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.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

CREATIVE SCOTLAND - DISTINCTION DISRUPTED

Recently, a letter signed by 100 of Scotland's cultural 'great-and-guid' complained about Creative Scotland to its Chair, Sir Sandy Crombie (Senior Independent Director of the Royal Bank of Scotland) for its "lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture".[i] Yet the stance taken is 'this isn't political'. The disruption being contested by this 'interest coalition' is, instead, an issue of management competency and of CEOs being from outwith an intimate construction of 'community of belonging' – not something more purposeful. For them, here in public at least, such disruption is certainly not indicative of the neoliberal policies of the devolved Scottish state "in the service of global economic competitiveness".[ii]

In what should have better been a discussion concerning the more equitable distribution of public resources, much creative labour is inevitably absented instead.[iii] Worryingly, what's advocated by the signatories as underpinning state administration of Culture is a move from a system of faux-meritocracy ('talent') to a lodging of authenticity ('Scottishness')...

In 1994 the Scottish Arts Council launched 'Towards a National Cultural Strategy'. Fast forward through waves of consultants' graft, chaperoning by bankers[iv] outwith regulatory oversight[v], much 'sectoral' hand-wringing, and we arrive today at Creative Scotland (CS).

As part of a much promoted Scottish government 'bonfire of the Quangos', CS is the merger and re-organisation of Scottish Screen and Scottish Arts Council following a Europe-wide 'creative industries' policy script. Historically contingent, this mobile script does not manifest itself the same everywhere, but we can recognise it as not being unique to Scotland either. It concerns the strengthening tendency of an overly celebratory transformation from cultural to creative enterprise – whereby the processes of arts and culture are harnessed as a competitive factor of national economic growth. What emerges is the fuller integration of the aesthetic disciplines into the nation's economic production of value.

Other countries' experiences of these processes might then be relevant to understanding the structural reorganisation now occurring in Scotland – not least countries undergoing contested and reformulated nationalist assertions of identity in a contemporary European context. Experiences such as:

• the role that assertions of national identity have in informing the economising of culture and the policies that shape it;

• the impacts on cultural equality and on communicative freedom, in the context of the cultural-economic policy approaches of 'competitive nationalism' (whereby aspects of life and identity, including education, arts, sports and culture, are harnessed as factors of national economic advantage).

Signposting the shift to a 'service delivery' model of provision and 'single purpose' realignment of culture to enhance the economy, CS was legislated for via the Public Services Reform bill (2010). Through this, the state structure necessary to protect certain interests, and which was responsive to and generative of those interests, is being recast. But no single policy script acts alone. CS sits across and is responsive to different policy influences, like those the Arts Councils had to address, e.g. 'Social Inclusion'.

Underpinning reorganisation is the assumption that Scotland's institutions are not competitive enough; that they are, in part, the reason for economic stagnation. What's needed therefore is some 'flexibility' and 'innovation' in the system – the freedom for the state to experiment with different ideas of institutional organisation in practice. In popularist narrative this gets shortened to 'creativity' and 'entrepreneurialism'; the magic bullet to stagnation. These are necessarily attributed positive attitudes, values and behaviours.

In order to 'stimulate innovation' in the economy, CS seeks to induce competition so as to 'positively' disrupt what are perceived as too-closed 'constellations of opportunity'. This disruptive competition will enable wider market access to resources, which are thought to be held too tightly by too static a set of interest groups (e.g., the list of signatories above). What's needed is a different set of gatekeepers, shapers and influencers in order to dislodge the existing ones and free everything up. This is the overt managerial authority CS will take on: overseeing 'tendering processes', 'franchises' and 'strategic commissioning' of services. In the name of market freedom, inevitably we experience increasing state centralisation as regards 'Culture'.[vi] This marshalling of state production of symbolic value uniquely chimes with the forthcoming independence referendum – helping to make-concrete the assumptions of a nation-state 'oneness of will' in the context of nationalist production of space:

"Through the structuring it imposes on practices, the State institutes and inculcates common symbolic forms of thought, social frames of perception, understanding or memory, State forms of classification or, more precisely, practical schemes of perception, appreciation and action."[vii]

Not all institutions need be shaken up in this way. The large National cultural institutions had already been removed from Scottish Arts Council charge in 2006 by the (then) Scottish Executive and placed under its 'direct responsibility'. More importantly, in 2010, activity bundled together through cross-party support under the moniker of Traditional Arts was exempted from such overt market competition under the protection of  a cultural Scottishness – though very much governed within a diaspora/ancestry/heritage-tourism nexus.

