Sunday, 7 December 2014

manifesto as prompt


draft prompt : MANIFESTO GWNN - 6/3/13

A manifesto is the basis for reflection and discussion.

It is a rhetorical document to raise and explore the theoretical and empirical substance of claims - to look at what might be missing and to consider what other issues have emerged in how the field has developed. In doing so, we might question with what assumptions we are working and how might they differ?

A manifesto locates demands both on government and the arts themselves. It focuses on issues of employment and equality, governance and democracy, funding and internationalism.

Like all manifestos, it makes ambitious demands that will be extremely tough to achieve. But the point of a manifesto is to raise our expectations, to generalise our experiences and to help draw us out of a defensive mindset into one which believes that both resistance and positive change is possible.

A rallying call to another way of asking the old questions about liberty, equality and solidarity. Not a call to defend the status or quo or retrieve that which is seen to have been lost - to allow an established paradigm of creation and distribution to reassert itself when it has already failed us - but to re-signify into something new, horizontal and not hierarchic, participative and democratic.

Solidarity is not built vertically, from the top down, but sideways.

A manifesto is an experiment in attempting to convey the diverse perspectives on the situation - developed within a particular context - and to put those perspectives forward for discussion and action.

The text is a first step - offering it to a broader public for discussion in the field of art as well as in art’s neighbouring occupational fields. It involves processes of articulation - the becoming public - of artistic practices.

In helping articulate a better future, it is to convince a wider public how the conditions of cultural practice are crucial for the common good of society. To do so requires rethinking those modes of professionalism, specialism and social relations which have cut much cultural production off from mutually securing those conditions.

This manifesto concerns the topic of cultural governance - the relationships of cultural production to the state; the mechanisms for the redistribution of public money in the public interest; and ultimately what and who gets to constitutes that public interest?

What do we do to help answer these, and other, questions?

INTENTIONS

A defence of communicative freedom and political engagement - for a multiplicity of knowledges, of perspectives that allow us to think freely in the world we live in, and the world we choose to create (albeit not in the historic conditions of our choosing).

To open the opportunity to be critical, to reflect and question, to give shape to worlds of sounds, of colour, performances and of the written word, distinct from our own.

To identify and articulate a working definition of 'value' and of 'public interest' - so at to be of and to engage multiple publics in multiple ways.

To  change the relationship between hierarchies of institutions and funders in enacting democratic processes, political diversity and confronting inequality. To do so requires the need for overhauled policy processes and their foundations.

To establish what distinguishes forms of artistic production and articulation that have unfolded during recent decades - as  catalysts of rigorous intellectual engagement and civic debate. This would be to connect learning with social change, and knowledge with more democratic modes of self-development and social empowerment.

CULTURE + 'THE ARTS'
[locating the arts' relation to culture]

This thing called culture has the distinctive character as a domain of the common social life of the multiplicity of people and their activities.

Culture is one of the most important social domains in the struggle for a more democratic, egalitarian and free society. It concerns a permanent, vigilant and compassionate dissent. A permanent improvisation, a permanent self-criticism, the possibility to take and give up responsibilities, the forming and dissolving of practices, theories, lives.

Culture starts with people as agents of themselves as transformers of their environment - our action of us upon ourselves and on the world to transform it, and thus covers the social, political, economic and technical fields. Culture, in its widest and most complete sense, enables people to give shape to their lives. It is how we come to understand the world and is thus systems of thought, philosophies, sciences, beliefs, arts and languages. Culture is essentially dynamic: in other words, both rooted in practice and habit yet also containing its tools of transformation.

Culture plays an important role as a space for experimentation and reflection, for creating mutual trust and bonds between people. Cultural interactions based on the spontaneous activity of individuals and groups play a crucial role for the development of the society, including its economic dimension. Recognising the importance of this is a necessary step in creating a space for self-realisation and democratic debate.

For the development of democracy culture is crucial in providing society with tools to transform itself and encourages political participation. To be able to do so,  imperative is not the public 'right' to consume culture but the universal right to change culture.

Culture cannot be seen through capital’s narrow gaze or the market’s whims - to merely reproduce docile subjects and uncritical automatons. We can not let 'growth' be the ultimate condition of the development of culture and society.

CULTURE + 'THE NATION STATE' 
[the arms'-length principle/ state proximity + concerns of 'cultural governance']

Why might so many creative producers cling to a notion of disinterestedness as regards their conditions of production, and make a claim to a context of cultural governance that allegedly decries any relationship to politics, power or interest in larger social issues?

How are we to govern ourselves? What might the democratisation of governing bodies look like?

Liberty is not one and the same as nationhood. An engaged citizenry does not equate to an homogenous national society bound by political consensus.

Culture is to be free from the duties and obligations of professional politics, whether in the form of imposed topical social issues, tying funding to designated political contexts or the promotion of official ideologies. It does not mean however, that we support politically indifferent culture enclosed in its own consecrated world and projecting itself and its own interests back onto the society in which we all live.

One of the indispensable conditions of the autonomy of culture, and a necessary element of an appropriate cultural education, is the efficient functioning of public institutions - which must act according to their public mission, and not for the sake of private gain of politicians or municipal authorities. All public institutions should therefore guarantee public access to culture the ability to produce and to change it. To transform culture into a genuinely public good, so that it would cease to be state property - removed from the purposes of party political self-promotion, political propaganda, electoral campaigns, etc.

Support for intellectual freedom and the 'right' to political engagement - a freedom which must include the right to research and freely discuss social or political issues even where they are inconvenient to authority. Like all citizens, cultural and/or knowledge producers have a right to be politically engaged and hold views that differ from the ruling ideology.

A humanist model of the ‘autonomous institution’ - regarded as an ‘autonomous’ institution which, to meet the needs of the world around it, its research and teaching must be morally and intellectually independent of all political authority and intellectually independent of all political authority and economic power. It involves build a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture, rather than a top-down, closed, proprietary structure. One whereby the tools of creation and distribution, communication and collaboration, teaching and learning, are in the hands of the public - so as to empower a truly active, connected, informed citizenry.

What are the necessary conditions for culture to cease to be a privilege, and to allow culture to become a true 'right' of everyone to freely shape their life?

Concerns with a 'rights-based' discourse - What would giving the government a duty to protect the freedom of communication and expression mean - to give legal meaning to such a broad concept? How vulnerable (in an adverse direction for freedom) would it be to amendment? Is there a non-statutory mechanism to ensure that independence?

Where does the trajectory from 'Welfare Nationalism' to 'Competitive Nationalism' [with a model of territorially defined cultural identity] figure in this current economic re-designation of culture? That is, arts and culture as a competitive factor of national economic growth, integral to cultural policy where the Nation State is branded as the location of performance through reference to distinct cultural output. That the concept of national identity is not just totally inadequate for serving as a basis for political concepts for dealing with the processes of social recomposition currently taking place, but is in fact an integral component of it.

ART + SOCIETY
[public interest]

"To be meaningful, even useful in the current situation, art has to occupy a different role than one grounded in subsidy and a claim to autonomy based on the right to do what it liked at public expense. That autonomy was itself one of the reasons that art could be accused of elitism, however unfairly, because it was linked to a lack of concern with social and political events - the right to autonomy slowly evolved into a right to subsidised irrelevance...and then the subsidy stopped. In our present atomised society, many basic notions such as autonomy need to be redefined and given force and relevance in these new circumstances. That is the task before us in the years ahead."

