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Gävle Symphony Orchestra is rehearsing as we pass by the auditorium to meet up the next interviewee for our analysis. Soft music is slipping through the closed double-doors.
During November and December we have been asked to do an analysis of Gävle Symphony Orchestra and Concert Hall, and suggest future development scenarios.
We stop at the sound of the music and peek in through the loophole in the door to get a glimpse. The music is overwhelming, concentration tense.
This is just an ordinary day at work in the concert hall.
Each year in beginning of Fall after everyone is back from vacation, the staff at Nätverkstan gather to discuss what we do, why we do it, if we do the right things, and future strategies to continue take an active and proactive role in the cultural scene.
Discussions are high-ended, open, critical, and with wide perspectives. We work in workshops as well as share presentations and knowledge. This year David Karlsson presented the contextual view-point from the board; Mikael Löfgren talked about his newly written report on value within arts (in Swedish: Inga undantag), written for a network of Art Exhibition Spaces named Klister and inspired by the british consultant Sarah Thelwall‘s report Size Matters; and Karin Dalborg who gave a summary on environmental scanning and the result from a staff workshop earlier this year.
It’s also about inspiration and sharing; it’s the only time when (nearly) all staff members are gathered at one spot for a lunch-to-lunch meeting outside of Göteborg.
It’s both valuable and fun; useful as well as playing around and just enjoy. This year the Kick-off, as we call it, was at Slussen, one of our favorite spots for these meetings.
In the middle of the roaring debate on the future of Lagerhuset, the Warehouse, a building in central Göteborg housing small-scale independent cultural organizations, publishers, and cultural journals, the digital journal Alba and Tidskriftsverkstan i Väst arranged a debate on cultural policy in the House of Literature (located in Lagerhuset).
It couldn’t be better timing.
But let’s start from the beginning. The old warehouse built in beginning of 1900 was for a long time a toll free warehouse for goods stored waiting for taxation to continue into the city. The building was then empty for a long time but in 1999 a group of small-scale publishers moved in together with Nätverkstan, Tidskriftsverkstan i Väst, the journals Ord&Bild, Glänta, and Paletten.
Other small businesses moved in, such as photographers, psychologists, architects, and editors.
In 2013 Frilagret started its cultural space for young people with dialogue processes and an active group of young cultural-interested people setting the agenda, an organization owned by the municipality. In October the same year the House of Literature opened its doors for readings, discussions on literature, space for writing, debates and discussions with authors, another of the municipality owned activities in the building.
And in March 2014 it was clear that the landlord, another part of the municipality, their own real-estate company Higab is chock-raising the rent for those in the house negotiating their contracts. One publishing house is leaving already in June.
The cluster of small-scale cultural organizations and entrepreneurs has taking long to create. And it can be destroyed in a second. No one can afford 30-35% higher rent.
With one hand the municipality is investing in a cultural house, while the other is pulling the rug under the feet of all the cultural organizations already in the building.
Of all the seminars, conferences, public debates and discussions on the cultural and creative city over the last ten years, Higab must have missed them all.
And they missed yesterday’s debate as well. Where are they? Are they at all concerned of the context and society they work in?
Categories: Art and Business Artistic practice Blogg Creative Industries Creative spaces Cultural Journals Cultural Policy Culture-led Development Economy Entrepreneurship Innovation Literature Medialab Music Nätverkstan Regional Development
Etiketter:Artist, Artistic practice, Creative Industries, Creativity, crisis, Cultural economy, Cultural Policy, Cultural Project, Development, Economy, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Literature, Renewal, Social entrepreneur
It’s sometimes awakening to look at your own organization with critical eyes to see what will crystallize. Are we doing interesting things or just reproducing old stuff?
The risk is always to start reproducing and react, rather than producing and be proactive as the organization is passing the pioneer times to the more stable middle-age. Although ”stable” is not the most proper word within the cultural field; a field surrounded by uncertainties, flexibility, and changing political strands. But nevertheless. Self-criticism can be useful.
On the Nätverkstan Kick-off this year, the gathering of all staff-members to kick-start after vacations, this was on the agenda.
