About us

On 29 September 2021, CULTURESCAPES opens its 16th edition, which also marks the start of a new festival series focusing on regions of global significance.

For two months, artists, activists, and cultural actors from all parts of Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador will be present in over 40 cultural institutions in Switzerland, Germany, and France. With its programming, CULTURESCAPES as a format goes beyond the usual cultural events.

CULTURESCAPES 2021 Amazonia aims to provide access points to this critical ecological and social space, establishing a deeper exchange of knowledge with Switzerland and Europe. CULTURESCAPES also aims to raise awareness about the threat posed to the Amazon by climate change, as well as about the importance of indigenous cultures and global social responsibility.

The framework for this approach and examination is formed by four thematic lines that overlap and are interconnected:

The Amazon river is vast a network of waterways that connect the continent from the Andes to the Atlantic ocean. It serves as a blood circulation system for the tropical forest, for the cloud generation and movement, and the people that live around it. It is important to see the river also as a metaphor of life, connectivity, and communication.

The new geological era of crucial human influence on the Earth brings challenges of climate change and reviewing the concepts of progress and development. The need to search for new formats of relations between peoples and between humans and non-humans (various agents of nature) is urgent and is an important topic for a variety of artists.

Colonial history of South America created an environment of an intense and often quite tense co-habitation of different peoples and cultures. These peoples, their traditions and ways of lives, their stories and visions, rights and fights, interrelations between each other and nature is what is at the core of the Amazonia. Their voices need to be heard through the festival texture.

Violence and peace
Not only in the past but very much in the present, South America and its Amazonian part is a continent of extensive violence. What is Europe’s role in these processes nowadays? How peace and reconciliation are envisaged by artists and thinkers?

Another important focus of the festival is the overwhelming impact of COVID-19 on the region. The pandemic has also affected preparation for CULTURESCAPES 2021 Amazonia. However, we are confident that the festival will take place between the end of September and the beginning of December, both with the usual physical as well as with new virtual formats.

CULTURESCAPES is a multidisciplinary festival that aspires to promote cross-border dialogue and mutual learning between cultures, as well as cooperation and networking. Our mission is to be the platform for advocacy for more inclusive, pluricultural, open, and responsible societies.

Since 2003, the festival focuses on the cultural landscape of a country or a region. Based in Basel, Switzerland, it extends its presence far beyond one city involving up to ten other Swiss cantons and the neighboring regions of Germany and France.

With each edition of the festival, the number of partners and audience outreach steadily increases. At the moment, we collaborate with about 40 cultural institutions in Switzerland.

Each festival edition occurs in the fall and goes on for 2 months presenting over 200 events to an audience of almost 60,000 visitors. With each new edition, the festival researches diverse cultural and social experiences, ranging from Georgia (2003) to Israel (2011), the Balkans (2013), Tokyo (2014), Iceland (2015), Greece (2017), and Poland (2019). The festival program includes performing and visual arts, film and literature, university lectures, open public debates and tailored programs for younger audiences.

Pius Knüsel

Pius Knüsel, born 1957 in Cham, Switzerland, graduated from the University of Zurich in German Literature and Philosophy.

Working as a freelance journalist, he was a co-founder of a political-cultural weekly paper for Central Switzerland in 1981. He worked as the cultural editor at Swiss Television from 1985 until 1992 and as an independent music promoter. Pius was the founder, artistic and business director of the Moods Jazz Club in Zurich from 1992 until 1997, as well as a board member of the European Jazz Network.

From 1998 until 2002 Pius was the head of the department of cultural sponsoring of Credit Suisse (retail branch) and in 2002 was appointed director of Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council. Since 2012 he is working in education for adults, teaching arts management and cultural policy at various universities in Switzerland and abroad.

Pius is also member of the boards of Mummenschanz Foundation, of Locarno Film Festival and of the Asociation of Swiss Adult Education Centres.

Christian Hörack
Vice President

Born in Mannheim in 1975, Christian has lived in Switzerland since 2002. He studied Art History and History in Lausanne, Vienna, Lille and Heidelberg and has a PhD in Art History.

Curator for precious metal and ceramics of modern times at the Swiss National Museum as well as employee and program curator at Neues Kino Basel. President of Keramikfreunde der Schweiz and member of the Committee of Experts of the Jewish Museum of Switzerland. He previously worked at museums in Neuchâtel, Basel, Lausanne, Strasbourg, Vienna and Lille.

Publications on «L’argenterie Lausannoise» (2007), «Basler Goldschmiedekunst» (2013 und 2014) und «Prêt à porter. L'histoire du sac plastique et papier en Suisse» (2016).

Daniela Settelen-Trees
Board Member

Born 1960 in Bern, Daniela Settelen-Trees has lived in Basel since 1989. After her studies of art history in Bern, Basel and Munich, worked as an art historian in museums, galeries and foundations.