What positions should 'the arts' take at a time when politics is being emptied out of any connection to a civic literacy, informed judgment, and critical dialogue, further deepening a culture of illiteracy, cruelty, hyper-masculinity and disposability?

When seeking debate about fundamental societal problems, the arts are often exposed to and unprotected from the contradictions that a society carries within itself. The eulogisation of creativity and innovation (in the name of art) as backup for the privatisation of the Commons is only one example.

Is there a viable defence of 'the arts' as constitutive of a democratic public sphere, of culture as a whole, defending to a broader public the very conditions that make such work possible?

To change more than the conversation about 'art', more than the language of cultural governance, but to locate that change as not distinct from important social issues, and democracy, and from what it might mean to imagine a new understanding of politics and a different future - bridging the production of knowledge, research and teaching with the myriad urgent social issues now facing the larger society.

Art’s relation to society includes a role as a measure of the space of democratic deviance, its capacity to imagine the world (and not just itself) otherwise.

Art does not exist only 'for its own sake' - and culture is best explored and exhibited in freedom.

Art must remain a concern with aesthetics devoted to pan-societal concerns. The arts can engage and inspire us, and stimulate us to challenge the world we live in - societies that are to be democratic and diverse. In doing so art can contribute to human, social and environmental progress - but, importantly, also the degradation of all such spheres.

The role of art and culture must always be to make the way for a diversity of voices, a plurality of stories, a fundamental openness to the world, to our society and to each other. Such a role by definition must move beyond 'including' the subaltern and marginalised as subjects of study: immigrants, gays, lesbians and the transgender, women, men, old and young.  In order to achieve this participative and democratic process, we must build strong ties of solidarity and interpersonal knowledges.

Art is not societal decor. Artists are not virginal, spiritual beings who await their saviour in a place far removed from the theatre of capitalistic virility. Instead, critical and self-determined, they can comprehend developmental processes in society as processes of formation. Cultural work produces cultural, social, and interpersonal knowledge. It is within the incisive contradictions of art that society, in its emotions and in its thoughts, may arrive at a concept of itself.  Art creates spaces where societal actions can be experienced as worth.

Adopt and enact in practice mission statements relevant to each institution, that recognise the obligation of institutions to foster independent and critical thought, to ensure access for all social groups, and to seek the participation of the local community in the life of the institution.

CRISIS + VALUES

The present crisis is about much more than economy, finances or debt. In reality it represents a much deeper crisis of values.

What kinds of globalisation do we seek? How do we locate and expose the interconnections among the aspects of the crisis, let us be open in our thinking and attentive in our conversations?

We will not be bribed with special privileges. Why is it that people wish to blame someone else for a problem that lies in the material practice of their actions?

This then requires a deeper cultural exploration of the causes of crisis - which shows how materialism, selfishness and competitive nationalism have overshadowed fundamental cultural values of enlightenment, solidarity and humanism.

How might we turn to culture to examine and reflect on the crisis, and to ponder that most important question: What now?

Should art and culture now be subservient to the crisis or the political attempt to apportion economic 'responsibility' within it?

What has been the response to this situation - 'Keep as much of the old system as we can, while we can’?

The dangers embedded in economically-driven proposals for reforms in the domain of culture have already been discussed by artists, theorists, cultural and social activists throughout Europe. There is agreement that culture is a very specific field of production, and that it would be endangered by an exclusively market-oriented strategy of organising it.

Do we refuse a notion of society that embraces a definition of agency in which people are viewed primarily as commodities, bound together in a logic of unchecked individualism and a disdain for democratic values? Which is part of broader criticisms against the withering away of the public realm, public values and any viable notion of the public good.

How, then, might we consider the ethics of institutional involvement with the arms trade, the military and the nuclear industry, and those environmental degradation - while at the same time, in pursuing social benefits and public value, practice and research without fear of state intervention?

MANAGERIALISM

Over the years spaces for culture have lost ground as a place to think, dissent, and develop a culture of questioning, dialogue, and civic enlightenment. A growing instrumentalisation and accompanying hostility to critical and oppositional ideas has been an assault on public character, on civic society and its future.

We are against the recomposition of culture in line with the broader global economy. One which demands so much micro-management of 'investment' in an allegedly self-regulating market. One where culture is subject to market-driven values and managerial relations, one which treats artists and organisations as entrepreneurs and clients, while reducing knowledge production to the dictates of an audit culture, and pedagogy to a destructive and reductive instrumental rationality. 

While many might still support a limited notion of a market economy, they do not want to live in a market society - a society in which market values become a template for organising all aspects of social life. Beneath this market fundamentalism resides a mode of education and a set of values that contains an order of politics that is destructive of democratic social relations, democratic modes of equality and civic education itself. We refuse the demands of an audit culture that confuses training with critical education.

'New managerialism' usually refers to practices commonplace in the private sector, particularly the imposition of a powerful management body that overrides professional skills and knowledge. It keeps discipline under tight control and is driven by accountability and monitoring, and an emphasis on measurable standards. Nor is a counter to this to be found in a nostalgic return to a paternal state clientalism.

WORK + ECONOMY
[Social welfare of (not only) art producers]

The majority of 'creative producers' continue to lead lives at or under the poverty line. Hence artistic work stands in the hot spot of a pan-societal contradiction: a new work culture advertises itself as flexible, artistic, and creative; at the same time, survival anxiety and the pressure to perform in this culture increase along with the gap between the rich and the poor.

We must acknowledge the problems of representing labour - where the artistic escape from ideological drudgery is more reminiscent of a word game.

The harder path for all concerned is building organising unions which, ideally, listen to members and respond by asking questions intended to expand the terms of discussion, participation and action. Essentially, the more militant ethos is about winning against employers, not going into an opaque governing partnership with them.

The arts and media are systems increasingly based on volunteers and interns who are paid badly or not at all - a cheap work force recruited under the pretext of further education and increased chances of future employment  is often a matter of course in entrepreneurial strategy. Here the activities of culture-makers are strong-armed into becoming the force behind glamorisation of the freelancer in all sectors where work bears features of the artistic-creative and elements of communication, but it is also deregulated. We should speak out resolutely against the construction of the success story - a narrative which glosses over contradictions that are felt everywhere where culture makers stay poor even though they work nonstop.

We wish to launch a widespread, general, and collective discussion on how work should be understood and rightfully recognised and remunerated throughout society as a whole.

In the vague sense of being concerned with opportunity, there hasn’t been much effective critique of the economic and social policy of the neoliberal governments as regards equality, fairness and tolerance. Why are artists poor? Are they poor because of the art market? Institutions? Maybe the very artists? Or the 'evil capitalists'? Can artists be called immaterial workers? Or maybe artists are just perfect, entrepreneurial and creative role models for cultural capitalism? Do artists choose to be precarious, are they competitive and why do they do it? What are the modes of exploitation in arts and how do they differ from creative industries or regular factories?

