organised in significant places linked to the mythical king. Attendees underwent the musical masterpiece decomposition method of opening up to new ideas and learnt about the story of Parsifal and its significance in numerous creative ways – they created a grail, attended a tournament of knights, experienced live music in a cave and also many other activities. “Slovenians are like Parisfal – we are just waiting for something to happen, but this must change to action – just like he took action,” affirms Pogačnik.
Slovenia may be small, but Pogačnik believes that with a powerful idea, size does not matter: “We would like to connect Terra Parsifal to the platform of the European Cultural Parliament through its Cultural Secretary General who came to the festival.” The potential is enormous and according to Pogačnik, there is space for change in human beings and the terra incognita which lies inside of everyone: “We’ve created the illusion that we are fixed from cradle to tomb, but functioning this way is just more or less going through life where nothing really happens. This bare survival and dreams with no action have created the crisis. But crisis, as I said before, is meaningful and it’s a good thing to have as it forces you to delve deeper and discover the unexploited realms we possess.”
The legend of Parsifal is very much linked to the present day situation and teaches individuals to start fighting old patterns and accepting the change in life. “Einstein once said that you can’t solve new problems with old ideas and this is where Parsifal comes in. He had to learn to ask the right questions, do the right thing at the right time – and this is also the challenge of the modern human being,” asserts Pogačnik who sees Terra Parzival as the new herald of changes that need to take place. “Everything is already here and we’ve started to realise how to create an environment to act and move. And this is what we’re trying to do with Terra Parzival – this element is an instrument on which you play Europe.”