Freedom of Expression of the Arts and Culture in the Digital Era

The Council of Europe and the Cultiva Fondation are proud to be hosting a conference on "Freedom of Expression of the Arts and Culture in the Digital Era" on 6 May 2021.

The conference is a part of the European Conference on Democracy and Human rights on 5 og 6 May 2021 who address the conditions of freedom of speech and media freedom, and the situation for democracy in Europe in the wake of the Pandemic.  

“Freedom of Expression thrives through practice and becomes an empty word without the arts, culture, heritage and creativity, while without freedom of expression, the arts, culture and creativity wither” (Jaroslav Andel: 2019)

In this conference the Council of Europe and the Cultiva Founcation explore if “Culture and the Arts keep Democracy alive?” through talks and roundtable discussion with international and local participants. You also get a sneak-peak with artistic performances from the program “Diversity, public space and digitalisation” that will take place in Kristiansand this summer.

The conference will be followed by the launch of the Council of Europe's digital#exhibition "Free to Create - Create to be Free".

The event is in English and will be digital accessible on the website The European Conference 2021.

Sign up here


Event moderator: Mr Torbjørn Urfjell, Director of Culture in Kristiansand


Artistic performance: "Garden" by Oakland Rain

14:10 Opening by Ms Cecilie Nissen, Cultiva Board member and CEO of the Kristiansand Kunsthall

Artistic performance: KAY portraits - queer art and queer lives in Norwegian and Polish contexts, by Ms Anna Zychowicz


Greeting by Ms Emma Lind, State Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Norway


Greeting by Mr Michael Roth, State Secretary Europe, Federal Foreign Office, Germany


Greeting by Ms Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Director General for Democracy, Council of Europe


Spotlight talk by Ms Sara Whyatt on "Human Rights and Arts and Culture - the state of play"


Artistic performance: "We are back" - the supreme court trial that never took place by Arkivet Peace and Human Rights Centre


Roundtable session: "Can Culture and the Arts keep Democracy Alive - Challenges and Perspectives"
- Ms Sara Whyatt (UNESCO Expert Panel member, Freedom of Expression)
- Ms Flora van Regteren Altena (Chair of the Council of Europe's Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape)
- Ms Kata Krasznahorkai (Curator, Art Historian)
- Mr Nasan Tur (artist)
- Mr Vladan Joler (Professor of New Media, University of Novi Sad; SHARE Lab Leader)
- Ms Trude Gomnæs Ugelstad (Art Director, SKMU Sørlandet Art Museum)
- Ms Birgit Amalie Nilsen (Art Producer, Arkivet Peace and Human Rights Centre)


Artistic performance: Visual art comment from SKMU - Sørlandet Art Museum


"The Artist as a Change Maker: Local and Regional Experiences and Ambitions". Presentation of the Cultiva Foundation program on "Diversity, Public Space and Digitalisation" by Ms Kirsti Mathiesen Hjemdahl (CEO)


Artistic performance: Oakland Rain - "Diversity - with equal opportunity"


Launch of the Platform for the Council of Europe's Digital#Exhibition "Free to Create - Create to be Free" and the first contributions to it by Norway and Germany
- Ms Kata Krasznahorkai, Ms Oli Solis and Mr Christo Buschek


Wrap-up of the Kristiansand conference "Freedom of Expression of the Arts and Culture in the Digital Era" by Mr Torbjørn Urfjell


End of conference




Cecilie Nissen
Foto: Jacob Buchard

Cecilie Nissen

Visual artist, curator, and artistic director at Kristiansand Kunsthall (Art Hall). Visual artist with exhibitions in Norway and the Nordic countries. Deputy to the city council of Kristiansand from 2011. Deputy leader in Christianssands Art Society, board member in Agder Venstre (political party), Kristiansand Venstre and deputy member of the board of Cultiva Foundation. 

Emma Lind
Foto: Ilja. C. Hendel/

Emma Lind

State secretary Ministry of Culture of Norway

Since 2015 directly elected member of the Kristiansand Community City Council, and from 2020 political advisor for the cultural minister Abid Q. Raja. Previosly, Emma Lind has been senior advisor in cultural economy at the Norwegian Art Council, researcher and phd. at NORCE Research Institute, advisor at the British Embassy Oslo and at the London Contemporary Dance School, The Place. Lind has her education from England, where she holds a BA in Dance and Culture from the University of Surrey, a Postgraduate Diploma in Law from DeMontfort University, and a MA in International Cultural Policy at the University of Warwick.

