Thursday, 22 December 2011

Visual Arts Ecology Paper

…there is a need for a public-facing, wide representative approach to the changes produced by and through Creative Scotland. Unfortunately, and in deliberate isolation, a handful of visual arts FXOs' seemingly pragmatic if cynical recital of Dixon's 'ecology', as if there was no challenge to the status quo, isn't going to cut it - if a hackneyed ecology is to be dredged up then cue umpteen 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed' quotes...

At some level Creative Scotland's art form reviews, at least in other art form areas as I understand them, are intended to intervene in any perceived entrenched privilege stifling 'diversity' - however problematically constructed as regards markets - or that unhealthy tendency towards 'oligopoly', if we're to use technical market-speak. But, as is being revealed, it is only doing so to instate a heightened, centralised 'commissioning'/ promotional structure - one already in operation before any reviews - cue Westminster reports on Nesta's cronyism, etc - "NESTA will have to be constantly alive to the risk of partiality in the selection of Fellows and projects. It must also be prepared for close scrutiny of its selection procedure and be able to demonstrate it is operating in a fair and open manner."

Also not sure if how 'ecology' is being presented back to Dixon is actually how he understands it anyway... or if his deployment of it is to be taken seriously at all... regardless of how thoroughly discredited 'ecology' already is in the mainstream as a management concept - even the BBC allowing it to be lambasted, eg Adam Curtis's 'The Use and Abuse of Vegetal Concepts' - as part of series 'All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace'.

Doesn't appear anyone's willing/ capable of theorising a concept of public funding outside the highly limited boundaries of personal self-interest and echoing this back to Dixon... What happens if/ when he dismisses 'ecology' as he leaps around his management/ development-speak dictionary, then what? This reactive approach to 'policy' compliance seems in danger of having their agenda-facing cynicism called out, by someone who may equally treat it as just a management tool, of which there are many interchangeable so as to include/ exclude - cue Peter Sloterdijk's 'Critique of Cynical Reason'.

And while change is happening all the time, and no, not all change is bad (hence the alter-globalisation movement!) - Dixon: "There will always be organisations who are concerned about change" - just that the deafening pragmatism of a few is what has helped lead us to this particular precipice.

So, how to account more inclusively for the way "power is exercised upon and through practices of mediated public communication" ('Culture and democracy: media, space and representation', Clive Barnett, Edinburgh University Press, p7.) so as to nurture diversity of opinion, expression, and communication... to situate and examine the politics and discourse of diversity in the context of cultural policies?

I seriously think we need a robust theoretical framework of freedom of communication, one then put into practice, to get us out of this largely self-inflicted cul-de-sac.

As regards getting more of a reflection of the diverse organisational/ art form make-up of Common Practice involved in Scotland in expanding the 'Size Matters' research to here, it should be noted Creative Scotland claims to have dispensed with art form specialisms. It may also be the case that there isn't the comparative scale or diversity of organisations in Scotland, but that doesn't absolve folk from trying, if that's the intention. Any such lack of support for comparative diversity of practice in Scotland raises many questions in and of itself - not least the very real tendency towards 'oligopoly' rather than any problematic concept of 'ecology' in Scotland. Though the ecological metaphor is increasingly mobilsed (in direct response to Dixon raising it as part of the Corporate Plan), masking the process of management that is controlling this, lending it an air of naturalness, organicity and self-realisation, whilst in fact serving as a means of devalorising much other activity.

Other questions - not fully formed or clustered here, but intended in the openness and confidence of discussing this between organisations and others affected - I would like to see approached are:

How is the complexity of 'deferred value' - as set out in the study introduction of 'Size Matters: Notes towards a Better Understanding of the Value, Operation and Potential of Small Visual Arts Organisations' - to be reflected through the selection of organisations to be studied in Scotland?

What difference does the Scottish Artists Union (SAU) make in Scotland, and at what levels? What degree of organisational/ artist exchanges/ communications actually take place, and between whom? Where and how are things discussed? How do artists access/ contribute to information regarding their working practices/ environments?

Are there the organisational equivalents for comparative research?

Is there an absence of practitioner-focused research from Scotland specifically as undertaken by practitioners? What gets recognised, given value, by whom?