CS is both the manifestation of policy and the mechanism through which policy is projected. It performs to and also shapes policy within the bill's legislative framework. This framework’s definitions "task Creative Scotland with making real and bringing to fruition the value and benefits of the arts and culture in Scotland [including] in terms of unlocking creative and entrepreneurial potential ... for example, by encouraging commercial banks to better understand the economic potential of the arts and culture."[viii]

CS is doing what it's set up to do – as has been seen in policy developments in Finland[ix] for example. There is an international travelling set of policy concerns, which we might learn from. This means looking beyond our own opportunism and constructions of victimhood with regard to wider struggles for social and economic justice.

But whatever the actual international experiences of this competitive 'solution' to economic stagnation, paradoxically CS does identify a very real set of conflicts in inequality of cultural provision and communication. This sits in contrast to those who have self-pronounced their guardianship of 'Scottish culture', and foregrounded a positive consensualism attributable to a unified set of common interests.

This is about the social and economic relations of cultural production, where special interest groups of unequal power do compete over scarce resources of society . This is done, consciously or not, to gain advantages over others, including advantages of distinction. Such groups are not fully static but are more dynamic and overlapping constellations formed around accruing cultural capital and labour opportunity; “products of rationalized social construction [that] lack [fully] social solidarity”.[x]

Those who residually dominate now face disruption of their intra- and extra-relations, and seek the continuity of their previous, comparatively stable, forms of patronage. Yet there's a self-flattering misunderstanding in 'the arts' that CS remains solely or even primarily an arts funder; assigning value judgments in contradiction to the economising role CS is tasked to do by Scottish government.[xi]

Partly it's a question of the processes by which whose creative labour gets valorised, whose is defended and expanded, and whose is devalorised in struggles for distinction. The state is no neutral arbiter disinterestedly representing everyone's interests. In the past the business of the state was more fully that of those cultural brokers and producers who are still in a relative position of authority to aggregate and voice disaffection. In doing so, 'arms-length' state agencies facilitated a particular dominance in the means of cultural production and communication. It is these class-structuring effects of state power which are being recomposed under the vision of the competitive nation.

It might, then, be insightful to expose the artists' (sic - an unfaithful reduction of those agitating beyond view) letter to a critique of similarly liberal 'anti-market' ideology with regard to the exploitation of Higher Education:

"[Hayward] argued that that ideology appears by virtue of its enlightened sneering to oppose 'markets' and to resist their undesirable 'social outcomes'; but that in fact the ideology does not oppose markets but instead contents itself with a polite request that the university be cordoned off from their operations. This doesn't work. The ideology does not deserve to be repudiated because it is 'reformist' but because it has a class basis. That is to say, it assumes that the 'values' which it wishes to protect ought to be protected only within the university and therefore (if implicitly) only on behalf of those who have access to it."[xii]

A convenient myth advanced for something called Scottish culture is of a left-field set of shared values. With this we're increasingly seeing the notion of class 'ethnicised' – Étienne Balibar's identification of the ignoring of class within ethnicity as if 'ethnic groups' are not fractured by class like everyone else.[xiii] However, cultural leadership agendas[xiv] have taken a distinct turn in Scotland. Contra the notion put forward of damage being done to a pre-existing Cultural Scottishness, this leadership agenda has been formative in embedding an economic 'elite' in public institutions involved in state production of symbolic value (facilitating entrepreneurial behavioural reform through 'infrastructural power'). This is nation-state formation at work – the reassuring of specific class interest through tying them in with the production of a 'competitive' Scottish nationhood.

