We have become accustomed, to grasp the real, to divide it into entities that we want to believe distinct. We say “culture”, “communication”, “economy”. Quick common sense, which would trust these convenient distinctions, could, on the face of it, pit these entities against each other, put face to face “culture”, the place of the disinterested practices of art, and “economy”, the reserved space of the activities of money.

To guarantee the creation of wealth through culture, a democratic government must follow a somewhat subtle pattern: that of a broken line whose continuity is recognized and drawn at the same time. At the same time, it is a matter of giving all freedom to the artist’s investment in his audacity and his radicality, and at the same time of knowing what, almost without his own knowledge, his research offers profound improvements for society as a whole and for his economy. Everything that artists give us to see and understand is a collective treasure whose economic spinoffs, however indirect they seem to be, are immense, without any proportion of the money invested to produce it. For it is the whole human psyche that progresses, that refines. And the work of artists constantly increases our pleasure to live, our desire to move forward, our desire to innovate.
It is here, in this balance and in this articulation, that our “strategy for a new world” is situated. Because we are trying to situate ourselves at the level of strategy and not just tactics: it is not a matter of aligning troops – “culture, how many divisions?” – It’s about better understanding and developing the investment effect of culture. Because there is no gratuity, or rather, there are two gratuities today in our intangible economy. There is the false notion of a liberalized Internet to the absurd, which is only a sales argument and a product of appeal at the expense of creators and their rights. And there is that of the creative gesture, which is also a false gratuity, but for all other reasons: because it needs the support of the public authorities to exist, and especially because it is an invaluable investment for the future, that is, it brings sustainable wealth and wealth for everyone, on condition that we know how to guarantee its widest distribution and the most respectful of the rights of creators.
What is valid at the level of the individual artist is found in the different cultures that make up the world in which we live. Since the birth of a thought resolutely open to the Other, that of structuralists and, in particular, of the great Claude LEVI-STRAUSS, who has just left us and to whom I would like to pay tribute again, Especially here, because this Forum is in some way placed under his inspiration, from these great minds, we know how necessary it is to respect and let flourish all the cultures of the world. Like the explorations of artists, they carry a wealth of gaze that we cannot do without to understand ourselves. That is why I am particularly pleased to have with us the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, who I know carries the values of cultural diversity loud and clear.
The recognition and affirmation of the dual nature of cultural goods, their quantifiable economic value, and their social and symbolic value, which requires that their circulation be exempt from a strict application of market logic, was a historic step. These principles have proved useful in recent upheavals. In the face of the economic crisis, cultural industries, know-how and, more generally, all activities of culture, have shown their solidity. It is clear to me that the economy of culture will, every day more, be one of our great poles of resistance and even resilience to emerge from the crisis and to invent the new forms of tomorrow’s growth.
The cultural diversity, the assistance and the speakers of these days – you are also, ladies and gentlemen, in a way, the expression, and I wanted to say that I am delighted, I am convinced that we can only confront these great questions by confronting perspectives and horizons, by bringing together experiences and backgrounds: economists, artists, nationals of many countries and different cultures, I thank you for your presence and for your participation in this second edition of the Forum d'Avignon, which I must say that I expect greatly to help build this «new world» that we hope and that is not a utopia... I would like to take this opportunity to thank the French ministers of the economy, Christine LAGARDE, whose message we will hear tomorrow morning, and Hervé NOVELLI, who is here, which both testify that the conviction of the profound solidarity of culture and the economy is shared by the entire government, especially by its “economists”.
We are here to build this “new world”. Its “Archimedes' lever”, its keystone, as you know, is the digitization and revolution it provokes in all aspects of our existence, but more particularly in our cultural practices, both in the strict sense and in the broadest sense of the term.
Because digital must be the new vector of our strategy, the central point of articulation of this broken line that I was talking about earlier. It is at the same time the formidable instrument of an exponential and truly unprecedented development of the cultural offer, a unique and unprecedented opportunity to approach what I call “culture for everyone” – I don’t say “culture for all”, because it is not a question of a uniform cultural product, but of new ways to reach each one in its singularity, whether philosophical, geographical, urban or rural.
Digital is what the Greeks called a “pharmakon”, both a poison and a remedy, depending on how the pharmacist or the doctor uses it. Misused, it can become the release of a subculture for all and, in a sense, for no one; but used properly, it can instead become the historical lever of a “culture for everyone”. LEVI-STRAUSS said, in a text for UNESCO precisely: The great creative epochs were those when communication had become sufficient for distant partners to stimulate themselves, without being frequent enough and fast enough for the indispensable obstacles between individuals and between groups to be reduced to the point where too easy exchanges equalize and confuse their diversity.”
It is this issue that led me to grasp, as soon as I arrived on rue de Valois, the question of the digitization of Europe’s literary heritage by the American company Google.
On this point, I would like to explain not only the principles of my action, but also my conception of the method which I consider legitimate to follow on this priority question of the digitisation of our heritages, not only of printed matter, but also, of course, moving images, films, collections of our museums, manuscript archives...
The digitization of books is the basis of a “knowledge economy”. Culture is the vital condition and the foundation of this knowledge economy that we want, that we must build.
The extraordinary power of the Californian universities has enabled Google to move through the stages of growth with astonishing speed that, in a few years, transform a «start-up» (I believe, for example, as Minister of the French Language, that I must translate “start-up”) into a somewhat sprawling vegetation and, in some respects, into a plant of which we may wonder whether it does not tend to become carnivorous.