Since 2008 she is the directior of the GGG Atelierhaus in Basel, among other mandates in cultural management, and has published several art books.

Annette Schönholzer
Board Member

Over 20 years of experience in the Swiss and international world of the arts and culture. She has worked in leading positions in arts funding, as a project and event manager, as co-director of the international art fair Art Basel and as managing director of the Kunstmuseum Basel.

Throughout her career, she has served on various boards and cultural juries, facilitating and developing concepts and organizations, locally, nationally and internationally. She founded .connect the dots in November 2014, an independent company providing consulting, coaching and concept services. 

She has been living in Basel since 2002, where she is also married. In her free time culture and nature are top of her list: art, music, literature, theater, travelling abroad, hiking and biking in the Swiss Alps are sources of inspiration. 

Christoph Keller
Board Member

Born in Zurich in 1959.

Freelance reporter, author, presenter and initiator of the platform www.podcastlab.ch.

Until spring 2019 he was head of the editorial department art & society at Radio SRF2 Kultur and was the author of many programmes in the formats Kontext, Passage and Hörpunkt. Previously, he worked as a reporter at the MAGAZIN for Tages-Anzeiger, Berner Zeitung and Basler Zeitung for many years, as an editor and reporter for WochenZeitung WoZ and as a research assistant for the National Research Programme 51 on integration and exclusion. Today he also writes for REPORTAGEN, GEO, EDITO and other publications.

He is the author of «Der Schädelvermesser» (1995), «Alamor drei Tage» (2007), «Übers Meer» (2013) and «Hotel Galaxy» (2018). In addition, he is a lecturer at the Zurich University of Arts and at the Swiss School of Journalism MAZ in Lucerne and also works as a presenter at regional, national and international events.

He is married, has two grown-up daughters, lives in Basel and temporarily on a sailboat on Lake Neuchâtel.

Henri Michel Yéré
Board Member

Born 1978 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, lives in Basel since 2003. He is a researcher based at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Basel, and an adjunct lecturer at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL.)

A trained historian, Henri has worked on questions of citizenship and nationality in the colonial and postcolonial contexts. His more recent work has taken a sociological slant, looking at the relationships between the natural sciences and society at large. Henri has worked for seven years at the headquarters of Novartis in Basel, occupying various responsibilities in the field of Diversity and Inclusion.

As a poet, Henri has published two books of poetry (2015), as well as poems and articles in various literary journals.

Jurriaan Cooiman

Born in the Netherlands in 1966. Founder and director of CULTURESCAPES.

He studied cultural management at the University of Basel. He has been the head of Performing Arts Services, a production agency, and has worked in collaboration with, amongst others, the Od-theater, Circle X Arts, Sankai Juku, Werkbühne Berlin and Goetheanum. Since founding CULTURESCAPES in 2003, he is a main driving force and inspiration for all the festival editions. He lectures on cultural management and networking. He is a member of the European Festivals Association (EFA).

Kateryna Botanova

Born 1976 in Khmelnytsky, Ukraine (then USSR). Kateryna is a curator, cultural critic, and writer with master degree in cultural studies. She was director of the Foundation Center for Contemporary Art in Kyiv, Ukraine, and a founder and editor-in-chief of Korydor, an online journal on contemporary culture.

She worked as a trainer and consultant for various programs within EU Eastern Partnership Culture Programme, dealing with cultural policy analysis, cultural industries and cultural journalism in the region. She consulted the EU National Institutes for Culture EUNIC on issues of global cultural relations and collaboration. Kateryna is a regular contributor to various media.




Why did you want to work with CULTURESCAPES?
I joined the team as a curator of exhibitions in 2014. But soon I realized that as a festival, CULTURESCAPES provides a unique platform for combining many things I always valued about my work in the cultural field: multidisciplinary approach, research into local cultural landscapes of global reach and importance, and connecting a variety of artistic voices with diverse audiences. Over the years, we developed CULTURESCAPES into a platform for empowerment and awareness regarding the rising topical issues of our times. I am happy to see CULTURESCAPES as a growing space of care and mutual learning between different and distant societies and cultures with a common goal – imagining a better and more sustainable future.

What do you particularly like about CULTURESCAPES 2021 Amazonia?
As outsiders, we are easily overwhelmed by images of powerful rivers connecting the continent from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, or the endless green masses of the rainforest. Shocking news of wildfires, or, more recently, COVID-casualties, also catch attention. With CULTURESCAPES 2021 Amazonia we want to enable voices of artists, activists, writers and researchers from different parts of the region, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to tell stories of Amazonia as a realm of the fight for environmental protection, for human and cultural rights, as an interconnected space of different kinds of knowledge and visions of human and non-human cohabitation. These stories and knowledges are of utter importance to everyone today, regardless of who we are or where we live.

