How to live together? Or—Why do we go to festivals?

Natalia Mallo

Natalia Mallo is a Latin-American multi-artist and cultural entrepreneur born in Argentina and based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has 20 years of professional experience developing projects in the fields of music, performing arts and interdisciplinary practices. She is a skilled composer, dramaturge, performer, teacher, director, curator and creative producer. Her artistic concerns address the intersection of languages and art forms in projects that touch upon the politics of diversity. She also acts as consultant for cultural organizations, governmental instances and third sector. Currently her focus lies on the development of international collaborations to work in the intersection of art, education and society.

doi: 10.18278/aia.2.2.40

What makes a festival a festival? It is not just the celebratory atmosphere or the programming, but the chance for encounters. Festivals foster togetherness, while encounters foster conversations about the contemporary world.

I became a “delegate” after being appointed curator at a public museum in the largest city in Brazil; for decades before this, I had been attending international festivals as an artist. I am not a delegate in the strict sense of someone authorized to represent others, but as an individual who wears different hats (artist, curator, creative producer, and entrepreneur) and acts on all of them. Being invited as a delegate brought complexity to my insights about the arts sector and enabled me to develop translational initiatives of cultural cooperation.

Visiting as a Momentum delegate in the Edinburgh Festivals International Delegate Programme allowed me to witness how artistic production is negotiated and discussed between institutions, governments, and producers. I could also watch performances that touched on complex ethical–political concerns that resonated strongly with my own artistic practice and politics. These works deal with gender and sexuality, racism, disability, colonialism, body politics, etc. They employ poetics and aesthetics emanating from diverse cultural repertoires, social experiences, and ideologies. This kind of work makes me question what it means to be and create in the world and it inspires my projects.

Global dialogues on the arts, in the context of co-produced projects, present innumerable challenges, especially when we look at the disparities between the Global North’ and South. These dialogues call recognizing diverse points of view, production models, financing systems, and cultural barriers and imbalances.

Festivals have helped me see that when art reflects upon our current time and generates spaces of dialogue, a global uneasiness is illuminated: How to live together?

The question operates at many levels and there is no single answer. Nevertheless, the nexus between Culture and politics has never been so relevant. This is a fertile moment to examine the extent to which Culture shapes the way in which we imagine the world. As producers of artistic work, public events and knowledge, it is time for us to take on the responsibility to examine the structures and inequalities that organize Culture at a global level. In this way we can collectively construct discourses and practices able to create new spaces of cooperation and solidarity against the flow of authoritarianism, the rising neo-conservative movements, and the sectarian and ethnic violence that devastates the world.

I see festivals as territories where living together is made possible, palpable, and where macro and micro-politics are collectively seen and communicated. While they may not be able to respond to this complex question, they contribute to reimagining the world by displaying glimpses of change. A change that, according to Amador Fernandez-Savater, “will be (in) plural, or it won’t be.”


Fernández-Savater, Amador. Foucault’s Lesson: Guillotining the King Once and for All. <; 2014.