What norms and assumptions exist within the organization that effect how we work, who we work with, and what we do? The perspective was norm-criticism which means that we focus on the structure, rather than individuals. We look at power, which means questioning the norms that exist which influence our judgement on what is considered normal and therefore unreflected is considered desirable.
Around ten different norms where put up on large charts of paper, and we then discussed what is behind these norms? Are they true or not? What visible effects might they have? Is that good or bad?
Useful times spent with a great group of people at the magic Kärlingesunds Gård last week.
Learn more of Nätverkstan here: NV_English_2013.pdf.
The Cultural Journal Glänta is celebrating 20 years and do this with an App full of future words. Like Deppbägare, Dialogdemonstrant, Öntreprenera, and Öövermod (sorry, an English translation of these words doesn’t exist yet as hardly the words yet exist…).
A few years ago the journal invited over hundred artists, writers, researchers, philosophers, and journalists to add one piece each to the puzzle and the Future Encyclopedia was born. It started as a printed journal and has now become an App for Iphone and Ipad possible to download for free.
Nätverkstan has created the App as part of the effort of together with Cultural Journals find new, simple, and economic sound ways to publish text in print and digital format. Also download the App for the Journal Ord&Bild.
Today the Cultural Affair’s Committee in Region Västra Götaland is gathering to decide on the proposal of the regional culture plan for 2013-2015.
The culture plan is part of the new ”trunk model”, decided by the Swedish government in December of 2009, introduced, after another round of detail study in how this model should be performed, in 2011 to move (some) decisions of cultural investments from the state to the regions. This way, the argument is, the decisions are taken closer to each region’s citizens. Instead of the state deciding where money in a specific region should be spent, the region gets to decide.
1,2 billion SEK of the cultural budget is moved from the state to the regions. But to get the hands on the money, each region has to present a plan, a cultural plan, and inform and negotiate with the state, here handled by the Arts Council, on where to spend the money. This has of course caused a lot of discussions. Is the trunk model only a paper product, where the Arts Council is taking the real decisions? Are local politicians to be trusted? Do local politicians really know enough about art and culture to be able to decide on investments and make the difficult priorities needed?
Västra Götalandsregionen was at an early stage the role model for the trunk model. The negotiations between the Arts Council and Region Västra Götaland started earlier where the region did very well in negotiations and held a high profile in debates, discussions and visions of the role of art and culture in the region.
Now the region seems to have out-dated itself. The culture plan for 2013-2015 is without any vision and, to be a bit bold, not even readable, something also noted among many of the parties, including Nätverkstan, responding to the circulation of comment before the decision (se today’s daily Göteborgs-Posten). ”It’s a culture plan without a plan”, as David Karlsson puts it.
To the leaders of Region Västra Götaland’s culture affairs we are many that wonder: Where are you heading with arts and culture in the region?
Find attached the culture plan of Region Västra Götaland that is up for decision here: Västra Götalands kulturplan.pdf. See also Nätverkstan’s respond to the circulation here: remissvar vgr_kulturplan_120905.pdf. Read a post by Swedish Radio from 2010 here. And former posts here.
Kulturlyftet is a large European educational project started by KRO/KIF (The Swedish Artists’ National Organization and Swedish Handicraftartists and Industrial Designers, my translation) with the aim of offering a range of educational initiatives for their members.
The project offers courses in areas such as Media and Communication, Pedagogics, Culture and Availability, and Project- and Process work with Art and Culture in Focus.
Nätverkstan is responsible the course Artistic Practice and Entrepreneurship together with Republic Consulting. Last Monday we started and around fifteen participants; illustrators, photographers, publishers, filmmakers, will gather once a week for six weeks in WIP Konsthall in Årsta to dig deep into entrepreneurship and how to live on your artistic practice. Exciting!
Kulturlyftet is run by KRO/KIF in cooperation with Svenska Fotografers Förbund (Association of Swedish Professional Photographers), Svenska Tecknare (Association of Swedish Illustrators and Graphic Designers), and Konstnärscentrum Öst. Their members are photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, visual artists, and artists within handicraft and industrial design.
