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The day after the Swedish Election to parliament on September 19, many Swedes woke up in chock.
For the first time, a racist party had managed to get seats in the parliament. The Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in neo-Nazism, had gotten 5.7% of votes (4% is needed for parliament) and were about the same size as the other small parties in parliament.
For Sweden this was new, although our neighbours Norway and Denmark have had racist parties in their parliaments for some years, something that follows a European trend in politics at the moment. In Denmark Dansk Folkeparti is as big as around 13%, the third largest party in the country.
The Sweden Democrats holds the balance of power. The Alliance, the cooperation between Moderaterna (Conservatives/Moderate Party), Folkpartiet (Liberal Party) and Centerpartiet (Center Party), is in minority, which means to get decisions through; they have to find allies in one of the other parties.
Discussions have gone warm on what this means in reality and how members of parliament should act to completely shut out the Sweden Democrats from any political power. In this, all parties have agreed. The Sweden Democrats should be kept away from political influence and met with what they are: A party building politics on people’s ethnic and cultural background.
This only works if the traditional parties and their members have a clear idea of where they stand in their political act. That they wash their own dirty linen, so to speak.
In Region Västra Götaland, at the first meeting in the Regional Parliament held on November 2, we saw what this means.
After about five weeks of negotiations, the political alliance leading the region was formed. Socialdemokraterna (Social Democrats), Vänsterpartiet (Left Party) and Miljöpartiet (Green Party) form a minority governance together with Sjukvårdspartiet, a one-question party focused on medical care, as a balancing power. Still, together they hold only 74 seats, for majority 75 seats are needed of a total of 149. The Sweden Democrats holds 7 seats.
On the discussion on Kulturplanerna 2011–2012 (Cultural Plans), Patrik Ehn, a Sweden Democrat, argued to erase a formulation describing a trend of Europe becoming more and more racist and the fact that Sweden have a racist party in Government. But instead of suggesting to erase this specific sentence, the whole paragraph from the end of page twenty-nine, starting with the headline (my translation) “Region Västra Götaland wants to develop intercultural pedagogic”, to the end of page thirty, should, he argued, be erased from the document.
The paragraph Patrik Ehn urged being taken away is describing the importance of intercultural dialogue and how the region should work with issues like ethnicity, human rights and crossover cooperation with the aim of building understanding and knowledge instead of prejudices.
In the voting, 139 members voted to keep the paragraph, ten voted to erase it from the document.
Sweden Democrats acted as expected. They voted against and also asked for a two minutes break to leave a written reservation. The unexpected act was performed by some of the others. Of the ten members voting to erase, three were members of Moderaterna (Conservatives). Three members of the largest of the three ruling parties in Sweden voted with the Sweden Democrats.
It does give a scary indication of what we have in front of us.
Download the Kulturplanerna 2011–2012 here: underlag-till-regional-kulturplan-101022.pdf. See the clip from the first meeting in the Regional Parliament on 2 November 2010 from the discussion on Kulturplanerna here.
How can Artists and politicians have a better dialogue? How could they better understand each others working conditions? If you put Artists and politicians together in a process – what would come out of it? The region Västra Götaland started the project Art & Politics in 2003. It is run by Jörgen Svensson, a Swedish well-known Artist, the delegates are both politicians and Artists.
The group meets around 2-3 times a year to discuss issues like: How can it become better for Artists to work in Västra Götaland? How can the conditions for Artists improve in this region? How can Artistic quality be measured in a structure that only measures quantity? How can the process become more accepted, and not only the Artistic product? Politicians are in lack of arguments for culture – how do you find qualified arguments for culture in a political structure where econimc arguments are in focus? How can it become possible for Artists to work as Artists?
Yesterday the results from the work of the group was presented for the Cultural Committee in Region Västra Götaland and hopefully some of the suggestions, like the one of starting a studio consultancy in West Sweden together with municipalities, property owners and Artists to resolve one big dilemma for Artists; axess to cheap studios for their Artistic work.
The initiator of the clothing brand Julian Red took a radical decision. They have grown immensely and sell their collection of clothes in cities like Paris, New York and Stockholm. But their head office is not found in one of these international metropolis. It’s placed in a small village about a two-hour drive north of Göteborg. To get there you get off the main highway and drive on narrow bumpy roads through the province of Dalsland until the village of Fengersfors turn up behind some trees. It was the people, the initiator Mattias Lind told us. What made them take the decision to move from the big city was the people forming the artistic group Not Quite and the milieu they created in the old paper mill.
When Not Quite moved to Fengersfors, it was a dying village. Young people moved away, houses were empty, and the only food-store was about to shut down. The future looked dark and the municipality had no solutions. It was really a coincident and a very open-minded owner of the run-down paper mill that made it possible. The artistic group Not Quite was formed in 2003, moved into the mill and started renovation, created ateliers, started a café with hardly a penny in their pocket. Today it’s an attraction and within just a few months three hundred visitors have been there to get inspired and learn from their example. Babies are born, people move in, artistic work is produced, exhibitions run, projects formed and the food-store is an important node in the area. How did they create this meeting-place in the outskirts of any reasonable big city?
Good meeting-places have the capacity to draw people to it. In Fengersfors you find sculptors together with photographers, visual artists together with a clothing brand. With people come initiative and new ideas. How are interesting meeting-places formed? What are the components? How do you draw ideas to a place?
The questions were put forward by participants in the project Art & Politics, led by the artist Jörgen Svensson. It’s a group of artists and politicians within culture in the region of Västra Götaland that meet five or six times a year to discuss the situation for artists in the region, ideas of development and to reach a better understanding of each other’s work. On May 26-27 the meeting was placed in Fengersfors, organised by Not Quite, as a case study of entrepreneurship in the region.
Etiketter:Art & Politics, Artistic practice, Creativity, Cultural economy, Cultural Policy, Cultural Project, Development, Employment, Entrepreneur, Fengersfors, Flexibility, Innovation, New economy, Not Quite, Renewal, Västra Götaland
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