A vast majority of art producers (both artists and organisers of events) currently live under conditions of precarity. This condition does not necessarily mean all artists live in poverty, but it forces them into a state of permanent instability and insecurity about their future. Evidently the market itself cannot provide the distribution of resources which could alleviate that precarity. The market makes us live in a world where everybody works yet only a few profit, whereas an effective development of the process of symbolic production requires the participation of all members of the social network regardless of the ability to pay. Without the whole collective body of cultural producers and their publics (i.e. the art milieu and the art scene) no 'genius' will appear. The only reasonable solution is to propose an unconditional guaranteed salary - a citizen's income, including for all cultural producers. This would not be a form of a social hand-out but signify a recognition of everyone's creative role in society. In a longer perspective this would lead to the regulation of the legal guarantee for a common 'wage' based on a redistribution of incomes from the top to the lowest level of income, for all members of society. Such an expansion or redefinition of the term 'work' hardly applies only to art - it pertains to all areas where people work and don’t get paid. [See e.g. feminist economist, Prof Ailsa McKay on Citizen's Income]

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY + THE COMMONS

How are we to organise the economy to meet our own and the planet’s needs - and how do we reconcile the needs of society and nature?

The proposed exploitation of Intellectual Property Rights and the introduction of loans coupled with a cut in grant aid all act to reinforce artists' poverty. We require equal legal status of various forms of intellectual property.

Subjecting culture to economy is a political choice. The adoption of this policy in response to economic crisis is easily attributed to the perverse market incentives put forward by that very same rationale. The power and remit of this free-market mantra is now extended beyond the confines of the financial sector and private enterprise, to our hospitals, schools and universities. Beyond the immediate loss in pay and working conditions, the wider effects of privatisation are the rearrangement of our common good along producer-consumer lines. This will see those public sites rapidly transformed into sites for private speculation and profit, rather than institutions geared towards the production of a public good - where the 'public good' is not determined by the degree of contribution to economic growth. 

Artistic and intellectual subject matter is increasingly treated as a disposable resource - as exploitable 'content'. Our lives, emotions, vulnerability, doubts, purposes and ideas are to become a commodity - in other words, a mere product to fuel the development of new forms of capitalist exploitation. It is absolutely unrealistic to believe that the art market would provide any relief here - the IP market does not provide a sufficient economic basis for the future life of contemporary cultural production.

We hereby express our existential and political solidarity with the people who oppose this marketisation of all spheres of social and personal life. We reject such a model based on narrow forms of measurable utility for capital accumulation. We must halt and reverse the recent radical expansion of 'intellectual property rights', which threaten to reach the point where they trump any and all other rights of the individual and society.

Culture must not be subject to calculations of investments and profits - the notion that market values are the best means for ordering society and satisfying human needs, that material interests are more important than social needs, and that self-interest is the driving force of freedom and the organising principle of society.

We will promote and apply alternative and democratic forms of protection and redistribution of the author's rights using 'open license' strategies. Meanwhile, we demand the introduction and extension of the existing forms of production and distribution of culture in ways that would be appropriate for the new, horizontal exchange, distribution and circulation of cultural production. We are against restricting the distribution of culture according to the aim of maximising profit.

ART + EDUCATION
[a basic education about contemporary culture]

To claim a space for radical pedagogies, for the co-construction of knowledge.

The introduction of 'contemporary culture' to the basic school education - providing knowledge on the main issues in culture of the historic and recent past, with a special emphasis on contemporary cultural fields. It should have an interdisciplinary character - developing knowledge and experience in both theory (elements of history of philosophy, human geography, economics, of art, art theory and criticism) and practice (visits to concerts, exhibitions, theatre, participation in critical debates). Not a grinding of cultural knowledge, but rather a work on creating self-determined, critical and informed forms of reception and participation in culture. Such knowledge and experience should aim to facilitate the creation of non-hierarchical, non-violent models for sharing one's opinions and experiences. It would therefore become a preparatory understanding for critical reflection, participation and living in a direct democracy.

LIFE + RE-PRODUCTION
[housing + debt]

Concerning pressure on the conditions of production and living - when the conditions for people engaged in cultural production are worsening when the state prides itself on 'its' artists. The view of how art [in particular] should be fostered, however, stands in stark contrast to what culture-makers consider necessary. Participants in cultural production today need, first and foremost, in solidarity with all in society, a safeguarding of their conditions of re-production.

Models for self-management, the allocation of property, for the development of another kind of real-estate policy [including establishment of a city-wide land survey register that is comprehensible to the public]. The development and expansion of experimental multifunctional spaces for living, production, and presentation - an important basis for securing the standard of living.

WHAT WE PROPOSE

The notion of culture as enabling a public centre of critique and a vital democratic public sphere that cultivates the knowledge, skills and values necessary for the production of a democratic polity is giving way to a view of the 'experience' as a marketing machine essential to the production of identities in which the only obligation of citizenship is to be a consumer.

We propose to change such a conversation about the meaning and purpose of 'culture' - to reclaim culture as a democratic public sphere, one that offers a formative culture that is of a citizenry as critical and active agents in shaping the myriad of economic, social and political forces that govern their lives.

Offering the possibility of becoming part of a larger conversation, that addresses what the role of culture might be in relation to public life in the 21st century. Central to such an inquiry is examining how the arts have been caught in the grip of larger economic and political forces that undermine the social state, social provisions and democracy itself.

The elimination of the centralised, bureaucratic model of governing culture and, in its place, the opening of social councils for culture and art - the pursuit of cultural democracy.

As we struggle against closures and resource cuts, we need to think about what kind of institutions we want in the first instance - places that secure independent, critical and relevant knowledge to the benefit not just of individuals but society as a whole.

Demanding an alternative vision and set of policies for the arts and culture more broadly.

It is important to avoid limiting demands to the attainment and augmentation and reorientation of public art funding. Instead, it is crucial to make a connection with current discussions on urban development and planning, on property and rental policy, and to take up a position with respect to concepts and realities of work, precarity, and the Commons. We are all stronger if we link our local disputes to wider movements against neoliberal recomposition.

Power and resources are to be shared and economic justice and democratic values to work in the interest of social responsibility and the common good - democracy is in the making, unfinished, and open to connecting people, power, resources and knowledge.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Creative Scotland - A Timeline

The following is from Jennie Macfie's much needed overview of the visisble processes by which 'the arts' arrived at this juncture with Creative Scotland: http://creativescotlandtimeline.weebly.com/index.html

Foreword - Santayana famously said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Perhaps it's time we started reminding each other about the process that led to the setting up of Creative Scotland. This timeline attempts to do that and to pull together in one place the consultations and reports that have been compiled so far.
The information here has been drawn from personal notes,  gleaned online, and owes a particular debt to the online archives of Variant and the timeline at creativescotland.blogspot.co.uk.
If you notice omissions or facts that are incorrect, please post them in the comments section.