For a long time Region Västra Götaland has been a model region in Sweden with its offensive cultural policy. But what’s happening now?
Cultural critic and Chair of Nätverkstan board, David Karlsson, puts the light on the regional cultural policy in an article posted in the daily Göteborgs-Posten last week.
On Thursday November 17, the Cultural Affairs Comittee of the Region took two important decisions; a new Cultural Policy Strategy, and a detailed budget for 2012. As the Cultural Policy Strategy is a visionary and analyzing document, probably the most powerful cultural policy document in the country, the budget is depressing reading. It shows nothing of the visionary, or interest for the art and culture outside the traditional art form limitations.
The whole question falls back on the leadership of the region. Does anyone know where Region Västra Götaland is heading?
Download the article (in Swedish) here: vgr_debatt.pdf.
For the last couple of months the Kulturverkstan students have been working with projects in the city of Göteborg. The themes for these projects have been culture, city development, participation and democracy. Our students have been working with external partners. These partners have presented real live cases and ideas for project development to the students. In a common dialogue they have together developed these projects. As in all projects it has been an act of balance between the needs of the partners, the creativity of our students and the citizens of Gothenburg. Here follows a short summary for our English-speaking partners.
Eriksbo Fritidspark is an activity centre run by the community’s recreation organisation by day and in the evenings the different activities are the responsibility of the volunteer driven Eriksbo Parkförening. Available to the public are activities such as help with homework, a pottery class and yoga. One can also find a petting zoo with bunnies, goats and chickens as well as a much-visited green nature area. The board however wants to do more. They want Parken to become the official meeting place of the multicultural, beautiful community that is Eriksbo. Over the years new inhabitants have moved in and a worrying lack of local participation has grown. In order to assist the board in their development process a project group from Kulturverkstan was tasked with acquiring a ”vision document”. What kind of activities do the citizens of Eriksbo want to have at Parken?
Through interviews, public meetings, workshops and surveys we have collected thoughts and opinions about which needs exist in the community and what people wish of their spare time in Eriksbo.
In conclusion, we have been in contact with over 100 citizens of Eriksbo. In addition to solid suggestions there has been talk of the needs in different areas and potential improvements. During our inquiry we have learned that the work being done already at Parken is much appreciated, and with more resources the Parken can be even better.
Group members: Josefina Samuelsson, Anna Sandin, Hanna Jansson, Caroline Andersson, Fillip Williams
External partner: Parkföreningen Eriksbo och Hyresgästföreningen
Pleasure Parking – An innovative step towards the car parks of the future
A project assignment conducted by the project group Pleasure Parking at Kulturverkstan’s International Cultural Management Programme
During the autumn of 2011 we, the members of the project group Pleasure Parking, have conducted an assignment at the request of Göteborgs Stads Parkerings AB (the municipal parking company) and Kulturverkstan. Our main goal within the assignment was to deliver a raw material of opinions of the general public, concerning the company’s indoor car parks and its atmospheres. What does it take to improve one’s feeling of well-being and ease in these car parks?
We chose to arrange a public event in one of the company’s indoor car parks, with the aim to there and then collect the participants opinions through an inquiry and a ”wall of opinions”. We also placed a number of minor inquiries in three of the company’s central car parks, and we created a web site in connection to the parking company’s homepage along with an e-mail address to which opinions could be sent. Some other internal goals of Pleasure Parking was to create a forum for discussions on car parks as a part of the public space and its connection to environmental-related issues, and also to make sure that the dialogue and cooperation of the parking company with the general public, would continue after the completion of our assignment.
When we delivered the result of the inquiries to the parking company, the gathering of data was however not completely finished. The reason is that the minor inquiries in the car parks will continue and that the web page and the possibility to e-mail, will remain open to the public. We managed to evoke a forum for discussions and debates during the public event on issues of democracy and the environment, and we hope that these topics were also discussed among the public who took part of the media reports of the project.
One of the conclusions that we can make is that indoor car parks can be used for more purposes than that of parking only, for example art exhibitions and music performances. We succeeded in creating an attractive event with a high rate of participants, and a democratic forum in which the opinions of the public was gathered. We did find a gap between the number of participants and the number of delivered inquiries, and we made the conclusion that we, in Pleasure Parking, could have been more active towards the participants in order to encourage them to make their voices heard.
