Q BERLIN 2019: Issues affecting us all.
What connects an Iraqi Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, an American professor of architecture and a Chinese climate activist? First of all, Berlin – or more precisely, Q BERLIN. In 2019, the third edition of Q BERLIN is convening once again as a forum for international representatives from the fields of science, business, politics, culture and technology to discuss the key issues of today. Since 2017, this event has been curated by visitBerlin. Here, curator Anne Ameri-Siemens explains why Berlin is the right location for this event and what visitors can look forward to this year.
Anne Ameri-Siemens – In brief
Born in Frankfurt, Anne Ameri-Siemens moved to Berlin in 2012. Since 2019, as Q Berlin curator, she has been responsible for the choice of speakers and, together with the visitBerlin team, for organising the event’s programme. Despite the stress of the final preparations for the event, her great enthusiasm for her work was clearly evident as she patiently answered all our questions.
BCO: How did you become the Q BERLIN curator?
Anne Ameri-Siemens: I saw the job advertised and immediately thought it would be very interesting.
What skills does a curator need for such an event?
I think you can imagine very different ways of curating Q BERLIN. And with a variety of interesting approaches always an option, it’s not that easy to say what skills are a must. But one thing is definitely crucial for Q BERLIN – you must enjoy dealing in depth with those questions addressing how we can and have to live together as a society to meet the most pressing issues of our day such as, for instance, climate change.
Why is Berlin the perfect location for Q BERLIN?
Berlin has an iconic presence and profile as a location of the peaceful revolution, a place where people championed freedom and fought for democracy. For 30 years since the fall of the Wall, Berlin has also shown how people with very different backgrounds can live together. Since this is a city constantly renegotiating the question of how we live together, we also view Q BERLIN as a reaction to the city. In such an international location, global values can and must be openly discussed and defended, and Q BERLIN aims to play a part in this process.
How have you chosen the speakers – or do you follow set criteria?
There aren’t any set criteria. Instead, my aim is to structure the content of each session so it facilitates the emergence and discussion of pressing contemporary issues, and does so in a way showing only too clearly how relevant they are for each of us. And above all, everyone can contribute to how these issues are dealt with – whether that means the risks facing liberal democracies or how to implement approaches to combatting climate change. Here, it’s also important to consider what we can learn from the past. And so I chose the speakers to reflect those aims.
Are there some who have impressed you particularly?
I’m impressed by all the speakers – since they are all, in very many different ways, personally engaged with and committed to the issues they address. Nadia Murad’s story as a victim of the terrorist organisation ISIS – the self-proclaimed Islamic State – is just as painful as it is appalling. To emerge from that to generate the full commitment she has shown over the years is not just admirable, but also very impressive. That is precisely why she is so important for Q BERLIN. The question she always asks is: What can we do? I’m also impressed, for example, by the activist Eugenia Chow. Although she is just 18 years old, through her role as the passionate leader of Bye Bye Plastic Bags she shows us how everyday activism works. Each one of us can do something. Eugenia is now part of a globally active network. I also find someone like Professor Thomas Metzinger remarkable with his question of what we have to do from an ethical standpoint – not in future, but now – to ensure the peaceful use of Artificial Intelligence.
Q BERLIN is now in its third edition – what is the new, special aspect of this year’s event?
Q BERLIN continues to do what it set out to do – stimulate questions and ideas, and bring people together in a dialogue. What is new in 2019 is the focus on topics which need to be addressed now, as they are essential for the future and for our life together in society.
What are you most looking forward to?
The audience discussions after the sessions, and the way ideas are taken up and evolved. One aim of Q BERLIN has always been to create networks so people can remain in touch even once the conference has finished.
Finally, what is Q BERLIN’s goal for the future? What is the ultimate destination?
That’s a question which really only the entire Q BERLIN team could answer. But what I can say is this – one objective is certainly to expand networks. People attending Q BERLIN see themselves as part of a community which wants to – and will – make its influence felt. That’s what I find especially appealing. We are living at a time when we all have to face many different challenges – I’ve already mentioned climate change, and also the question of where we need to defend the values we choose to guide our lives, or where we need to renegotiate them. It’s interesting to see at present how growing numbers of people are themselves motivated to explore the question of what constitutes a constructive social life. Berlin is an incredibly exciting place in this debate and Q BERLIN, as a conference attracting an international audience, can strengthen this spirit and help people to join the conversation.
Thank you! Our thanks to Anne Ameri-Siemens for the interview!