How to explore the recurrent notion of 'fragility' routinely mobilised to censor difference in Scotland?

How to address 'information asymmetries' - who gets to constitute constituencies? How do we contest the exclusion of diverse speech positions?

Given differences of scale, how would an extension of the research to Scotland introduce and represent seemingly excluded perspectives/ tensions/ differences/ contestations/ forms of practice outwith FXO formulations (which are being cut back to just bidding for annual project funding in any case)?

With 'Culture' a fully devolved matter for the Scottish Government, what difference does the Centre for Cultural Policy Research (CCPR) make to policy development/ implementation/ adaptation in Scotland? [Philip Schlesinger's comment of "academic absenteeism" as regards the procedure of the Creative Scotland bill. That while there are cuts, some of those are repercussions from Westminster, others are down to internal restructuring within fully devolved policy areas.]

What of a politics of scale and institutional proximity, both for rapid information access (for some) and for increased exposure and concomitant disciplinary processes?

How to account for the political and economic differences between London and Scotland? As regards policy, are the same things institutionally 'valued' between ACE and CS, Westminster and Holyrood, in rhetoric and through what they support' in practice? Is there any policy formation in Scotland to address/ is listening?

Do Scottish government want to hear back a different narrative to Westminster? If so how do they differ? How is the nationalist independence project impacting cultural policy in Scotland? Is Creative Scotland, as focussed, in a position to deliver the necessary state re-production the independence project requires? (Dixon's regional development model and temporal aggregations of the festival format may be tourist-focussed but may not address the cultural needs of internal [re]production of a separate, independent country.)

Freedom of expression includes freedom of political diversity - as Art Monthly (Sept 2011, 349) point out, further financialisation would appear to exclude some practices in the study, for instance with Mute - how is this to be addressed in the research?

The study states: "With judicious investment, these hitherto unexploited assets – which organisations generate naturally as part of core activities – could be converted into earned income, offering small organisations a potential safeguard against economic uncertainty." This may or may not be true for London, but why should it be true for Scotland? All the disciplinary 'investment' mobilised within the visual arts by SAC towards marketisation has not produced an 'indigineous' market, even when times were said to be good, except for the monopolisation of studio property (exacerbated rentier systems) and the nexus of promotional forces at a Local Authority level - 'competitive cities', city marketing/ branding, 'artist-led property strategy'/ gentrification, etc.

One concern is that in pursuing what may be perceived as a pragmatic response for some organisations, heightened financialisation (which has not achieved its stated aims) on the back of waves of already failed financialisation, will see the end of support for a much larger body of cultural production excluded by such 'investment' criteria, which we are already seeing. Where is the resistance to waves of failed financialisation - at differing institutional levels?

How will the research identify and acknowledge resistance to financialisation? Will the research account for the antagonisms and tensions within competing views of cultural production in the mediated spaces of publicly funded culture?

How is the research to account for the consultant's own practice and ambitions reflected and represented within this research? Which goes for all of us, but especially Common Guild having seemingly adopted a gatekeeping function in extending this research. How will CG articulate its ambitions, as regards transparency? Is CG concerned with disentangling itself from its ambitions in its role here? If not, why not?

In Scotland within the arts and academia, I'm curious about an eagerness to be responsive to policy needs, but there not being the same degree in engaging or challenging policy formation directly. As it's reactive it's always on back-foot, being pushed to the right of existing contingent positions. The speed with which alleged social science academics turned to face central government 'Big Society' agendas was astonishing, yet we've heard little to nothing of 'Big Society' for the last 9 months... What effect is policy-led research (a distinct turn away from research-led policy) having on our expectations and how we engage ourselves and others as practitioners?

From one of our previous workshops addressing such issues: "Clearly, every problem we encounter does not necessarily have a solution that we can identify, or even imagine, in the moment; that identifying how existing systems have failed does not guarantee we have the capacity to devise new systems that will succeed. This is a realistic attitude, not a defeatist one. The lack of a guarantee of success does not mean the inevitability of failure, and it does not absolve us of our responsibility to struggle to understand what is happening and to act as [ethical] agents in a difficult world. In fact, I think such realism is required for serious attempts at fashioning a response to the crises. The eventual solutions, if there are to be solutions, may come in frameworks so different from our current understanding that we can’t yet see even their outlines, let alone the details..."

