Archive for mars, 2009

Kulturverkstan in Berlin and Potsdam

”Entrepreneurship is to find out what you would like to do and then how you are going to realize it”, says Professor Dr. Hermann Voesgen at Fachhochschule in Potsdam. He is Head of the Course ”Culture and Project Work” and Kulturverkstan visited him to discuss culture work, culture policy and the culture sector in Germany.

Mr Voesgen has worked among other things in many cultural projects for the development of rural regions and as cultural advisor. He showed us an area in Potsdam newly developed to host both Cultural institutions of the City and Creative Industries. Old industrial and military buildings are rebuilt. Further development is needed though to make the area more vibrant and alive.

Written by Karin Dalborg, Manager of Nätverkstan’s education Kulturverkstan. The visit was part of a study visit to meet representatives from different organisations and education in cultural life, together with the cultural scene, in Berlin and Potsdam on 19 – 22 of March.

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27 mars, 2009

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Other Art and other practices

I came to think of my grandfather when I visited the newly opened exhibition ”Other Art” at Göteborg Konstmuseum (Fine Art Museum in Göteborg). It’s the ”other” Art, the not established, that is shown. The self-taught Artists. All those nurses, farmers, teachers, cleaners, construction workers that do Art on their spare time, at their homes and with no intention of ever being exhibited or perhaps only very locally. Building a beautiful stone wall to keep the hens in place; building an animal memorial out of logs in protest of authorities’ animal laws; carving wooden figures of men signing up for military, small men with bent backs and bitten faces being checked by military officers; paintings; garden decorations; a home designed like a mosque to remind of a home country. Is this Art? The discussions have been vivid at the Museum of Fine Art if this should be shown or not at an established Art Exhibition Hall.

Another story related to this, is the one about all those people in the quiet promoting local self-taught Artists. The neighbours, friends, parents, children, auction dealers drinking coffee, visiting and admiring their work, buying and selling, collecting their Art work. My grandfather Bertil was such a person. He bought and sold Art (mainly paintings) and antiques. He bought what he thought would sell, but paintings he liked ended up hanging on his wall. His daily life was going to auctions. Does it connect somehow to each other? Other Art and other practices?

The thought of Bertil followed me after the exhibition, and I found this old and since long forgotten text about him. The text was done as a school assignment, a long time ago, but gives a glimpse of how life as a merchant and collector of Art and antiques could be shaped.

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”In the middle of central Örebro, in a three-room apartment, Bertil Stenholm lives. The apartment has the style of the 1960s and is very well furnished. There is not a patch of the wall without paintings, not a corner without a chest of drawers and antique tables, not a shelf without crystal decorations. In the midst of this crowd of furniture and paintings, scan3557_000.jpgI met Bertil over a cup of cooking coffee (he always cooked his coffee) and cream to discuss his largest interest: Antiques.

Bertil was born in a merchant family in 1911. Already as a young man trading things was the large interest of his life. Buying and selling things is a very good way to earn money, Bertil thought at an early age. The most important with this form of trade is to keep up-to-date with merchants of antiques and go to auctions. You have to know what sort of things have a value and also what things there might be an interest of on the market.

To find antiques is hard, though. For something to be called an antique, it needs to be at least a hundred years old. The older, the more valuable. Price settles if the buy was a bargain or not. As Bertil put it: – There is a lot of running back an forth sometimes between different shows and merchants, many cups of coffee drunk, before a deal is done.

But also this form of trade has gone through changes. It’s not like the old days when auctions was still recognised as sound business. You sold furniture and objects you wanted to get rid of, to the highest bid on the auction. Today there is a range of laws and regulations to consider. It’s also allowed for the person selling, to put a bid or guard the price. If the object is not sold to this price, it will not be sold. As a buyer you pay a thirteen percent tax on everything bought.

Swindling is not uncommon. Objects are sold as antiques, even though they are not older than a few decenniums. For an unused audience or buyer, it’s easy to get cheated. You must thoroughly control the origin of the merchandise and take in expertise before you buy.