It may then be revealing to consider recent disquiet as a conflict over relations of authority granted by the state to exercise sovereignty over property rights – to exclude, regulate, or attach significance to aesthetic practice. It's a struggle over values and claims to status (prestige) and scarce resources. It's about establishing a relationship of domination and subordination. This is the basis of conflict. The object of such conflict is the status quo and the consequences of change under the conditions of competitive nationalism.

To take the position in this transformation that CS is something externally inflicted is to deny agency; to deny the self-interest, opportunism and politicking in the processes upon which CS is contingent. A weak, emotive narrative of injured or embattled 'Scottishness' doesn't cut it. Complaints of incompetent or insensitive management is to miss or bury the point.[xv]

We are, rather, caught in the midst of various forms of neoliberal enclosure and restructuring. These are seen by competing individuals, networks and agencies to offer openings for a range of agendas, seeking to gain purchase on institutional structures. It is precisely these meshing of egoistic interests that effaces any significant debate about the underlying antagonisms in Scotland's cultural policy: "how judgements of taste are related to the social position of actors and associated with struggles for distinction."[xvi]


Leigh French, 26.10.12


Notes

[i] See, http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2012/oct/09/open-letter-creative-scotland
[ii] 'Competitive nationalism: state. class, and the forms of capital in devolved Scotland', Alex Law, Gerry Mooney, Environment & Planning C: Government & Policy 2012, vol.30
[iii] Lending itself to 'heroic originators' - Bourdieu's criticisms of a "charismatic ideology of ‘creation’", which "directs the gaze towards the apparent producer and prevents us from asking who has created this 'creator' and the magic power of transubstantiation with which the 'creator' is endowed".
[iv] Ewan Brown (Lloyds TSB) was chairman of the company set up to establish Creative Scotland when it had no regulatory oversight, along with Chris Masters (Wood Group) and current board member Peter Cabrelli (HBOS). Sir Sandy Crombie (Standard Life, RBS) is Chair of Creative Scotland.
[v] http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/herald-letters/letters-saturday-20-february-2010-1.1007921
[vi] Another facet is CS's own cronyism in the absences of its asserted marketisation and personnel not disentangled from former collegial networks, including the retention of interests manifested in previous art form specialisms.
[vii] Pierre Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations (Polity Press: Cambridge, 2000), quoted in 'Competitive nationalism: state, class, and the forms of capital in devolved Scotland', Alex Law, Gerry Mooney, Environment & Planning C: Government & Policy 2012, vol.30
[viii] http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S3_Bills/Creative%20Scotland%20Bill/b7s3-introd.pdf
[ix] Marita Muukkonen, 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place : The Possibilities for Contemporary Art Institutions to Function as Critical Political Spaces', paper, Public Preparation, Translocal Express, Tallinn, Estonia, 2007
[x] Critical Art Ensemble, 'Observations on Collective Cultural Action', Variant 15 Summer 2002, http://www.variant.org.uk/15texts/cae.html
[xi] http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S3_Bills/Creative%20Scotland%20Bill/b7s3-introd.pdf
[xii] Danny Hayward, ‘Adventures in the Sausage Factory’: http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/adventures-sausage-factory-cursory-overview-uk-university-struggles-november-2010-–-july-2011
[xiii] Étienne Balibar, Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities (Verso: London, 1992)
[xiv] Where greater emphasis has been placed on the centrality of ‘leadership’, and where ‘leaders’ increasingly move to manage the arts from the finance, insurance, real estate, and legal sectors. See also, Kirsten Forkert, 'Artist as Executive, Executive as Artist', Variant 35 Summer 2009, http://www.variant.org.uk/35texts/CultLeader.html
[xv] Naomi Klein: 'Wall St. Crisis Should Be for Neoliberalism What Fall of Berlin Wall Was for Communism', http://www.democracynow.org/2008/10/6/naomi_klein
[xvi] Andrew Sayer, 'Valuing Culture and Economy', in Culture and Economy After the Cultural Turn
eds Larry Ray, Andrew Sayer (Sage: London, 1999), http://www.cddc.vt.edu/digitalfordism/fordism_materials/sayer.htm

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

a labour struggle for distinction?