Service Delivery

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':

Strategic Objectives - Scottish Government
The Government has five objectives that underpin its core purpose - to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

The preceding chapters set out the Scottish Government's ambitious agenda to make Scotland a more successful country. This chapter sets out the new national performance framework, fully integrated into the Spending Review, which will underpin delivery against the government's agenda.
This framework is designed to be clear, logical and easy to understand. It replaces a proliferation of competing priorities, set by the previous administration, providing a unified vision and quantifiable benchmarks against which future progress can be assessed. In developing the national performance framework we have drawn on the successful outcomes-based model of the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA. We believe it will allow us more clearly and openly to demonstrate our performance as a government and sharpen the focus of all those responsible for public services on the delivery of Scotland's priorities.

National Outcomes
Fifteen National Outcomes describe what the Government wants to achieve over the next ten years, articulating more fully this Government's Purpose . They help to sharpen the focus of government, enable our priorities to be clearly understood and provide a clear structure for delivery.
By achieving these outcomes together, we will make Scotland a better place to live and a more prosperous and successful country.

Local Matters: Delivering the Local Outcomes Approach

Single Outcome Agreements

Community Planning

guidance for collaborative options evaluation and appraisal of service delivery models
"joint service delivery as a means of achieving efficiency savings, improving service delivery and developing skills capability and capacity"

CAPITA : Outsourcing/ Service delivery models
No two services are the same
So why be rigid about how they are delivered?

oh, cuts after all

Beyond being fed misleading and rapidly dating headlines - e.g. 'Creative Scotland offers a positive story' (to be fair, Bonnar hedged CS's figures as 'projections') - reality bites...:

Fears as £7m arts fund axed
Herald, Phil Miller, FRIDAY 9 DECEMBER 2011
...Mr Dixon said: “We are moving to a new approach where we value these organisations within an investment portfolio. There will be Foundation organisations, and those we invest in annually – who are key to their sector – but the majority will be project companies and they will be able to do things on their own terms. They will be able to bid into our lottery and investment programmes, and we also hope they will be able to deliver some of our Strategic Commissions,” he said.
“There are some sectors that are feeling challenged by this. There will always be organisations who are concerned about change, or perhaps are not being realistic about the fact that there is change in public sector finance, and Creative Scotland come in as an organisation and is determined to be strategic and get value out of its investment.”
One concerned source said: “The biggest problem has been the lack of clarity. We do not know whether we will have to shift to project funding or any other kind of fund.”
Troubled arts body used charity cash to plug deficit
Oct 5 2011 by Craig Robertson, Dumfries Standard Wednesday
... charity cash was used to plug a black hole in the finances of a collapsed arts group…Problems started last October when the Scottish Government funding body, Creative Scotland, told the organisation they would no longer be provided with £200,000 of annual core funding...
It's also worth remembering that of the 139 applications deemed eligible for FXO funding in 2011, 60 received it.

Traditional Arts - Culture and Commerce

While the production framed by the political contrivance 'Traditional Arts' is still couched in terms of making "a significant contribution to Scotland's economy" (SAC), the intention here is not to set art forms competing against each other for resources but rather to show that MSPs have identified need for support of cultural production outwith creative industries 'entrepreneurialism'.

