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INSTITUTION
State of the art or art of the state?

in preparation and research for new performance and interdisciplinary creation, stage and film documentary

by Felix Bachmann. 

Important: the following is intended as a critical stimulus and in no ways as an attack against anyone holding a public office or function of work. The proposal is less about an obsolete way of doing things than a need to see things differently. The underlying understanding is that the weight of the state needs to be halved, and structures cannot be supported by artistic drive. A dialogue is in place. Solutions urgently needed, refreshment in understanding art and regard towards complex creative social dynamics. 


 

Abstract

Independent artistic creation is prey to the economic and bureaucratic weight of institutional public structures. The administrative requirements for creation accounts for about 90% of the working time, and it is mostly unpaid work. The demands made on the artists are also not in line with the conditions and requirements of the public institutions, which are often inefficient. Structural timing, requests, and confirmation on support are dead times. They are a threat to the urgency and needs of the arts. The bureaucratic system of regulating public funds has one-sided benefits for public bodies. Definitions and calculations of production are proposed that are not substitutes for the public benefits of art (art is not established merely in terms of quantitative impact, level of income, ticket sales). 

There are victims: from the independent art sector and towards society as a whole. 

There is appropriation of public spaces by institutions and little accountability. 

Any artist working as an independent artist will readily acknowledge there is an enormous structural problem. If once the problem was dented into concerning authorities to change the funneling of resources, today the feeling has evolved: the age of institutions is over. New dynamics are emerging. New economic resources are being developed as alternatives to the official value. Loot to a structured procedure that has less concern about artistic processes than in keeping things to the norm, artists are finding new ways. 

Aim

The aim of this research performance is to inform a general audience and to shed a critical light on the problems at hand as much as new solutions emerging for the creation of alternative production stages to art mediation and creation. It is aimed at young audiences (aged 15 to 35).

Process

Upon recollection of all hard data, statistical analysis, where and how public funds for the arts are distributed, and how impact is measured, all information will be subjected to a creative bonfire in order to concentrate on the new alternative solutions at hand, and disregard institutional shortcomings. 

Initial research

A deep historical analysis and historical insitutionalism (with focus on Europe, Americas, and Asia), approach will be fundamental to the work process.

Redefine etymological and symbolical meanings of words that define our cultural heritage and present landscape: culture is not art, and cannot be used synonymously. 

Artists, a role in society: primitive, secular, religious, industrial. Artisans and commerce.

Patrons of the arts vs. institutions, a historical account. 

A day in the life of a public functionary.

Case studies: concentration of power, censorship complex, misallocation of resources. 

CALL
 

  • Aid in carrying out an in-depth statistical research: how are public funds handled? Where is the money made available? Who decides? Detailed analysis, looking at a dynamic reading of the relationship between art and society. This work is not paid.

 

  • Help make an analysis of the legal bases to which public structures conform to the handling of money and the requirements of the law. This work is not paid.

  • If you have a story to tell, Institution wants to hear your story.


     

Development 

Done not made:

Artists are the most powerful, the most critical, the most authentic voice to understand the times we live in. An artist is not merely a person who exhibits the processual development of an idea to an audience, it is a responsibility born from the deep need of being. There is an invocation to truth. Ruse and transform. Trickster at works, saints on a churn. Artistic work discriminates upon definitions: on the one hand what public institutions handle as professional artistic conduct, and on the other hand what is historically represented as an artist in the exercise of being human. Being an artist is not merely a profession. 

A spear thought perhaps and not really quite much of a choice: either you are one or you are not. Art schools can teach you tools, but very few can light the flame of the artist. In the words of Terrence Mckenna, “The artist’s task is to save the soul of mankind; and anything less is a dithering while Rome burns. If the artists, who are self-selected, for being able to journey into the Other, cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found.”

A list of scenarios:

Extreme comfort generates soft societies, governments and institutions with paternalistic and authoritarian tendencies. Easy money apparently flows. Authoritarianism, mixed with historical patriarchal systems, stick to totalitarianism: laws and functions follow the course of interests towards the concentration of resources. The global tendency, then, manifests itself in all parts of society and its governance. Equality is hollowed out, favouritism is encouraged, diversity and critical thinking penalised. Social dynamics exposed to a myriad of static stoppages. 

 

There exists in other societies a tendency towards mild intoxication and consumption: the event takes the place of art. Education becomes a penalising procedure. Having sacrificed in a long scale the exercise of social traction, inventiveness is reduced to a context of technique. In freckle-free economic countries, poverty is more about the invisibility of creative character and drive. For all is about wealth and money. Art becomes complacent: there is no independent distribution possible, there are punctual exercises of exhibition, processes duly managed by the power of public institutions: which decide how, when, by whom, with what deadlines, with what budgets, what rationale in development, pick a theme, context circumstances be presented.

