Defense of the art as a very essential part of human life

Interview with the actor Jorge Bosso, the president of ECA
by Charlotte Brüel, visual artist and chairman of EVAN
Amsterdam 10. Okt. 2004

CB: Jorge Bosso, you are now stopping as president of ECA, European Council
of Artists, after 6 years in charge for this organization.

I will ask to some of your experiences.
Behind my wish to have this interview with you is laying an attempt to

When do the artists profit mostly from working through an umbrella
organization, covering many different art forms, with connected professions.

And when do we profit mostly from acting via more specific professional
organizations, in this case visual art is in question.

My main question is:

What has been possible for ECA to do for the visual artists during your presidency?

JB: The visual artists have had a strong representation on the Executive Committee of ECA from the very beginning.
Sometimes even bigger than expected if we consider the strength of the national visual artists organizations, because other disciplines with stronger national representation were not represented at the same level in the EC.

Nearly 50% of the Executive Committee members have been visual artists!
Even the first president, Eamon Colman, from Ireland was a visual artist, and during my presidency there has always been one in a vicepresidency.
So visual art has always been well represented in the EC.

But at the same time some other artists like performers or other creative artists like authors were better organized in the different countries of ECA - so there was a kind of imbalance in relation to the artists’ representation in the EC.

That made us in the EC work harder to try to draw more attention to common problems affecting all disciplines: An example is intellectual property rights. These rights have been well defended by composers and authors during more than one hundred years and by performing artists, during the second half of the 20th century, in particular musicians and actors. So the ECA has had to find a way of not interfering in the good work and experience of bigger international organizations representing those disciplines.
But this was not the case of the visual artists –who needed an organization like ECA to speak up for them. But in this process, the varying level of acceptance of visual artists’ intellectual property in the different countries within the European Union, not to mention the rest of Europe, was made evident to us in the EC. So somehow we had to find a balance if we were going to speak on behalf of all member countries.
The follow-up rights for visual artists’ work were not the same in France, Spain, Denmark, Germany, England, (where it was not accepted) and other countries.

When we came to a balance among visual artists’ minimum requirements, we found that this was not only the same compared to other disciplines, but could even affect visual artists’ rights in countries with a higher level of protection.

So we came to the conlusion that we should try to avoid coming out with any demands of intellectual rights that were not consensed by other unidisciplinary representative organizations. Because on top of that we were confronted in the field of visual artists with a crisis of IAA and EVAN. When EVAN started to speak with the same voice ECA has been ready to support its demands. When the case is that EVAN come with a declaration ECA will support it.

The European umbrella organization was founded in 1995

CB: Did Danish Council of Artists create ECA?

JB: The European Union backed the project of creating a European Council of Artitsts as an umbrella organization, or a forum for artists, following the tradition of umbrella organizations in the Nordic countries. Not only umbrella organizations but also other national artists’ organizations (I come from the South and I represent only performers) found this was a very interesting idea.
Inspired by organizations like DK (Dansk Kunstnerråd / Danish Council of Artists) in Denmark and KLYS (Kunstnärliga och litterära yrkesudövares Samarbetsnämnd / Swedish Council of Artists) in Sweden, and others in Nordic countries, it was decided in Ebeltoft, in 1995, to form bigger platforms of artists’ representation at a European level. Yes, the inspiration came from Denmark, and the work of the then president of the DK, Kjeld Lofting, who acted as General Secretary. We depended on Danish leadership because they had the experience.

CB: Is there a danger that the discussion in ECA is becoming too general?

JB: Yes, if we do not work together with other representative organizations. We have to work unifying other efforts and experiences. ECA should support other organizations and not work isolated pretending that we represent all disciplines. Because this is important but it also has its disadvantages.

There are different disciplines and I don’t really know many visual artists,
working in established companies under contracts, like theatre companies, orchestras, ballet companies, or film production, like workers under contract. There are quite different experiences.
It is necessary to find a balance between collective rights and individual
artists’ rights in each professional sector in which they create their work.

Some artists need somebody to hire them. I need a producer to come and ask me, “Will you act for me or do a play or a film” ?

Musicians can also be autonomous performers or creators – and in other disciplines they also might find the same difficulties or choices. But there are other artists who can create their work without being asked, just following their own inspiration or creative demands.

ECA has to give first priority to the defense of the art as a very essential part of human life.
The recognition of culture and art in the political life - among the
political decision makers.
They take the wrong decisions if you leave them alone to decide.
It is essential for the ECA to be accepted as a spokesman for artists.

About influence

CB: When you eventually take contact to the media - will your message be
heard and your ideas forwarded?

JB: The media in a way is the possible means of expressing the political view.
But the media is also propaganda of the people who make the media - so the public
media that we defend as a public service is also the voice of the governments in power - and at the same time the media is the voice for big enterprises - international, globalized - that do not necessarily have public interests in mind.

The media, in general, listen to you if you are interesting - in opening a debate - but are not necessarily sufficiently interested in you as an artist to follow what you say, especially if you are not famous.

But the ECA has also managed to find time, albeit brief sometimes, to expose its view in the European Parliament - in the European Commission, in the Economic and Social Committee and in the European Convention. That has also been an important experience in my presidency, being heard by politicians at different levels.

Working problem 1. :
A level of relating only with the artists – mainly work and social problems.

Working problem 2.:
A level of contacting with the committees that give funding for artists’ organizations, like the ECA. To have access to the politicians who make the decisions about giving money .

Working problem 3.:
Recognition of artists as part of a bigger platform of opinion, what EU has called the civil society, in direct connection with the preparations of the European constitution.

Previously the decision makers were calling for the famous face among the artists.
During the past 4-5 years they have been calling ECA as another important source of
reporting about our own social problems.

“Civil society” was something they created to have somebody to talk with.
Representatives from NGOs, governments, schools, educators etc. within the
economic and social sphere.

Then they consulted us - they called on ECA.
We talked to Giscard d’Estaing for example .
We were there for giving advice and they consulted the ECA - instead of just the “well known artist” they previously called on.

We have not been called in to the new parliament, yet. But I am really hoping that this will continue - in ECA - in the years to come.

About Jorge Bosso:
He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he started his professional career as an actor.
With the experience from a 14 year stay in England as an actor and radio producer for the BBC, Jorge Bosso moved to Spain in 1978, in the middle of the important political transition period, following Franco’s death.. In 1986, Jorge Bosso co-founded the Spanish Actors Union which with time became the present Federation of Spanish performers, FAEE, which he now is leading.

Jorge Bosso has been the president of ECA, European Council of Artists from 1998-2004

Near Future Awareness

If the famous artists recommend something which we in the organizations
agree with - it is good.
But if they recommend something in which the organizations directly disagree
- it is not so good!

JB: Yes, this is one of the problems we have to face, because sometimes the most famous do not know, or don’t care to know about the basic needs of artists as a whole, as a collective sector..
This is the contradiction we stand in.

CB: Do you have specific suggestions re collaboration between EVAN and ECA?

JB: (Added in "capitol letters")
Yes. Let’s start working together within ECA, really believing, that if we are united as artists we can be very powerful.

10. Okt. 2004