Edd McCracken, Arts Correspondent - Herald, 31 Jan 2010
Scotland’s traditional arts – music, dance, songs and story-telling – should have its own national company on a par with the likes of the National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Opera, according to a new report commissioned by the Scottish Government.
The recommendation is just one from the Traditional Arts Working Group report, published today at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.
The document’s major theme is how the traditional arts can achieve the same parity of esteem with the likes of other publicly funded art forms such as theatre, ballet and classical music.
It claims that in the traditional arts, such as highland dancing and folk music, “their significance and value is still not recognised, promoted and celebrated enough”.
Other recommendations include: the creation of a Traditional Arts Apprentice scheme, matching young traditional musicians or dancers with an experienced mentor; the creation of a traditional arts centre; Creative Scotland to set up a specialist fund for the traditional arts; and a major study be undertaken into their economic impact.
The working group was established in February last year by the then culture minister Linda Fabiani. Its remit was to report to the Government how the traditional arts could be best supported and their future secured. The group was chaired by David Francis, musician and founder of the Traditional Music Forum. He said raising the profile and confidence of the traditional arts is the “fundamental idea that underpinned the whole thing”.
On the establishment of a traditional arts national company he said: “It is about getting the traditional arts put on the same level of esteem. Scottish Opera employs 200 people and every show is a spectacle. We’re not looking for parity in that sense. It is just so that the traditional arts are seen in the same light as these other art forms, which for historical and political reasons have always managed to grab a big share of whatever money for culture is going”.
He added that, despite being hampered by “haggis and heather” cliches, on the whole the traditional arts have be “getting there” in Scotland.
“The process of putting together the report for the minister has been really useful in giving us a snapshot of the traditional arts community’s key concerns at this stage in its development,” he said. “We found, by and large, a confident community in good heart.”
Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said many of the ideas were “achievable”.
“The idea that key individuals might pass on their skills and expertise to a younger generation via some kind of mentoring scheme is particularly attractive. I have asked the Scottish Arts Council and Creative Scotland to look at how this might work in practice and to make recommendations. The report also recognises that traditional arts make a significant contribution to Scotland’s economy; I have already asked for an assessment of that contribution to be carried out.”
She added she would respond fully to all the recommendations in June.


Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2009
To: Peattie C (Cathy), MSP
Subject: Re: Traditional Arts Working Group
thanks for your email and for forwarding the information about the Traditional Arts Working Group. Can you tell me if there is a definition of Traditional Arts and if so, who has come up with it? How will the support for the Traditional Arts be balanced with support for the non Traditional Arts, as well as other art forms, and are there extra funding streams in place to match any proposed support specifically aimed towards the Traditional Arts?

Date: 21 July 2009
Subject: RE: Traditional Arts Working Group
The use of the term traditional arts generally refers to traditional music, dance and storytelling.
There has been a particular problem with funding for traditional arts and Scots language - not least SAC criteria which effectively excluded organisations devoted to traditional forms by virtue of them not being innovative enough. Not that they weren't innovative, but intrinsically, their development is long term / evolutionary / participative / organic, which means they were never likely to fare well under such criteria.
This problem threatened the existence of several leading traditional arts organisations, at a time when we were about to have a special celebration our cultural heritage in the year of the homecoming. The sums involved were not huge in the overall scale of things - the groups' grants were tens of thousands rather than the millions that are consumed by some - but the cuts would, at very least, severely curtail their activities and affect a lot of people.
It was the recognition of this problem that prompted the setting up of the working group.
The CPG has a lot of people with an interest in the traditional arts, including I am sure, some whose primary reason for involvement lies elsewhere, so I forwarded the email to everyone. It may also be that others share some of the problems that face the traditional arts groups, and they would like to see action across the board to address these issues. There are, I know, also other criticisms regarding support for other groups. As you know, the CPG is available as a forum for discussion and circulation of material pertaining to any such matter.


Culture, External Affairs and Tourism Directorate Culture Division
T: 0131-244 0305 F:0131-244 0353
17 July 2009
Traditional Arts Working Group
I am writing on behalf of the Traditional Arts Working Group who, later this year, will report to to the Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution.
The Group has bean asked to make recommendations on establishing the optimum future guaranteed support arrangements for Scotland's Traditional Arts through the best use of available resources, both financial and non-financial: so that the Traditional Arts can fulfil their role in Scotland's culture, heritage, economy, education and community life.The group have asked me to extend an invitation to you, to provide them with a written submission, highlighting the topics which affect the areas of interest to you, in the traditional arts. Submissions received by the group will feed into their ongoing discussions.
Questions you may wish to consider if you would like to provide a submission
• What sort of support (financial and non-financial) do the areas of Traditional Arts, in which you are interested, currently receive, and how long term is it?
• What does this support enable?
• Are there areas where you see gaps in this support or scope for greater support?
• Can these areas be addressed by funding or other means?
• How can the traditional arts community - musicians, activists, enthusiasts, organisations - best advocate the case for financial and non-financial support?
• What is the best way for the traditional arts community to make the necessary links and alliances to strengthen their position?'
Submissions can be offered to the working group by email:
or alternatively by post to me at:
The Traditional Arts Working Group
C/O Patrick Berry
Culture Division
The Scottish Government
Area 2-H North
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh I
E6 6QQ
Submissions will be accepted until 14 August 2009.
Further information on the group can be found at