Creative Scotland - A Timeline

1999 May - 2005 June
http://creativescotlandtimeline.weebly.com/timeline-1.html

2006 January - 2012 December
http://creativescotlandtimeline.weebly.com/timeline-2.html

2013 January - …
http://creativescotlandtimeline.weebly.com/timeline-3.html

Afterword - All the success stories I've ever been part of or have come across, whether in business and in the arts, in Scotland, England, Europe or overseas, have originated in individuals with a vision, a vision they cared passionately about and had the courage, conviction, and dedication to make real. This is so fundamental an aspect of what it is to be an artist or what is usually called an entrepreneur that we usually assume everyone understands it.
Now we've had nearly fourteen years of consultations and conferences and seminars and summits and workgroups in which the people Scotland have talked about Creative Scotland, before and after the organisation came into being.  Re-reading the 1999 survey, it's striking how many of the responses are as true today as they were then. There must be rooms full of paperwork and servers full of data.
Millions of pounds have been spent on the processes that led to Creative Scotland, money which surely could have been better spent on encouraging people in Scotland to be creative.
During the decade that it took to bring Creative Scotland into existence, banks failed, credit crunched, property bubbles burst and whole countries went bankrupt but the idea that market-oriented management* of the public sector was the best way of moving forward went seemingly unquestioned by the organisation's midwives.
And finally, here is the Scottish Government's  Gateway to Scotland website. The  Visit Scotland page links to VisitScotland's website. The Creative Scotland tab does not mention the eponymous agency. First noticed in 2010, the assumption was that once CS' permanent website was in place, it would be linked but so far this does not seem to be the case.

*See Managerialism 
"In Managerialism, there is a belief that organizations have more similarities than differences, and thus the performance of all organizations can be optimized by the application of generic management skills and theory. To a practitioner of Managerialism, there is little difference in the skills required to run a college, an advertising agency or an oil rig. Experience and skills pertinent to an organization's core business are considered secondary".

Jennie Macfie, March 2013
http://creativescotlandtimeline.weebly.com/afterword.html

Sunday, 24 February 2013

change management

"A collaborative and respectful relationship between Creative Scotland and those we are here to serve is a necessity in order to ensure that the arts, screen and creative industries continue to thrive.
It is clear that, in the first two years of Creative Scotland’s existence, this has not been successfully achieved across all sectors we work with.
To rectify this, we have embarked on a programme of change, the key themes of which were announced in the Board statement of 7 December 2012. […]"
Who's not tired of the predominance of consultancies that push futurology? -'imagine here-or-there or this-or-that at some projected point in some future or other', omitting how we understand our present existing circumstances and the life-processes of how we actually interactively produce our many possible futures, though not under self-selected circumstances (despite what those consultancies may want us to believe).

What would activity look like, not to "help shape the future for Creative Scotland" but to 'actually' understand the 'today' of Creative Scotland and 'intervene' in it on the basis of strengthening equality in the present? As what other legitimate basis might there be?

Flattery and fears-of-fragility aside, would a "collaborative and respectful relationship" not be making selective claims that "arts, screen and creative industries continue to thrive" - when some orgs may be surviving, with many no longer in existence. It certainly wouldn't assert the reinforcement of an 'industries' concept for all - which in fact is the acute problem. Nor would it defensively use the verb "continue" so as give the impression of continuity where in fact the legislative basis for cultural provision in Scotland has changed very significantly.

So what are we told is to be 'rectified' and how? The predominant themes of the board (with *) and some brief notes in response:

* "…change Creative Scotland’s operational structure to give staff the freedom to use their specialist knowledge more effectively." "[Enable] more effective use of staff specialist knowledge and expertise, increasing autonomy of decision-making and increasing the visibility of, and access to, this expertise."

[How does this counter initially recognised problems? Does it not merely reassert the power of perceptibly closed networks of patronage (the "art form silos")? Who safeguards the limits beyond which this autonomy cannot be stretched without falling back onto clientelism? Isn't the danger that 'change' will be being fronted by staff who are also being put in a position of increased pressure to protect particular art form interests? Who are the winners and losers?]

* "Changes to make the language and tone of Creative Scotland more accessible…" "Changing the content and tone of our language to increase clarity and accessibility with a re-design of our application forms, guidance and other communications." "Emphasising the language of 'support' rather than 'investment' in both our values and operations."

[So a linguistic shift in emphasis, but how does this manifest itself in actual operational changes, other than merely how they're described? What does it in fact amount to? So, are we going to get investment or support in practice; and who is to receive either?]

* "…simplifying the routes through which individuals and organisations can access advice and funding."

[Is it the 'routes', the 'advice' or is it that which it is advising on? So as above, what does this amount to?]

* "…set up internal and external forums that allow artists, creative practitioners and staff to feed into policy development." "Creating effective regular consultative forums with artists and creative practitioners and staff to inform policy development and increase transparency." "Working with the sector to design the specific nature of these forums with the aim of a first open session in early 2013."

[How has CS now worked with 'the sector' on such forums? - with these forums, we have something tangible promised to assess. Who indeed constitutes 'the sector' in such instances - who does not?
Why is it considered right that CS should act as a non-neutral intermediary to policy change - a buffer between ScotGov and 'the sector'? What of the sector unions? ScotGov make cultural policy - ScotGov determine how and when CS reports to ScotGov. So is it in fact a function that CS at all has; something CS cannot impartially or otherwise follow through on? Is it not more about delivering 'the sector' to policy change, which is what CS is charged with doing?]

* "Stability is a core concern of many companies [and non-companies?] […] intend to offer that stability in a number of key ways:
- As soon as is practicable […] offer long term funding to organisations over a number of years, subject to a review of progress, but relieve them of the need to submit fresh applications annually.
- […] offer the security of multi-year funding to organisations, project funding for specific time limited work, and funding to individuals which may include partnerships."
- "Reviewing current funding models' to enable as many organisations as possible and appropriate to benefit from stable, multi-year arrangements. ..."

[That is, to reassert the previous funding hierarchy - for which there will be another round of 'reviews' to decide on which orgs are to be offered multi-year funding and which ones are not. Who does this benefit - and who not? Which institutional voices legitimised, which ones not? Might we also wish to offer stability to Creative Scotland? - to put back its term to the previous 5 years from its current 2 years, so as to facilitate arms length from ScotGov?]

* "…lottery funding should never be 'regarded' as a substitute for government sourced grant in aid…" - [includes] "…an end to the plans for 'strategic commissioning'."

[Not being 'regarded' a substitute is not the same as actually not 'being' a substitute - so how is Lottery being used, what is it being used for, and by whom?]

* "…re-building trust and confidence in the organisation…" "...They [staff] will be involved at every stage of this period of essential change."

[Aside from the time-limited nature of what's presented - whereas we undergo change all the time - what if it's not the organisation or the management I lack 'confidence' in? What if I think CS has done exactly what it's been brought about to do? What if my concern is not with 'trust' or 'confidence' or any other affective presence the charismatic management of an institution is supposed to project, but my concern is in fact what the organisation and its relationships are actually founded upon - the legislation and ScotGov's policy. That CS is constitutive of that policy - "To contribute to the Scottish Government's central purpose - increasing the rate of sustainable economic growth" - which is the re-framing of cultural production within the market (and in its 'Scottishness') and (allegedly) supplementing the economy (e.g. massive spending on tourism projects).]

* "…time that Creative Scotland stopped being the story." - "Reducing efforts on activity that could be construed as promoting Creative Scotland ahead of artists, creative practitioners or cultural organisations."