But despite changes in dealing with antiques, swindlers and tough bargaining, it is the perfect occupation for Bertil. There are no risks involved, since he doesn’t put in any capital. And as he says: – There is nothing better for us pensioners, who’s pensions doesn’t even cover a piece of pork!.”

The interview was done in the beginning of 1990s at his home in central Örebro, Sweden. Bertil Stenholm lived 1911–1999. Most of his working life he collected Art and antiques. When Bertil chose paintings it was mainly local Artists that was his passion. His main criteria for buying was if he liked the motive or not, usually landscapes and portraits.

24 mars, 2009

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Deserted places and creative destruction

Jan Jörnmark looks at his photos projected on the wall and seems still amazed of what happened. Around thirty people are sitting in the room, waiting for him to continue. ”I am an Associate Professor in Economic History at Göteborg University, I have written many books during my time, piled in heaps in the caches of the University – no-one reads them” he tells us with a warm Karlstad dialect. And he looks at the photos again and laughs. ”And then I started this project….”.

He was interested in deserted places; houses, areas, businesses, places that told a story, that had once been full of activity and was now, due to circumstances and changes in society, deserted. He started photographing these places. The photos show destruction, there is a feeling of abandonment around them, faded glory of once prosperous businesses and activities.

Capitalism is in constant change. Something is destructed, something else created, he tells us. If you don’t add new value to things, they will loose what was once valuable and be destroyed. There is an enormous demand for cultural value and therefore also a potential in adding this to old things to get something new. Jörnmark’s project is a typical project created in the new globalized economy. He started a website where he put all his photos. The interest was enormous. Around 20.000 visitors each month, comments of around 300. It’s the logic described by Chris Anderson, the Editor of Wired that described the new economy in globalized society in the book The Long Tail a few years ago. Internet is free. Money will not be made in traditional ways, instead Internet create new businesses and new products. For Jörnmark the product was the book he produced of all the photos he put on the website (where you find them free of charge). One book has become two books, which have been read and sold in masses. Many lectures and exhibitions have been held. A new book is on its way. Money is made. Sub cultures have been created around the project. It’s a success story that surprises him so much, that he still, even after a few years, is amazed of what happened.

Jan Jörnmark was one of several interesting speakers on the seminar this weekend (20-21 of March) at Jonsered Herrgård outside Göteborg, held by the Foundation for the Future of Cultures (Stiftelsen framtidens kultur) and Lokal Kultur on the topic ”Creative Industries and Involuntary Entrepreneurs”. For the programme, look at this post. Nätverkstan is working on a project based on the ideas of the Long Tail, have a look here.

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22 mars, 2009

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The Creative Industries: Ten years after

On March 20-21, a seminar on creative industries will take place in Jonsered, close to Göteborg. The seminar is arranged by the Foundation for the Culture of the Future (Stiftelsen framtidens kultur) and will discuss culture economy, the every day life of cultural work and the economical aspects, experienced based knowledge of cultural actors and more. The seminar is based on a study produced by Nätverkstan in 2002 called ”Den ofrivillige företagaren” (”The involuntary entrepreneur”). Many things have of course happened since it was written and a new edition will be released soon.

The concept of Creative Industries is fairly new in Sweden and it could be a good idea to look deeper into experiences from other countries. Nätverkstan has followed the development in Great Britain since 1999 where it definitely has been a bigger subject. In 1998, the recently created UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport placed the newly named ”Creative Industries” – media, design and arts based enterprises – at the heart of the nations economic future. The antecedents of the creative industries, the so-called ”Cultural Industries” of the 1970s and 80s were carefully steered from view, as the use of the term creative industries signalled a desire to harness cultural production to the new economic agenda.

In February last year Nätverkstan attended a seminar at the Open University in Milton Keynes called: The Creative Industries: Ten years after. The organisers, Mark Banks, Department of Sociology/CRESC, The Open University, and Justin O’Connor, Cultural and Media Industries Research Centre, University of Leeds asked themselves:  What has happened in the decade since 1998?