Variant's submission to the parliamentary Traditional Arts Working Group

Please find below Variant's submission to the Traditional Arts Working Group, which we have already submitted. I also wanted to send it to you directly, as one of the few Parties [Green] aligned against the growth paradigm of development:

It is the contradiction between UNESCO obligations to enable culture as an independent force in society and "single purpose" government's neoliberal pursuit of tethering cultural expression to a failed economic agenda that, in my opinion, makes the Creative Scotland proposals unworkable. The selective treatment of Traditional Arts is but one manifestation of those inherent contradictions, and we need to look at all these proposals holistically to understand why.

I am also of the opinion that Creative Scotland and its highly partial financier-focus on expression and artifact is being allowed to substitute for a coherent cultural policy based on safeguarding communicative acts within the public sphere. In this sense, Creative Scotland is primarily an economic policy that will not fulfill its public function of ensuring freedom of communication.

'Traditional Arts' and the need for a democratic decentering of the social processes through which culture is mediated.

The Scottish Government has recently aimed support specifically towards 'Traditional Arts' -- traditional music, dance, and storytelling -- and an invitation has been extended to make submissions to the parliamentary Traditional Arts Working Group (TAWG) for, I hope, meaningful deliberation. To be clear, my perspective here is not based on the intrinsic value or right for practitioners to pursue those forms in and of themselves.

"[T]he UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted a Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in October 2005. The treaty, which entered into force in March 2007, recognises that cultural goods and services cannot be treated as mere commodities. It explicitly allows parties to protect and promote the diversity of their cultural expressions through, for instance, adopting measures aimed at:
- providing opportunities for the creation, production, dissemination and enjoyment of domestic cultural activities, goods and services, including provisions relating to language;
- providing domestic independent cultural industries and activities in the informal sector effective access to the means of production, dissemination and distribution;
- providing public financial assistance; and
- enhancing diversity of the media, including through public service broadcasting.
Parties to the convention may also take ‘all appropriate measures’ to protect and preserve cultural expressions in situations where they have determined that these are at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding." (ICTSD)

The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) make clear that, globally, "cultural industries are progressively taking over traditional forms of creation and dissemination and bringing about changes in cultural practices." Language is stated by UNESCO as but one example vulnerable to neoliberal globalisation.

Through Creative Scotland, the nationalist Scottish Government is seeking to implement such a growth paradigm of development centred on Creative Industries -- reinforcing an entrepreneurial ideology of debt, risk and precarity. Cultural products are to be assimilated in support of the economy and nationalism coalesced as a definable export brand, whilst at-one-and-the-same-time using this very threat of globalised economisation of culture to uniquely privilege (by safeguarding from competition) specific cultural expressions that (directly or indirectly, but certainly accumulatively) aid signify the government's political project of Constitutional Change.

It should be stressed that focusing on the production of a national subject is not the 'tactic' of any one political party (be it 'British values' or 'Team Scotland') but that here it enables us to relate nationalism(s) to wider questions of ideology, political identity, and the exercising of power.

It is evident that with the forming of Creative Scotland (the collapsing of Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen) a widening distinction is being drawn between 'innovation' and 'tradition', where the so-called innovative is narrowly defined in entrepreneurial terms. A factor of Traditional Arts' inability to compete with other cultural forms for public funding under the criteria of 'innovation' is said to be the reason for Traditional Arts' special treatment. Closer to the truth I suspect is a conflict of government increasingly expecting supposed arms-length bodies to more closely and additionally support government-initiated projects (in this case SAC and Homecoming, according to TAWG) regardless of the existing government-led criteria that those bodies must operate within. This points to a creeping assault on what autonomy remains of public funding; both in what cultural expressions are politically desirable and therefore what is then being prioritised to receive support. It is apparent that Tradition is not being defined as the traditions of the peoples actually living in the country but as tradition of the Nation as 'Scottish' -- "public funding for Scottishness", as it has been dubbed. This additional construction of political support for a specific specialism (stripping the arms-length principle) contradicts Creative Scotland's own supposed objectives of cutting bureaucracy and cheerleading market competition. Moreover, this special treatment via direct political patronage smacks of ministerial hypocrisy when the continuation of art-form specialisms within Creative Scotland remains far from clear. What we appear to be getting is not a coherent Cultural Policy at all, but a construction of selective support for cultural artifact based primarily on ministerial taste and political expediency.

