[spectre] Netherlands must go to school

Calin Dan adsl487504 at tiscali.nl
Wed Jun 29 23:49:17 CEST 2011

It might be interesting to go beyond the status quo and think along the 
lines of a more pro-active attitude. What could be done to contribute to the 
reversal of the present situation of the visual arts in the Netherlands? I 
take (visual arts + NL) as a case in point because this is what I know best, 
and also because it is an extreme case from which extra learning can be 
extracted, maybe.

Probably the change should start with a serious self-critical discussion of 
the art world and its failures in the - let us limit the scope - post-wall 
period. Without trying to argue in favor of pretty-boy of Dutch politics, 
premier M. Rutte (who said that artists were for a long time with their 
backs turned to the public, and with their faces to the subsidies system), 
we have to acknowledge the fact that a vast majority of the electorate 
(about 70% of the voters surveyed) approved the anti-cultural measures 
passed yesterday by the lower chamber.

It might be interesting to see that after about two decades of "relational 
art" (I include here all types of projects that address more or less upfront 
issues from politics, economy, finance, migration, colonialism etc. etc.), 
the voters/viewers still do not recognize themselves in the discourse of the 
artists. While all the topics debated by such art are high on the 
philanthropic agendas of your average do-good Netherlander.

It is maybe time to see if exhibitions formats do work in the favor of 
artists and their ideas, in the case that artists are interested to exert 
some influence socially and politically.

It might also be useful to look at the economics of the visual arts (in 
terms of investment-revenue), and see if it works/not in favor of 
development. While the private art markets (outside of the Netherlands, I 
have to stress) circulate large amounts of money , next to none of it comes 
back into art reflection/production.  Maybe a loop should be closed in that 
process, somewhere.

Coming as I am from the late-stalinist Romania I would be the last to 
advocate the social immersion as an expiatory solution for visual arts. But 
still, it might be a problem that self-criticism has not been in favor 
within this profession, which reached in the last 20 years (that is how far 
back goes my personal international knowledge) the curious performance of an 
overall  gentrified mentality in an environment that operates usually on 
rather low budgets.

So why not go back to school, and try to confront ourselves in the first 
place, then our representational institutions and agents, and see if new 
policies can be created which would give a stronger voice to the visual 
community in relation with whatever other agencies?

Also, why not re-visit the utopias of the previous modernisms and call to 
school various social categories that could learn from us and that could 
bring us fresh knowledge? Something like evening schools for mutual 
learning, that might work better than your usual politically correct public 
commission which nobody sees and/or nobody cares about. Platforms where the 
specific values that visual arts do not share with other cultural 
manifestations can be highlighted and explained to the working class 
(whatever that means, lately), to the small entrepreneurs and liberal 
professionals, but also to those with top incomes. It might sound naive, and 
I am ready to amend all written above for someone who puts on the table some 
strategy that goes out of the boxes that we already know.

While all that has been said on this list (and others as well) in the last 
weeks about the paradigm shift towards a more brutal, cynical and oppressive 
type of capitalism is true, maybe we should close a good period of free 
creativity and lesser responsibility with a U-turn and check if we can 
invent new moves for the future. It would be a pity to just let things 
happen with a lamento, and live the stage to peroxide, slightly jaded 
political primadonnas, and to their protégés who design slick clothes and 
sing sentimental schlagers.

I think it was Mallarmé who said "Tight shoes force you to invent new dance 
Another modernist, that Mallarmé.

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