Culture is future »

12.16.2015

3 questions to... Denis Mollat, general manager at the Mollat Bookstore in Bordeaux

Your career—from medicine to publishing and your interests, from photography to new technology, as well as your many activities in the cultural sector—makes you an iconoclastic and humanistic character liked by the French. So, what is culture’s role in the beginning of the 21st century?

Humanistic, probably, but more baroque than iconoclastic. The bookstore often has a conventional image limited to shelves and piles of books, with a dusty touch to it. For me, the bookstore is not just that; it is above all, about being able to satisfy both our readers and our clients’ requests, to know how to understand their expectations, and to never stop surprising them.

I think the way we consider culture is new a horizon for thinking and reflection. On one side, we have disciplinary knowledge that is becoming more and more specialized and impossible to synthesize. On the other, we live in an age that seems to have abolished spatial and temporal distances. Thus, far and near are no longer what they were. Finally, the element linking people together is no longer geographic proximity; closeness is now all about sharing, and culture is essentially about this sharing. Culture must not be considered as a new frontier; it is a space within our minds that allows the gathering of people and the sharing of knowledge.

From this perspective, culture is also a defense against savagery; once there is sharing, there is exchange, which is a moderation effect. Culture as a common good cannot create extremism. Since the attacks in Paris, we witnessed in bookstores a strong resurgence in the need for culture, lived and sought out in many ways by readers: as a way to comprehend, to take refuge, and also to act as the essential social glue. This way, culture is like a support system, a social support. In the same way, the anxiety from climate change is being solved through understanding; culture; we can lastly note has a pretty efficient carbon footprint.

‘Enterprising culture’ is the theme for the International meetings of the Forum d’Avignon that will take place in Bordeaux between March 31st and April 1st, 2016. Far from simply reducing culture to an economic or a social issue, enterprising culture, is indeed, for the Forum d’Avignon, about highlighting the role and responsibility of creators. It’s about debating the new funding conditions for creation and the role of private and public partnerships to widen access and diffusion of creation, two pillars of cultural diversity. It’s about accompanying the digital transformation and promoting the conditions to foster an ethical use of data. It’s lastly about reaffirming the singularity of culture and its importance at a time when values are most needed to construct social cohesion for territories and the pacifist reinforcement of relations between nations. As a cultural entrepreneur yourself, what does ‘enterprising culture’ means to you?

Enterprising culture is to provoke, to challenge without any reservations. Exploring the cultural world is a huge laboratory. The history of books is very long and until now its economic and commercial model has been quite stable. But we also talk about books to express the danger books face, although it isn’t quite so. The paper format is resisting. Even if digital is silently arriving for the moment, the main part is what is behind the format, which is content and human thought. That is what is most important. It is absolutely necessary to adopt enterprising culture to avoid the chaos from the non-thinking.

Thus, enterprising culture is about convictions, a profound aspiration, something that brings pleasure, all the while keeping our rationality because we cannot invest in this world without deciding on an appropriate price and method: we have to maintain a form of pragmatism.

For bookshops, enterprising culture, is about imagining the links between different forms of cultural expression. The book is not separate from a museum exhibition, from the theatre, from the cinema, of course. Those who love culture, and even if they do not possess any preferences for a domain, are open to other domains. We must always assume the curiosity of people, their taste for suggestions, and their disposition to discover things that, at the start, didn’t interest them.

To enterprise in culture, there are two types of figures: those who are already in culture and those who are not. If you are not, enterprising culture means for you to be a sponsor or wish to become a cultural operator and to involve yourself in culture: publish books, develop shops in your own right, etc. Achieve outcomes that are not directly linked to your initial professional, but in which you want to invest and develop yourself.

For us, the bookstore is a cultural business. And for us, involving ourselves in other forms, it meant creating our own online portal, Station Ausone, and then concretize the portal by opening a room called Mollat-Station Ausone. And from that, it’s about fully playing with synergy.

One of Forum d’Avignon’s notable ambitions is to support the emergence of a new generation of cultural and creative entrepreneurs. How can we get there?

Today’s young cultural entrepreneurs now have amazing tools for diffusion: social media in all forms—text, image, video or sound—which allow them to share their content and acquire a presence that can spread very rapidly. We often experience it in the bookstore: if you have pertinent content and it’s well known, you can easily achieve a great résonance. The “hashtag” is the radical tool to call out to ideas.

We must create links between different worlds, between the companies and the cultural world. For this, we need entrepreneurs who truly believe in it, to put in place partnerships, exchanges, hosts and assistance.

Companies have not fully grasped what patronage means. The law on patronage isn’t that complicated, but many companies have found it quite so.

Today, it is important to note that there are digital means open to all and are can easily be adopted. It’s particularly true for camera usage, photo-taking devices, and any image-editing software. Digital has considerably made it easy the possibilities to create and to disseminate; it’s a double growth in creation and the circulation of this creation.

With the space Station Ausone, our aim is to provide reliable tools to young creators, to allow them to share their creations as widely as possible. It also gives us the opportunity to learn because we too have much to learn from creators.

About Station Ausone

Station Ausone is a digital portal for culture, in Bordeaux and other cities. The Mollat bookstore, created in 2012, driven by the idea that books are completely solidary with other domains and forms of culture.

Since its creation, Station Ausone has chosen to consider all aspects of cultural creation by providing the best environment. By combining artistic flair and cutting-edge technology, Station Ausone showcases concerts, operas, expositions, installations, performances, conferences, festivals, in photo, podcast, video formats both recorded and in live, in France and abroad.

A true space of expression and spread of arts and knowledge, just like books, Station Ausone has succeeded in creating strong links with numerous cultural actors.

The idea to accompany the Forum d’Avignon in Bordeaux came naturally for Station Ausone and its projects; to support authors, thinkers and cultural actors all the while producing audiovisual recordings, in live and recorded, of the event’s highlights.