This policy of intervention and exemption should be screened and assessed for inequitable countenance of Traditional Arts: how monocultural, geographically prescribed or ethno-centric a Traditional Arts construction may be, and how the privileging of specific expressions rests alongside other human rights obligations in the fields of expression and communication -- such as eliminating unlawful racial discrimination, promoting equal opportunities, and promoting good relations between people from different racial groups. Then it should be determined if an essentialist categorisation of an official cultural cannon, the Traditional Arts, is indeed, on the basis of UNESCO, "at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding" from "single-purpose" government's own economic policy!

In doing so, we need to accept the impossibility -- indeed, the undesirability -- of imposing a static notion of 'Cultural Heritage' on what is in fact a contingent process. We need to be critically aware "of inherited understandings of the autonomy of cultural artifacts and of aesthetic judgment" (Clive Barnett), and of the supposedly 'authentic'; that defined cultural and ethnic boundaries are actually politically determined boundaries.

Culture is now conjoined in a parliamentary portfolio with Constitutional Change, part of which pivots on promoting an emergent national consciousness where key sites are enlisted to unify Scotland’s national narrative, intended to cohere to an ideological understanding of the Nation as a positive, uniform, competitive culture. Robin Baillie of the National Galleries has written : “Modernity imposes itself through its power to construct the history of a nation. History is formed in the collecting, classification and streamlining of objects, images and memories into a pedagogic form. ‘The origin of the nation’s visual presence is the effect of a narrative struggle’. [Bakhtin’s] statement asserts that any image in order to be seen will enter into a field constituted by this struggle. A reflexive reading of this struggle will allow the forces that hold the imagery in place as evidential documents to be recognised as constitutive of those same images.” (The Nation as Narrative)

[As Kristin Ross has stated, in 'The emergence of social space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune']: "The most sterile brand of such nationalism wishes to throw off imperialist rule in order to assert already established national identity, whose only flaw is to have been contaminated and repressed by the presence of the colonialists. In an expression / blockage model dear to most Romantic thought, the colonized know already who they are; it is just that the colonialist refuses to listen. A more promising paradigm of revolutionary nationalism appreciates that the anti-imperialist question turns on constructing the conditions in which it would in principle be possible for the colonized to find out what they might become..."

The problem remains with the consolidation of a national cultural identity in an official cultural cannon that “one person’s inclusionary republicanism is another person’s ethnocentric monoculturalism.” (Bryan Fanning) That if we are to address issues of cultural diversity and communication's vulnerability to neoliberalism then we must do so by connecting them to the idea of wider social democracy -- not simplistically to the subjective and partial artifacts of "the best that has been done and said", but to all that entails freedom of communication in the mediated spaces of public communication. For this we need a coherent cultural policy drawn-up not for rentier systems of commerce but a cultural policy that fundamentally supports communicative acts; one written by those who in the public interest can and do critically account for the way "power is exercised upon and through practices of mediated public communication". (Clive Barnett)

Leigh French
co-editor, Variant


Traditional Arts Working Group

The Traditional Arts Working Group is tasked with considering the future support arrangements for Scotland's traditional arts, and will make recommendations to the Scottish Government later this year.

The Traditional Arts Working Group's Report was published on 31 January 2010:

"ESTEEM - Revisiting previous Scottish Arts Council reports on the traditional arts shows that considerable progress has been made in relation to their status and esteem. This is seen in the large number of successful projects, events and organisations now evident in the traditional arts field. However, there is a perception, as evidenced by the submissions to the Working Group and comments at public meetings, that recognition and respect for the traditional arts, and those working in them, is still patchy. Many still feel that their significance and value is still not recognised, promoted and celebrated enough. The argument is that, although the traditional arts hold meaning for many, the general level of esteem in which they are held in civil society and by professional practitioners remains low. …"


