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Philipp Grefer: "We won't solve the problems of the future alone"

Special: CCB goes to China

Philipp Grefer: "We won't solve the problems of the future alone"
Photo: © Matjaz Tancic

Philipp Grefer was born in the Rhineland, lived in Berlin for years and is now leaving his mark on China: He has just organized the "WISE" festival, bringing together players from the fields of music technology, AI and the creative industries from all over the world - and bringing the latest questions and problems to the point. We are media partners this year and spoke with Philipp about China, new global challenges and the festival format.

INTERVIEW   Jens Thomas

 

CCB Magazine:  Philipp, you are the founder of Fake Music Media and organize "WISE", a future think tank about digitalization and creative industries in China. What attracts you to China?

Philipp Grefer:I'm particularly attracted by the rapid pace at which history is being written here. To illustrate this with a little story: When I organized the first concert under the name Fake in Beijing in 2009 with my partner Helen Feng (singer of the band Nova Heart), the name was still an ironic reflection. In China, the topic was already on everyone's lips back then. Today, ten years later, suddenly the whole world is talking about it. And in these ten years so much has happened in China: For example, the Chinese government is currently building a system that evaluates the behavior of its inhabitants in all areas of life, whether positive or negative. But that is only one side of the coin. The other is that China is much more interested in Germany than Germany is in China and also knows more about our country. I wanted to know more about China. That is why I'm here.

CCB Magazine: If you compare the cultural landscape and creative industries here with those in China, where are the parallels and differences? Is there also a comparable creative industry there? 

Philipp Grefer:China is already the second largest film market in the world. As far as the music business is concerned, China has fought its way up from 25th place to about 10th place in the last few years and will certainly take 1st or 2nd place in a few years. It's similar in other areas. Another big difference is the size of the market, the Chinese market is the world leader. Another difference is that the Chinese understand culture in a completely different way.

CCB Magazine: How?

Philipp Grefer:Since Mao's speech in Yanan in 1942, not much has changed, or rather the society has returned to its old form after a short opening. On May 4, 1966, Mao Zedong and cadres of the Chinese Communist Party first launched the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution". The goal was communism and peace, followed by the Cultural Revolution and the great leap forward through which many people lost their lives. To this day, however, culture in China is largely controlled from above. There is hardly an accepted subculture - quite different from Germany. But even in China there are free spaces in which culture develops away from the state. As in the West, they are also under threat from gentrification - rents in the centers of Beijing and Shanghai are now astronomically high.

Unlike the Germans, the Chinese are not technology pessimists. They are basically open to new technologies. I don't even want to say which is better. New technologies always hold opportunities and risks. However, the Chinese first create facts, only then are questions asked

CCB Magazine: Before we talk about your festival format: The topic of AI, the digital penetration of work and life is currently determining the discourse. The debate oscillates between hopefulness and panic mongering. How do the Chinese deal with this topic?

Philipp Grefer:The Chinese, like the Americans, are not technology pessimists, unlike the Germans. The Chinese are basically open to new technologies. I don't even want to say what is better now. New technologies always hold both opportunities and risks. But the Chinese first create facts, only then are the questions asked. The goal is to play along at the front. That can be dangerous, but contrary to the current trend, international cooperation must focus on what we have in common: In an ideal world, the development of AI in China, for example, would not focus on competition between corporations or nations. What is central is the spirit of cooperation, which should then also create common global standards and regulations.

Photo: wise


CCB Magazine: In Germany, culture is heavily dependent on the public sector - around 9 billion euros are spent on culture every year. However, there is a widespread opinion that art and culture must be purpose-free. What is the situation in China, where everything is centrally controlled anyway, but where everything is negotiated economically?

Philipp Grefer:There is a dichotomy in China between the state, free market economy and the relationship to art. Nothing here can do without the other - quite unlike in Germany. But you have to differentiate between what it's all about in concrete terms: money or control? The art market, for example, is, as the name suggests, one that is determined by supply and demand in China and which is assumed to have a certain potential for money laundering - and not only in China. The problem the state could have with this would be that the money is taken out of the country with the help of art. Such art is not promoted in China either. Even more: it's not even tolerated.

"WISE" is a platform for exchange. Actors from various creative industries come together with actors from all countries that will shape our digital life in the future - for example, actors from the tech industry. I want people to recognize opportunities for collaboration. Because the solutions for the future can only be found on a global scale

CCB Magazine: Now you're organizing the "WISE" festival, a hinge function for music, technology and the latest advances. What is "WISE" about? What are the central themes?

Philipp Grefer:"WISE" is a platform for exchange. Actors from various creative industries such as music, film, art, design etc. come together with actors from all countries that will shape our digital life in the future - for example, actors from the tech industry. Everyone can and should learn a lot from and about each other. My goal with WISE is to identify opportunities for collaboration. Because the solutions for the future can only be found on a global scale. China, now the second largest world power, can no longer be ignored. And we will talk about that at the festival. Topics such as how we deal with AI, the advantages and disadvantages of technologies, how they affect work and life are right at the top of the agenda. It's always about putting people at the center of our considerations. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy: "Don't ask what we can do for digitization, ask what digitization can do for us".  

CCB Magazine: What can digitization do for us?

Philipp Grefer:It can make our lives easier in the future. Of course, there is a danger that we will increasingly be navigated by others. Of course, jobs will also be lost. But new jobs will also be created. Above all, digitization creates access, we humans just have to look for it - and above all across national borders.

II think if we continue like this, we have a good chance to become the most important international platform for the creative and tech industry in China

Photo: wise


CCB Magazine: How do European and Chinese artists or creative actors come together at your festival?

Philipp Grefer:First of all the special place where WISE takes place should be mentioned: The 798 Art Quarter in Beijing is a unique place in the world, more precisely its heart. Five minutes walk from there is the Danish Cultural Center where our music program takes place. Both places are predestined for exchange. I'm also glad that the Reeperbahn Festival (RBF) was a big partner this year - and so are you. Thanks to the financial support of the German Foreign Office we were able to organize two additional music showcases with four European and four Chinese artists each. Furthermore, there was a matchmaking with 20 representatives of the European and Chinese music industry. The goal is to bring Chinese representatives to the Reeperbahn Festival in exchange.

CCB Magazine: The "WISE" festival is the second of its kind this year. What is your long-term goal?

Philipp Grefer:Although "WISE" is still quite manageable, it's also quite unique in China. There are enough conferences in China, but they are usually quite dry with product pitches and uninspiring speeches. Inspiration, learning effects and networking are simply not enough. Often there are also purely Chinese events where there is not enough exchange with artists from abroad. At WISE, this is exactly what we focus on: exchange. I think if we continue like this, we have a good chance of becoming the most important international platform for the creative and tech industry in China.


Here you can find all information about the WISE-Festival 

Category: Specials

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