Etikettarkiv: Kulturutredningen

Interview with Me, Me, Me

Robert-passfotoPhD candidate and critic Rikard Ekholm have just posted his critical interview with yours truly for Sweden’s longest running online art magazine Konsten. Slick Rick also writes the witty blog Sarts, check it (In Swedish)! The interview is mostly about my work as an art critic and such self introspection calls for a quote that fits my current sentiment:

I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity
Diana Vreeland, American writer and editor.

Taggad , , , ,

The Notion of The Professional Artist – Emptiness Reloaded

What is our (the artwold’s) notion of what an artist is today and what is an artist percieved to be for the rest of the world? That is the question we all should ask ourselves while reading the Swedish Inquiry on Cultural Policy (Kulturutredningen) that celebrates a month in the coming week. Or for just the sake of humbling ourselves toward and cultural world, apparently more under siege than ever, if one refers to the most earsplitting cultural theorists of latter days. The considering of an artist’s ‘professionalism’ is a topic for the latest issue of Frieze. In a great essay Frieze editor Dan Fox delineates an image of a cultural sphere where professionalism rather than being ‘academised’ has turned into an emptiness reloaded, underpinned by a term he borrows from the philosopher Nina Power – ‘Nu-language’ (a play on Tony Blair’s New Labour and pop genres such as Nu-rave). The Nu-language of art or business and politics, for that matter is descibed as:

a non-grammatical set of abstractions that have the surface appearance of discussion and the exchange of ideas, but which in fact serve only in order to maintain the illusion of communication and creative dialogue.

Truly one of the most subversive sentences I have read in a commercial art magazine, latley. Fox goes on to discuss the point in which ‘revolution’, ’subversion’ or ‘critical research’ turn from major tropes of once-in-a-blue-moon exposiures that artworks can generate through their physical and conceptual form to becoming stale and commonplace ‘radical’. Now these terms used to infuse artistic value are mundane, gallery-assistant-formulated-post-guy-debord-frankfurt-school-critiqued commodities often found in large scale biennial text material as well as small in-house shows at the local artist-run space. Unfortunately Fox only opens the doors of critical thining half-way through, but leaves us with great stuff of thought. I am certain that artists, curators and critics who all aspire to delve deep into the question of What is to be done (in the arts)? have too often imagined themselves as system critics by default, thus eluding the conventions of the White Cube, the galleries’ economic system or the artists studio as workplace. The artist, curator or critic that subsequently wishes to gaze into his own pre-conceptions of art, life and politics will be described as a paradigm-shift-seeking brutalist that will stand before two choices: 1. get back in line and downplay your critique, or better yet move on to a more convenient field or 2. get out of the business, cause it will not emulate distortions that run too deep.

Sure, I am exaggerating a tad, but the fact of the matter is that the social evolution of the art world follows a simple rule: learn the social rules of the economy and be rewarded. The basic tenets of this evolutionary current will be made more and more visible as the current crisis echoes within the expanded white cube. My guess is that we will see a generation of fresh critical artists, knowledgeable on the economy and thus infusing a bit more nomenclature from macroeconomics, game theory and business models.

Lars Vilks, the Swedish rascal, has a somewhat interesting text about the rhetoric of the artworld in latest issue of 00tal. Other interesting art projects that pinpoint this economy of emptiness is Alessandra Di Pisa’s Tomhetes Triumf (a book of texts made out of existing catalogue essays of other artists, sampled as to come out about Di Pisa instead) and Maurizio Cattelans The Sixth International Carribean Biennale in 2002. This non-exhibition was a mocking with the mechanisms of critical writing and the signified by the elaborate press releases and press material: the biennial would offer a a space for dialogue and building relationships between the international art world and local communities – of course a load of bull. There was no exhibition and barely any party or other signalling of an event. Just emptiness, twisting and turning its way through the big-eyed critics reviews into a contemporary piece of art history.

Stay tuned fo mo on the notion of emptiness economy.