UNESCO Tackles Culture and Commerce

A new international treaty entered into force in March, encouraging parties to adopt measures to protect the diversity of cultural expressions that may be imperilled by the quickening pace of globalisation.
Since the early 1980s, international trade in cultural goods has grown six-fold, increasing from US$9.5 billion in 1980 to US$60 billion in 2002. According to the World Bank, cultural and creative industries account for more than 7 percent of world GNP, which represents a global commercial value of US$1.3 trillion. A handful of countries export the lion’s share of cultural goods, with Europe leading at 51.8 percent, followed by Asia (20.6 percent) and North America (16.9 percent). Likewise, rich countries account for more than 90 percent of all cultural imports, led by the US, the UK and Germany. In contrast, Latin America and Africa were estimated to represent 3 and 1 percent, respectively, of world trade in cultural goods in 2002.
Some statistics on the diversity of cultural expressions are startling. For example, while Hollywood accounts for 85 percent of box office revenue worldwide, in Africa just 2 percent of the population has seen African films. There thus appears to be both a decrease in the dissemination of cultural goods on a global scale, and a decline in the production of, and access to, a diversity of such goods and services.
In addition, cultural industries are progressively taking over traditional forms of creation and dissemination and bringing about changes in cultural practices. The diminishing diversity of languages offers a striking example: while there are more than 6000 living languages in the world, those used in commerce and new technologies are increasingly dominant. It is estimated that a language disappears every two weeks and there are predictions that 90 percent of them will be extinct within a hundred years.
Convention on Cultural Diversity
It is against this backdrop that the members of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted a Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions1 in October 2005. The treaty, which entered into force in March 2007, recognises that cultural goods and services cannot be treated as mere commodities. It explicitly allows parties to protect and promote the diversity of their cultural expressions1 through, for instance, adopting measures aimed at:
# providing opportunities for the creation, production, dissemination and enjoyment of domestic cultural activities, goods and services, including provisions relating to language;
# providing domestic independent cultural industries and activities in the informal sector effective access to the means of production, dissemination and distribution;
# providing public financial assistance; and
# enhancing diversity of the media, including through public service broadcasting.
Parties to the convention may also take ‘all appropriate measures’ to protect and preserve cultural expressions in situations where they have determined that these are at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding.
Relationship with WTO Rules
A major point of contention during the negotiations for the new treaty was how its provisions would relate to WTO disciplines. Opponents, such as the US, saw its main purpose as an attempt to give additional legitimacy for the maintenance and possible expansion of measures – maintained by countries such as Canada, China, France, South Korea and many others – that restrict market penetration of foreign films and music, as well as other cultural products or services (magazines, audiovisual broadcasts, etc.). Its proponents considered it as a necessity to safeguard the survival of their cultural identity, language and traditions.
The convention has been ratified by 67 individual countries, as well as the European Union as a whole. The US voted against its adoption, arguing that the instrument remained “too flawed, too open to misinterpretation and too prone to abuse for us to support.” The US also stressed that the convention “must not be read to prevail over or modify rights and obligations under other international agreements, including WTO agreements. Potential ambiguities in the convention must not be allowed to endanger what the global community has achieved, over many years, in the areas of free trade, the free flow of information, and freedom of choice in cultural expression and enjoyment.”
The language regarding the treaty’s relationship with other international agreements is indeed ambiguous: on the one hand it affirms that parties will not ‘subordinate’ the convention to any other treaty, and on the other it specifies that nothing in it “shall be interpreted as modifying rights and obligations of the parties under any other treaties.”
Thus, should a WTO dispute arise regarding measures taken to protect the diversity of cultural expressions, a defendant in the case could refer to the rights accorded by the convention, while a complainant could evoke the clause that it does not modify the defendant’s obligations under other treaties. Non-parties, such as the US, would of course not be bound by the convention’s provisions at all. Legal scholar Joost Pauwelyn, however, has argued that the WTO “presumably would not wish to isolate itself from the rest of the international lawmaking world by closing its eyes to any legislative initiative agreed on outside its own building, be it consented to by the disputing parties or not.”


UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity
The European Community ratified the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity, together with 12 Member States
On 18 December 2006, the Community ratified the Convention, alongside Finland, Austria, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Estonia, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Malta. Bulgaria also joined this ratification.
This joint ratification fulfils the initial objective to be amongst the 30 first ratifications, and will thus allow the entry into force of the Convention on 18 March 2007.