A bonus result was however that at least one of the decorations which we placed in the car park for the event will be made permanent, and that connections have been made between different cultural workers and the parking company for further cooperation in the future.
Group members: Johanna Franck, Caroline Pehrson, Martin Reinikainen , Anna Svensson, Tobias Westerberg
External partner: Göteborgs Stads Parkeringsbolag.
Space for young culture
A community centre for young people is planned to open in the centre of Gothenburg. The public administration for culture claimed in a document at the 31st January 20111 that a dialogue process would be an appropriate way to form the content of this centre. This initial process was to be called Space for young culture. Six students at Kulturverkstan was called in to the project in September to ensure a dialogue process of high quality standard. By a critical scrutinizing analysis of collected information and by identifying strengths and flaws, they were to offer improvements and solutions to improve the process.
Group members: Johanna Byström, Johan Lind, Lisa Säthil, Tobias Brandin, Elin Tollbom, Julia Adielsson
External partner: Kulturförvaltningen Göteborg, Rum för ung kultur
Project Vega has aimed to variegate and strengthen the voice of the elderly in the public debate, in a positive and artistic way see them as unique personalities and satisfy a need of being able to be a part of the cultural life in the city. The project created conditions for interactions between local artists and residents at the nursing home Vegahusen, one of Tre Stiftelser’s three nursinghomes in Gothenburg. In the creative process of the artworks, ten elderlys experiences and thoughts has been taken care of and shaped by ten artists with different forms of expressions. The project resulted in two exhibitions named ”A priest, a Dane and a ballerina” and a catalogue including information about the participators and the process of the artworks.
Group members: Erika Alsén, Anne-Li And, Lars Dyrendom, Klara Fulgentiusson Ejeby, Anna Hansen, Robin Palmqvist
External partner: Tre stiftelser Äldreboende
Being the main host of Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Röda Sten Art Centre asked us to arrange a one day activity within the Biennial. We all found the theme Pandemonium – Art in a time of creativity fever, to be highly interesting. The Biennial statement expresses a wish to be a “launch pad for new ideas and new world orders”. Sadly, we couldn’t find any means to harvest these thoughts, nor did we find any other points of interaction with the visitors. In this we found the aim for our project.
Our objectives were to catalyze the visitor’s reflection and enhance their participation, to enable simple ways for leaving a print and a forum for discussion in conjunction with visiting the Biennial.
Framtidslabb, Swedish for Future Laboratory, housed four stations ranging from our abstract Reflektorium to the more hands-on Tomorrow’s Headlines workshop.
From surveys and our conversations with participants we found that our goal was met. Our conclusion is that this sort of pedagogical activity offers the Biennial visitor a more enriching experience.
Group members: Göran Dahlström, Bella Ghajavand, Héctor García Jorquera, Jenny Haraldsson
External partner: Konsthallen Röda sten, Göteborg International Biennal for contemporary art.
Accomodation of Blattsploitation
The project’s primary aim has been to create conditions for a sustainable non-profit business that can accommodate the association ”Alla har en Historia att Berätta”, its ideas and visions. We have chosen to do this through a pilot study. In the beginning part of the pilot study we tried to gather and create a consensus on the ideas, the knowledge and experience within the association. We have also added ideas and suggestions that we believe favours the association’s sustainability and long-term work ahead. This was done in close collaboration with the association. One of these proposals, to develop the association’s website, came up early in the process. There was a lot of interest in this proposal from the members of the association and therefore we decided to begin this work in parallel with the work on the pilot study.
The issues that have been a leader for us in the pilot study concerning the association’s structure and development was:
The association’s purpose is to highlight the suburbs of Gothenburg and those who live there, to allow people to visualize themselves on their own terms. They want a larger amount of voices to be heard and more perspectives to be made visible through the stories in the media form of Digital Storytelling (DST). The association’s focus is twofold. DST will be the association’s core activity. DST is a short film, usually 5-15 minutes with a voice and images combined with music or other sounds that create a story. They also have a vision about the association being a knowledge centre for DST. The second part of the association is to serve as a platform for other thoughts and ideas that fit within the framework of its statutes. Here they have thoughts about casting companies, films, TV-Shows about food from mixed cultures and so on.
