On Topic: Expanding freedom in artistic safe spaces

Authorship and creativity in our contemporary world

In the latest edition of the art magazine Metropolis M, an article by writer and cultural theorist Ana Teixeira Pinto can be found. She is a lecturer at the University of the Arts in Berlin and a research associate at Leuphana University in Lüneburg. In the text she wrote in Metropolis M (April/May 2024), titled This is no ‘cancel culture’, she discusses how anti-Semitism and its combat are reflected in the contemporary art world, and how it may be under pressure due to the war between Israel and Hamas. The article in Metropolis M addresses an important question: to what extent can art contribute to an activist message, and what is the boundary between freedom of expression and discrimination?

Firstly, there is freedom of speech. Within that two things are happening simultaneously. Firstly, there is freedom of speech. And at the same time, there is also freedom of art, which is something different from artistic freedom. Freedom of art means that the artist may create according to their own judgment, without regulation from, for example, the government. Artistic freedom pertains more to artistic content, such as what is customary in terms of visual language or what the form of something should be. Makers are free to develop new forms and ideas themselves.

In the Netherlands, freedom of art is not enshrined in the constitution, meaning that an artist could be prosecuted based on a remark or (activist) act in their work. This sounds severe, but it is also a way to not elevate freedom of speech where discrimination crosses the line. Artistic freedom refers to the freedom an artist has to shape the form and content of an artwork according to their own judgment. In short, it’s about content freedom, but not exemption from the law when it comes to discrimination, for example.

Then there’s the practical side. It’s not always easy to determine where freedom outweighs exclusion. When it comes to critical art, it is important to consider who gets to draw the line between activism with artistic elements and art with elements of activism. Ana Teixeira Pinto points this out in her Metropolis M article. “Who gets to draw the line between hate speech, which should rightfully be prohibited, and political speech, which is constitutionally protected?” Who is crucial in this sense, because it often involves people who can make decisions from outside about the artist’s work. It is therefore very important to keep a dialogue possible between an externally determining party, often (a form of) the government, and the artist, as well as art institutions, which exist in part to also put critical or innovative viewpoints on the map.

The question of how to deal with freedom of speech and the fight against discrimination in the art world is also alive with us. Safe Spaces are important. We want to be recognized and seen. But we also tend to stay in our own bubble.

With the IMPAKT Festival of 2024, titled “DEAL WITH IT”, We will support the idea that it’s important to think carefully about art and to encourage artists who are not afraid of stirring up arguments and discussions. Controversy is, as part of DEAL WITH IT, not a means intended to attract attention, but to expand freedom in authorship and representation of art with critical views of the world around us and of ourselves. More information about 2024’s IMPAKT festival will be shared soon on our social media accounts. Stay in touch!


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