[A bit difficult as promotion is hardwired into CS's existence, in its need to generate additional income and to compete for it - like any other cultural organisation. Something which structurally differentiates it from what went before. It's also disingenuous, as overall this is about managing the perception of change.]

* "…moderate the pace of change to enable better planning and consultation internally and externally."

[So there we have it: TINA, There Is No Alternative - the problem is not in what CS is doing or why it should be doing it, it's merely the 'pace' and presentation of it. But what should we expect? If all the board hear is the problem's not what they're doing but how they communicate it, one might be given to forgive the board for thinking it's all just a matter of perception and marketing, not content.]

Monday, 10 December 2012

those New Business Models in development

The joining-up of neoliberal strategies currently going ahead at local and national levels:
Invitation to Tender - Report into Microfinance Scheme for the Creative Sector in the Scottish Borders
http://opportunities.creativescotland.com/view.aspx?id=24b86f24-103f-43ad-ab49-94180abca7c2
Such functions for Creative Scotland were legislated for in the Bill - a notable reason why we opposed it, having seen what loans looked like elsewhere in Europe:
Section 2 – General functions of Creative Scotland
10.    The functions in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) task Creative Scotland with nurturing the highest standards in the arts and culture in Scotland. It might do this by selecting particular individuals or organisations whose practice they believe merits encouragement and advice, or financial support in the form of grants or loans (see also section 4(4)).

Section 4 – Grants and loans
20.    Creative Scotland may make grants and loans to creative practitioners and other persons where the grant or loan relates to Creative Scotland’s functions (which may be subject to such terms and conditions as Creative Scotland think fit) (see subsections (4) and (5)).
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S3_Bills/Creative%20Scotland%20Bill/b7s3-introd.pdf
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S3_Bills/Creative%20Scotland%20Bill/b7s3-introd-en.pdf


We outlined our concerns regardling loans and other forms of debt and IPR exploitation in 2008 in the artists' briefing paper and at a conference in 2010 in conjunction with UWS and members of the Precarious Workers, which included work on the concerns of micro-finance, see: http://www.variant.org.uk/events/art+labour/Art+Labour.html#L3

This latest consultancy tender relates back to Gwilym Gibbons' study as Director at Shetland Arts Development Agency (and Creative Scotland Board member):

New national study into small-scale creative finance
http://www.shetlandarts.org/new-national-study-into-small-scale-creative-finance/

Creative Financing: feasibility study into financial mechanisms for supporting small-scale creative activity
http://www.shetlandarts.org/images/2011/06/Creative-Financing-Feasibility-Study-2011.pdf
Further indications of 'New Business Model' development toward a 'Creative Economy':
Knowledge Transfer Associate - Intellectual Property
Applications for this post are now closed: ICC, in partnership with Creative Scotland, is recruiting for a Knowledge Transfer Associate to support a project concerning intellectual property in the creative industries. The post will involve close working with ICC, Creative Scotland and other organisations and will be based at Creative Scotland’s Edinburgh offices. The project will inform Creative Scotland’s leading and coordinating role for creative industries investment strategy.
The post is full-time for 21 months, starting 1 April 2012 or as soon as possible thereafter, and is funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, Technology Strategy Board and Creative Scotland. Application deadline is 15 February 2012. For more details please visit our Opportunities page.
http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/icc/newsandevents/
..........
Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy
Date: 09/08/2012
A pioneering initiative to support the growth of the UK’s vital creative industries and arts sector was announced today. The Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, run by a consortium of UK universities led by the University of Glasgow, will examine a range of issues relating to new digital technologies with a view to meeting some of the central challenges facing the UK’s creative economy.
The UK has probably the largest creative sector in the world relative to GDP, accounting for over 6% of the overall economy and contributing around £60Bn per annum. However, building a business, cultural and regulatory infrastructure that can spark innovation, capitalise on new revenue streams and harness the potential of new and emerging technologies are challenges that face the sector as it aims to maintain the UK’s global leadership in this field.
The new Centre – called CREATe (Creativity, Regulation, Enterprise and Technology) - will address these and other challenges by exploring a range of issues such as those associated with digitisation, new intellectual property issues and how best to support relationships between the arts and technology.
CREATe is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Professor Ronan Deazley of the School of Law at the University of Glasgow is leading the consortium and said: "The Research Councils’ decision to support CREATe is an outstanding result for the University of Glasgow and for the consortium of other Universities involved in this initiative. Working in strategic partnerships with creative businesses and cultural organisations throughout the UK, CREATe will deliver an innovative and exciting research programme that will have real impact on the creative economy as that economy continues to transition from the analogue to the digital."
Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the AHRC said: “On behalf of the three Research Councils funding this project, and the various agencies involved in it, I’d like to welcome the launch of CREATe very warmly indeed. It represents a fantastic opportunity to take the measure of the way digital technologies are challenging existing arrangements and creating new opportunities in the UK to supply creative input. We very much look forward to seeing how CREATe develops new thinking on copyright and business potential and meets the challenges of interdisciplinary and partnership working. I’m confident it will do so splendidly. It’s a vital as well as urgent task.”
Led by the University of Glasgow, CREATe comprises the University of Edinburgh, University of Strathclyde, University of St Andrews, University of Nottingham’s digital economy hub (Horizon), the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Goldsmiths, University of London.
Although not providing funding, NESTA, the Intellectual Property Office and the Technology Strategy Board will also be involved in the CREATe centre.
END
http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/News-and-Events/News/Pages/New-Centre-for-Copyright.aspx

http://www.create.ac.uk/
.......

Lecturer in Art Law and Business
School of Culture and Creative Arts - University of Glasgow
To undertake research of world-quality in Art Law, Art Business or Art Markets and lead the University's teaching in this area.
The post will be part of a new development in Art, Law and Business within the School of Culture & Creative Arts, in collaboration with Christie's Education in London and with colleagues in the Schools of Law and Business. The post holder will work with the MSc Programme Director in Art, Law and Business at Christie's Education to deliver teaching in Art Business, Law or Art Markets.
http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AFO700/lecturer-in-art-law-and-business/
Christie’s Education London: History of Art and Art-world Practice
Christie’s Education London is an associated Institute of the University of Glasgow. The full range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses lead to degrees awarded by the University. Choose from the Arts of China, the Arts of Europe, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Art, Style and Design
From 2013 a new option in Art, Law & Business within all our Postgraduate courses will allow students to explore the ethical and commercial side of art-world-practice.
This is the first year of the programme. Students from this programme will be well qualified to pursue a number of careers in the art world and in creative industry, as they will have had the particular experience of working in an Auction House to add to their CV. Graduates from our other Master's programmes include: auctioneers, art dealers, museum curators, gallerists, journalists, art insurance brokers, art investment managers, writers, art historians and lecturers.
http://www.christieseducation.com/london_grad_art_law_business_msc.html

Sunday, 9 December 2012

IPR and debt-exploitation (cont.)