Group members: Annika Jonsson, Johan Elldér, Martina Jeansson, Olle Andersson, Pia Engman
External partner: Föreningen Alla har en Historia att Berätta
Photos from the project Pleasure Parking.
Yesterday, on November 15, Nätverkstan commemorated The Day of the Imprisoned Writer – this annual, international day intended to recognize and support writers who resist repression of the basic human right to freedom of expression and who stand up to attacks made against their right to impart information.
In Lagerhuset, Göteborg, the editor in chief for the magazine Filter, Mattias Göransson, explained the situation for the two imprisoned Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson. After that we listened to a discussion between the Palestinian/Syrian poet Ghayath Almadhoun and the freelance journalist Mikael Löfgren on the topic literature and politics in Syria. The evening ended with a poetry reading of Almadhouns recently published poems translated into Swedish (Asylansökan, Ersatz förlag, 2010).
Ghayath Almadhoun, describes himself as he ”doesn’t exist”. Being of Palestinian and Gaza heritage but born in Syria, which he later left, he doesn’t have any certificate or paper acknowledging his national status. No papers and no passport. This of course is a dilemma from the Migration Office in Sweden, where he is applying for asylum, who wants to see his birthcertificate to be able to decide on his heritage and by that also if he is allowed to apply for asylum or not. ”I am not learning Swedish until they accept me”, he says with a smile. ”I accept this country, and this country has to accept me.”
Each year in the beginning of September everyone working at Nätverkstan gather to have a two-days meeting, drawing up the lines for the coming year. It can be to discuss future issues or particular questions we need more time to dig into. We have a look at the present situation, projects going on, and who is doing what, as well as just having time to talk and getting to know each other.
This year we went to Flatön, an island along the coast, to Handelsman Flink, a cute guest house just by the sea. We started of with a rattling exciting walking quiz competition and activities such as tandem-biking, crab-fishing, and knitting an art piece. Then into issues like Nätverkstan Gender Policy, present situation, and future projects 2012. Great fun with a fantastic group of people!
On Saturday the 20:th of august Carl Forsberg and Olav Fumarola Unsgaard had a public talk at the city festival of Malmö. The topic was about digital publishing. Our analysis is that we are entering a more complex ecosystem of texts. The traditional printed media is going to be complemented by at least four different types of digital texts:
• The digital book (today usually an E-pug file read in an E-reader)
• The text as an pdf-file
• Texts on the internet (homepages and blogs at the www)
• Applications (small programs read on a smartphone or a tablet computer)
Nätverkstans aim is to help, guide and provide the Swedish journals with guidance and solutions for this complex ecosystem of texts. Our latest project is to develop an iPhone application for the journal Ord&Bild. It is now available for downloading at Apples iTune store: http://itunes.apple.com/se/app/tidskriften-ord-bild/id447773438?mt=8.
The aim of creating this application is that the journals need an application based on their needs and economical conditions. Programming an application is still quite costly and no single Swedish cultural journal has the budget doing it themselves. Our idea is that Nätverkstan can lower the cost for the journals by doing a great part of the development work (if you are interested, please contact: email@example.com). The event was visited by 40 persons with quite different knowledge of digital publishing. Some where publishers and some saw an iPad for the first time.
Nätverkstans other work at the festival was mainly concerned about promotion of the different journals. We where present at the café Cacaofoni and at St Petri.
Text: Olav Fumarola Unsgaard
Photo: Helena Persson
Going through old documents and documentation, I came across the documentation from the Encatc 15th Annual Conference held in Göteborg, Sweden, in June 2007.
The conference invited around 200 participants mainly from Europe, but also other parts of the world, to discuss ”On Entrepreneurship and Education in Cultural Life”. Entrepreneurship was the talk of the day even then and the aim was to discuss methods, experiences and knowledge on this topic. The conference mixed between seminars, workshops, study visits and open space. We used speed-dating as contact creater between participants and had lots of different cultural events in the programme. We invited speakers from Sweden and UK, but also India to widen our own horizons and bring in reflections from outside of Europe.