TEN KEYS to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 33rd session, 2005

UNESCO Decides on Draft Convention on Cultural, Artistic Diversity
The third session of the intergovernmental meeting of experts of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on 3 June decided to forward a draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions to an upcoming UNESCO General Conference in October 2005 for approval. The third session of the intergovernmental meeting of experts, gathering from 25 May to 3 June, reviewed a “clean” version of the draft produced by chair Kader Asmal in April based on negotiations of the second session of the group in February (see BRIDGES Trade BioRes, 4 March 2005). The agreed draft text, in new Article 20 (old Article 19) aims to resolve controversy at that meeting regarding the compatibility of the right of Parties to “adopt measures aimed at protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions within its territory”, as set out in Article 6, which could potentially include subsidies to promote cultural activities, goods and services as defined in Article 4 of the draft Convention, with the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. The compromise on Article 20 recognises that all international agreements, including the WTO, are complementary and mutually supportive and that, while the Convention should not be interpreted as modifying the rights and obligations of the Parties under other Conventions, Parties shall take into account the relevant provisions of this Convention when entering into other international obligations. While welcoming this compromise language, some countries said that they had yet to check with their capitals on the proposed wording. While countries such as the EU, Canada and some African countries have advocated for a strong Convention, other countries including the US, UK and Japan have raised concerns about its potential implications.

Convention for the Protection of Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions

Preliminary Report of the Director-General Containing Two Preliminary Drafts of a Convention On the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions.

Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist
The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, meeting in Belgrade from 23 September to 28 October 1980 at its twenty-first session,

UNESCO and the WTO: A Clash of Cultures?

servicing or organising artists' union?

Kunstitöötajad, ühinege! / Art Workers, Unite!
A seminar on the working conditions, social guarantees and organizing models of art workers.
MÄRZ, Tallinn, Estonia - 19-20th of November 2011

[Which included:]

Vladan Jeremic: During the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia structure of artists union was very developed and defined by the system of self-management and state bureaucracy. Each artists could have a status of co-called “independent free artists” with the possibility to get health care, studios, flats, insurance and pension, all given by the state. During the process of disintegration of Yugoslavia, the neoliberal reforms and the hard economical transition have transformed completely almost all official institutions into agencies or capitalist companies. Amazingly some of the artist unions have survived until today. Such an example is the huge Association of Visual Artists of Serbia ( with more than 2000 members that still kept almost all benefits from the former socialist system. One completely different example is a recently established platform of Belgrade independent cultural scene called The Other Scene ( The Other Scene gathers organizations, groups, and individuals involved in the improvement of legal and infrastructural status of the independent scene; redistribution of public spaces; increasing transparency of operational mechanisms and protocols of responsible institutions in arts and culture; as well as presence of the independent scene in media and public space. Strategies of the Other Scene in the field of cultural policies are: integration of the independent scene “bottom-up” (self-organization of actors), increasing of its visibility, dialogue/pressure on the responsible institutions and internal coordination of activities. In the presentation those two different models of organizations (ULUS and The Other Scene), will be critically presented and both models discussed with all their advantages and disadvantages and functions in local and in European context.

“Language is never neutral”

Responses to Variant’s interview with Andrew Dixon, CEO of Creative Scotland (published, December 2011)

"It is difficult to ignore the feeling that we are witnessing the formation of ‘legitimate’ subjects of art and culture and a re-imagining of what it means to use those very words."

Feeling a heightened imperative following the interview with Andrew Dixon in the spring issue and subsequent developments, Variant has sought to proactively and collectively consider the potential impact of these changes for artistic practice, and, more broadly, for the meaning of art and culture in contemporary Scotland. As a contribution towards such dialogue, Variant has invited a series of responses which here take the form of interview exchanges and written rejoinders.

The original interview with Andrew Dixon can be read here:
Investing, Advocating, Promoting... strategically
Daniel Jewesbury interviews Andrew Dixon, Chief Executive of Creative Scotland (2nd March 2011)
A revealing exchange outlining proposals in Creative Scotland's Corporate Plan:
"We are getting rid of all the art form silos… There will be no art form budgets…we will have generic budgets that are more strategic, much more planned and on a larger scale".