Michael Roth

Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office (since 2013)

Since 1998 directly elected member of the German Bundestag; 2010 to 2013 spokesperson on Europe of the SPD parliamentary group; 2009 to February 2014 Secretary-General of the SPD in Land Hesse, since 2017 Member of the SPD Executive Committee.

Since 2014 Commissioner for Franco-German Cooperation, member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for European Politics and member of the board of the Franco-German Institute in Ludwigsburg, Chairman of the supervisory board of the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), member of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation and Special Representative of the Federal Government for the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Snezana Samardizic-Markovic

Snežana Samardžić-Marković

Ms Snežana Samardžić-Marković is the Director General of Democracy at the Council of Europe since 2012. Under her responsibility, the Directorate General works to help the member states in creating a favourable environment for sustainable democracy and democratic security in Europe.

Three directorates and ten partial agreements under her responsibility are providing guidance, assistance and innovation in the areas of democratic governance, participation and diversity. Her responsibilities include the policy areas of education and youth, local democracy, cultural policies, election assistance, the protection of human dignity, gender equality, children’s rights, and the rights of minorities, work against discrimination, democratic citizenship and democratic responses to crisis situations. In addition, Ms Samardžić-Marković is, on voluntary basis, a member of the Governing Board of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, of the UEFA Foundation for Children board of trustees and of the Governance Task Force of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations.

Previously, Ms Samardžić-Marković has held numerous positions in the Serbian Government including as Deputy Director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Neighbouring Countries; Assistant Minister of Defence (2005-2007) and Co-President of the Serbia-NATO Defence Reform Group; member of the Foundation Board of WADA, Minister of Youth and Sports (2007-2012) and President of the Fund for Young Talents.

Sara Whyatt

Sara Whyatt

Sara Whyatt is a campaigner and researcher on freedom of artistic expression and human rights, notably as a director at PEN International for over 20 years and previously for Amnesty International. At PEN she worked with its global membership of writers based in over 100 countries mobilising its campaigns for writers at risk as well as on thematic issues. She is a member of the EU/UNESCO Expert Facility (2019-2022) for the 2005 Convention on the Promotion and Protection of Cultural Expressions and in July 2019 joined Columbia University Global Freedom of Expression experts.


Flora van Regteren Altena

Flora van Regteren Altena is the Chair of the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape (CDCPP) in 2021. In the Ministry for Culture of the Netherlands she co-coordinates the international team in the field of arts and heritage, with a focus on the activities in multi-lateral organisations as the CoE, EU and UNESCO.

Kata Krasznahorkai

Kata Krasznahorkai

Dr. Kata Krasznahorkai is a Berlin-based art historian, researcher and curator with more than a twenty-year-expertise in curating international exhibitions, writing and editing publications and organizing cultural events. Currently, she is a Gerda Henkel Senior Researcher at the University of Zurich and an expert advisor to the Council of Europe`s digital exhibition "Free to Create - Create to be Free". 

In her research Krasznahorkai focuses on the interaction between the state and cultural acteurs. She specialised on the interaction between state security operations and the cultural scenes in Eastern Europe and beyond. Krasznahorkai is the author and editor of numerous catalogues and books. Most recently, she edited with Sylvia Sasse "Artists&Agents. Performance Art and State Security" (Spector Books 2019 / forthcoming in English in 2021). She co-curated "Artists&Agents" at the HMKV in Dortmund that has been awarded as “Exhibition of the Year 2020” by the German Section of International Art Critics (AICA). Her new monography "Operative Art History or Who is Afraid of Artists?" will be published by Spector Books 2021. Krasznahorkai is member of AICA (Association Internationale des Critiques d'Art). She was awarded with the Herder-Prize-Grant of the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung, the research grant of the Liebelt-Stiftung, Hamburg, the DAAD-research-grant and the research grant of the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

Nasan Tur
Foto: Nasan Tur and VG-Bildkunst

Nasan Tur

Nasan Tur (b. 1974, Offenbach) works in an intermediate area between the public and the gallery space, drawing his material from messages and tensions he finds in the urban environment. His works comment on the conflicts and failures of ideologies either directly or indirectly. While suggesting that we must rise against repression and to struggle for fundamental democratic rights, such as freedom of the speech, he also admits the risk that resistance can turn into violence, which expands the scope of his work to cover also the ethic dimension of both individuals and community action. The overarching theme of his artistic work embraces all social struggle and the question of its justification. Nevertheless, Tur also examines the individual’s experience: personal risk taking and opening oneself to ridicule. Yet the boldness to put oneself at risk, the ability to laugh at oneself, the tenacity to try again and again, and the ability to endure failure, these are all necessary if we want to defend important values in the society.