A follow up on my previous comment to @jenmcgregor:

I’ve tried follow up on others’ suggestion elsewhere to consider this a labour dispute, and to then position conflict within that. The following’s still more a map of concerns, but I wanted to post it now as I don’t know if I’ll be able to look at it again ahead of the 26th October Edinburgh event:

What’s going on involves a struggle for distinction amongst competing interest groups (which form ‘constellations of opportunity’) in them reacting to Scottish government restructuring (of which Creative Scotland is but a part) based on an international ‘creative industries’ (development/growth) policy script that’s contingent on local histories and contexts.
This policy script doesn’t act alone, rather Creative Scotland sits across and is responsive to different policy influences – as SAC was to e.g. Social Inclusion.
The disruptive transition of restructuring is also experienced by staff across Creative Scotland as an organisation itself – as not disentangled from collegial networks which manifested with/through the art form specialisms of SAC/ SS.
The state structure, that was necessary to protect certain interests, and which was responsive to and generative of those interests, is being recast – this was legislated for via the Public Services Reform bill (2010) and from which (as well as decades of private consultation, and as nurtured into being by bankers) Creative Scotland and its market definition was the outcome.
(The cultural ‘Leadership’ agenda perhaps takes a slightly different turn in Scotland; contra the notion of a ‘damaged cultural Scottishness’, it’s been formative in embedding a string of the Scottish political/economic elite in public institutions involved in state production of symbolic value – it’s state formation at work, in reassuring those class interests and tying them in with an independent Scottish state’s production. Though such a view hardly fits with the ‘class racism’ that we’re all lefties in the arts in Scotland — i.e. Étienne Balibar’s identification of the ignoring of class within ethnicity as if ethnic groups are not fractured by class like everyone else, arguing that the notion of class is ‘ethnicised’.)
These are state processes throughout which the distribution of power and authority is uneven, which is the basis of conflict.
The object of such conflict is the status quo and the consequences of change.
Lewis Coser defined conflict as‚ “a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources”.
Randall Collins believes there are certain ‘goods’ that every group wants to pursue, including ‘prestige’.
Which is where I locate the recent self-selecting pronouncement on the parameters of “Scottish culture” – where worryingly we appear to be moving from faux-meritocracy (‘talent’) to a lodging of authenticity (‘Scottishness’).
Much creative labour is not simply excluded but actually absented from such an intimate construction of ‘community of belonging’, as a constellation of relatively-closed (though not static) ‘familial’ network enterprises – hence disciplinary notions of moral ‘disloyalty’. Whereas solidarity is a political process not a consanguine command.
These are the conflicts between inter-groups and intra-groups that are part of social life.
(Some of this is necessarily abrupt in its brevity – for a more nuanced definition of conflict, I found the short section of notes on Bourdieu here useful: “Bourdieu refuses that agents act according to explicit norms or rules, rather it is the shared conditions of existence which produce certain inclinations of practical action, where events are met in the world with certain inclinations and dispositions shaping the specific action undertaken.”)
So this is about the social and economic relations of cultural production, where different groups continue to have unequal power. Given these power differences, special interest groups compete over scarce resources of society – consciously/ intentionally or not, it is to gain advantages over others, including advantages of distinction. There are also, however, differences in power and opinions within and across each ‘group’.
These ‘groups’ are, rather, better described as not fully static but more dynamic and overlapping constellations formed around accruing cultural capital and labour opportunity; “products of rationalized social construction [that] lack [fully] social solidarity”.
