Dr. Olaf Kranz on the role of cultural and creative industries amid societal transformation.




OLIVER HERWIG: What is the current status quo of Munich’s cultural and creative industries in early 2024?

DR. OLAF KRANZ: A recession means that the economic situation is far from rosy. But as always and everywhere, there are winners and losers. Well-established large-scale companies are continuing to do well, but small companies and newcomers are facing particularly tough conditions. As a general principle, in the cultural and creative industries every new esthetic form has the chance of success at any time because our society is so preoccupied with the esthetic surprise. You could almost say it’s the inherent basis of our business. While that’s no different in a recession, in this case something like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs kicks in; cultural assets are the first targets of spending cuts during times of crisis.


OH: So consumer restraint is particularly noticeable in the cultural and creative industries?

OK: Well, on the other hand I notice that theaters appear to be showing signs of revival and cinemas have already recovered. People finally seem to be returning to high-quality communal cultural experiences. Streaming simply doesn’t cut it. That makes me hopeful that our industries will likewise be able to rise from the crisis.


OH: What impact is digitalization having on a field that had previously been confident of escaping its consequences?

OK: Well, that’s the 64-thousand-dollar question: what is creativity? Who is the author, and what does it mean when an AI text generator is prompted to disgorge creative works that have previously only ever been credited to human beings? We’re currently in the midst of enormous upheaval. The question is how the cultural and creative industries, and the individual companies working within and with those industries, will position themselves, seize opportunities and make the most of niches.


OH: So, it should be a great time for artists, cultural thinkers and creative minds to address this upheaval in their work?

OK: Yes, absolutely. Of course it’s a great time, but there are challenges too. Our industries have the incredibly important function of bringing innovation to innovation systems. My hope is that we can approach these societal challenges with greater creativity, and use new methods to devise solutions that have never existed before.


Creative minds define values

OH: You’ve been the director of the Team of Excellence for the Cultural and Creative Industries, City of Munich, since August 2022. What has happened since then?

OK: Time is flying. Alongside new content-related focal points that I’m introducing, the team has grown from 6 to 14 people. We’ve relocated, set up new premises and launched a host of new projects. In addition, politicians are increasingly coming to understand that the cultural and creative industries play a strategic role in tackling the social challenges ahead through their involvement in the digital and green transformation that is sweeping everyone along. We aim to provide support on the level of urban society, as our industries step up to fulfill this role.


OH: Are cultural professionals driving transformation?

OK: The European Commission has pinpointed the strategic function of the cultural sector as a home for many new developments which are emerging with and within it. Think of the way we work today, in coworking spaces or open working environments; well, creative companies were the first to do that. The way we innovate today was invented in artistic and design practices, and has spread from there. Ideas like “design thinking” are transporting the concept into other areas, where it enables the growth of broader creativity and more agile development.


OH: The core of value creation in the cultural and creative industries is …

OK: ... not technical, but esthetic innovation, which generates amazement, confusion and contemplation, sparks surprise, entertainment and emotion, and arouses different states of mind. This form of innovation is always based on differing forms of interaction with a specific medium of expression. Games designers, for instance, express themselves in digital media, where they incorporate esthetic innovations into design and storytelling. Poets, on the other hand, express themselves through the medium of language, while designers use the various materials and fabrics of their chosen medium of expression. People constantly strive to employ esthetic innovation to shake the world up – while allowing them to earn a reasonable living. As numerous research studies have shown, more of those design mindsets need to be placed in leadership positions because they have characteristics that we need in the new entrepreneurial environment.




OH: What are those characteristics?

OK: We need to hone our skills in dealing with uncertainty, coping with ambivalence and ambiguity, and enduring conflict. These are characteristics that were acquired from artistic and creative dialogue with esthetic media, and which are now ideally suited for proving themselves in the new environments.

Creatives need space

OH: You mentioned networks connecting various different fields. But they can also come about by creating spaces.

OK: From the outset, my team prioritized the task of supporting cultural and creative professionals in their search for long-term affordable spaces for working and presentation, and short-term spaces for more experimental activities. It’s important because Munich is an incredibly expensive city where space is at a premium and competition for it is fierce. There is a vast need for creative spaces in central locations. People want to work in urban environments that encourage creativity and provide inspiration – but those are precisely the locations where rents are so high as to be unaffordable. Here, we are trying to raise their visibility and generate an understanding of their ways of working and their importance. At present, this is happening in our incubator, set up specifically for the needs of the cultural and creative industries: the Ruffinihaus Creative Hub at the heart of the city center.


OH: With that in mind, you are taking action to create smart forms of temporary use?

OK: Exactly. We’ve already amassed a wealth of expertise on the subject and achieved good results. Temporary use can start with, say, a pop-up concert for a weekend event plus festival, but also extends to longer-term solutions. We only started in November 2023, with a pop-up concert in a storefront in Ruffinihaus, and it’s going incredibly well. In fact, we’re now solidly booked up through 2024. We also had a string of new initiatives last year, where we’ve been working with the private property market to set up temporary-use projects in the city center and in district social centers. It’s pretty hard work and we can’t take success for granted. As a new line of activity that is set to grow in importance, we’re now stepping up our work on tools for organizing long-term affordable spaces for the cultural and creative scene.


OH: Is René Benko’s bankruptcy freeing up new spaces?

OK: Definitely. As we now see, many large-scale buildings from the second wave of modernism that were planned and constructed as monofunctional are turning out to have no function at all. Until solutions can be found for those buildings, temporary forms of use are definitely a possibility.


OH: How important is the New European Bauhaus pilot project “Creating NEBourhoods together” in Munich’s Neuperlach district?

OK: Very important indeed. We played a role in making sure the project came to Munich. The overall project for revitalizing what was once Germany’s largest urban expansion zone is based on the idea of involving not only science, business and administration in its development, but also civil society. The original Bauhaus always engaged in tackling social challenges alongside creating a new language of design. We need to reflect on that tradition and address today’s challenges of ­digitalization and green transformation in a socially inclusive society, first and foremost by activating and involving the potential for innovation that is part of the cultural and creative industries.


OH: Neuperlach is the home of “real- world” laboratories for urban development ...

OK: ... in which the four stakeholders of innovation processes – business, administration, science and civil society – come together. And they do so using collaborative methods derived from the cultural and creative industries. In addition, we curate a pool of 30 creative professionals who all contribute their own specific artistic or design perspectives. The aim there is to reach greater heights of creative innovation that are also socially inclusive and are recognized and accepted as legitimate by civil society, enabling those innovations to be adopted and implemented with long-term effect.


OH: Are the cultural and creative industries actually perceived as being on an equal footing?

OK: The cultural and creative industries always span various camps: there are many small-scale companies and freelancers, but also large-scale companies and independent players, niche companies and stars. Policymakers and the public often fail to acknowledge the importance of those small-scale companies and niche independents. We strive to raise their visibility while generating an understanding of their ways of working and their importance.