[-empyre-] Art Funding and Politics

NeMe nemeorg at gmail.com
Wed Nov 9 17:34:04 EST 2011

Despite rapid developments in new media and technology, the majority
of the voting public's understanding of the arts sector still remains
firmly embedded within 18th and 19th century nationalist concepts of
culture with the elitist idea of 'artist/genius' as absolute spirit
(Kant, Hegel). For obvious reactionary political currency, this
historical model of elevated expectation and positioning of culture
still informs much political rhetoric regarding cultural policy.
Although no longer apt, its firmly ingrained residue does obfuscate
rational arguments for a more appropriate definition of the value of
culture as reflecting the tensions and complexities of the
contemporary.  Over forty years ago, Octavio Paz noticed that art had
begun to "...lose its negating power" (1967).  It is indeed difficult
not to accept that the arts sector has been made a casualty of funding
in order to silence or at least greatly reduce its ' negating ' voice
in the present socio-political restructuring and economic

Bill Balaskas questions the nature of the long standing and
controversial relationship between the arts and economics in his first

"What kind of economy and, thus, what kind of art?" and "what kind of
art and, thus, what kind of economy?"

Although many cultural workers would like to refute that their ideas,
visions and practice are subject to economic interests and restraints,
nonetheless, imagining different dimensions of contemporary cultural
practice that remain interdependent with sponsored support will
demarcate a more appropriate action and functioning representation.

Yiannis Colakides, in his previous post, asks:

Is it not the symbolic function of the arts to reflect and comment on
that 'collective life' and is it not the State's responsibility to
sustain it?

Some museums and educational institutions have identified this
necessary relocation of function and are working to redefine
themselves and their potential contribution by opening their spaces to
what they consider peripheral, experimental, collaborative and open
call type projects. Of course, we may dismiss these 'zeitgeist type'
attempts as essentially economic actions further entrenching
mainstream prestige, but regardless, they will undoubtedly have
legitimate impact on the re-positioning of the arts and re-defining
the value of culture and its implementation for the future, simply
because of the nature of their outreach and willingness to compromise.

Cultural workers who have integrated their practice with
sustainability are already contributing to the redefinition of
cultural value because of their emphasis on the integration of their
work within the process of everyday life
Rachel makes a very relevant observation in her post:

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

We would like to hear the views of some of you who have consciously
removed your cultural practice from official cultural discourses and
government/corporate funding support.

We also invite contributions from cultural producers who have
redefined their work into integrated social praxis with focus on

Helene Black

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