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The well-visited book fair in Göteborg has just come to an end. The official number of visitors were 97.000, presentations in the programme were 2700, with around 2100 participating organizations, publishing houses and so forth. Next year they have selected Africa and African literature as the theme.
Nätverkstan had, as usual, a stand for the cultural journals in Sweden where you could read the journals or listen to presentations of editors. One of the main topics of discussions was the Cultural Bill presented by the Government during the week and the point on changes in funding and definitions of cultural journals. The myriad of journals in Sweden, shown in our stand at the fair, would most certainly be effected.
Read the article today in the daily Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish) about the bill, written by journalist Mikael Löfgren. Read a former post on the Cultural Bill here. Download the ”Black list” of cultural journals presented by the journal Fronesis as a reaction on the Bill: adelsohn-liljeroths-svarta-lista (In Swedish).
Swedish Government recently presented the new Culture Bill with suggestions of changes in the national cultural policy from 2010. The suggestions follows to some extent the work done by The Committee of Inquiry of Cultural Policy and their report presented earlier this year (read more here and here). Some suggestions were expected as the transition of responsibility from the state to the regions, where regions and local politicians are expected to take a larger responsibility of culture in their areas of responsibility. The suggestion has been criticized, mainly with the question of who does then take responsibility for a cultural policy equal for all citizens? The risk is that every region will act differently, some politicians put a lot of money to culture, while others in other regions will put less to Art and culture.
One worrying point in the new Culture Bill is the suggested changes of the support to cultural journals and literature. One of the basis of Swedish democracy is the many voices expressed in the myriad of cultural journals. They concern society, Art, literature, environment, human rights, feminism and all sorts of topics. Some of these get support from the state to secure their publishing, with the argument that many voices are important in society. The changes suggested by the government threaten these journals existence. Not only by cutting funding, but also by the suggestion to change the definition of what can be seen as a ”cultural journal” from a more general definition including societal journals to one more specified focusing on the Art forms. Will be interesting to follow.
Many newspapers and journalists have of course reacted of this. Read some of these (in Swedish) in Göteborgs-Posten, Expressen, and for a long list of points made look at Föreningen för Sveriges Kulturtidskrifter (FSK).
The Nätverkstan project Kulturchock (Culture Chock) in cooperation with journals such as Geist, Glänta, OEI, Ord&Bild, Paletten, Site have been invited to The Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. The idea is to present Sveriges kulturtidskrifter (Swedish Cultural Journals) as an important infrastructure for contemporary Art in Sweden. In the Museum’s studio discussions and happenings where critical, literary and Artistsic practices meet, as they do n these journals.
First out was the Critical Run on Sept 10, a format created by the Danish-French Artist Thierry Geoffroy. Under the headline ”Are critics critical?” invited guests discussed the topic while jogging from the Government office to the Modern Museum of Art in Stockholm. Look at the Facebook discussion (in Swedish) here.
We get to see a beautiful piece by choreographer Matthew Ondiege and his four dancers, a dance shifting in pace from fast to slow, from harmony to stress and internal conflicts. He is also working with the group Uwezo Mix Dance Theatre that bring together disabled dancers with other dancers to form contemporary dance pieces.
Visual Artist Mary Ogembo tells us an amazing story of how Art can be sold. A chinese person came across her paintings over Internet, I think it was, and contacted Mary to see if she could buy some. But since Mary is in Kenya, and the buyer was across oceans and countries, this was a bit difficult. And how should Mary verify that she was Mary? So she contacted different trustworthy people running organizations, Art exhibition halls and so forth so that the buyer could get references. An embassy official came to visit her in her studio to see if she existed. And after this process the buyer bought eight paintings, Mary got the money and rolled the eight paintings in packages and sent them across the sea.
Visual Artist Salah Ammar was one of the Artists part of the newly opened exhibition at the Ramoma, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Nairobi. Salah Ammar shows his work, pieces showing that his Artistic career has gone through many different styles. He shows his work with soft and careful hands, and with lots of respect for his viewer. When speaking of his Art his eyes get a spark, you can see that he loves it. He has so much inside, so many colors and ideas that still wants come out, he tells me.
Visual Artist Caro Mbirua shares studio with Salah Ammar and shows a different style of work. She carefully brings out painting after painting with motives hidden in mist, a sort of secrecy surrounding the women in her work. When she describes them, she says ”I do beautiful Art”, and we say ”you need to be more specific”. But it is really a good word for her work. Beautiful.
And on my bedside table, I have writer Doreen Baingana‘s book ”Tropical Fish”. An Ugandan writer, twice nominated for the Caine Prize in African Writing now living in Kenya. She wants to start a literary group with writers that can meet on regular basis, discuss literature and support each other in finding new possibilities to live on their writing.
These are just a few of the very talented Kenyan Artists taking part in the workshop ”The Art of living on Art” in Nairobi on Sept 7-8, 2009.
I was stunned with what the government official was saying. I had to hear it referred by another person before I believed it.
