This is my paper given as part of the Movement for Cultural Democracy panel at the Raymond Williams Society Conference in Manchester on 26th April 2019. It’s a mash up of some previous work but I think it is a succinct account of where my thinking is at about cultural democracy and working-class culture.Read More
I’ve been tweeting a bit today about art, privilege, elitism, ‘leaders’, social practice, and more. The great article about the dominance of privilege in the arts by Nick Cohen in The Guardian yesterday certainly spurred me on. So did tweets by Emma Bearman and Mar Dixon. I felt the train of discussion throughout the day developed around common threads. Ideas about emancipation, democracy, paradigm shifts. This post attempts to cobble together my responses into a semi-coherent stream of thoughts and sound bites that currently drive me. Here goes:
I think of my practice as ‘space-making’ but never call it that. Potential, play, not knowing. People ‘do art’ by taking part.
We are grassroots and critical… not radical. We see social practice as a process of deconstruction and reconstruction.
Potentially emancipatory, our work is not Jesus on shipping containers or gimmicky digging for fools gold.
We see social practice as dialogic. We try to create potential spaces where something creative might happen.
We’re forced to align our outcomes and measures to those of funders when applying, then make sure we achieve them.
People (the public) don’t define outcomes or measures. Policymakers do. Elitist and hierarchical. Outcomes and measures don’t matter to people.
Policymakers pop stoppers in their bell jars. Tie little state-made labels on. File them away. Museum objects. Boxes ticked.
Funders like their ‘leaders’ to conform to passed-down policy. Orchestral, they conduct. ‘New’: their instrumental composition.
Leaders. Thought Leaders. Cultural Leaders. Command and control. Undemocratic?
Missionary, mercenary, mobiliser. Always suspect. Power is pervasive.
Can leadership every be truly ‘democratic’? Always elitist. Never emancipatory.
Neoliberal leadership is always evangelical. They need us to be born again.
Leadership of this sort is always for technocratic elites; never publics.
Always difficult to challenge. DIY or with others. Self-organise?
Elitism is as endemic in the arts as it is elsewhere. Time to put class back on the agenda?
These are my thoughts. I’m not a leader. Not an evangelist. I see critical theory as offering old-new ways to think about culture, class, power, policy. New utopias. Social justice. A much needed socio-political paradigm shift…
Comments always welcome!