In the invitation Mark Banks reflects:

”On the one hand the creative industries can be seen to have gone from strength to strength. The UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport has re-launched its creative industry strategy with renewed vigour. The creative Economy Programme sets out an ambitious strategy, which once again places the creative industries at the heart of the UK’s economic future. The UK model has then been internationally exported, across Europe, and into territories as diverse as Australia, China and South Korea, shaping and being shaped by pre-existing policy frameworks, contributing to the rapid globalization of creative industry debate. Yet there are some hard questions to be asked and key issues to be addressed – this symposium attempts to address these issues and in doing so take forward an agenda for critical debate on the creative industries.”

Many interesting key speakers were invited: Justin O’Connor, David Hesmondhalgh, Andy Pratt, Kate Oakley, Chris Bilton, Mark Banks and Jason Toynbee. They addressed themes such as: The historical formation and context of creative industries; Creative industry policy and the legacy of New labour; Creative industries and local and regional development; Creative industries in comparative international contexts; The changing politics of creativity and creative industry work; And The future policy agenda for creative industries.

Several of the perspectives highlighted were indeed more critical and interesting than many of other seminars we have attended. Mark Banks talked about the shift from cultural to creative industries policy represents a de-politicization of cultural work in so far as ”cultural” concerns (i.e. those regarding meaning of work or its artistic, social or political value) have been sequestered in favour of approaches that focus on enhancing only ”creative” commodity production and economic value. Kate Oakley talked, among many other things, about an over focus on novelty as the primary determinant of cultural worth. Andy Pratt described how the cultural industries have been ”made up”. In particular – in the UK context – he examine the pre-mapping document (1998) period; the mapping document; and the ”framework” phase. He set out to show that categories are embedded in concepts, therefore the taxonomies that are used to measure the cultural industries, constitute them.

There is a web cast replay of the Creative Industries Symposium here. The programme of the event is found here. The programme (in Swedish) of the event in Jonsered on March 20–21: program-jonsered.pdf. The report ”Den ofrivillige företagaren” (in Swedish): ofrivilligforetagare.pdf.

Written by Karin Dalborg, Manager of Kulturverkstan, a Project Managament Training Programme within Culture, run by Nätverkstan.

19 mars, 2009

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Culture should mainstream all policy

One of the more interesting suggestions in the new report on Swedish Cultural Policy put forward by the Committee of Inquiry on Cultural Policy is what is called cultural policy as aspect policy. With this it’s stated that cultural policy should interact with societal issues like education, business, regional development, health and environment.

”We understand cultural policy as an aspect of all policy areas”. The intention is that ”perspective, creative talent, knowledge and insights that the authorities, institutions and practitioners within the cultural field hold can be important for societal development”. Quite rightly, it’s pointed out that this is not new, but the Committee believes that the development needs to ”accelerate and accentuate”.

To the extent it has been noticed, the suggestion has been met with positive response. Hopes have been put forward that the issues within the cultural field will be treated as issues within the environmental field. Today all public activities and all political decisions should be saturated with environmental awareness.

It sounds fantastic, but is it realistic? From what position does culture invite for interaction? And what sort of societal development is addressed?

A better comparison is perhaps done with the aid policy? It’s an area of policy that has been equally questioned and debated as cultural policy. It’s an area as exposed to cyclical changes and ideologies.

In 2003 the Parliament adopted Sweden’s new Policy for Global Development (PGU). The new development policy should include ”both an effective aid of high quality and coherence that includes all policy areas”. Hopes were high. But what happened? During the governance of the Allians parties, the results have had a reverse PGU, where all other policy areas impoverish aid and its budget: Refugee camps, dept depreciation, depreciation of costs for Swedish embassies.

1998, the same year as the Region Västra Götaland was formed; Göteborg formulated its Strategy for Cultural Policy, the so-called version 1.0. One of the main tracks was that culture should ”permeate all policy areas”. Now, around eleven years later we can ask: Is this what happened? Or did culture become an aid-assistant for health, regional development, and integration?

There are many good reasons for the aspect policy that the Committee is looking at. Culture can and should contribute to societal development. But if small policy areas like culture will be able to play such a central role, its integrity as to be ensured. Then you have to make sure that cultural policy is neither invaded, nor dissolved in other policy areas.

