A week ago the 2009 report on culture issued by the present conservative (well, Swedish-conservative not Ann Coulter-conservative) government as a praiseworthyattampt to renew the policies formulated back in 1974 and 1996, when previous reports where issued. As most of the cultural workers in Sweden I did not plan a two week report-leave just so I could study the 900-shy-of-a-few-pages smack in the face boring text. I have not yet read it in its entirety, I am honest with that, in contrast to just about all the commentators out there. Åsa Linderborg in leftist tabloid Aftonbladet, really bombs the report back to the stone age – pre 1974 – and calls it a ”shot in the heart”, and purports that the conservative government now have the cultural policy proposition it deserves. Well, I do not defend the current government in any way nessecary, but I must really defend an honest and analytic debate without overturning it on ideological asymmetry between Lindeborg and the gov: Firstly the report has some great suggestions of renewal of experimental culture such as a new support structure in the wake of The Culture of the Future (Framtidens Kultur), a foundation with the purpose to stimulate cultural experiments in their initial stages. The foundation was only axtive for a duration fo 15 years and now it is suggested, another organisation should take its place.
Even more critique issued about the report is that ”cultural policy” becomes a ”market policy” derived by Lindeborg out of the statement made by the chairperson Eva Swartz-Grimaldi to not beg for more state funding than is the current level. And so, Lindeborg continues, art is to be funded by sponsorship (a real world fact in all countries but the Nordic) gifts and non-profit activities. This cemented view of culture-state-capital, also shared by my blog idol Ali Esbati, is somehow viewed as an attempt at structurally propagating the superiority of the market, thus making it harder for culture to work critical vis-a-vis politics, economy and the common.
This is certainly not a thought-through statement, since first of all, artists in politically more unstable countries in thousands of examples have been successful in making critical work, you just have to answer the million dollar questions ”How critical?”. Secondly, all Swedish artists that are working toward a critique of the state, have for obvious reasons had a difficult time, according to Lindeborg, since some 90% of cultural funding is made by the state or the artist her/himself. So the question is, Åsa Lindeborg, why should artists merely be negatively dismissive or flat-down critical o the market, why not sometimes, somehow glance at one or two aspects of the market economy AND its interplay with state and public governance that actually benefits a society or individual? Is that totally out of the question? If so, it is truly a mark of a great intellectual dishonesty.
Lindeborg continues a few days later with a demagogue-like style in her arguing that cultural workers today will be merely instrumentalised as savers of the environment, national health crisis and the economy. That is definitely not how it was formulated in the report, rather it is an ideological opening (as in ‘possibly’, not ‘always’ ‘all the time’) toward structures like these, and for gods sake, where did you get the idea that art has ever been autonomous in any form possible? have a look at Serge Guilbaut’s How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art and get real!
She ends with a good point, though; the fact that more and more artists have turned self-employed with their own registered firms, has not in any clear cut way proven to have good effects on the social or economic status of the artist. Nor is the focus of economists, politicians and policy makers alike as nuanced at it very well could be. Art does have afterburners for the economic growth of a society, we just have to start measuring how and when. This is the responsibility of the creative industries field.