Celina Marie Caspar
Head of Production

Born 1983 in Munich, Germany. Cultural Studies at University of Hildesheim and Médiation Culurelle at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. In 2020, Celina completed a CAS Digital Cultures at the University of Basel.

Previously, she worked for the Basel Academy of Musik (Institute Jazz) and in the production of the Offbeat Jazz festival in Basel. At the Goethe Institute Jerusalem she assisted in program work (International Writers Festival, a.o.) and has worked in an event management agency as well as in the operations office of various theaters. Celina loves documentaries and radio features (formerly freelance work for WDR and BR2 children's radio).


Why did you want to work with CULTURESCAPES?
Through collaborations of CULTURESCAPES with the Academy of Music Basel and the Offbeat Jazzfestival, I knew CULTURESCAPES' director Jurriaan for quite some time. I love the diversity of the CULTURESCAPES editions. They create new perspectives and insight into the cultural scene of a country or a region, and they encourage exchange. I particularly like the new approach of the future festival editions to focus on world regions relevant for topics around climate change.

What do you particularly like about CULTURESCAPES 2021 Amazonia?
We humans are part of planet Earth. The indigenous people of South America naturally see themselves as an inseparable unity with nature. The COVID-19-pandemic shows us more clearly than ever that protecting the environment and preserving biodiversity must be at the top of our agenda. For a globally sustainable future in all areas of our lives, we need to learn from each other's best approaches and develop them further. A festival like CULTURESCAPES is a perfect platform for this.

Julia Grieder
Production, communication & administration

Born 1993 in Thurgau, Switzerland. Studies in Eastern European History and Slavonic Studies at the University of Basel. Several study visits and travels in Russia, Croatia and Austria. Internships and employments in the cultural field, among others at Philosophicum Basel.




Why did you want to work with CULTURESCAPES?
I first noticed CULTURESCAPES right at the beginning of my studies in Basel, when the Slavonic Studies Department organised a series of lectures together with CULTURESCAPES THE BALKANS 2013. By focusing on different countries of Eastern Europe, it merged my personal interest in these regions with my affinity for cultural events. CULTURESCAPES as a festival is a remarkable format, exploring a cultural landscape through an interdisciplinary and multifaceted approach to a region using different guiding points. Through different perspectives in all disciplines, topics can be dealt with in various ways, and there certainly is something for everyone. Additional participatory formats allow for a dialogue, which seems particularly interesting to me. Being part of CULTURESCAPES makes me feel connected to the world.

What do you particularly like about CULTURESCAPES 2021 Amazonia?
The 2021 festival edition on Amazonia is dedicated to a region I have not yet been very  familiar with. In the course of preparing and intensively examining the relevant topics, a door has already opened for me into a new world that is characterized by so many complex and current issues. This also sharpened my view for the global connections and interrelations. I am really looking forward to this edition and the ability of culture to unravel complexity, to sharpen views, to translate and make it more graspable.

Amir Ali

Born 1980 in Zurich. B.A. in Journalism at ZHAW in 2010. Previous employments as an editor for the Tages-Anzeiger, Surprise Strassenmagazin and Republik. Freelance reporter in Switzerland and abroad, among others for Die Zeit.


Why did you want to work for CULTURESCAPES?
I like the idea of investigating and experiencing a region through art. It's like a reverse reportage: instead of sending someone to an area to report on it, we bring voices from the region to watch and listen to them.

What do you like about the CULTURESCAPES 2021 Amazon festival edition?
The Amazon combines many of the things that shape our times: First and foremost, the exploitation of natural resources, climate change and pollution, but also social, economic and political imbalances and grievances. I find it very promising to approach these questions in such a concentrated form through the means and expressions of art.

Kim Egi
Production & Communications

Born in 1994 in Basel, Switzerland, Kim studies Cultural Anthropology and Political Science at the University of Basel. Since 2010, he has been involved in various youth and cultural projects and has helped produce several festivals, including Openair Basel, Basler Dokumentartage, Theaterfestival Basel, KlangBasel. Kim's interest in current social processes also had him engaged with aid organisations Terre des Hommes Schweiz and HEKS.




Why did you want to work with CULTURESCAPES?
Presenting the cultural landscape of a place in all its heterogeneity is a great challenge. CULTURESCAPES manages to do this with a selected and diverse program, blurring boundaries in the process. At CULTURESCAPES I get an opportunity to pursue my great interest in culture, and by that I mean not only art, but also the representation of a way of life, just as much as my interest in current affairs. What’s more, you always meet new people from all over the world, and some of them even become close friends.

What do you particularly like about the CULTURESCAPES 2021 Amazon festival edition?
There is no mistaking the historical, political and especially the economic interconnection of Switzerland and the West in general with the Amazon region. Yet this connection leaves a sour taste. Therefore, the exchange with and the self-critical examination of Amazonian culture is all the more important. CULTURESCAPES 2021 Amazonas offers a multi-layered approach to this region, which is so important for our world.

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