Why There Is No Going Back For Creative Scotland
Pete Wishart
"…The battle over IP rights, monetisation of the net and the tension between content creators and distributors is what consumes the creative hub of London. Scotland has to get engaged in this debate and we must stake our place in the ever shifting sands of this new environment. …"
http://petewishart.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/why-there-is-no-going-back-for-creative-scotland/

We outlined our concerns to the SNP's Westminster spokersperson on Culture regarding IPR and debt-exploitation, having rasied them in the 2008 artists' briefing paper:
http://www.variant.org.uk/events/art+labour/future.pdf 
Extracting the Value

We believe that Creative Scotland will look to generate income streams (for itself) through the exploitation of cultural institutions and cultural workers, particularly through increasing the burden of debt. Increasingly, they will be treated as the consumer base for a new financialised system of commercial ‘creative’ exploitation - indebting artists and organisations whilst exploiting retention of Intellectual Property Rights.

NESTA was the outcome of such an exploration of copyright- and profit-orientated approaches to ‘investment’ - “set up with Lottery funding to help people turn bright ideas into products, services or techniques with social and commercial benefit”. NESTA advocates its retention of patent rights for intellectual property resulting from publicly funded work and the wider state exploitation of IPR. This is a significant shift from previous public sector models of support (however partial and problematic they continue to be with regard to elite power and their exercise of cultural taste) to a commercial model of exploitation still ultimately based on monopoly power.

“ [T]he cultural industries are seen as complex value chains where profit is extracted at key nodes in the chain through control of production investment and distribution and the key “creative” labour is exploited not, as in the classic Marxist analysis of surplus value, through the wage bargain, but through contracts determining the distribution of profits to various rights holders negotiated between parties with highly unequal power (Caves 2000). [For example, through the exploitation of Intellectual Property Right, as NESTA advocates & promotes] ... [T]he political economy approach placed its major emphasis on the technologies of distribution, on the ways in which key economic and regulatory debates were to be seen as struggles over access to distribution under shifting technological conditions without any necessary effect on either the nature of the product being distributed or the relation with the audience. In particular, this analysis stressed the ways in which the profits of the whole process were returned to controllers of technological distribution systems rather than to the original producers of the cultural products or services.”

(‘From Cultural to Creative Industries: An analysis of the implications of the “creative industries” approach to arts and media policy making in the United Kingdom’, Nicholas Garnham, International Journal of Cultural Policy Vol 11, No. 1 2005)

Liberal MSP Jeremy Purvis challenged Fabiani over the “provision to provide loans for business enterprise, although we still do not know how that will be delivered, or, indeed, what priority the new organisation will give to business support -- as opposed to acting as a grant- making organisation for arts bodies -- as there must be some form of financial assistance and there will be a cost in creative Scotland providing such services.” Indeed, a significant aspect of the financial crisis has been “financial institutions that aren’t banks from a regulatory point of view but nonetheless perform banking functions.” (Guardian Weekend, Dec 6 2008) It is doubtful a coincidence that Ewan Brown, an ex-banker complicit in ‘greed is good’ demutualisation and deregulation of financial services, has been placed in charge of overseeing Creative Scotland Ltd and its metamorphosis.

Crunch

If Creative Scotland mirrors other European models, and given what the Culture Minister has said to date, the likelihood is that in Scotland, too, there will be significant financial pressure to replace grants with a system of credit or loans for both artists and organisations. Adopting an exploitative commercial model for ‘creative’ production would immediately place Creative Scotland at ideological odds with cultural organisations and services in Scotland established as not-for-profit. Furthermore, given the economic climate is predicted to worsen, such a move is sure to be ruinous for the organisations and infrastructure reliant on grant funding. There is evidence. A credit/loans system for arts organisation has only recently been tried and tested in Europe, before the height of the credit crunch. It failed. The Catalan Department of Creative Industries is currently under investigation for their calamity.
As the state seeks to reorganise and in part withdraw its already limited forms of public sector support and economically mobilise culture, cultural institutions are being given the task of attracting inward investment and contributing to cultural tourism and urban regeneration.
[…]
It is widely accepted that a cause of the current financial crisis was the rampant free-market exploitation of debt/ credit and the introduction of speculation and risk into an otherwise marginally more stable affair. With regard to Creative Scotland, we can detect no acknowledgement of this global tectonic shift and the deepening international financial crisis, and how it will affect artists in Scotland.
[ends]
………
What follow are our exchanges with Pete Wishart at that time - he was encouraging all to waft past those "stale" debates on policy and structure which were raising opposition to the (cross-party) neo-liberalisation plans for Creative Scotland:
………
19 January 2009

Been following with interest your campaigning on Creative Scotland

But I do note in your petition a concern about intellectual property rights. I was wondering what they specifically are? I am a co-chair of the all party group on IP and I take a great deal of interest in this issue. I am also serving on a Parliamentary group looking at IP three years on from Gowers. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gowers_Review_of_Intellectual_Property]

You will be aware that IP is nearly exclusively reserved to Westminster, and Holyrood has Very little, if any, responsibilities on IP. Look forward to hearing what your concerns are and if they can be addressed. 

I have also recently written an article on why I believe it is imperative that the Creative industries/economy sit with the traditional artistic disciplines on the new body which featured in Fridays Scotsman.

Cheers
Pete Wishart MP
………
19 January 2009

Hi Pete

As so little of anything concrete publicly exists regarding Creative Scotland, other than the repeated platitudes, it's very difficult to respond in detail other than to express the concerns we already have and to ask for more detail so that those concerns might be allayed.

It would be a great help if you and / or the Culture Minister could provide the details of the Transition Team's examination (or any other Creative Scotland / Scottish Arts Council / Scottish Screen discussions or consultancy work) of IPR and exactly what Creative Scotland's position will be on IPR? Not least how this relates to the models of IPR exploitation as proposed and exemplified by NESTA?

NESTA was the outcome of an exploration of copyright- and profit-orientated approaches to ‘investment’ -- “set up with Lottery funding to help people turn bright ideas into products, services or techniques with social and commercial benefit”. NESTA advocates its retention of patent rights for intellectual property resulting from publicly funded work and the wider state exploitation of IPR. The Scottish Arts Council has just put out a consultancy tender for "The 21st Century financing for the arts and creative industries in Scotland Study", does the exploitation of IPR feature in this consultancy?

Given the Transition Team appear to have lifted wholesale NESTA's definition of 'Creative Industries', it would also be of benefit to know who associated, directly or indirectly, with NESTA the Transition Team consulted / met with, how frequently and what was discussed, and how influential NESTA have been on the thinking underpinning Creative Scotland?

………
Scotsman - Pete Wishart - Creative Scotland Debate

The relationship between artists and funding bodies is often a rocky one, and a recent petition by the Scottish Artists Union on the subject of Creative Scotland has naturally sparked much attention.

The artists’ concerns seem to relate to the period of transition in the formation of Creative Scotland, and I know that Linda Fabiani, the Minister for Culture, has offered to meet with the SAU to discuss the matters they raise directly.

Constructive debate is of course an essential part of government, though, in my view the campaign against the inclusion of the Creative Industries in the new body is entirely wrong headed, and completely misses the point over what the establishment of Creative Scotland is about.