The discussions and results are still relevant and I find interesting quotes from all the speakers. Everything is documented in Encatc 2007 which can be downloaded below. We also did an adress-book from the speed-dating which was quite unique. This was never published in a printed version, but is possible to download for enthusiasts.
The 2011 Encatc Annual conference will be held in Helsinki, Finland, on October 12-14 on the topic ”CultureForecast”.
Read more from the from the conference 2007 here.
Download documentation here: encatc-2007-report.pdf.
Download adress-book here: encatc_addressbook.pdf.
During two intense days at the guesthouse Slussen, placed right by the ocean side, Nätverkstan gathered all staff to discuss the coming year. In the sunny August-light, the focus was the future vision aiming for Nätverkstan the year 2020.
Two positions were explored, inspired by a method used by Cristina Ortega Nuere, University of Deusto in Bilbao. The first was to envision the catastrophe. Everything had gone wrong. Two and two we discussed things like: What happened? What were the factors leading to the catastrophe? What was missing? The second was to envision the success. Nätverkstan was the most talked about cultural organization in Europe, everything turned into to gold in our hands. What had gone so well? What were the factors leading to such a success, what had been in place? What were the success criteria?
To envision the organization in such terms, pretending it was 2020 and looking back on these two scenarios, opened an intense discussion on where the organization is now, the content, projects, economy, workload, joy and so forth. We ended with a list of conclusions of things we could see were important for the planning of activities in 2011.
We also took help of communication consultant Kent R Andersson and talked about different communication methods. Everyone ended outside on the porch in preparing a small presentation of a colleague. Intense, a lot of fun, and important!
Another buzzword in Europe is ”Innovation”. A word making the eyes of policy makers, economists and others shine with expectation. Last year in Europe was dedicated to the year of Creativity and Innovation and the creativity around how to get the attention from the EU Commission was interesting to follow.
As was said on the Forum of Cultural Industries in Barcelona recently, cultural and creative industries are still high on the priority list among cultural ministers in Europe. And with this also the question of how you could foster creativity and innovation within art and culture. KEA European Affairs was commissioned last year by EU to do a study showing with facts how culture in itself had an impact on creativity. Interesting, but is culture and art necessary always creative? And for the concept of innovation we are often stuck with the classical understanding of the word; as an invention you get patented, often found within medicine and technique. Structures are built to support and foster creative ideas within these fields, often together with technical Universities.
How does that apply on cultural products and artistic expressions? Very few of these can be patented. What would be innovation in a cultural and artistic context? What is cultural innovation? Where is the driving force for (cultural) change in society? How does cultural innovation happen?
On a meeting last week with one of the finance and support structures for SME’s put up by the Swedish state, two things were evident. They had never given finance support to cultural entrepreneurs as they could remember, and on a discussion on innovative ideas, art and culture was not on the agenda.
In May and June, Region Västra Götaland will host Arvind Lodaya, Senior Faculty and Dean, Research at Sristhi School of Art, Design and Tecnology, and an artist from Bangalore (India) as a visiting Professor. His working place will be Nätverkstan and his main focus is cultural innovation. Two seminars will be held in Göteborg to explore the topic together with participants.
Download the invitation here: Cultural_Innovation.pdf . You can also download a discussion paper by Mr Arvind Lodaya here: arvindlodaya_discussionnote.pdf. More can be read of Arvind Lodaya and Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology here. and here The residence is part of the programme Linking Initiatives, a cooperation between the state of Karnataka and Region Västra Götaland.
Categories: Art Artistic practice Blogg Creative Industries Creative spaces Democracy Economy Entrepreneurship India Innovation International Nätverkstan Reports, articles and books Seminar University
Last September Department of Culture together with Department of Enterprise, Energy and Communications proposed to put around 70 million SEK (around 7 million euro) in developing the cultural and creative sector 2009–2012. The aim is to create better conditions for entrepreneurs within culture to develop their business ideas (for Swedish readers look here). Exactly how this will be done is still shrouded in mystery. As it seems it will be done in dialogue on an institutional level. But where are the actual cultural entrepreneurs?