“To complicate matters further, different individuals enter these groups with differing levels of access to resources. Those with the greatest resources tend to have a larger say in group activities. Consequently, minorities form that feel underrepresented and powerless to compete with majoritarian views and methods. (Too often, these minorities reflect the same minoritarian structure found in culture as a whole). … Oddly enough, the worst-case scenario is not group annihilation, but the formation of a Machiavellian power base that tightens the bureaucratic rigor in order to purge the group of malcontents, and to stifle difference.” Critical Art Ensemble, ‘Observations on Collective Cultural Action’ – Variant, issue 15, Summer 2002
So we can see that it’s a conflict based on inequality of existing power relations – an understanding necessarily backed-up here by CAE. Groups and individuals advance their own interests, struggling over control of societal resources.
The resulting social disruption of these groups’ intra- and extra-relations is but one manifestation of latent conflict serving to create a new balance of authority. (Even in attempting to reassert old ties.) This is an ongoing process. It concerns incremental social change in adjustment to shifts in the underlying balance of constellations of power.
‘Destabalisation’ of what are perceived as too-closed constellations of interest, as is being pursued via CS, is thought to ‘stimulate innovation’ in the economy.
Whatever the actual international experiences of this neoliberal competitive ‘solution’ to perceived stagnation, paradoxically CS does actually identify a very real set of conflicts in inequality of cultural provision – one which remains contrary to the ‘status quo’-framing of politics as merely a managerial task involving the identification of consensus.
The State is not some neutral organ that equitably represents everyone’s interests. When the business of the state was more fully that of those cultural brokers and producers who are still in a relative position of authority to aggregate and voice disaffection, it also facilitated a particular dominance in means of cultural production.
In that sense it can be considered a conflict over property rights – a right granted by the state to authoritatively exercise sovereignty over property: to exclude others from it or to regulate them in its use. That property which is socially significant establishes a relationship of domination and subordination among people. So it can be considered a conflict over relations of authority at the state level; a struggle over state power and control of property rights.
(Re Nicholas Garnham: “the 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.” Which is why the W.A.G.E. campaign remains highly partial and so limited.)
There is no neutral, explanatory position; no objectivity and detachment of ‘disinterestedness’ – it’s about actively defending advantages or contesting disadvantages (real and perceived).
Such conflicts and power struggles are everywhere; something that always conditions human existence and interaction.
Suffice to say here, neoliberalism is a programme that gained its strength from various alliances, ranging from the economic and political fields, to the academic and cultural fields.
What we experience then is that we are caught in the midst of various forms of neoliberal enclosure and restructuring, which is seen by competing individuals, networks and agencies to offer openings for a range of agendas seeking to gain purchase on institutional structures/ bureaucracies.
In our experience, it is precisely these meshing of egoistic interests that effaces any significant debate of the underlying antagonisms (conflicts) in Scotland’s cultural policy and provision — how it significantly differs from, say, Sweden’s earlier, more social democratic policy before its own neoliberal restructuring. It even acts to efface the previous conflicts before this round of restructuring – as if the discriminative collegial basis of art form specialisms isn’t what current restructuring is reactive to!?
How do we call it out for all of us to see?
To claim the disruption currently experienced as merely, or even primarily, ‘managerial’ is to limit what potential positions we may take up with regard to it. It would be to separate these processes of conflict and transformation from ‘political imagination’ – that is, from our consideration of the organisational forms, objectives and specific issues of the economic struggles of our precarious labour.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