The workshop days on the topic ”The Economy of Creativity” started with a TV-show with well-known actor and journalist John Sibi-Okumu as the presenter. Invited to the panel were celebrities from Kenyan business and creative life. Hip-hop artist Nameless shared panel with business man Manu Chandaria,TV-personality Dan Ndambuki known for his very popular show ”Churchill Live”, a representative from the Rugby team, Anders Öhrn from Swedish Institute and the governmental official. It was a talk of the economy of creativity, obstacles and possibilities for creative industries in Kenya, the relation between culture and business life. The governmental official said that a cultural policy is coming and a national endowment for the Arts will be in place, something very welcomed by the Artists in the audience although many afterwards told me that they heard this so many times. And as she talked she was addressing problems in the field, and she explained the problems with something like: ”People have an attitude problem” and ”this needs to be changed”. People have an attitude problem? A clip will be on youtube soon, so let’s check if she really said this.
After the show, mainly cultural entrepreneurs and some representatives from business life gathered on a one and a half day workshop to discuss how cultural entrepreneurs and investors could empower each other. The thought was that business life needs the creative industries, as well as the other way around. After long and intense discussions and the full commitment of participants acting as investors investing money in cultural projects, it was quite obvious that venture capital and cultural projects and businesses have difficulties finding each other. Investors will not find the opportunities they are looking for in these projects and Artists’ might not be interested in this sort of capital. They just don’t make enough profit to be interesting for the investor and the major drive for the Artists is not profit, but meaning. For a few it might be a way, and for them it would perhaps be interesting to build bridges, but for the majority this is not a solution. It is important, all-the-same, to learn from each other and there are benefits for both business and cultural field to interact more, was a thought from the conference.
On the evaluation after the workshop, a few conclusions were drawn to strengthen the creative industries and the awareness of the same. Maybe not so new, but even more strongly:
1. Strengthen cultural entrepreneurs and professional Artists with management tools and other similar skills. Education, workshops and training is needed.
2. Strengthen the creative field as a sector through better organization and structure.
3. Promote the creative industries and show the potential for other fields. Raise awareness with businesses and investors.
The workshop was funded by Swedish Institute and Strömme Foundation, support from the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi, in the project ”Empowering Creators and Investors” run by Pratik Vithlani in cooperation with GoDown Arts Centre and Nätverkstan. Read more under category ”Kenya” on the side on this site.
Expectations were high when we started the workshop on ”The Art of living on Art” with visual artists, theatre people, a writer and dancers and choreographers in Nairobi, Kenya. How do I do to be able to do what I like most? How do you as an Artist to balance the business and the artistic side? How do you find ways to sustain your artistic work? How can you find the missing link between production and the market? Open a window to see new things?
We start quite frankly. We don’t have any answers. There are not any quick fixes you can follow that will solve all the obstacles or solve how to live on Art. You have the answers yourself. What we do is putting up the room for reflection and a structured way to reflect and think of where you are, your obstacles, how to get past these, your future ideas, how to deal with changes.
Eleven professionals within the Artistic field gathered to go through this process for two intense days. It’s interesting to see that Artist from different contexts as Sweden, Turkey, Georgia, India and Kenya have so much in common. The obstacles, difficulties and challenges put forward are very much the same, although the contexts are so different.
The workshop in Nairobi was organized by GoDown Art Center in cooperation with Nätverkstan. Read more about ”The Art of living on Art” under the catogeory with the same name.
Etiketter:Artist, Artistic practice, Business idea, Creative Industries, Creativity, Cultural economy, Cultural Project, Democracy, Development, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, pedagogical, Self-employment, Social entrepreneur, Transformation
The discussion on the consequences of digitalization for example music, film, literature, cultural journals is like an undulating ocean. It goes up and down but never stops its movement. Each of the Art forms has their own discussion.
Publishing houses were horrified of Google, the scanning of literature to make the first gigantic digital library. The Google deals made publishing houses furious and should these be signed or not? Did they have a choice? Are they mainly worried of the payment to the author or of their own position?
Music has fought fiercly against free downloading. In Sweden the new Ipred law aim to hunt those down that download for free. What does new business models look like on the Internet that make music available and the user pay for it? Examples like Spotify has grown up as new initiatives. Film is the same. Free downloading or sites like youtube, where films are uploaded to be viewed by anyone, is a big concern. The quality in screening is not good, but it’s for free. Chris Anderson says in his new book ”Free” that with Internet everything goes towards zero in costs. The business model, or how to earn money, will look very different in the future.
And what happens to the Artists? In the end, as most of the time, they are without income. Perhaps this development could actually be positive for the single Artist as money and power of distribution will be in the hands of the producer?
There are many questions and processes overlapping and crossing each other. The different industries; film, music, publishing worry about their future. But stay within their own field. Very few in Sweden have tried to get an overview, looked across the different specific fields to see the larger trend. This is the ambition in the pre-study done by Mikael Löfgren, Swedish Cultural Journalist, in cooperation with colleagues at Nätverkstan this coming fall. The study is funded by The Foundation for the Culture of the Future. Hopefully it will be the beginning of a learning process ending with a large Hearing in Göteborg where these issues will be discussed.
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