August 1, 2015 – August 31, 2015
Every month Marginalia invites an artist, curator or project to provide a series of images that will serve as the background of Terremoto, in relation to their practice and current interests. At the end of each month, the identity of our guest is revealed and the whole series of images is unveiled.
In the frameworks of Terremoto’s 3rd issue, Watching worlds collapse, I wanted to address the problem of budgetary cuts in contemporary art and culture in general. It’s a global problem affecting not only economies in crisis, but also countries that have been labelled so far as benefiting from a growth climate, such as Mexico for example, as the crisis has now reached a global level, leaving no countries untouched. Cuts in cultural budgets appear as one of the first targets for governments when they need to reduce state support, despite the fact that these cuts often are symbolic compared to other sectors. It is a signal that is sent that designates art and culture as futilities, as ornaments, the first thing you get rid of in times of necessity.
The success of culture oriented policies in times of crisis (from the New Deal set by Roosevelt’s administration to the Emplois Jeunes in France), as well as many studies from sociologists and economists all around the world affirming culture as a powerful stimulator of economies at large, haven’t altered the conservative opinion of neoliberal governments that artists constitute an elitist, reality blinded, out of the world kind of class. Furthermore, marked as a class that is living at the expenses of the “real people with real jobs”. Cultural cuts therefore seem lately to act as signals sent to the masses, a sort of desperate and openly populist demonstration of power.
Artists are encouraged to be responsible for their own funding, or to rely on the art market – supposedly the sign of a successful practice. Museums and biennials have now systematized the practice of asking galleries to support part or all of the production of the artists they invite, and smaller scale structures are invited to find funding elsewhere, “in the private sector” as they say. This corrupts their initial missions and transforms entire teams of cultural workers and curators in clumsy, worried fundraisers when their time should be dedicated to the artists they work with.
We need to recognize that in the act of cutting cultural budgets – a shock strategy designed to amplify the polarization of society about culture – cultural producers are classified into categories of wasteful profiteers on one side or virtuous temple keepers on the other side. The obvious agenda of this strategy is of course an attempt to identify a “good” type of culture and a “bad” one, also publicly defining contemporary art and popular culture as irreconcilable enemies.
It’s a sad fact: flexibility and its corollary, precariousness, have become norms in the art world, and in the world in general. But rather than waste our energy in panic and indignation each time a new cut in culture is announced – and although our mobilization and vigilance needs to remain acute –, maybe shall we try to stay calm and keep working and thinking through our own slower terms, and not allow this climate of false urgency to affect our sense of community, solidarity and artistic integrity.