​A key medium of Tur’s art is his own body, which he sometimes pushes to extremes, such as when he tries to break different world records or when making performative works in public spaces. In spite of their political and social tenor, his works are often humorous, astounding and sometimes shocking. Tur examines people’s activities and politics in an occasionally bemused and sometimes sorrowful way. He uses any media that suits his theme. His first exhibition in Finland presents sculptures, photographs, videos and installations. Tur currently holds a professorship at the post-graduate program Spacial Strategies at Weißensee Academy of Art, Berlin.

Nasan Tur participated at documenta14, at the 10. Istanbul Biennale and at the 6. Taipei Biennale and exhibited in numerous institutions like Palais de Tokyo, Centre Pompidou Paris, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin,  Städel Museum Frankfurt, Maxxi Museum Rome. In 2012 he was awarded the Will Grohmann Prize of the Academy of Arts, Berlin and 2014 the Villa Massimo Prize of the Deutsche Akademie Rom.

Vladan Joler

Vladan Joler is an academic, researcher and artist whose work blends data investigations, counter-cartography, investigative journalism, writing, data visualisation, critical design and numerous other disciplines. He explores and visualises different technical and social aspects of algorithmic transparency, digital labour exploitation, invisible infrastructures and many other contemporary phenomena in the intersection between technology and society.

He has curated and organized numerous events and gatherings of Internet activists, artists and investigators, including SHARE events in Belgrade and Beirut. His artistic pre-history is rooted in media activism and game hacking.
Vladan Joler’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Design Museum in London, and also in the permanent exhibition of the Ars Electronica Center. Aside from his permanent professorship position, i.e. tenure, at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, where he teaches at the New Media Department, he has given lectures at numerous educational and art institutions.


Christo Buschek

Christo is a technologist who makes technology work for people and not the other way around. His speciality lies in data-driven investigations to develop compelling stories which expose the misuse of power and human rights abuses. Previously, Christo created tools used to document the campaign of mass incarceration of Uighurs in China or uncover proof of atrocities committed in the ongoing war in Syria. Christo aims to build tools that are secure, privacy-respecting, functional, accessible and aesthetically pleasing.

Foto: SKMU

Trude Gomnæs Ugelstad

Trude Gomnæs Ugelstad is the artistic director at Sørlandet Kunstmuseum / Kunstsilo in Kristiansand. Gomnæs Ugelstad has more than 20 years of experience as leading art institutions in Norway such as Oslo Fine Arts Society, Norwegian Crafts and DOGA Design og Arkitektur Norway. She has long experience in the making of cultural policy and is the appointed chair person for the Norwegian State Artist Grants at the Arts Council.

Birgit Amalie Nilsen

Birgit Amalie Nilssen is head of audience programming at Arkivet peace and human rights centre in Kristiansand. Amalie’s background is in theatre, and she has 15 years experience as artistic director of first Haugesund Teater and then Kilden Teater. She has extensive experience as a playwright and stage director, and has  her training from The Arts Educational London Schools, Guildford School of Acting and Flinders University of South Australia. The first years of her career, Amalie worked as an actor for the Shakespeare company Theatre Set-Up and for Past Pleasures at The Millennium Dome in London. Amalie has taken part in the public debate in Norway as a columnist in different newspapers since she was 15 years old. Amalie believes that all art is a political statement - maybe even more so when it tries not to be. 

Olivia Solis

Olivia Solis

Olivia Solis is a digital product designer that focuses on bringing user-centered solutions to problems. She developed her graphic design career collaborating with the creative industries while supporting nonprofits along the way. She has experience communicating with diverse clients, from think tanks, human rights organizations, and investigative journalists.

Foto: Anne Lise Nordheim

Torbjørn Urfjell

Director of culture and citizen dialogue, Kristiansand municipality.

Urfjell will be moderating the conference.