There should be absolutely no tension whatsoever between support for our traditional artistic disciplines and the creative industries. Indeed it is absolutely imperative that they each inform the other. There can be no creative industry without our artists, designers and the musicians. And indeed, what is an art gallery if not a creative industry, and what can the sale of a painting be called other than creative enterprise.
Where it is essential that we retain the hands off approach to artistic endeavour (and both enjoy and fund art for arts sake) we must properly understand and appreciate the future role of our creative industries and understand the centrality of artists and creators in that process.

This is important because we may be heading into a new industrial reorganisation on the scale of the 1980’s. Then it was the heavy industries that suffered terminal decline. What replaced them in Scotland was of course financial services. The credit crunch and down turn of the late noughties means Scotland is again adapting to a new economic future. We will need something new to assist the Scottish economy – step forward our creative industries.

It strikes me that our creative industries can be Scotland’s way out of the downturn, they already support 60,000 jobs and contribute over £4 billion to the wealth of Scotland. In Scotland we excel in the creative industries. Being innovative and creative is in fact a traditional Scottish skill.
We should be placing what we do in our creative industries in a line that goes all the way back to the great Scottish inventions and achievements of the past. Our artistic, cultural and creative industries can be properly rooted in recognising our history of fantastic creative and unique cultural output. 21st century Scotland has great artists, musicians and creators, and Creative Scotland is an opportunity to attract and retain talent, where the arts and our creative community are supported and celebrated - and ensure that their contribution to the economy is maximised.

In Scotland we excel in Digital Media, broadcasting and design. Our ambition must be to be a European hub for creative enterprise and that means a European hub for culture and the arts.

Siting our creative industries alongside our artists is surely how we achieve this. To do that it is important that we continue with the establishment of Creative Scotland and move away from debates over whether it goes ahead to the much more important debate about defining its context and hinterland.
Working together, we have the opportunity to transform for the better the landscape for investment in our art, artists and creative organisations. Creative Scotland is a bold initiative which will equip Scotland with a dedicated organisation capable of driving vision and organisational support at a time when creativity is vital to Scotland's cultural self-confidence and international reputation.
Our artistic and cultural talent deserve an energetic and strategic cultural development body that is fit for the 21st century. I have no doubt that, given the chance, Creative Scotland can deliver that excellence – and we should all engage constructively in the debate about our vision for the cultural future of Scotland.

ENDS
………
27 January 2009

Thanks for that. Firstly the work of NESTA is fantastic and has also recently been beefed up with the UK Government's creative industries strategy. I don't know the answer to your question about who from the transition team discussed these issues with NESTA but will attempt to find out. You should also be aware of the work of Skillset Scotland who are proposing some very good suggestions about promoting the value of intellectual property.

Probably more critically is the totality of the IP framework most recently defined by the Gowers Report. My all party group have been unravelling Gowers to see if it is properly equipped to cope with the new demands of the creative economy and this report will be published in the spring. Unfortunatly the Scottish Parliament does not have the powers to legislate on IPR, and Creative Scotland will be very much dependent on what comes out of Westminster.

However NESTA themselves identify Scotland as a hot spot for creativity and recognise the fantastic work being done in Scotland. This is why I think it is imperative that the Creative Industries sit alongside the traditional artistic disciplines on Creative Scotland (the subject of my Scotsman article). Scotland can become a European hub for the creative industries and this has to be our ambition, but other small nations are really starting to get their act together and we must keep pace.

I am totally relaxed that Creative Scotland is a thin bill and think that this is a good thing. The new body has to grow organically and if we over prescribe for it now before it gets going we may be compromising its potential and ability to innovate.

I know that change is difficult and there are anxieties but we must be careful not to fill the sector with unecessary despondency. Scotland has great opportunities and we are supremely placed to take advantage of our unique place. What I want more than anything is to get over this debate about structures and boards and get to the important stuff about contexts and visions.

Hope this helps.

Pete Wishart
………
28 January 2009

Hi Pete

Attached as a PDF is a recent academic report on NESTA. It's a very neutral and timely analysis of NESTA's flawed methodological approach. You should read it. Unfortunately it deals with the real-life boring stuff of does-it-do-what-it-says-it-does -- sorry if this in any way inconveniences your "visions". I always found hard facts a preferable grounding to wishful thinking, as the problems of the Catalan Department of Creative Industries are testimony to, especially when you're dallying with mine and others' livelihoods and the entire creative base of Scotland.

The Catalan Department of Creative Industries is currently under investigation for their calamity over the introduction of loans for arts organisations. Below are links to three articles (in spanish) regarding the problems the Department is having getting the money back it distributed in the form of repayable credit / loans:
- The first one, is an article written by the current director, in which he tries to explain the situation. He writes (roughly) : "We conceived the refundable contribution [credit / loans] system as a way to have financial participation in market driven cultural projects and, therefore, be subject to enterprise risk. We tried to introduce a risk culture into a sector that used to function through public subsidies." ["De entrada, la aportación reintegrable se concebía como un mecanismo de participación financiera en un proyecto cultural orientado al mercado y, por tanto, sujeto a un cierto riesgo empresarial. De algún modo, se intentaba introducir en la cultura del riesgo a una estructura empresarial más avezada a la subvención pública."]
http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cataluna/ayudas/ICIC/industria/cultural/elpepiespcat/20081101elpcat_26/Tes
- The second article talks about how an investigation is being initiated into the Department:
http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cataluna/Sindicatura/halla/anomalias/mayor/parte/ayudas/Cultura/elpepiespcat/20081021elpcat_9/Tes
- And the third talks about how they are trying to reconceptualize the loans back into subsidies as they can't track many of the people who received them -- who quite simply can't pay them back anyway:
http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cataluna/PSC/minimiza/irregularidades/subvenciones/Cultura/elpepiespcat/20081112elpcat_9/Tes

[English translations are now available here: http://www.variant.org.uk/events/art+labour/CatalanLoan.pdf ]

You might also want to have a read of 'The creativity fix' by Jamie Peck: "Creativity strategies have been crafted to co-exist with urban social problems, not to solve them," writes Peck. "It should come as no surprise, then, that the creative capitals exhibit higher rates of socioeconomic inequality than other cities." http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2007-06-28-peck-en.html

As others talk of the failure of governmental regulation and oversight, it seriously worries me that you are "relaxed" with regard to how Creative Scotland might "innovate". Something similarly redolent of Thatcherism was said of the finance industry not so long ago. As is becoming increasingly clear, it is in that area of exploitation Creative Scotland is truly intended to "innovate". And fostering a culture of carelessness with regard to markets is not reassuring. To your credit, you did steer clear of the phrase "light touch".

Though I note, where actually warranted, the Scottish Government are more reticent about upholding the "arms length principle" -- as in the Scottish Government carving out greater budgetary influence over cultural provision by ring-fencing the 'Creative Scotland Innovation Fund' for ad hoc "new government priorities". Currently, it is the Scottish Arts Council's role to determine what percentage of its budget is spent where and not for ministers to dictate. In this way it adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression..."

While you encourage everyone else to waft past those "stale" debates about structures, those that know how power works on the inside, such as the Edinburgh finance/legal/property industry, are evidently quite keen to have those discussions you so readily dismiss: The outline for a panel discussion “Copyright – Credit Crunch Asset” (no question mark) organised in the heart of Edinburgh's finance services industry, just popped into my email box (please see details below). Again, this comes back to the question of democratic oversight, rather than unaccountable ad hoc lobby groups with ties to the finance industry having the ear of government. To misquote: to lose one economy to the financial sector may be regarded as a mistake; to lose another looks like negligence.