However, as I said at the outset, this issue is too complex to be left to frontal opposition, caricatures or invectives. We must neither believe that the victors are already known and that we have only to write their history, nor give in the parody of national start. This complex question, because it is new, requires first and foremost not to yield to the demons of polemics, or to sink into angelism and underestimate the risk that a “dominant culture” will be established and imposed by the Net.
Because, on the one hand, we know the risks of partnering with Google: what about the sustainability of digitized files? ownership of these files?
On the other hand, I look at the partnerships that have been established with the California firm by major libraries in Europe and around the world.
It is to see more clearly and to develop a body of doctrine that I decided to launch a mission of reflection on the theme of the digitization of libraries, which will give us its conclusions on December 15.
I asked the mission to keep in mind not only the technical aspect of the problem, but also its political scope, in the noble sense of the word, that is, the general interest. I asked him to think European, and I am sure that his hearings and his reflections will lead to results that will interest us all.
His work will remain faithful to a number of principles, in particular to the idea of regulation, that is, the establishment of rules of the game that reconcile the widest access to culture with the protection of creators.
Because authors' rights have been a long conquest of the Enlightenment, a «social gain» which has enabled artists to emerge from the position of marginality and sometimes misery in which they have been confined for too long and in which it would be absurd for the very progress of technology to lead, by the effect of a terrible irony, to relegate them again. This is the whole purpose of the two laws recently adopted in France, often considered as «pioneers»: regulating the Net, protecting the fair remuneration of creators for their work. As a follow-up, I launched a reflection mission on the extension of the legal offer of creation on the Internet.
You are no doubt aware that the French Government intervened with the American judge who must rule on the draft regulation between Google and the American authors and publishers to alert him to the problems raised by this draft agreement. This is also the position developed by the French authorities at the hearing held by the European Commission in Brussels on 7 September. And I am pleased to have my Spanish and Romanian colleagues at the Forum, as I was very pleased with my exchange with the Director of the German National Library.
I want us to come up with a solution that is the result of not only thorough but shared reflection, that is to say that it brings together our European partners.
That is why I would also like to raise this essential subject at the Council of Ministers for Culture of the European Union on 27 November.
I will defend the idea of increasing the digitization of our heritage. We will work together to define a common European approach to define the conditions for public-private partnerships acceptable to the European citizen, and to strengthen the capacities of Europeana, the European digital library.
A dynamic digitization policy is already underway in France: it concerns the treasures of our major museums, such as the LOUVRE or ORSAY, 85% of whose collections are digitized and accessible free online. In addition, the National Film Centre is ready to launch a major digitization and enhancement plan covering 13,000 films and 70,000 hours of audiovisual creations. The National Audiovisual Institute has already done a remarkable job of digitizing a huge part of its film, radio, and soon photographic collection.
It is to intensify this policy that I proposed to the President of the Republic to devote no less than 753 million euros to the digitization of cultural content, as part of the «Great Loan» that he wants to launch.
I have also decided to create a unique portal of French cultural heritage, which must follow a process not only quantitative, but qualitative, ensuring the classification of contents and their enhancement. I insist on quality and I would like to tell you a story about this.
There is in the writer Robert MUSIL, in his immense novel L'Homme sans qualité, a comical chapter that features a rather sympathetic army general, General STUMM. One fine day, this general decides to find the key to knowledge and to do so, decides to «invade the national library». He takes a reader’s card from the Vienna library, which then counts, we are told, no less than three and a half million volumes. After having put to the question several librarians perplexed or frightened, General Stumm (that is, in German, General «Mute») must retreat and face the obvious: the presence of all books in the same place does not allow us to distinguish the ultimate book, this "summary of all the great thoughts of humanity", this "book on the realization of the essential" from which he is so aptly embarked.
It is in order not to be General Stumm of the Internet, or "Bouvard and Pécuchet" of the Web, without neglecting what may be dangerous, and not only crazy in some self-taught, that we must create guides, references, structures.
I am counting on all of you, participants in the Forum d'Avignon, on your discussions over the next two days, to give us some of these structures, and to highlight the contribution of an economy of culture, that is, an economy of quality.
You will do so in a first session of the Forum that will explore the contribution of artistic innovation to economic growth and the building of new values for a “new world.”
You will do so in the Forum session on taxation, which will take place this Saturday. The ancestral palace where we are gathered, a brilliant achievement of the patronage of the popes, is the very symbol of the perennial riches that public power and private awakenings, by intervening in the economy of creation, can endow future generations.
You will do so by reflecting on the essential links between the implementation of cultural projects and the attractiveness of the territories, during the Friday afternoon session.
The issue of these relations between culture and territories reminds me of a recent American comedy. In this film, director Ang LEE tells us an economic fable based on a certain musical event that took place in a very poor and isolated corner of New York State, in August 1969 – a “lost hole” called… Woodstock. He tells us about a first attempt to organize the festival in another country corner where the intolerance of peasants and local politicians for the devastating hippie bands is killing the project. The organizers then turn to this small town of Woodstock, deprived and shabby: in three days, at the cost of a minor investment (the sacrifice of some worthless cows meadows soon reduced in a few acres of slush), the local community makes its fortune by selling a historic amount of drinks, food and housing.
The moral of this history, as you have understood, is not only the link between cultural investment and the development of a region. It is also a lesson in tolerance, which shows that development belongs, today as yesterday, to those who know how to integrate counter-culture, margins, young people, the unexpected, in their economic processes. It is on this unconventional vision of cultural industries that I wish to open this 2nd edition of the Avignon Forum, and its first session on innovation, which commits us to turn our gaze to these necessarily surprising creative pools, young, destabilizing, but that an ambitious and confident civilization must know how to listen and encourage in all the explorations it undertakes.
Thank you.