[-empyre-] Art, Funding and Politics

Rachel O'Reilly rachel.a.oreilly at gmail.com
Mon Nov 7 02:09:25 EST 2011

Yes I was not I don't think disagreeing with your post or with NeME's work
but was instead expressing sensitivity to the language being used. I am
just a bit resistant to the language/subject of victim just because it
captures or figures a pre-theoretical moment of shocked or non-cognition...
when theory and comprehension (once shock is processed) might proceed from
the very next moment instead - approaches that might process actual
structural conditions - past and future - of the arts funding crisis.
 Sorry for my abbreviated quoting.

But I also think it is specifically dangerous because in these present
circumstances the discourse of victimhood is being mobilized precisely by
the populist economic liberals/neoliberals de-funding the arts as a final
leftist barriers to a more perfectly opportune, illiberal free market
citizenship-at-risk since the financial crisis. Culture is a regressive
non-contemporary (because non-financialized) identity and attachment in
their model.

 I agree it is the explanation of the non-economic and necessary human
'priviledges' of culture as investment beyond the capitalist reproduction
of life that is better to focus on. The loss of such discourses of cultural
value however that is being now officially announced by the cuts - the loss
of the language we have for non-economic (or "extra-")economic thriving,
experimentation and welfare - is indeed trackable over a much longer period
and might need to be argued as such to be compelling. We will have to go
back and forward in order to do this, and especially engage with the
political use (and now discount sale) of culture that has been the
neoliberal condition.

There is a reading group at Goleb right now in Amsterdam (among others)
right now led by Jeremiah Day and facillitated by Taf Hassam that have been
coming together to re-read Arendt's Crisis in Culture to this end. For
Arendt, the crisis in culture is attached to abeyances of judgment, which i
think fits in well with a post-89 pursuit of the neoliberally
inflated/speculated 'good life'. She suggested:

 “*trouble with the educated philistine was not tha he read the classics,
but that he did so prompted by the ulterior motive of self-perfection,
remaining quite unaware of the fact that Shakespeare or Plato might have to
tell him more important things than how to educate himself..*.” (203)
"The dangers of philistinism in the context of political concepts of
culture, is that culture is supposed to be useless except to cultivate the
mind, spirit and soul. Philistinism takes this concept and puts utility in
the mix [for social advancement] and by adding utility, the attitude of
culture is then destroyed by its very nature. Politically, this has
consequences because the philistines will “*judge action by the same
standards which are valid for fabrication, demand that action obtain a
predetermined end and that it be permitted to seize on all means to further
this end.*” Culture is also threatened by philistinism because it will be
judged in terms of utility essentially leading to a devaluation. By
definition, things that are of culture are to carry their own, independent
– intrinsic worth. Philistinism takes this away forcing art and culture to
have utility – which further means that once its function has been
fulfilled, it can be cast aside."
[cut and paste from

Arendt might perhaps read the very success and expansion of 'art', (or) the
culturalization of the contemporary economy, as resulting in this
disasterous ossification of culture in to  function in the imaginations of
those funding it, who genuinely believe themselves to have extracted all
they require from the cultural past for the present. And deny even this
limited sense of art's 'opportunity' even  - to others. That is the only
way of explaining the cuts in NL right now I think.

I am definitely not suggesting we embrace a cupcake reality, I am not at
all ambivalent about the plight of the artist/the arts, culture at large,
at this time. But what I was emphasizing was that arguments for cultural
value do indeed come from this destabilization or if you like decentring
that compels one to "make a  case" (continuously, annoyingly repetitively
sometimes) but also to modulate  and assess the ways that such a case might
even register in the historical present.

With the meat raffle tale (not so much the meat) I think I was suggesting
that the resilience, creativity and survival of artists committed to
practices and places, between funding and without funding at this and other
times in history (and in our own careers) does work as a kind of palmpiset
for noticing what drives us to culture, which is a way of articulating
cultural value, all the time, to ourselves, between ourselves (and to  our
mothers/lovers). That story of greater and lesser incorporation (in to
'funding') of an already and still thriving cultural scene, was me thinking
that there is much to re-write and re-teach each other that comes from
within artist's experience over a long duree.

Rachel O'Reilly |  +31(0)615217953

On Fri, Nov 4, 2011 at 8:39 AM, NeMe <nemeorg at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi Rachel,
> > "It is indeed difficult to entertain the protectionist and short-sighted
> art
> > industry notion that the politics of art funding (which I actually
> > interpret in a lot of this debate as 'the politics of art itself') was
> > 'never really a major concern until recently'."
> Your response interpreted our opening sentence out of context.
> As founders and directors of NeMe (registered in 2004), with its first
> funded project realised in 2006, provides Yiannis and I with a very
> recent history of experience with the whole process of funding and its
> associated bureaucratic and political complexities. I am sure that
> those who follow the activities of NeMe would have realised that our
> statement was a reference to our own experience and not a shallow
> statement to either “the politics of funding” nor, as you correctly
> state, “the politics of the art industry itself”
> In any case, these two concerns are not mutually exclusive as
> indicated by the history of patronage and certainly emphasised by the
> recent funding cuts. Funding has never been merely a ‘facilitator’ and
> as such, the politics of funding are firmly embedded into the politics
> of the arts industry.
> This discussion, or debate, if you prefer, has been initiated to
> explore current responses and critical thinking around the possibility
> of a new definition of ‘cultural value’ or a ‘re-definition of the
> arts praxis’. The recent funding cuts have generated concern regarding
> the relationship of visual culture and its relationship (or
> subservience) to economic-political objectives, as you quote, “...in a
> political milieu increasingly dominated by ideologies of culture-as
> service, knowledge production, as education itself is massively
> privatized and so on.”
> also Julian Oliver comments:
> > “It doesn't matter how intrinsically important these disciplines and
> their
> > representative institutions may be within the broader human project: it
> appears
> > some European countries are following the New World and rationalizing
> away from
> > support of the arts, perhaps ultimately preferring privatisation of the
> so-called Arts Sector altogether.”
> We live in a corporate controlled environment and this does place many
> cultural practitioners and institutions in a very difficult ethical
> position of articulating a more nuanced sense of their contribution to
> possible new models of perception in relation to our increasingly
> complex global environment or as Lyotard (1982) pointed out in his
> Affirmative Aesthetics, "the reflection of an increasingly fictional
> reality." Funding cuts have made this concern even more urgent.
> Staging cup cake raffles or equivalent net requests to raise money for
> the arts as an indicator of our liberation from state or corporate
> funding is not the issue although this might provide some individuals
> with enough financial support to realise their own project. But there
> is a bigger issue: the arts sector is experiencing the real threat of
> diffusion and displacement and here I am not referring to the
> aesthetics of the sublime.
> I welcome your comments,
> -Helene
> http://www.neme.org/
> http://neme-imca.org/
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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