Kirsti Mathiesen Hjemdahl

Kirsti Mathiesen Hjemdahl

Kirsti Mathiesen Hjemdahl is CEO of the Cultiva in Kristiansand, which is a foundation with a capital base of 240 million Euro and the purpose to secure work and good living conditions through the means of art, culture, creativity, and knowledge. Hjemdahl has a background as ethnologist with Dr. Art and post.doc from the University of Bergen in Norway. From mid-2000 she led a department at the regional research institute in the South of Norway, Agderforskning AS. Most of her research projects were so-called user-driven, with partners from both within and outside of academia. In 2019, when being the Head of Innovation at the Norwegian research centre NORCE AS and Professor II in Ethnology at the University of Agder, she decided to leave academy to become the leader of Cultiva. In addition, Hjemdahl is a board member in the Norwegian Research Council and at the Norwegian Foundation Association. She is member of the Think Thanks at the Norwegian Art Council and at the The Norwegian Council for Schools of Music and Performing Arts, as well as member of the Advisory Board of Visit Norway in Innovation Norway.

Performing artists:

Anna Zychowicz Esavna
Foto: Privat

Anna Zychowicz Esavna

Born on September 14th 1979 in Cracow, Poland. After graduating from high school, she began her studies at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, majoring in Theatrical Studies. She defended her Masters Degree title with thesis entitled “Acting and its therapeutic influence on human psychic”.  During her post graduate studies, she completed and received her diplomas in Culture Management (2010) as well as Pedagogy Studies (2011).  The beginnings of her professional work relate to fashion world. Her experience as a Hugo Boss Regional Visual Merchandiser (2006-2008) additionally enriched her ability to create professional set and costume designs needed later for all her theatrical work. From 2009 fully dedicated to theater both teaching and directing theatrical productions. She conducted theater classes for children and teenagers for Virdis Theater (Zielonki 2009), as well as youth, adults and seniors for the biel’arte Theater Group (Bielawa, 2010-2014). She was a founder and the president of the biel’are Foundation. She has produced and directed many theatrical plays and art projects. In 2017 she moved to Norway where she continues her work as an artist, a writer and theater director. Art&Nature


Arkivet Peace and Human Rights Centre: Director Birgit Amalie Nilssen. Artists: Rolf Gupta, Tomos Young, Laura Christina Brøvig Vallenes, Ole Tellefsen

«We are back»

«Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it»

These words by George Santayana are quoted in various forms by survivors of the nazi death camps. Historians may rightly argue that the past never repeats itself, but the sentiment still holds. When trying to understand our place in time and space, it helps to understand what brought us here.

The background for the work we will show a glimpse of, is the Norwegian legal system’s ruling saying that raising the nazi flag at Arkivet on the very date that Germany invaded Norway in 1940, is not a hateful act. The state attorney has deemed that this ruling can not be appealed to the Norwegian Supreme Court. Arkivet’s head historian, Dr. Thomas V. H. Hagen has argued that such a ruling is only possible when disregarding the history behind the action.

On April 9th 2022, Arkivet will present an artistic version of the Supreme Court case that will never happen. Right here and now, we will show a sneak peak of what the audience can expect a year from now. Alongside examples of our work in progress, Birgit Amalie Nilssen will talk about the challenging artistic process of attempting to turn such a dark and politically potent chapter of our history into a piece of art.


Sørlandet Art Museum SKMU


Foto: Tobias Aasgaarden

Oakland Rain

Being young in a society that is rapidly changing and challenging our thought patterns and abilities to think forward, the twin sisters in Oakland Rain write music from a perspective of both personal experiences and bigger social, environmental, and societal aspects. Growing up along the southern coast of Norway, the twin sisters have been surrounded by fresh air and space for creativity and writing. Their music is rooted in the acoustic singer/songwriter genre, and the sound of Oakland Rain has that organic feel inspired by the Nashville-scene. Their live performances have gained attention, with critics calling their songs truly authentic and honest.

Since their debut at Sørveiv in 2014, the folk-duo has released 5 EP-s, overall 45 songs (including their pop songs under their alter-ego “The Ella Sisters”), they have toured in Europe and the US, played showcase festivals in Norway and abroad, and developed a timeless yet youthful soundscape. The summer of 2019, the duo had the honour of being part of the theatre play “Fruen fra havet” by Henrik Ibsen, both as actors and songwriters casted by Kilden Theatre and Concert Hall. Their performance, and recorded theatre album, proved their ability to write music in Norwegian as well. Their many releases have gained a loyal following, and the sisters stay ambitious about challenging themselves in different projects- something that makes them an interesting act to keep an eye on. The twin sisters will release lots of new music in the upcoming months.

Oakland Rain is currently working on their project “Diversity- with equal opportunity” together with the production company “South Coast Creative”. The project will be released through episodes, where they are diving into different subjects related to diversity. In the project, the sisters seek to find people with different experiences regarding diversity, and look into how negative patterns can change. The songwriter duo will enter the project through their door as artists, and try to gain knowledge and shed light on important stories.