40 cultural leaders shaping the debate at Davos 2016

They include author and vlogger John Green, filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, author Elif Shafak, actor Kevin Spacey

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Everything you can imagine is real – Pablo Picasso

More than 40 cultural leaders are joining other leaders from business, government, international organizations, civil society, academia, and media to contribute to shaping the global agenda at the Annual Meeting 2016 in Davos.

They include author and vlogger John Green, filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, author Elif Shafak, actor Kevin Spacey, artist Lynette Wallworth and many others. Leaders from business and politics will look to this group for context, inspiration and collaboration as they grapple with the most pressing issues of our time, from migration to climate change, from freedom of speech to protecting our cultural heritage.

We have also worked with cultural institutions to create experiences that foster spaces for debate and reflection: a Virtual Reality world premiere, Collisions, by Lynette Wallworth and with the collaboration of the Sundance Institute, that takes participants to the Western Australian Desert for a reflection on what we can learn from indigenous wisdom and how we can care for our planet for future generations; This Time Tomorrow, with the Victoria and Albert Museum, an exhibition that features designs ranging from the scale of DNA to the distant horizon of outer space to form a landscape of clues about the world of tomorrow; and Perspectives, in collaboration with National Geographic, featuring large-scale projection mapping animations which explore cultural heritage, oceans and climate change, and biodiversity, framed around the question to participants “What Will You Protect?”

This year marks the 22nd Annual Crystal Awards, which recognize artists who have demonstrated leadership on issues including the environment, social inclusion, health, education, food security and peace-making. This year’s awardees are actress Yao Chen, for her work with refugees, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, for his leadership on the climate crisis, artist Olafur Eliasson, for creating inclusive communities, and musician and entrepreneur will.i.am, for his leadership in creating educational opportunities for the underserved.

Some of our cultural leaders are Global Shapers—leaders under the age of 30—and others are community elders. Some artists make work that is social commentary, others believe their role is to create beauty, and yet others blur those lines. Some will be on panels with other leaders; others will perform; others yet will guide participants through immersive artistic experiences.

What unifies this group of artists across generations, backgrounds, disciplines and the many ways in which they will be deployed throughout the programme, is a collective generosity of spirit and a desire to change the world. The arts and culture in Davos are meant to help bring decision-makers together, to create debate, to question assumptions and to help imagine a long-term future together. As the photographer Platon once told me, “whatever we get out of Davos individually as artists should only be a side-effect of what we have come to put in collectively”.

For a full preview of cultural leaders, discussion topics, and installations and special projects at Davos 2016, click here.

This article was first published by the World Economic Forum and is part of our Davos coverage.

Nico Daswani is Programme Lead, Arts & Culture at the World Economic Forum. He is participating in the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos.

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