Crossing the borders of various disciplines – anthropology, cultural studies, cultural theory, sociology of culture, sociology of art, art history, art criticism, events management and tourism – festival studies are slowly attracting academic attention in their search for independent status among the social sciences. Culture, defined by Juri Lotman as a self-descriptive mechanism, is the structure from which perspective I approach the contemporary artistic festival in an attempt to determine its position as an element in the meta-system of culture. The semantic notion of culture proposed by the scholar refers to a dynamic system of signs organising and preserving information in society, forming the necessity for self-renewal, development and yet expression of the social memory. Within the scope of this model of self- consciousness and meta-narration, I place the arts festival as a carrier of meta-function with its main features of remembrance and substance of artistic text. My study examines the festival events dedicated to all art forms and their genre categories. It endeavours to establish a theoretical framework applicable to the detailed analysis of every festival formation or any single edition. The thesis illustrates the current festival landscape in Europe, exploring the events performed in all European countries, contributing information about the geographical and cultural distribution of the arts festivals, following their trends and their proliferation since their year of commencement. Until now, there has been no other work or single informative source providing such complete knowledge about the approximate number of comparable events, their features and classification. The focus on the current festival circuit inscribed in the meta-system of culture questions the aspects of intercultural dialogue on the global political stage, the status of art, the relationship between the cultural, tourist, and festival industries, and the future of the art festival event itself.

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