Start the Debate

Artist as Entrepreneur 2.0 - by Andrew Horwitz, Culturebot, NYC. Word document, 17kb

Artist as Entrepreneur 2.0 from Culturebot on Vimeo.

Here are links to interesting articles linking in to the debates at Don’t Panic! – Arts in Austerity

The arts: beauty and the bean counters
Guardian editorial on how the value of the arts is defined

Bryony Kimmings – You show me yours… – an artist-producer’s frustration at the economics of creating and touring great work.

Getting Paid - An a-n forum on artist payment

Arts Council England’s Advocacy Toolkit

What Next? – A movement for fresh thinking and policies in the arts’ engagement with the public.

Taking Risks in Times of Adversity, by Adrian Ellis

Creative & Cultural Skills video on apprenticeships and traineeships

Joining the Dots

In Battalions – a report on Theatres and new work by Finn Kennedy

Art as a Mirror of Society – The Art Newspaper

Equity Calls for Crackdown on “Exploitation” of Performers – The Stage

The Creative Society’s ‘Fair Access’ Campaign

CCSkills Creative Employment Programme

Arts Council England’s guidance on Internships In The Arts

Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Postdemocracy by Hito Steyerl, published by e-flux journal

Seeing Value in the Arts, by Andy Horwitz, Culturebot (NYC)

Are There Too Many Artists? by Susan Jones

Exploring the world of artist-led organisations, a-n blog led by Susan Jones

What are artists really worth? Susan Jones in The Guardian

Instrumentality or artistic autonomy? The pursuit of Cultural Value by Susan Jones

a-n infographic on artist earnings

Who feeds the artist? by Xenia Pestova

Whitey responds to a request to use his music for free

Wage for Work takes dOCUMENTA (13) curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev to task (Youtube video)

Why We Should Lie – Talk given by Andrew Brighton:

The question I will attempt to answer is, how should we approach writing those reports and applications that ask us to show that what we do aids social cohesion or produce economic benefit?

I hope what I say will be entirely banal, obvious and un-objectionable. It comes from having been an art bureaucrat and writing about the political economy of the visual arts. I am not sure how apposite my argument is for other art forms.  I take the concept of ‘the arts’ as a thin concept, a politically convenient banner for a diversity of communities of practice and their publics.

What I will argue is that faced with political demands to justify public expenditure on the arts we should be ethical liars.

Why should we be liars?

We should be liars because the discourse, in which we are asked to justify ourselves, is incommensurable with the evaluative discourse of art. We are like cheese justifying itself as chalk.

Arts institutions are in the business of proposing that some things should be valued rather than others. What one should value is a component of the question, how should one live. In other words, what things should be valued in the good life is a question intrinsic to asking, what is the good life.

Schematically, we work by offering descriptions of the art we value. We are saying, look at it this way and you can see why this should be valued. The public culture of art is an economy of contending descriptions.

It is far from clear that contending descriptions reinforce social cohesion or yield an economic benefit. Further, if we allow supposed economic or social benefits to determine what we do, then what we do is no longer part of the public culture of art. What we do becomes part of the discourse of political responsibility.

In the discourse of political responsibility, one is obliged to pretend you know the consequences of your decisions and policies; that you have the power determine the future. In practice, economic policies and social engineering are pretty incompetent. For instance, where we are now socially and economically is not the intended product of past policies. No one is claiming responsibility for the recession and the banking crisis, the decline in social mobility and education and the growing inequalities in incomes and wealth.

Modernity is ethically incoherent. As Alastair MacIntyre put it,  ‘Liberal political societies are characteristically committed to denying any place for a determinate conception of the human good in their public discourse, let alone allowing that their common life should be grounded in such a conception.’ The contending descriptions of art enact and reflect on our ethical incoherence.  Modern political discourses solve this problem by being apparently valueless, they do justification by utility. If the measure of all things is their contribution to national wealth and security as the utile ends then arguments about what one should value and how one should live are heresies.  They question the utile Gods.

In what way should we be ethical liars?

When we fill in those forms, we should be like crooked accountants who run two sets of books. The Potemkin accounts and the real accounts. Like Robert Maxwell, we should keep the real accounts in our heads. We should pretend not know that the discourse of public accountability is valueless, incompetent and antipathetic. But the managerial way of thinking can leach into the mind; we can climb the career ladder by internalising the discourse of control. We can become like a native working in the colonial civil service who comes to see their own people through the eyes of the occupiers.

As I have said, we are in the business of proposing that some things should be valued more than others. We do this in the modern public sphere which is the site, in principle, where all can contribute to public reasoning about the common good. As public institutions, we should be open to all. But a multi-cultural society is by definition a society of communities with diverse ideas of the good life. In practice, we serve those people who think art is part of the good life. At the core of this audience are artists. It is to them and the committed public that our real accounts are rendered. Certainly we should reach out to new audiences but primarily for our own endogenous interests. I am far from convinced that we should assume that people without art are victims, that they are lesser or inadequate persons in need of cultural rescue.

We lie ethically by remembering on whose behalf and for what we lie. Our practice should be embedded in that congregation that holds that the problem of what things we should value as art is part of the problem of how we should live. We hold, in other words, that a reflective public culture of art should be part of pubic reasoning; that our kinds of reasoning constitute a public good worth lying for.

As I said, I hope this view is entirely banal, obvious and un-objectionable.

One Response to Start the Debate

  1. Pingback: Artist as entrepreneur: the American model or same old American dream?

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