eipcp Policies European Cultural Policies 2015
08 2005

2015 [Introduction]

Translated by Aileen Derieg

Gerald Raunig

Gerald Raunig


Aileen Derieg (translation)




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.

1. Instead of preparing a comprehensive study taking a totalizing view of Europe as a whole (regardless of where the borders of this Europe are fantasized to be), we have asked seven experts from different regions to develop the regional specificities and disparities of their cultural-political experiences. This is intended to highlight both the respective distinctive features and the similarities of various national and regional tendencies in cultural policies.

2. We have supplemented these reports with a critical view of the specific developments of EU cultural policies, including the future of public funding for contemporary art in Europe. Plans for the future EU cultural program that is intended to operationalize European cultural policies from 2007-2013 as the successor to Culture 2000 provided a useful standard of comparison.

3. In order to be able to make a reasonably realistic assessment of future cultural policies, the individual essays draw specific lines from the developments of the past ten to fifteen years. Extending these lines into the future, projecting images of possible cultural-political arrangements in relation to contemporary art into the year 2015 on the basis of heterogeneous experience and reflection, is the method of this study.

4. Our hope is that the foundation of assessments of cultural-political developments thus formulated will enable drawing conclusions about progressive cultural policies in Europe and especially about their resistive positioning in a field of cultural producers, who regard the critique of cultural policies in Europe as a necessary component of their own work.

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:

1. The old pathos of the concept of culture appears as a replica of the authoritarian 1950s in phrases that continue to invoke culture as an instrument for forming identity, yet even in its most up-to-date form of "European identity" it is hardly able to deny its origins in the culturalism, cultural humanism and cultural essentialism of past centuries. Coupled with the old colonial idea that culture is eminently suited as a vanguard of expansion or as a marketing instrument for the nation (or super-nation), cultural identity (especially as European cultural identity) is popular for all kinds of links between identitary politics and kulturkampf politics. At the level of EUropean policy papers as well, harmonious sounding phrases often mask culturalist (community through cultural identity), economic (location factor) and exclusionist phantasms (excluding the Other of Europe, whether it is Islamic, American or extraterrestrial).

2. With the adaptation, or rather the perversion of emancipatory practices of the 1970s, the field of cultural policies increasingly becomes a space of action for neoliberal governmentality: participation becomes obligatory, creativity becomes an imperative, transparency becomes total surveillance, life-long learning turns into a threat, education means permanent social control, and grassroots democracy means developing software that applicants for cultural funding can use to evaluate one another. Diverse outsourcing models and mediator positions form a network of dependencies, operating in a way that is far more complex and thorough than the old lord – vassal hierarchy of cultural support in the past. Autonomous cultural initiatives meet with a fate similar to that of the autonomous genius-artist; specifically in the precarious aspect of their autonomy, they become necessary agents of governmentality control.

3. However, in addition to the control society instruments of internalizing control in an increasingly complex network of institutions and NGOs (and in the self of the actors), the old disciplining authority of the state arises again, but this time as an effect of neoliberal economization and unbounded deregulation, appearing in the realm of culture in the form of requirements for "third-party funding", public-private partnership, audience numbers, economic evaluations, cultural support for the creative industries, or simply substituting private resources for state responsibility. In the advancement of post-fordist capitalism, it seems that a transition has taken place here from a purportedly liberal phase to an authoritarian one, in which economization and the dispositive of security supplement one another. Everywhere that these tendencies are picked up and in conjunction with a broader movement to repress critical elements, exceptional cases of criminalization and direct repression become more widespread. Current examples of this renewed turn to the authoritarian in cultural policies as well include such very different cases as that of the PublixTheatreCaravan in Italy, the Critical Art Ensemble and Steve Kurtz in the USA, or the exhibition "Caution, Religion" at the Sakharov Center in Moscow.

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.

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