So, we maintain that in the interests of clarity and transparency, as well as the consultation that the entire arts sector is crying out for, Creative Scotland should not be included in the Public Services Reform Bill but undergo the rightful parliamentary scrutiny it deserves, which can only be achieved as a separate Bill. That there is now no impediment to the reintroduction of the Creative Scotland legislation, and, since the Public Services Reform Bill has been delayed by the addition of instructions that we are told have nothing to do with Creative Scotland, reintroduction as the Creative Scotland Bill is now the faster and more progressive option -- it might even restore a little 'blue sky' confidence in the process you are so keen to see. This would also not precipitate the scrutiny that the Culture Minister has said is the principal advantage of the legislative route, and would provide the debate craved by the entire arts sector and also protect the future cultural agency, should it come to pass, from claims of illegitimacy.

It also worries me that you say "other small nations are really starting to get their act together and we must keep pace", just as Iceland's parliament collapses, following its economy -- not something I'm keen to keep pace with; nor with Catalonia's immiseration  and endebtment of artists. Ireland : first among the 15 nations that use the euro to officially fall into recession. Before you go off on a tangent to Norway, let's be clear: to have the Social Democratic gains of Norway requires the Social Democratic system of Norway -- you cannot 'graft' Social Democratic gains onto a neoliberal market economy. It's not a Woolworths' pic-n-mix bankruptcy sale. And you won't distract from the negative effects of neoliberalism by ratcheting up a deleterious competitive nationalism.

In one sense you are right about catching up with our neighbours:

A couple of years ago Marita Muukkonen of the Finland art magazine FRAME, and formerly of the arts institute NIFCA, wrote: “Looking at recent policy and political developments in arts and culture in Finland and the EU it becomes clear that cultural-political instrumentalisation and economisation is infused with nationalist and protectionist tendencies, and that is a growing concern.” Marita also worryingly identified the strengthening tendency of the transformation of cultural politics into cultural economics, the idea of arts and culture as a competitive factor of national economic growth. Evidently, it didn't protect Finland from the financial melt down. You can find a PDF of Marita's paper here: http://www.variant.org.uk/events/MM_Market.pdf

Also, Be[com]ing Dutch: "A two-year project developed both inside and outside the Van Abbemuseum, which consists of debates, reading groups, artist's projects, exhibitions, residencies, and forms of collective participation and production. As questions of cultural identity and normative 'national' values become ever more of an issue in political and cultural debate, Be[com]ing Dutch asks whether art can offer alternative examples of thinking about how we can live together today. Be[com]ing Dutch seeks to put our ideas of cultural identity under pressure and examine the process of inclusion and exclusion in the world today."

Or, Translocal Express. Jubilee Edition: "An international seminar in the series of Public Preparation events addressing the growing tendencies of nationalism on Eastern borders of Europe (from Helsinki to Istanbul) and its relation to contemporary art. ... Translocal Express. Jubilee Edition takes place in parallel with the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, aiming to turn attention to alternative ways of how to think about society in the era of global democracy as a counterperspective to the narrow nationalist mindsets that are dominant in contemporary Estonia."

Or, Rethinking Nordic Colonialism: "A Postcolonial Exhibition Project in Five Acts. Curated by Kuratorisk Aktion for NIFCA, Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, the project combined exhibitions with workshops, conferences, hearings, and happenings in the locations of Reykjavik (Iceland), Nuuk (Greenland), Tórshavn (The Faroe Islands), Rovaniemi (Finnish Sápmi), Copenhagen (Denmark), Helsinki (Finland), Oslo (Norway), and Stockholm (Sweden). Fifty-six internationally recognized artists, theorists, politicians, and grassroots activists from all over the world participated in the project and exchanged colonial and postcolonial experiences and strategies during its course. Together, they examined why this past has been forgotten and how it continues to reproduce itself as waves of intolerance, xenophobia, and nationalism."

If it truly is the 'contest' you describe, isn’t it time we at least caught up with our northerly and eastern neighbours and started to publicly discuss equally searching questions about the manifestations of competitive nationalism and its inter-relationship with a discredited free market ideology? Or should their publics be better equipped than ours to understand their global situation; their democratic systems more attuned to a healthy, functioning public sphere? Using the economic crisis as an excuse to stifle debate isn't what I thought of as the Enlightenment tradition.

So you are also quite right about needing context:

There is an urgent need to contextualise Creative Scotland with regard to deeper policy issues such as the paradoxical responses to the financial crisis, a crisis which has discredited the 'Anglo-American' model of finance-led capitalism, yet the Scottish Government continue to pursue the main planks of that neoliberal agenda, including labour market 'reforms', privatisation, and financialisation as is exemplified in what we know of the proposals for Creative Scotland. The Creative Scotland profit-orientated approach to culture / information management belong to a pre- financial collapse set of cultural / developmental policies peddled by the likes of the Bush-era Richard Florida, and new Labour's Demos and NESTA. Florida's lazy but influential theory that cities can reverse sinking fortunes by becoming fashionable magnets for a mobile, trendy elite was never the case -- in Europe this gentrification mostly hinged on public sector disinvestment via property speculation, which has brought its own problems, and which is precisely why we have Glasgow City Council's current cash-crisis. Not only was it reliant on an unstable property bubble, but it relied on disinvestment of a finite public resource -- once you've no assets of any worth left to strip, then what? John Swinney is recently reported as saying taxpayers are losing out on millions of pounds because public bodies are carrying out "irresponsible" land sales while prices tumble during the recession. Is he wrong? But what policy have GCC got other than Florida's candy floss which is found severely wanting? So hardly political models I would expect a progressive Social Democratic Scottish Government to be tagging on to.

I was also hoping the "change is difficult" pseudo-psychology was just contained to new Labour's happiness industry assault on the poor, but it seems either contagious or too convenient a tool, and that, I'm afraid, does fill me with despondency.

[Notes / attachments]

Artists and art schools: for or against innovation? A reply to NESTA
by Angela McRobbie and Kirsten Forkert, Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths
http://www.variant.org.uk/34texts/NESTA34.html

Wednesday 25 February – Edinburgh – 6pm – (Coffee 5.45pm) – at Anderson Strathern LLP, 1 Rutland Court, Edinburgh (£5 per head)
“Copyright – Credit Crunch Asset”
Speakers: Simon Brown, Partner, Anderson Strathern LLP [who are hosting it] and Professors Simon Frith and Hector MacQueen, both of University of Edinburgh
Simon Frith is Tovey Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh and chairs the judges of the Mercury Music Prize.  He co-edited Music and Copyright (Edinburgh University Press 2004) and is currently directing an AHRC funded research project on the promotion of live music in Britain. Hector MacQueen, Professor of Private Law, as RSA Fellows know, was closely involved in IP issues and the RSA’s Adelphi Charter. He publishes widely on issues of public, IP, copyright and design law.  Simon Brown is a partner with Anderson Strathern and is on the Board of Publishing Scotland.