[spectre] New Media Art Organisations in Netherlands lose funding

Simon Biggs simon at littlepig.org.uk
Wed Jun 15 17:06:10 CEST 2011

Much more than 2 cents!

On 15/06/2011 14:44, "Christopher Salter" <csalter at gmx.net> wrote:

> Dear All,
> I have just returned from the Netherlands (in residence at STEIM, which is one
> of the institutions which will be affected by the cuts) where I was engaged in
> many discussions with artists and curators about the Zijlstra announcement.
> The slash and burn cultural policy from Zijlstra and the VDD is another
> neo-liberal attempt at privatization, not only of subsidized culture but all
> other public goods.  The policy is both reckless and, at the same time, divide
> and conquer. By shifting the larger majority of funds to the established
> cultural institutions, Zijlstra can argue that he is supporting Dutch culture
> (and national heritage) while at the same time, creating a Social Darwinist
> hierarchy among institutions. An across the board cut effecting all cultural
> institutions would enable the potential for lobbying between the high cultural
> institutions (the Nederlands Oper, the Rotterdam IFF, the Rijskmuseum, etc)
> and the alternative scene. By funding the big institutions (who also know that
> they depend on the alternative scene for talent), he creates a two tiered
> system and weakens the possibility of a united front.
> Despite everyone's best intentions, it is unlikely that Zijlstra will be
> convinced by online petitions from artists and arts organizers. This is his
> chance to make history for himself by reversing a Dutch cultural policy that
> has been long in place.  Polticians (at least those nowadays) only care about
> votes. So the only way to reverse these decisions is to make Zijlstra look
> like a fool in front of the other politicans and the Dutch, European and
> international public based on European and international pressure. This
> article in the NY Times from last October provides a somewhat useful overview
> of the situation:
> http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/23/opinion/23iht-edbickerton.html
> The main thing to keep in mind through all of this is that the media arts are
> not being singled out. ALL small and medium scale institutions (including post
> graduate education programs) are. The situations for the visual and performing
> arts is equally disastrous, especially since these fields (particularly the
> performing arts) have no chance whatsoever at even connecting to the so-called
> "creative industries." In other words, this is not the time to argue for the
> benefit of the media arts and continue a ghettoization that makes such
> cultural policy's as Zijlstra's so easy to implement. In the face of cuts to
> the public welfare system in general, the arts budget is peanuts. The larger
> question is one of the necessity of subsidized heterogenous culture, in
> general, across all different scales and areas.
> If one wants to organize a letter writing and email campaign (such as what
> happened when the City of Frankfurt tried to shut down the Frankfurt Ballet),
> then it should come from united and more influential fronts rather than just
> the media arts sector.
> 1. From the international perspective, we need to marshall the connections we
> have as leaders of festivals, institutions, etc. to try and encourage the
> directors of international (and particularly, european) cultural institutions
> (both public and private (the alliance francais, the goethe institute, the
> british council, the canadian and quebec art councils and many other
> organizations) to write letters to the Dutch parliament and to get those
> letters out there as much as possible. Furthermore, there has not been a
> single story since the Zijlstra announcement in the international press (for
> example, the Herald Tribune). Why is this?
> 2. What does the EU Commission's cultural policy body think about Zijlstra's
> proposal? 
> http://ec.europa.eu/culture/our-programmes-and-actions/doc411_en.htm. Can the
> argument be made that the Dutch arts cuts will have a strong effect on Dutch
> institutions to participate in European cultural policy and projects (again,
> across all institutional scales, from small to large) due to the lack of
> diversity across scales and types of cultural practices? It seems to make
> sense that the letters should also go to the Commission DG urging a response
> from Brussels 
> (http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/vassiliou/contact/commissioner/index
> _en.htm_
> 3. The Dutch situation is far more complex because none of us outside of the
> Hague really knows what is going on but one strategy is to have the heads of
> the large institutions write in the press and to the government that the
> policy will affect ALL cultural institutions and general cultural life in the
> Netherlands. Letters from Pierre Audi (the director of the Nederlands Oper and
> the Holland Festival), the head of the Rijksmuseum, etc.  will go less on the
> deaf ears of the politicians than letters from unknown institutions.  Do any
> of us have those connections or, thinking six degrees of separation, do we
> know people that do?
> Furthermore, if new media is to be merged with architecture and design into a
> "creative industries" fund, then at this point, (and this is the Faustean
> bargain), dutch cultural institutions that are seen as Topgebieden (this is
> what was framed by Zijlstra) because they have the potential to connect to
> industry, should begin to gather as much support from the business community
> as they can. I know that Virtueel Platform has these ties as a start so they
> should start to be marshalled. This doesn't mean that everything should be
> dissolved into business. It means that there are smart people in the business
> community out there who know that a vibrant alternative culture is necessary
> for general economic growth and development, particularly a cultural sector
> like the new media art  that can bring about new ways of thinking about
> technical tools and processes (this is not just instrumentalizing language -
> after all, we are all entangled in larger social-technical structures whether
> we use open source software or prioprietary tools). Richard Florida's rather
> despicable arguments in The Rise of the Creative Class are one place to start
> and even though I abhor them, there might be something there at this time when
> the politicans are so eager to please the business community. What would the
> Dutch politicians and public say if those in the creative industries (whom
> they wish to support) should make it known that the cuts to the broader
> cultural sector would have a larger economic impact than at first seems
> apparent (not just the ancilliary income that culture as part of the leisure
> dollar/euro generates) and that there should be the attempt to support a
> diversity of institutions.
> One might learn from what is taking place next week in Montreal. At a time
> when European countries are debating the necessity of subsidizing culture and
> particularly, the new media arts,  the CALQ (the Quebec Arts Council) is
> engaged in a massive focus study to see if they should funnel even more longer
> term funding and support in terms of research, production, dissemination into
> new artistic practices involving technologies. The CALQ has invited a large
> group of artists, organizations, curators and people from the business sector
> together to discuss the necessity of a new kind of funding structure and
> strategy for "digital culture" in general. Why is this? Perhaps, because there
> is a bit more of an understanding of a larger ecology at play in Montreal and
> Quebec (which is more European in its cultural policy than the rest of Canada
> and certainly the US)  among the digital arts, the business community, the
> academic institutions who have a stake in the training of artists and
> designers for the different "industries" (commercial and non) and
> artists/designers in recognizing the cultural and economic advantages of
> having a rich culture, whether one sees it as a feeder for the creative media
> industries (people after all have to pay their rent) or just having a vibrant
> climate that encourages people to move to the city to work and live.
> Again, this a Faustean bargain but face it,  in the stages of late capitalism
> and an international neo-liberal uprising in which we are in, none of us can
> afford to take sides.
> my two cents.
> cs.
> ----------------------------------------
> Christopher Salter, PhD
> Director, Hexagram Concordia Institute for Research-Creation in Media Arts and
> Technology
> Associate Professor, Design + Computation Arts
> Faculty of Fine Arts
> Concordia University
> Mailing Address:
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> e: chrissal at alcor.concordia.ca
> w: http://www.chrissalter.com
> -------------------------------
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> Christopher Salter, Ph.D.
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Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk

s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

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