Society, investing into comfort, accepts this disposition.

A circular argument conforms: regulation. The artist is offered a choice: my way or the highway. But fear the highway, it only leads to more highway and the desert. In this context scenario, many private foundations keep close to the fountain and follow public exercise of artistic structural creation, entering as regulating entities.

 

Other scenarios present the mediator and organiser taking over the space previously occupied by the exercise of the public's imagination when coming into contact with an art piece. The mediator explains, translates, generates a subjective bridge, not devoid of biases. The narrative rewards conservatism in the face of interpretation. Society, already overburdened with an inevitable lack of education and criticism, prefers explanation to creative imagination. Creative imagination, the deep axis of being and the source of human transformation, requires personal work, self-knowledge and discipline. The mediator, taken by the circumstances of institutional figures and the hierarchical protection of public officials, displaces the artist in his or her direct contact with society. The artist, further exiled to the emptiness of the margins, is called upon to enter into a relationship with the institutional exercise in order to survive. She or he has the option, so to speak, to explain, align, formalise, flatten, homogenise and present the mystery of creation and creative catharsis as demanded by a narcissistic society. 

 

The institutionalized artist lives in a constant emptying of personal creative power. 

 

In a context in which the audience is accustomed to the public event of a certain scale as art*, and in which it has delegated interpretation to mediation and explanation, the market ceases to exist. The public institution thus also assumes the role of market and direct economic contact with artistic creation. In other words, in order to work in the arts one depends exclusively on public resources managed by public institutions and public officials.

*note: a specific in depth analysis will be placed on the differences between “culture” as represented, and “art” as experienced. 

 

Face the oppressive face of poverty there is still a choice: to be or not to be. The creative time, i.e. the sustained and constant focus in which an artist must live, is decimated by a myriad of administrative burdens. To work, the artist has to exclusively deal with public officials, and mediation, who control the flow of money, the relationship with the public, the exhibition and distribution spaces and the cultural structure. Working becomes an exercise of explaining how and what is to be done following rules, numbers of characters, specific questions, guided reflections, and channelled arguments. The artist's creativity, in which the power of creation is established, becomes systematic and conceptual. In this structure there remain some independent cutting spaces, but they have, in an economic context of absolutely privative living costs, no possibility of subsisting outside the very short term. 

Note: what bureaucrats and functionaries do not understand, and perhaps the common working person as well, is that if you settle minimum wage an artist will spend most of his or her time expanding their art. A pianist will play the piano; a painter, paint; a writer, write; a dancer, dance, so forth and so on. Of course leisure and travels demand exchange, but having an artist do what they are good at enriches society as a whole. Unlike what we have been led to believe during the course of the last three decades in Europe, an artist is not like any other metier. An artist is engaged in a process, profound transformative experiences, that is then shared with the surrounding community.  And the final product of an artist's process is not as significant as the process itself: it is the process, not the product, that transforms and makes for reality. Although there is a lot of media attention for us to believe the opposite. 

Some cases might present society as taken by the habit of outsourcing everything to the state. A circular step dance takes proportion in which the audience and public institutions are one and the same. A hegemonic mass is mechanically constituted and regulated by institutionalising all available spaces. But this does not generate cultural and social dynamics. 

Solution, one thought I heard someone say out loud: reduce the structure of the state to a minimum. Because one thing is to make the state own the means of production, and another is for the people to own the means of production. In the current situation the former is being stressed. 

Let the the people decide where the money for the arts is going directly. 

Other thoughts:

An extreme scenario presents a historical fact, all cultures that have displaced the care of the soul as their centre of communal life, perish. The social/institutional machinery ignores its own slippage to drowsiness.  For some artists, the artistic process becomes an exercise in abstractions and assumptions linked to numbers and more assumptions.

 

Some scenarios might present order tending towards the absolute.  Penalisations firmly delivered generally with economic resources (which, again, fall solely on the modest economic spaces in which the artist is inevitably called upon to live). In the face of the repetition of this exercise, the artist becomes a civil servant, to the extent and on the basis of a society - in general terms - entirely structured on its economic goods. 

First step:

Legal structures, the way statistics are read, play a predominant role.

We must be able to see things differently.

Freedom is not security. Security isn't freedom.

A personal author note:

I would like to have the possibility to be surprised by this research and investigation for creation. Surrounded by an extremely affluent society, I understand that the value of institutions is constitutive and can be positive. But from the moment institutions exceed what is in the public domain and intervene in social dynamics, placing structured arguments that constrain the education of a people and degrade into inconsistency.

Felix Bachmann, Fribourg, 2023.

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