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Blog: The Right to Art

The Right to Art


So far we’ve been discussing the Right to Know in terms of information. There is usually some knowledge out there, some tools to extract it or filter it, and an eager public that is either being denied or empowered with it. Especially here in the Netherlands, though, another dimension of the right to knowledge maybe deserves to be explored: the need for culture, or at least the recognition of this aspect in public life. This year’s cuts to the state budget, which was keeping several valuable institutions alive, are the symptom of a wider trend forcing cultural professionals all over the world to find alternate ways to pay their bills.

The big majority of Richard Florida’s Creative Class – which, as a benign ghost, has been helping city officials a lot to pump up real-estate prices – is actually living off part-time day jobs or understanding parents. Before they can land a real job, creative professionals (and the art business is no exception) are forced through a series of unpaid internships that, while often proving crucial for experience and networking, can hardly pay back for a graduate education. Even when they already have a name, art workers often have to put up with the same do-it-for-the-glory kind of gigs.

With such a premise, it’s no surprise the rights of art workers – and their position in neo-liberal labor economics – are an increasingly debated issue. For a long time, politics in art have been a subtext in terms of content, but recently an awareness of its own politics in a wider context is emerging. Last month, for example, I reviewed the first issue of No Order, a semiyearly publication concerned with “art in a post-fordist society.” In two of the most interesting articles, director and independent curator Marco Scotini exposes the precarious and short-term working conditions of which the famous Manifesta biennial lives off, praising instead the 11th Istanbul Biennial and its more critical and reflexive financial transparency.

Recently, in the context of the Informality exhibition in Amsterdam, SMBA hosted a lecture by Joost de Bloois titled Making Ends Meet: Precarity, Art, and Political Activism. In his speech, the UvA lecturer addressed the notion of “precarity” and suggested that artists should associate with other groups, also sharing similarly undetermined positions. Consistently with this statement, in the same evening a representative of Domestic Workers Nederland spoke alongside artists, designers, and the Precarious Workers Brigade – a London-based collective of cultural workers that, as a policy, publicly shared information about their compensation.

While the idea of artists unions is coming back into fashion, in art like in other fields politics seems to become more and more about transparency, along with bottom-up organization. A recent project worth mentioning, and particularly fit as an example in this case, is the ArtLeaks platform. Launched by a group of art professionals as a whistleblower targeting the abuses of cultural institutions, the site is a call for mistreated cultural workers to share and denounce any injustices. Like in other sites there is a submission form and an “archives” section, but so far the leaks seem to take the form of open letters and articles rather than raw documents, with the editorial filter being embedded in the text rather acting as a simple preliminary filter. Also, secrecy seems to be less of a core value than in better-known whistleblowers.

Post-fordism is not going anywhere: rather than diminish, the creative class will keep growing and adapting to whatever working conditions it can afford to live with. The passions of thousands are not just going to disappear, while the frustration might get absorbed into a cynical realism. The future of such a confused and fragmented multitude is a social issue worth considering, but the aforementioned examples are just the beginning. In the coming years, we’ll see whether living to provide a certain knowledge is a right or not.

As with all types of dissertations, students first and foremost, have to understand the question and requirements set forth. Students have to find out exactly what they are supposed to do in their dissertation. Are they to write a dissertation by comparing different historical events or are they to write a dissertation? Students have to ensure that if they have any problems to consult with their tutors before proceeding.