Written by Karin Dalborg, Manager of Kulturverkstan, Education in Project Management within culture, run by Nätverkstan. The article was published at the Internet Journal Alba on March 9, 2009. For the Swedish original, have a look at here.

17 mars, 2009

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Burning Platforms

The story tells that a man on an oilrig in the North Sea woke up from an explosion and as he stepped out fire caught up with him and he had to make a quick decision. He decided to jump into the water, although this option was in itself extremely risky. If he survived the jump, he would die within fifteen minutes in the cold water. He survived, and later when asked of his decision he said: ”better probable death than certain death”.

The story turned into a business term and was called ”Burning Platforms”, implying that people only change behavior radically due to terrible circumstances. Radical change in behavior only comes when survival instincts trump comfort zone instincts, it’s said, therefore leading changes in an organisation is easier if there is a sense of a ”Burning Platform”. Perhaps relevant for cultural entrepreneurs who has the sense of always working on Burning Platforms and fast changing circumstances?

At Krenova in Umeå, an incubator within art and culture, I suddenly hear the term. Anders Persson, Director, used it when talking about the incubator and described it as a way to work when building something.

”I use ‘Burning Platforms’ quite often when I am building something, like an activity or project. In short it’s a way to do your vision or idea so sharp, cool, relevant, fantastic, realistic, necessary – whatever you choose – that no-one can or want to resist it. Everyone wants to be on the platform, without really understand why. They want to be on board, whatever it takes. This is a way to shape the boarders of a project or business idea, giving you the possibility to work on the content within these boarders.”

At a seminar in Göteborg on 11th of March, on the topic ”Future Businessfield in Western Sweden” (Framtidens näringsliv i Västsverige), a man in the audience lifted the conception again. A presentation on the economic development in Sweden was done by Professor Lennart Schön from Economic History Department at Lund University. He showed that global economic crisis has been in forty years sequences, the ups and downs in the economy has come in regular periods of time and can perhaps be seen as recurring changes over years. The comment from the man in the audience was that renewal never happen if there are no sense of Burning Platforms. In a financial crisis it is, which forces renewal to happen.

So: What happens to a field that always has a sense of working on Burning platforms?

A short text on Umeå and Krenova can be found here. Information of ”Burning platforms” can be found on Policy Perspectives (from 2005), Problem-solving-techniques.com, and a story about leading change without a Burning platform can be found on the website Harvard Business Publishing.

12 mars, 2009

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Georgian – Swedish Cultural Exchange

Nätverkstan has been cooperating with cultural organisations and Artists in Georgia since 2000. We are now planning a continuation together with artists, editors of cultural journals, authors, film festivals and young dramatists and play writes.

Yesterday the first seminar was held in the localities of Nätverkstan in Göteborg, Sweden. Torgny Hinnemo, journalist, expert on Georgian situation and active in Georgia since 1971, held a presentation followed by a few words of the project presented by Project Manager Anders T Carlsson. The evening ended by the author Torbjörn Elensky reading from a book written by the Georgian author Aka Morchiladze; and author and dramatist Malin Lindroth reading Georgian author Anna Kordzaia-Samadashvili. Wato Tsereteli, curator and Artist in Georgia, presented contemporary Georgian Artists via Skype.

In May a group from Nätverkstan together with Swedish authors, artists, dramatists, people from cultural organisations and film festivals are travelling to Georgia to meet colleagues and discuss future exchange and event in Sweden during 2009-2010. The project is financed by the Swedish Institute.

Read more about Nätverkstan’s work in Georgia: EKAE Project.pdf. One interesting article on the situation in Georgia written by Torgny Hinnemo is found in Svenska Dagbladet (August 2008). Photos are from the Art exchange in Tbilisi in 2004.

