Cultural policies in Europe are not only a marginal political field in the EU's range of competences, but also a vague terrain in terms of relevant research and theorization. Even though numerous empirical studies on individual partial areas of the theme exist, they remain not only restricted to certain regions or narrowly delimited topics, in most cases they are also instrumental, trivial or under-theorized. This makes it all the more difficult to seriously comply with the ambitions of the present study, specifically to formulate statements pertaining to the mid-term perspectives of this complex field and to our specific focus on contemporary art. To avoid succumbing to poetic speculation or fiction – even though that would hold a certain charm – the coordinator of the study, Raimund Minichbauer, and our institute have secured the approach to this endeavor with the following preconditions.
Sometimes it seems as though the political and social conditions that we live in and with in Europe are simply regressing back to the rigid forms that marked the 1950s in respectively different ways on both sides of the Cold War: authoritarianism, top-down consensus and the rigid exclusion of minorities in general, the persecution of political artists, the abolishment of undesirable institutions, censorship and criminalization in the realm of cultural policies. In this respect, the year 1968 and the 1970s could be seen as a brief rupture, which was and will continue to be followed by the reconstruction of the constrained, ordered conditions of the subsequent decades well into the new millennium.
A closer look, however, shows the developments of the past fifty years to be less of a briefly interrupted repetition of the same reactionary pattern, but rather a complex and successive advancement of neoliberal capitalism and the increasingly rapid appropriation of the respective forms of resistance. In the years following World War II, the European nation-states in Western Europe were still constructed in a way that the state apparatus regulated the capitalist machine. Without affording more room to the molecular hot spots, the micro-fascisms of the various forms of fascism from the first half of the century, these molar state apparatuses were models of hard segmentarity, of totalization and centralization. The task of cultural policies was accordingly to striate the nations as cultural nations and strengthen national identities. State attacks on avant-garde (or even just modern) art – which were in Austria, for instance, even partly in continuity with the NS regime – were able to contribute to strengthening this cultural-political authoritarianism.
With the molecular revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s this paradigm of hard segmentarity in the nation-states of Western Europe was finally ruptured. A phase of testing empancipatory concepts emerged at the cultural-political level, which the Western European left-wing derived primarily from the cultural policies of the early Soviet Union (Proletkult, LEF, Productivism, Constructivism). "Culture for all" and "culture from all" were to bring art to the street and into life for a second time, but failed this time not because of the structuralization of the state apparatus and cultural policies as in Stalin's Soviet Union, but because of post-fordist capitalism's potential for adaptation.
Here appropriation turns around completely: the state apparatuses are now merely parts of the capitalist machine, which can be opposed or added to. Whereas the movement of deterritorialization and reterritorialization in the post-war years could still be regarded as the over-coding of the capitalist machine by the state apparatus, in the context of the development labeled globalization, we must speak of an inverse appropriation and coding of the state apparatus by the machine. The 1968 generation is part of this deterritorialization; in its anti-military, feminist and non-representationist streams this generation opposed the authoritarian nation-state, but also increasingly paved the way for the shattering of the welfare state in the years thereafter. This also applies to the withdrawal of state cultural policies and financing. While supposed to contribute to ever new waves of molecular battles, during the 1980s and 1990s the emancipatory cultural policy concepts of the 1970s lost their explosive force and turned into a new paradigm of the spectacle, of creativity, and of productivity.
In both the current practice and the programming of cultural policies in Europe today, there are traces to be found from all three phases outlined above:
For the future it may be expected that there will be an even closer interweaving of these three lines of identity culturalism, governmentality control, and renewed authoritarian interventions on the part of a nation-state otherwise staging its retreat. Along with this, there is the danger of a further loss of autonomy in the content of art production, cultural work and cultural policies, of the political in art increasingly being taken over and of a greater scarcity of funding for democracy-political and critical aspects in cultural policies. For the prognosis of developments for cultural policies and cultural funding in Europe over the next ten years, this juncture is the most important point of reference, suggesting that negative effects are to be anticipated at every level (from the local through the national to the supranational).
This is why strategies are needed to strengthen and link radical reformist elements of the cultural-political discourse in Europe – in other words the elements that not only aim for smaller regulating measures within the limited field of cultural policies. The term "radical reformist" is intended to demonstrate that – particularly in the governmentality setting – it is not sufficient, in our opinion, to attack the various state apparatuses in an abstract negation, to regard social movements as the absolute Other of institutions (whether they are state bureaucracies, independent NGOs or autonomous self-organizations). On the other hand, it is indeed a matter of producing ruptures that cut through monopolizing entanglement in the network of multiplied mediation. The point is to find methods other than the interventions of special interest groups and lobbies, and to promote contents that at least temporarily resist re-coding: for instance in the exemplary idea of the French Intermittents, who not only defend their rights, but also demand the extension of these rights from the field of cultural work in the direction of a general basic income; or in pushing for a general strategy against the Fortress Europe to fight against repressive measures in the area of security, migration, asylum and legal policies.
In addition to the exchange of knowledge about cultural political developments in the various regions of Europe, this study is also a means of the concatenation of actors in this segment. Among other things, it is intended to strengthen awareness, (self-) criticism and reflection of the political role of (art) institutions as agents (with their power of positive and negative impact). Finally, the strategies that are to be developed are intended to promote the transversalization of the radical reformist, cultural political discourse. The code 2015 thus takes on the character of a possible objective of political formation.
I would like to thank Isabell Lorey and my eipcp colleagues Andrea Hummer, Raimund Minichbauer and Stefan Nowotny for criticism and advice.