scratch communication competencies

(updated - Sat 20 Oct, 20.09)

A response to:
A Right Stooshie and the Question of ExcellenceBy jenmcgregor
http://jenmcgregor.com/2012/10/11/a-right-stooshie-and-the-question-of-excellence/

Artists' Open Space (26 October 2012) 
http://artistsopenspace.eventbrite.co.uk/
There's a continuing danger in allowing structural reorganisation to be framed as merely 'miscommunication' -- as "communication difficulties" where "Creative Scotland’s senior team wanted to improve its dialogue with the sector and to be viewed as open and responsive" (Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, in Note of Meeting Held on 7/8/12, with the Cultural Alliance ) -- and thereby also any 'solution' to it as merely 'improving' management competencies, as can be seen by the letter of appeal to the CS board and its subsequent response.

It has instead been more constructively (and uniquely) referred to by @ABissett as "what was taking place was not simply a complaint being registered, but an industrial dispute unfolding". 

On it being about conflict, not misunderstanding, as Copenhagen Free University prophetically put it back in 2001:
"With a tradition of truce and consensus politics in Danish society the aesthetic disciplines have been predominately playing along the lines of the state in the reproduction of cultural values. The state […] is convinced of the 'single' common good that can come from the integration of the aesthetic disciplines in the nation's general production of value. Both in terms of cultural and monetarian capital, that is.  Synchronously the state is encouraging all, including the cultural producers, […] to behave with social responsibility and, in general, expects people to express themselves and promote individualised subjectivity. This strategic double bind is the technology of power -- a technology for creating and controlling the voices present in society. Conflicts are explained as misunderstandings and mediated through the panacea of 'dialogue'. - The Committee of 15th July, 2001/Henriette Heise & Jakob Jakobsen
More specific still in problematising a de-politicised, salutary notion of 'dialogue':
“The post-political … describes a space of political operation structured by choices relating to micro-political procedures, administrative apparatuses and technocratic management. Operating wholly within the shrunken coordinates of neoliberalism, political agency is constrained to nothing more than a shadow play where decisions can only tinker with the edges of a system whose core ideological structure remains inviolable”.  - Adrian Lahoud, Post-traumatic Urbanism, Architecture in the Aftermath 
And so as to identify the traps if we are not careful:
"...Rose’s post-structuralist analysis offers the connection between discourse and the ability to create governable subjects. Here, discourse is more than language but rather it denotes a way of acting and behaving. […] this opens up the possibility of exploring how discourse becomes the means of shaping behaviour and that specifically it becomes feasible to create “categories of public that are produced for the purposes of participation”. […] the future is expressed as a consensual understanding; it does so through emphasizing the value of local participation as steering policy. […] As a plethora of studies have shown […] participation, particularly where it is initiated through state-led practices, operates at different levels from the tokenistic to scenarios in which there is a real redistribution of power [...] Realisation of empowered participatory governance […] is the exception; clearly, pre-existing centres of institutional power, urban governments, will be reluctant to devolve decision-making powers substantively. Further, to do so would be to undermine the legitimacy representative modes of democratic practice are able to claim. If politics is the negotiation of conflict, the post-political formation is defined around its antithesis, that politics is a managerial task involving the identification of consensus. Limiting participation to relatively ‘shallow’ forms of democratic engagement averts the problems of conflict." - Ronan Paddison, 'Protest in the Park - Preliminary Thoughts on the Silencing of Democratic Protest in the Neoliberal Age'

As I previously posted in December 2011 on the service delivery model of provision:
With Creative Scotland's continuing opacity, unfolding contradictions (no cuts/ cuts) and informational asymmetry (including drip-feeding rumour of uplifting a few FXOs to Foundation status, since dismissed), to date as practitioners we have mostly tended towards focusing on Creative Scotland's largely unfamiliar (to us) 'language' of Service Delivery while perhaps not yet naming it as such - in part because exploration has taken us to this point of recognising it.In the absence of a cogent explanation from Creative Scotland of the fundamental changes it is effecting and why, our focus on Creative Scotland's unfamiliar language and its alienating effects has been understandable as one of the few (in)tangibles we have.One concern emerging, though, is in appealing to Creative Scotland for it to moderate this language as being the same thing as a change to the new model of provision itself and the Scottish government objectives that underlie it. Again, in part, this may be because we have regularly experienced changes to the lexicon of funding with incremental changes to provision models - e.g. 'Social inclusion' - but nothing as abrupt and all encompassing as what we now experience. (And for this reason comparisons with provision in England may be erroneous.)It may now be time to get to the crux of where that language comes from, what system it is of and what is meant by it, which appears to lead us to analyse what was/is meant by "single purpose government" in Scotland and its assumptions surrounding economic growth at any cost.What is becoming evident is that what we are being subject to is less of a 'national cultural strategy' and more of a 'national service agreements' 'service delivery model': [more]