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10 mars, 2009

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More on Swedish Cultural Policy…

The latest week an upset and spiteful debate on where the boundaries of Art and Artistic practice should be set has been filling pages in Swedish newspapers. Origin of the discussion is a student at University College of Arts, Crafts and Design who acted like she needed psychiatric help and was put into hospital. When truth came out that she was an Art student doing an Artistic project as part of her examination work, many reacted from the hospital management, public and Cultural Minister. Didn’t she just take resources at the hospital from those who really needed help? How can this be Art? Are methods like this part of Art work and can it by the University be seen as examination work? Shouldn’t she pay the hospital for the resources she used? The debate got new wood when it was known that another student at the school had illegally sprayed graffiti and filmed it, a piece called ”Territorial Pissing”, as his Artistic work.

”Students of University College of Arts, Crafts and Design are just follow the new Cultural Policy”, journalist Stefan Jonson says in today’s Dagens Nyheter. In the report on new Swedish Cultural Policy, the Committee suggests that ”An entrepreneur can be seen as a person that is questioning established relations and perceptions”, which should mean, Stefan Jonson argues, that these two students have been doing exactly that. They refuse to stay within the boundaries of Art and let their competence spill over to other parts of society, and does this as Artists always do. Across established structures and limits. The point he is making is: This should then be in line with what the Swedish Cultural Minister would like to see more of?

The reports of the Committee of Inquiry of Cultural Policy on Swedish Cultural Policy and more articles on the topic can be found here.

6 mars, 2009

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Swedish Cultural Policy

The Committee of Inquiry of Cultural Policy was formed in summer 2007 with the task of revising Swedish Cultural Policy and the Cultural Policy Objectives. On February 27 2009 they presented their results.

Cultural Policy in Sweden was formed in the 1970s, the Cultural Policy Objectives were written and decided by Parliament in 1974 (an English translation of these are found here). The objectives had wide political support from right to left on the political scale, since it was a study commissioned by the Parliament. The Policy was revised in 1996, but only on a very cosmetic level. One of the most discussed objective of the 1974 Policy is: ”To promote cultural diversity, artistic renewal and quality, thereby countering the negative effects of commercialism”. An interesting – and critisized – objective. What does it mean to ”counteract the negative effects of commercialism”? Some argue that it put cogs in the wheel of entrepreneurship and moneymaking, others that the objective only speaks of negative effects which is something to strive for; it’s not against commercialisation as a whole.

The result of the Committee’s work come in three books of a total of 900 pages. Book 1: ”Basic Analysis” (Grundanalys), Book 2: Programme of Renewal (Förnyelseprogram) and Book 3: Cultural Policy Architecture (Kulturpolitikens arkitektur).

A flow of articles has been written since the presentation, many of them questioning the work. Is the most important thing with Cultural Policy the administration and structure? Why would a few large authorities administrating culture be more effective than many smaller ones? Will more money triple down to the artist? Points are made that the work is a passing comment, too quickly put together at the cost of precision; it’s not a work commissioned by the Parliament, it will therefore lack a wide political support; and most important the suggestions lack support in the cultural field. It has not, though, as many feared, been a show in neo-liberal views of culture. Critics seem quite unite in their conclusions that this is not the case.

On May 19 closes the time for referrals. In the meanwhile, cultural organisations, institutions, artists, and artists’ organisations are reading the results with magnifying glass. Many are affected if the results of the Committee should become real. There is a need of renewal, but do the Committee’s results give the ultimate solutions to how this should be done?

Read articles by Sven Nilsson in the daily Sydsvenska Dagbladet and kulturbloggen, Magnus Eriksson in Svenska Dagbladet, Åsa Linderborg in Aftonbladet, Bengt Göransson in Dagens Nyheter, Gabriel Byström in Göteborgs-Posten, and David Karlsson in Dagens Nyheter and here. Several articles can be found in Aftonbladet here. And in Dagens Nyheter here. Unfortunately all articles are in Swedish.

Parallel with the Committee’s work, a ”shadow” study was done, organised by Orionteatern. Also have a look at this blogpost, written in August on this site.

Download the reports of the Committee of Inquiry on Cultural Policy in Swedish (an English summery is supposed to be published soon).

Book 1 Basic Analysis: e6ab6539.pdf.

Book 2 Programme of Renewal: 7a302f931.pdf.

Book 3 Cultural Policy Architecture: 39524981.pdf.

2 mars, 2009

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Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

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