Taggad , , , ,

(New) Institutional Theory and The Swedish Report on Culture

The theory of new institutionalism as first formulated in 1984 by political scientists James March and Johan Olsen largely as a reaction to a stale function of ‘old’ institutionalism, they proposed a rethinking of the slumbering discussion of how and why institutions shape human behavior and thoughts and political governance. They envisioned a deviation from the ongoing political analysis that focused more on values and collective choice and desire, thus likely to shake the ground of rational choice theorists who believed that institution merely are the accumulation of individual choices based on utility-maximizing preferences. New Institutionalism was formulated from within the field of political science but have had ramifications in all social sciences since, and could well be repeated whilst browsing through the report on culture, that I commented on previously. March and Olsen write:

The bureaucratic agency, the legislative committee, the appellate court are arenas for contending social forces, but they are also collections of standard operating procedures and structures that define and defend interests. They are political actors in their own right. (1984, The New Institutionalism, James March and Johan Olsen)

Reading trough the report on culture I stop to think at page 30, in the 2nd part of the report The Reneawal Program (Förnyelseprogram), where the investigation develops ideas on why it has envisioned the massive reorganisation of Swedish governmental cultural institutions; the organisations that are to be formed will be ”more stable” and easier facilitate contact with ”other organisations” and ”interests”.

Now I agree that the first real report on culture back in ’74 did envision a new cluster of state organisations for cultural policy which today have come stale and old and thus are in a need of certain transformation and radicalisation. What scares me most about the vision presented in the new report is the view of the modulence of institutions to fit and adapt to the consumer of culture (or rather the pro-sumer), in such a blunt way that we tend to forget the aspects of production modes which shape what kind of culture we cultural workers are instigating. No contrast this to the interesting vision of critic Nina Möntmann in her essay The Rise and Fall of New Institutionalism – Perspectives on a Possible Future in Trasversal, where she uses some case studies to look at how western styled art institutions can radicalize and shape an interesting structure for producers and consumers alike. Her recommendations are contrary to that of the report on culture, namely to shrink and facilitate devolution of current institutions:  

”…reduce the number of structures and standards, and disengage spaces from too many codes and contexts. Here, where we have an institutionalized art field – and consequently the opportunities to participate in semi-public spaces, but also the difficulties caused by the control mechanisms of these spaces – the options are somewhat different. Here there are inherently many categories and conventions for all kinds of art spaces, and alternatives are always measured against the official system that already exists and is increasingly defined by the politics of city marketing and sponsorship.”

Möntmanns starting point is the artworld integration of New Institutionalism, seen during the first part of 2000 in Rooseum nad Kunst-Werke in Berlin, breaking down barriers between the audience and the institutions. The project displayed there was exercising critique from within the institution, as a consequence of the strong curator that internalised the institutions critique of the 60’s into a structure for production and consumption = prosumption.


Nina Möntmann begs to disagree with the Swedish cultural report's take on institutions of the future

OCA in Oslo published the booklet New Institutionalism in 2003 and brought the term into an art context, of course without much of the observations of James March and Johan Olsen, but through the concept of ”the institution of critique”, stemming from the seminal article on instutitional critique in the by artist Andrea Fraser. Many observers including Nina Möntmann, Tone Hansen, Trude Iversen (The new administration of aesthetics, 2006) and others view this period as lost to a fast and brutal neoliberal economy exploding in our face.  Well, new times cause for new solutions and I believe that the new institutions must make use of mechanisms of the economy rather than just fighting against it. not to be compared to just following the economy, but rather opposing it through its own mechanisms of destruction and change.

Taggad , , , , , ,

The Reading of Kulturutredningen: Cultural Policy and Aftonbladet

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.

Eva Swartz and the big cheese Lena A-Liljeroth

Eva Swartz Grimaldi and the big cheese Lena A-Liljeroth

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.

Åsa Lindeborg, Aftonbladet

Åsa Lindeborg, Aftonbladet

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.

Taggad , , ,
%d bloggare gillar detta: