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Save the cultural journals!

 

”A whole segment of critical debate is erased (…)” describes editor and critic Kim West in an article in Kunstkritikk where he writes about the outrage that hit Sweden on Friday (December 12th).

The coalition of Liberal-Conservatives is cutting the support for the rich variety of cultural journals in Sweden by around 80%. This means a whole art form is being closed down and killed. In one stroke of the red pen. No other European country has done the same.

This is possible due to the dramatic development in Swedish politics the last few weeks where the Sweden Democrats decided to vote for the opposition party’s budget, instead of the ruling left-wing coalition’s budget. This meant that the government’s budget didn’t win the election in parliament and therefore has to rule on the opposition party’s budget in waiting for the new election on March 22 2015.

And apparently the coalition of Liberal and Conservatives now take the chance to fulfil cuts of 365 million SEK in the cultural budget. 15 million SEK of these are being cut in one area specifically: cultural journals. The support for this area is 19 million SEK in total today, cutting 15 million SEK of these leaves 4 million SEK left.

This means that a whole sector is sentenced to a sure death.

Cultural journals are already living on the economic edge. Editors, writers, and critics are getting very low payment for their articles. These people are magicians who have dedicated their time to make sure that critical journalism and quality texts are still produced. The wide variety of critical and intensifying perspectives have been a pride in Swedish democracy. The Liberal-Conservatives showed on Friday how easily this could be ruined.

This is also done in a time when the media crisis is being discussed (just lately in three articles in the daily Göteborgs-Posten), newspapers are closing down their cultural pages, and critical and culture journalism is being severely threatened.

These times calls for action!

Sign this petition just to start with: Rädda Kulturtidskriftsstödet (Save the support for cultural journals).

14 december, 2014

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At attention, each phrase!

Writing a few words on an empty piece of paper can be the most difficult thing. The choices of words, constructions, meanings are endless. It seems like an impossible act to write anything of meaning. And yet, when you read a text that just flows it seems so easy. The choices of words and how they are put together becomes like a magic formula that touches your soul.

In the daily Dagens Nyheter last spring (27/4 2013), literary critic Åsa Beckman did an open analysis of one of Swedish poet Birger Sjöberg’s (1885–1929) poems: Varje ord skall andas (my translation: Every word shall breathe). The poem is a beautiful text on the meaning of each word and how they should breathe, live, be strong. ”At attention, each phrase!”, he writes.

Perhaps this is when words become so dangerous to some.

Two Persian poets are now in prison in Iran for what they write; Fateme Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi. And they are not the only ones. ”Poets are highly dangerous”, says the Chair of the Swedish PEN Association, Ola Larsmo, recently in the daily Göteborgs-Posten.

In many of the world’s dictatorships writers, poets, journalists are in prison. The situation for writers around the world has worsened, Ola Larsmo states.

Let the new year of 2014 be the year when they are all set free.

Poem by Birger Sjöberg:

Varje ord skall andas
Varje ord skall andas och sin bröstkorg häva,
varje sats skall kunna ränna kring och stå,
skyldra, gå på tå,
svimma, trängta, sväva.
Det är ej så lätt, att liv av prickar väva,
att i typers prassliga små buskar
låta friska kinder sticka fram.
En sats skall ju bli ett träd, som ruskar,
en en fisk, som spritter,
en ett fågelkvitter,
en en sorgehögtid allvarsam.
Nu giv akt, vart ord!
Dra ej med er slarviga soldater.
Samlas på mitt bord,
alla, friska, starka, levande kamrater.

And a try for a quick translation, without any claim of poetic qualities but just for the English speaking readers to get an idea of the content of the poem:

Every word shall breathe
Every word shall breathe and its chest heave/every sentence shall run around and stow/arms present, tip on toe/faint, yearn, leave/It is not so easy, to life in dots weave/to in types’ rustly small bushes/let fresh cheeks stick out brave/Why a sentence shall be a tree, that swooshes/one a fish, that jitter/one a bird twitter/one a mourning sermon so grave/Now, stand at attention, each phrase!/Don’t pull with you careless soldiers/At my table embrace/all, healthy, strong, living comrades.

31 december, 2013

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Are you on the inside?

”Dear Beatrice Ask, I write to you with a simple wish, Beatrice Ask. I would like that we exchange skin and experiences. Come on. Let’s just do it.”

Swedish writer Jonas Hassen Khemiri writes in his open letter, published in the daily Dagens Nyheter on March 13, and addressed to Sweden’s Minister for Justice, Beatrice Ask, about his experiences of growing up in Sweden with dark hair and a foreign look. The everyday small harassment that we, with blond hair and white skin, never have to deal with.

The letter is a respond to the latest debate around the police efforts to stop paperless immigrants by just stopping people on the métro, on the street or elsewhere to check their passport. Memories goes back to the Second World War or South Africa under Apartheid, but also present conflicts, where checking ordinary people is a daily routine.

The project, REVA, has been widely criticized and the other day the Minister answered questions on the radio program (P1) responding to the critic by saying something like ” The perception of why someone has been asking me can be very personal.”

This would mean that if you are being harassed for your looks, background, sexual preferences, or other things, it is only in your own perception. Swedish inhabitants testifying about racial harassement are just being sensitive, it’s in their own perception.

The whole thing is extremely cynical and shows something of the grand structural challenges we have in front of us. Structures we are all part of withholding. It’s time for some self-examination. Also for you, Beatrice Ask.

15 mars, 2013

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Final report Swedish Council of CCI

When the Swedish Council for Cultural and Creative Industries formed in 2010 we were many that hoped this would mean a thorough and serious review of Sweden’s position and standing-points in the cultural and creative industries.

So far the regions had been the main motors in the discussion of CCI, this gave an opportunity for the state, the Department of Enterprise and Department of Culture, to form strategies and activities for CCI grasping everything from the single artist running her own one-woman-business as a platform for her artistic work to the larger businesses within areas such as music, film, and design.

Being one of the members of the Council, I wanted to see a more content-based discussion on CCI and in this include the artists and their specific situation.

At Nätverkstan we have written two reports on the this topic: Den ofrivillige företagaren (The reluctant entrepreneur, 2002) and Örnarna och myrstacken. Vad vet vi om kulturnäringarna? (Eagles and the ant-hill. What do we know of the cultural industries?, 2010), the last report on commission from Region Västra Götaland. Both these two had the ambition to put a perspective on CCI which include the whole complexity of the cultural field and which takes its standing point in the artistic production.

On February 5 the Council presented the report and a film clip from two years work. Disappointments were many, and perhaps most frankly declared by the Association of Swedish Illustrators and Graphic Designers where they simply state in an article ”No thanks to counsels from the Council!”.

Although the role of the Council was vague and was never meant to be other than a council, a discussion partner to the political structure, expectations were much higher than what came out.

Now the state shows minor interest for these questions and the main drivers of these industries in Sweden are still the regions. This means – as it looks at the moment – that the regions will act very differently around the CCI and depending on where you live in the country it can be a large public authority interest and thereby also possibilities for artists and cultural entrepreneurs, or it can be quite quiet. It will be continuously difficult to compare and evaluate incentives and policy work within CCI between the regions.

The gap that this creates leaves room for anyone to define CCI as they please and without a state policy framework the potential these industries hold will be lost. Sweden will continue to lagg behind in the European discussion in this area.

Download the report here (Swedish): Rådet KKN_2012.pdf, or watch this film

Read also Nätverkstan’s report written on commission of the Region Västra Götaland on CCI ”Örnarna och myrstacken”,(Swedish) here: ornarna_110925.

Nätverkstan is publishing translated (into Swedish) essays from two cultural economists shortly: A book with two essays by Italian Cultural Economist Pier Luigi Sacco together with an interview of his story, and a book with two essays by Cultural Researcher Giep Hagoort from Netherlands and an interview. Published in end of February.

Read more posts here (English). Download the book published by the Arts Grant Committee on CCI here (Swedish and English): Antologi_2012.pdf

18 februari, 2013

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Cultural Journal Weeks in shopping-windows

To find the depth in culture journals you don’t need 3D-glasses, but sometimes a little better exposure would help.

The team running the Nätverkstan project Kulturchock (Culture Chock), who are quoted above, are clever people. New this year is a cooperation with eleven specific bookshops to expose the cultural journals under the signature ”Cultural Journals Weeks”. Some of the best bookhops in the country are leaving their best marketing spot to cultural journals: the shopping-windows!

The Cultural Journals Week will be visable from South to North during January and February and some already started!

 

25 januari, 2013

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The future of print

Since 2009 large and small newspapers around the world have been facing difficulties with drop in profit, drop in sales with job cuts as a result.

The latest in the line of newspaper cuts is Newsweek announcing earlier this fall the end of printed publication, and only going digital. December 31 is the last printed issue being distributed changing an eighty year chain of printed publications. The Independent as another example of a troubled newspaper and in the US the newspaper scene has changed drastically with papers like The Seattle Post-intelligencer, The Detroit News, and The San Francisco Chronicle and more severely being reduced and some closed down.

The Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter has seen a drastic cut among employees and the latest news is that the other large daily Svenska Dagbladet has to save around 40 million SEK leading to cutting off it’s cultural pages and having around 50–60 employees are loosing their jobs.

Smaller newspapers are facing the same future. Nerikes Allehanda and Vestmanlands Läns Tidning, who both have the same owner, are cutting with 75 people during this year (read more here).

Times for newspapers and journals are dramatically changing. What is the future of printed press? Will heaps of printed books, journals, newspapers just be stored in piles collecting dust while the readers are elsewhere?

Cultural critic Olav Fumarola Unsgaard addresses this challenge and the future of print in an article at A-Desk Critical Thinking. He writes:

To understand the media landscape of today we must change our point of viewpoint. The world of printed media is today going through very rapid changes. To make it simple all these changes are in one way or another connected to digitalisation and the Internet. First of all we must understand that these changes have an impact on the entire sector of print. This means newspapers, journals, magazines, books and comics. It will affect the worldwide media conglomerates as well as the small fanzines. In the words of Joseph Schumpeter is there a massive creative destruction going on. Someone will lose and someone will gain.

Read the full article here.

Olav Fumarola Unsgaard is cultural journalist, book editor and project manager, also a former project manager for the long tail-project at Nätverkstan. Today mostly working with the Swedish publishing house Atlas and the journals Fronesis and Ord&Bild.

 

7 november, 2012

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Business or Humanities?

One of the success stories of Stanford University, with it’s premises in Silicon Valley outside San Francisco (US), is, it’s said, to be its close relation to the businesses in Silicon Valley. It’s a symbiotic relationship. They nurture each other and many success business stories have started at Stanford; Google, Facebook, Instagram, Apple, Hewlett-Packard.

Leland Stanford, a Republican governor in the late 1800s and who made a fortune from Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads, and his wife decided to found a University in their late son’s name. Stanford University opened its doors in 1891 and the device was that the University should not become an ivory tower, but ”qualify students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life”.  From the start, the close relationship to private funding, corporate research funds, and venture capital for start-ups, first for innovations in radio and broadcast media to todays digital technology, has been a base for the University.

The story can be read in The New Yorker (April 30, 2012) and gives an interesting light on the success story behind business ideas developed at Stanford and the philosophy behind it. But also the dangers of such a focus on success and making money.

The campus life and the atmosphere at Stanford is described as open to ideas, easy going, ”people are willing to try things”, risk-taking, access to venture and risk capital, creative. But there are also questions raised if Stanford has the right balance between commerce and learning, between getting skills to make it and intellectual discovery for its own sake? Is corporate money stearing research priorities?

David Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, who has also taught for many years at Stanford, express his worries that students uncritically incorporate the possibilities of Silicon Valley, but it’s a lack of students devoted to the liberal arts and the idea of pure learning. The one and simple question stearing choices is: What will I get out of it?

The philosophy now promoted at Stanford is the ”interdisciplinary education” and getting students to become ”T-shaped”, that is they have depth in a particular field of study and breadth across multiple disciplines. Social skills are put forward and an effort is to put together students with different majors (engineering, business, medicine, science, design) to together solve real or abstract problems.

David Kelley, the founder of design firm IDEO, is also director of Institute fo Design at Stanford (d.school), and is driven by the mission to lift empathy in his students. He wants the students to learn to see the human side of the challenges posed in class and that way provoke creativity.

Still, fewer students get into liberal arts and humanities and many become, as said by a senior Miles Unterreiner, ”slaves to the dictates of a hoped-for future”. Students become instrumental and only get majors in subjects that lead to jobs, something also supported by Universities.

It’s an interesting development. Reading Steve Jobs story and listening to many of his talks, he puts two processes next to each other as crucial for his success: The development of technology and the liberal arts.

The post is based on the article in The New Yorker (April 30, 2012) ”Annals of higher education. Get rich U.There are no walls between Stanford and Silicon Valley. Should there be?” by Ken Auletta. The photo is from a TED talk on the web.

Read more from posts on IDEO, San Francisco, and the Arts from our visit in 2008 here and posts on other interesting US visits here. Read also here the report from Svenskt Näringsliv which last year promoted less money to humanity education in Sweden, a very criticized report.

 

25 juni, 2012

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How to make it in the art world…

For those interested in trying the New York Art world, the magazine New York (April 30 2012) is giving some handy tips in a nineteen rules handbook. Maybe worth looking through…?

Rule no:

1. Reject the Market. Embrace the Market. Hm. That contradiction. Always present.

2. Stay on Trend…Things we’ve seen a lot of lately, New York says, is Trash art, Cindy Sherman-esque, Neon Words, Candy-Colored Sculpture and Video-Game Art…

3. Make Art That’s Difficult to Collect. So only Museums will collect it. Example: Sarah Sze‘s The Art of Losing.

4. Be Young, Post-Black, and From Chicago. Examples to follow: Theaster Gates and Rashid Johnson.

5. Survive With your head down. Artist Alex Katz (84) remember how it was: ”A lot of people respect me” he says ”But people used to really hate my work. As late as 1975, I had a show in Paris and people were screaming in the gallery. They were saying this is terrible art and I should go back to art school”. Sort of Don’t Give Up.

6. Outsource to China. Artist Kahinde Wiley came to Beijing in 2006 and has set up a studio which has become his main production hub and second home.

7. Know These 100 people. An insider’s list of art insiders. The necessary list of gallerists if you are to make it in New York or perhaps the US…

8. Don’t Be Afraid to Trade Up. When a bigger gallery comes calling, listen. Since the recession, three powerhouse galleries have been especially aggressive in grabbing talent. And those are: David Swirner, Larry Gagosian, Sean Kelly.

9. Show up. Mainly: When you mingle and network, make sure you are caught on photos (and look cool…).

10. Pick Your Artists and Stick with Them. Whole-life art patronage – collecting work is just the start.

11. Buy the Same Thing Everyone Else is Buying. A shoppinglist would include, according to New York and art collector Adam Lindemann: Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, among others.

12. Get Born into It. The inheritance class.

13. Don’t Let a Gallerist Take Half the Profit. The collective gallery Reena Spaulings is an example of how to organize and show work in a different manner.

14. Be Ruthless. Making a killing in the art world’s dark market.

15. Pretend You’re and Outsider Even When You’re at the Center of Everything. The gallery Family Business is a gallery – but not.

16. Pack Your Bags, Fly Around the World, and Hang Out With Everyone You Know From New York. 

17. Be Everywhere at Once (But Rarely New York). On the same theme as Rule no 16. Be there but look busy.

18. Join the Establishment. Cling to Your Street Cred.

19. There Are No Rules. Break barriers. Do what you have to do.

 

11 juni, 2012

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Outlook on creative firms in US

FunctionFox, a Canadian company helping small companies improve productivity, has done a survey of more than two hundreds professionals within marketing, advertising, web design and the likes across the US. The aim was to see what these businesses are expecting the coming year in development or challenges in their businesses.

They found, for example, that even though times are hard and economy swaying, 43% of the small creative firms they surveyed expect to increase staff during the year. 52% expected to keep the current staff level.

Firms employing seven or more staff were more likely to add staff during 2012, while with six or fewer employees were more likely to maintain their staff.

It also showed that creative companies with eight or fewer employees are most optimistic about having a revenue growth. Large firms were more careful in their anticipation.

Read more here: FunctionFox-Creative-Industry-Outlook-2012.pdf.

18 april, 2012

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Statistics on culture

The artist Staffan Hjalmarsson called it ”Five Squares of Sorrow”. He was referring to a report, the index- and indicatorstudy, in a blogpost during the large conference arranged by Region Västra Götaland last year. The study was showing how the Region had fulfilled its indicators within the different focus areas. All focus areas had information and follow-up except one: Culture. This was glowing empty like five squares of emptiness and sorrow. Here there were no ways of measuring, no indicators that could be followed up. No statistics.

The question of how to measure and follow up culture is a difficult one. What is to be measured and how? What should be measured by indicators, what should not? What are the evaluation criteria?

In Sweden two different authorities has been formed for analyzing, evaluating and measure statistical datas of culture: Myndigheten för Kulturanalys (Authority for Cultural Analysis, my translation) and Tillväxtanalys (Growth Analysis). While the former are working for the Ministry of Culture and follow effects and evaluate cultural activities initiated by them, the latter is working for Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communication. Tillväxtanalys is the authority following for example business support activities –  cultural entrepreneurs and businesses also fall under its responsibility.

On EU-level ESSnet-Culture was formed in september 2009 with the task to during a two-year period improve methodology and production of data on cultural sectors and also improve comparability within EU-countries. They have now published a final report from its four different task force areas: 1) update the cultural framework, 2) define cultural economic indicators and cultural employment, 3) on cultural finances and 4) cultural practices and the social participation in the culture.

Region Västra Götaland held last week a first small seminar to discuss statistics and evaluation methods of cultural entrepreneurs. The seminar was initiated by the regional think tank Kombinator. A seminar on the work of ESSnet with invited guests is also planned by the regional office later on this spring.

Read ESSnet report here.

30 januari, 2012

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Size Matters

Sarah Thelwall, a British researcher and consultant in creative and cultural industries, has written an interesting paper (July 2011) based on research on the value of small visual arts organizations in the arts ecology as well as society. Some of the outcomes include:

• The role and value of small visual arts organizations in society and within the arts ecology is often under-estimated by public authorities.

• The evaluation and measurement methods, ”the metrics”, of government and funders do not correspond to the value produced by these small organizations who build their operation on collaboration and flexibility.

• By investing in risk-taking and development of work, small arts organizations contribute to the development of larger art organizations.

• Small art organizations have very few tangible assets to capitalize income on compared to larger organizations, un often unacknowledged incomestream to be found in these small organizations is the intangible assets such as organizational expertise and experience, intellectual property, research skills, risk-taking etc.

• The report suggest a new investment model in order to measure the value of small visual arts organizations.

Download the report here: Common-Practice-London-Size-Matters.pdf. Sarah Thelwall also initiated the service MyCake as an easy way to manage your finances.

7 januari, 2012

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Nordic Book Fair

If you enjoy star-spotting, Göteborg is the place to be in at the moment. The exhibition hall at Svenska Mässan is filled to its rims with well-known authors, writers, journalists, publishing houses, book-stores and others involved the art of words.

The Nordic Book Fair just started, this year with the theme Three countries – one language, that is the german speaking literature is in focus.

Nätverkstan is there with an exhibition place for the over hundred small cultural journals that we work with. This is probably the most important event for these journals. Tonight at a glamorous party at Storan, the Cultural Journal of the Year will be nominated.

23 september, 2011

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Book industry in transformation

”To see how profoundly the book business is changing, watch the shelves”

In the latest issue of Economist (Sept 10th–16th 2011) you can read how digitization is transforming the book industry. What has been known in newspaper and music world since late 1990s is now heading towards publishers. This year sales in the first half of the year of consumer e-books in America overtook those from adult hardback books.

As an example, watch the bookshelves, Economist say. IKEA is introducing a new version of the classic bookshelf ”Billy” next month, a shelf not necessarily for storing books, but a deeper one with glass doors to use for ornaments and other things.

Digitization has given new life to old books. Harlequin has digitized more than 13.000 of its books and the firm has started to publish romances as only e-books. Amazon is selling more copies of e-books than paper books. Digitization has for small publishers showed a way out of the difficulty of managing inventory. If you print too many books, many of them will be returned by stores. Print too few and publishers will get a problem of costing more than it tastes to reprint.

There are two important jobs for publishers:

”They act as the venture capitalists of the words business, advancing money to authors of workthwhile books that might not be written otherwise. And they are editors, picking good books and improving them. So it would be good, not just for their shareholders but also for intellectual life, if they survived”

Nätverkstan has started Samladeskrifter out if these exact ideas: to make small publishers’ and authors’ books available over time and possible to read in different digital formats. It’s both a digital tool for small publishers and authors to make books available on Internet, and a sales window towards the market. Building this has been an interesting roller-coaster ride through a book industry in transformation.

Read more here.

17 september, 2011

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As good as new…

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.

3 augusti, 2011

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Supporting growth in arts economy

Tom Fleming and Andrew Erskine at Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy has written three papers in a report for Arts Council in UK on what an approach could be for the council in supporting the growth in the arts economy.

The three papers are: The arts economy: Balancing sustainability, innovation and growth, Place, infrastructure and digital: an agenda combined and Towards an arts and creative economy development programme.

Download the report here: creative_economy_final210711.

Nätverkstan met with Tom Fleming in London, read more here.

30 juli, 2011

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Creativity critique

More and more are to be found on critique of creative industries and creativity. Here a report for summer-reading: Critique of Creativity.

Download here: 9781906948146critiqueofcreativity.pdf

Categories: Reports, articles and books

Etiketter:

19 juli, 2011

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Five myths of US Economy

With a first-quarter GDP in US showing an increase of only 1.8 percent (less than expected 3 percent), declining housing prices, less consumption, an unemployment rate on 9.1 percent (in May only 54.000 new jobs were created), Rana Foroohar argues in Time (June 20 2011) it is time to kill the five most destructive myths of the US Economy:

1) This is a temporary blip, and then it’s full steam ahead

2) We can buy our way out of all this

3) The private sector will make it all better

4) We’ll pack up and move for new jobs

5) Entrepreneurs are the foundation of the economy

Both Republicans and Democrats are pursuing these myths of how the economy will recover, she writes. Instead a different path of growth has to be established rather than continue to believe in these five points.

Under the last myth the point is made that a good system of technical colleges are needed which will require a ”frank conversation” about the four-year liberal arts degree that may well leave the graduates overleveraged and underemployed.

A few thoughts come to mind.

The cultural field is highly entrepreneurial, cultural practitioners are entrepreneurs. In Europe many believe that it is in the creative industries where new jobs will be created. Maybe it is a bit hopeful; the sector is still a comparably small field. But it is growing.

If you read formal reports on unemployment rate within the art field, it does look depressing. But these figures need always to be read and analyzed together with other formal reports from other areas. Many studies show figures pointing at the cultural field as a growing field. Not in comparison with the large car industries as we use to know them, or perhaps the telecom industry. Yet important. The easy conclusion is that artists are over-represented in society. But reports and statistics are pointing in opposing directions (read more here).

Reading another report by the well-known Italian economist Pier Luigi Sacco, another interesting association is put forward to bear in mind. He puts two ranking tables next to each other: One ranking innovation in EU15 countries (2008) and one ranking Active Artistic Participation (EU15 2007).

And he notes:

”It is interesting to notice that the association is established between innovative capacity at the country level and active cultural participation at the same level. This is of course a preliminary piece of evidence, but it seems to suggests that the mechanisms discussed above seem to mirror into data more clearly than one could expect.”

It looks as if active participation in art has a correlation with the innovative capacity of a country. If this is right, we need a large flow of well-educated and professional artists from liberal arts Universities as well as easy access to practice art from a young age. Specifically, that is, if a country wants to ensure high innovation capacity.

Download Pier Luigi Sacco’s report here: pl-sacco-culture-3-0-ccis-local-and-regional-development-2.pdf.

25 juni, 2011

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More fragile than their creations

Two tables away from me in a smaller restaurant in New York the other week, I spot the well-known author Salman Rushdie talking intensely with a friend.

I see his backside, but still recognize his strong appearance. I remember seeing him November 2008 in a TV-sent seminar together with Italian author Roberto Saviano arranged by Svenska Akademin under the name ”The free word and the lawless violence” (original title: ”Det fria ordet och det laglösa våldet”). Two writers living under death threat because of their artistic work.

The day after the visit at the restaurant I read an article in New York Times (April 20 2011) written by Salman Rushdie.

Art can be dangerous. Very often artistic fame has been proven to be dangerous to artists themselves.

The imprisoning of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and other activists and artists in China is the latest example, he writes. And when the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, of which Salman Rushdie is the chairman, invited Chinese writer Liao Yiwu to the festival opening on April 25, he was denied permission to travel to the USA.

The latest issue of the Economist (April 16th 2011) follows the same line of thinking with the headline: ”China’s crackdown”. The detention of artists and activists in a steady flow sent to prison and ”disappearing” is following the latest ”freeze” in China and at least three things casts hope of a more open China into doubt, an article notes.

The detention of Ai Weiwei; the duration of this crackdown is longer than the former; and the cruel method of the repression picking up people under ”arbitrary detention rules and then made to disappear”.

I was reminded of Salman Rushdie’s strong article in New York Times reading this.

The lives of the artist are more fragile than their creations, Salman Rushdie writes.

The poet Ovid was exiled by Augustus to a little hell-hole on the Black Sea called Tomis, but his poetry has outlasted the Roman Empire.

We can perhaps bet on art to win over tyrants. It is the world’s artists, particularly those courageous enough to stand up against authoritarianism, for whom we need to be concerned, and for whose safety we must fight.

He could be writing of himself.

If we ever forget why art is important, this is a reminder.

Read former post on Ai Weiwei here.

29 april, 2011

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Art policy a foundation for CCI

In a letter to the Observer, some of UK’s famous artists within film, TV and theatre send a warning of what the drastic cuts in UK funding to art will do. The main message being that less public money to the art field will have serious effects on British economy. Creative industries have contributed more than 7 billion pounds a year to the economy.

An article in BBC News report on the appeal where Dame Helen Mirren, the actress, are one of the artists stating that investment in the arts brings in (as they put it) ”staggering” return for the country. If cultural policy is dismantled, it will have effects on creative industries and the economy as a whole.

October 20th 2010 was named Axe Wednesday by British press due to the government announcement of massive cuts in the UK budget in all areas of society. Within arts it has meant cuts over all fields within culture, and just the Arts Council England, distributing money to a large amount of arts venues, theatres, and galleries, had its budget cut by around 30 percent.

Swedish Counsellor for Cultural Affairs in London, Carl Otto Werkelid, says in a short interview on the Swedish Government website, that UK is facing a huge tightening of public finances. The cultural field is still holding its breath in the wait of seeing what concrete effects the cuts will have for the arts. The appeal yesterday was perhaps a change in the waiting. Carl Otto Werkelid is talking about a paradigm shift that will have effects way beyond the boarders of UK.

Read the original letter to the Observer here.

Read the article in the BBC News about the appeal by British artists here.

Read the Guardian on the culture cuts here.

Read a short post on the changes in UK here.

And read the interview of Carl Otto Werkelid here (in Swedish).

14 mars, 2011

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Structure vs individual

Over a twenty-years period, the portion of permanent hired ensembles on the theaters in Sweden has declined drastically. Actresses and actors are to very high degree freelancers. In Sweden there are about 2300 actresses and actors, ninety percent are freelancers, ten percent has permanent positions.

On Stockhom Stadsteater (Stockholm City Theatre) the portion of people with permanent jobs have declined from 70 to 20 percent over the twenty-year period, at the same time as the number of plays performed has risen. Benny Fredriksson, the Director of Stockholm Stadsteater, has been seen as the leader of the modern theater in his efficiency, number of plays performed, and not the least, getting audience to come.

The crack in the glamour started yesterday, when the actor Ulf Friberg wrote in a big article in the daily Dagens-Nyheter about the conditions for actors and actresses at Stockholm Stadsteater. He means that the fact that so many are freelancers creates a quiet culture, critics are swallowed in fear you will not get the next job. Mr Fredriksson has drawn the efficiency too far, is his point.

The ones standing with the cap in their hands are the ones creating the content, of without every theater is only an empty shell: The actresses and actors.

We have seen it before. Some years ago a debate roared in Sweden due to the fact that one of the biggest museums in Sweden, Moderna Museet (Modern Museum), didn’t pay the visual artists for the time to put together a new exhibition for the museum. Everyone else was paid. The Director, administrators, guides, and the caretakers. But not the artist. They should be happy to be able to have an exhibition at all at such a prestigious museum. But you can’t pay rent with honour.

It’s interesting in times when the mantra from local authorities to the state, from business life and bureaucrats, even among ourselves within cultural life is: Artists have to know how to price themselves and their work!

For the theater it would be fine if the hourly payment for freelancers covered costs for development, reading and rehearsal. It doesn’t. Instead different competence-programs are started, all with the aim of teaching artists to become better at selling themselves.

When in fact, the present crisis of the theater has structural reasons. It can not be blamed on or solved by individuals. No matter how many entrepreneurial programs we set up.

2 mars, 2011

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

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