Sunday, 14 October 2012

Making Plans For Nigel

'Artists [or cultural workers, some by invitation] plan two mass meetings amid concern over Creative Scotland'

Think it's important to remember that this is about politics not personalities, it's about conflict not competencies.

There's a danger here of allowing structural reorganisation to be framed as mere 'miscommunication' and therefore also any 'solution'.

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
And 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'

Talking to Creative Scotland: Making Plans
This afternoon I had a meeting with Kenneth Fowler at Creative Scotland. It was a pleasant chat, refreshingly free of corporate-speak, and I should probably mention in the interests of clarity that he was the one who got in touch with me.
The most important thing first: I got the go-ahead for an Open Space at Waverley Gate. It won’t be organised or structured by Creative Scotland – it’ll be an open, artist-led conversation. The beauty of Open Space is that anyone can propose a discussion; it’s not a chaired meeting with an agenda, it’s a series of self-guided conversations around a central theme. How that theme will be worded I’m not yet sure, but I’ll be seeking guidance from some more experienced people as I figure it out.
Hopefully, this will be a starting point rather than a one-off event. I’d like to see this developing into a series of regular, roving meetings so that there’s a means of ongoing communication between artists/arts organisations in all parts of Scotland, following the Devoted & Disgruntled model. Collectively, we can feed back to Creative Scotland – and why stop there? There are plenty of organisations out there who exist to administer funding and develop artistic talent. There’s cultural policy to be created. It would surely be beneficial to everyone concerned (by which I mean everyone who cares about the arts whether as creator or consumer) for these things to be informed by continuous feedback from the arts industries themselves.
Of course, all we can do is have the conversations. Once we’ve passed the information on, it’s up to Creative Scotland and other arts organisations to decide what they do with it. Maybe they’ll use it wisely, maybe they won’t use it at all. If it’s the former, that’s great! We all win. If it’s the latter… well, we’ll have tried. We’ll have done as Andrew Dixon asked and brought the conversation to Creative Scotland, not just to the newspapers and Twitter – but much more importantly, we’ll have brought it to each other and we’ll all be better informed and have expanded our own networks in the process. We could do worse.
I’ve been accused over the past wee while of being too optimistic, insufficiently cynical, too willing to give Creative Scotland the benefit of the doubt. All of these things are fine with me. I find it far too easy to be cynical. Being optimistic is more of a challenge. But I’d really rather hope and work for the best than expect the worst. The arts funding situation in Scotland is far from perfect, but it’s the situation we’re in. If we don’t like it – and I haven’t met a single person, artist or administrator, who seems to like it – we need to change it. And by we, I mean artists, audiences, administrators, creators, consumers, everyone who cares about the arts for any reason whatsoever. An Open Space is not a panacea, but it’s a way to bring people from all of these areas (and probably others I haven’t thought of) together, and that seems like a decent place to start.
As soon as I’ve arranged a date to use Creative Scotland’s space, I’ll start spreading the word… Keep watching!
About jenmcgregor:
Edinburgh-based theatre director, writer, occasional actor, frenzied baker of rather delicious cookies, antagonist of long-suffering husband. Slightly obsessed with cats, bad language, ghosts, ninjas and the 18th century. Will rant about theatre and/or extol the virtues of my cat to anyone who holds still long enough.


Tramway 'World Cafe' Event
Roanne Dods
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 from 10:30 to 17:00 (GMT)
Glasgow, United Kingdom

We want to help art, artists and organisations, and beyond, to support a strategy, tone and ideas for a healthy culture in Scotland – one that is relevant, exciting and representative of our times. One that recognizes and works with the real talent in the sector and that is artist led. We want to be respectful and inclusive and inspirational
We are a sophisticated nation with sophisticated folk and we want to develop a conversation that supports art and artists in an international global context at this critical time in Scotland's history.
The event is open to anyone who cares about art and artists in Scotland and beyond.

The Proposed Questions:

1.Where would you like arts and culture in Scotland to be in 10 years time?

2.What support structure would it take to make that happen now?

There will be presentations, provocations, inspirations from artists during the course of the day, and plenty of facilitated time for discussion and ideas. The structure will very loosely follow a World Cafe format.

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