In Region Västra Götaland about the same has been proposed by the Secretariat of Culture together with the Regional Development Secretariat (Trade, business and industry development). An action plan has been developed with ideas on how to work with enterprise development within the cultural field.
One idea, on both state and regional level, is that first of all you need to train business coaches in cultural and creative industries in how this field works. The thought is that money is already put into support like incubators, mentoring, coaching to small and medium enterprises, but these hardly ever reach the cultural entrepreneur. A good thought. Of course this support should also encompass the cultural field. But why hasn’t it so far? Well, basically since all the requirements and methods for support, coaching and mentoring are built on the traditional industry. The thought that other conditions and circumstances might be claimed in the cultural field, is often met with a sigh: ”Oh, those Artists think there are so special!”. It’s based on a thought that Artist consider themselves as an elite with very special conditions, a notion also found in the report from the Committee of Inquiry on Cultural Policy last year.
It leads to two thoughts. One is that if Artists find that there are specific conditions in running a business within their field, if this is their notion, the only way to handle it must be to find out what bearing it has. The other is that business coaches easily falling into the argument that there is no difference running a cultural business than running something in other areas have probably never taken the time or effort to seriously analyze how it works running your own business within culture.
Just step into any Art Exhibition Hall in any country, like the exhibition now running at Röda Sten by Artist Sislej Xhafa. Sit down in front of his gigantic sculpture of Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and reflect on: What is the business model behind this Artist? What is the product he is selling? Could he live on that as a business idea, and if not, what are relevant questions and suggestions to help him find ways to live on his Art?
Nätverkstan has the assignment from Region Västra Götaland together with other partners within culture, to put together a program; training business coaches on how the cultural and creative industries work, and how cultural entrepreneurs run their organizations or businesses. We will keep the readers posted on how this will work out.
It’s difficult to confirm an exact figure, some show about seven hundreds different cultural journals are produced in Sweden covering areas like Art, society, philosophy, feminism, environment, design, literature and much more. This wide flora of voices in the societal debate has been seen as an asset, even a vital condition, in Swedish debate and democracy. With the journals interest and knowledge in specific areas, and deep analysis combined with reflection, they are often the first to highlight processes, discussions, injustices, trends, and social issues. And the larger newspapers are soon to follow. Not that everything published is liked by everyone, but it’s an important voice, a vital piece in the democratic puzzle.
The situation for these journals is somewhat peculiar. 134 journals sent an application to The Swedish Arts Council last year, 103 printed cultural journals and 16 Internet based got a small state support for production. It’s a support designed to cover loss. Practically this means that to be obliged for this support you must show a minus on your account, an economic loss, each year. Not difficult at all. In fact, hardly any of these small journals have money enough to pay all the people involved. They are produced in a combination of voluntary and professional work. Nevertheless, this has for years held them in a tight economic grip. If you would make a small profit, you loose the support. So, there is no incentive to try to build a strong economy. Finally the Department of Culture is suggesting that this condition of loss is abolished from the support. It’s been quite contradictory in the dialogue with the journals, a new decision would aslo go more in line with the era where state and regional institutions talk about, and often require, external funding such as sponsorship or other solutions.
The Swedish Arts Council has during the last two years been vague as to how and if the production and development support will be changed due to proposed changes from the Government, especially due to changes proposed in last years Culture Bill. And it’s still a big cloud of uncertainty. We are now into the first quarter of an annual year and many, as for instance the Cultural Journal Workshops, don’t know if they will be able to continue their work or not. Plans made and activities have to wait for the decision that has not yet been taken.
A necessary step is distribution. Another area in limbo, where the Swedish Art Council is signaling this should not be of state responsibility anymore. With the small numbers of subscribers and small portion of sold numbers each month, a reality these journals face, they are not the most attractive pieces for a bookshop to keep on the shelves. You can argue for democracy or the important input these make on the debate climate in Sweden. If they don’t bring in money, they will not be put on the bookstore shelves. This suggests for a specific solution for distribution and marketing of small-scale journals, something that has been done. Nätverkstan has since 1998 held a support from the Swedish Art Council, that from 2005 grew to be quite substantial, to build up and offer distribution network, register solutions and marketing. Now the future is uncertain. For Nätverkstan it’s of course sad. It’s a core activity. Over the years a strong distribution network of 387 bookstores, museums, and other retailers around Sweden has been built. For the cultural journals it’s very serious. It will result in very few or no distribution channels. And what for? It can hardly be the money.
The budget post where cultural journals are found in the state budget is called ”Culture, media, faiths and leisure” (my translation, in Swedish: budgetområde 17, Kultur, medier, trossamfund och fritid) and was last budget year 10.3 billion. Cultural journals got around 22 millions in production- and development support in 2009, which is 0,2% of the budget post. Distribution support was last year 1,550 million SEK, a disappearing small part of the same post.
Read about the consequences for the Cultural Journals if the distribution line is cut in the report newly published by Nätverkstan: konsekvenserna.pdf.
Read more posts on cultural journals, such as Cultural Journals in Sweden and ”Time for culture” • The Swedish Culture Bill or at the debate at the site of Förening för Sveriges kulturtidskrifter (the Association for Swedish Cultural Journals).
The Culture Bill, Tid för Kultur (my translation: Time for Culture) can be downloaded here: a7e858d41.pdf.
The fact that the Cultural scene is complex and consists of multidimensional relations, networks, and processes is nothing new. Most people, from Artists to politicians, agree that getting an overview of this area is more or less impossible. On a theoretical and general level, that is. When it comes to writing policies, discussing development of the field, and the role of creative industries, all seem forgotten. The awareness of the complexity goes down the drain. When it comes to policy the consensus around the Cultural field is overwhelming.
What are the consequences? Misguided and ill-substantiated proposals are formed; that, if really bad can endanger the Cultural life rather than catalyze it’s potential. This was evident not least in the work done by The Committee of Inquiry of Cultural Policy in Sweden, and the report presented by them last February.
David Karlsson, Chair of Nätverkstan, puts the light on this in his new book A Cultural Policy: money, art and politics to be published on February 12. David Karlsson was part of the Secretariat connected to the Committee for one year, after which he left because of bad management. The book is in many ways his respond to what should have been put forward in the report on Cultural policy presented by the Committee. But it’s not only that. It’s the first attempt in later years in Sweden of taking a grip of the whole area of Art and Culture.
The fifteen chapters cover a whole range of areas and processes such as Culture, Economy, Industry, Figures, Democracy, Production, Quality…All areas with it’s own complexity, and put together, even more diverse. Together with very concrete examples of consequences for Cultural policy, he reaches his own thesis (a conclusion of a reasoning in the first part of the book, my translation): ”Firstly, every political action directed towards the Cultural field, to have any prospect of leading to results, have to build on an understanding of the complexity of the field. Cultural policy needs to become more complicated to be able to operate less complicated. The second conclusion is that a free and independent Art is an absolute condition for all activity within the cultural economy”. This is one reason why it’s necessary to separate Art from Culture and discuss different policy within the different areas.
One of the other discussions is that of Cultural Production. All Cultural products that can be digitalized will be digitized. These products will be for free (which follows the thought of Chris Anderson in his book Free). Cultural life is torn apart in two areas; one where digital Cultural products goes towards being for free, the other being that productions such as concerts, theatre and dance performances will become more expensive.
Several posts have been written at this site before on the topic of Cultural policy. Look under Swedish Cultural Policy, ”Time for Culture”, Culture should mainstream all policy, Art and creative industries, The Creative Industries: Ten years after, and many more.
For those of you curious of what we do at Nätverkstan, download the following pdf: this-is-nv or click on the images below.
Here we describe some thoughts and points of our activities. Gives an idea. This whole blog is about leaving traces of our activities, seminars we go to, meetings we attend, projects and workshops we run or are being part of, reflections and thoughts. Nätverkstan is based in Göteborg and work on national and international level.
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