Sunday, March 18, 2012

The value of art

While doing research for the text I have to write for my subject Economy of arts, I came across this really great interview with Achille Mbembe a theorist living in Johannesburg. He discusses the problem with art funding in South Africa, and addresses some issues also about funding coming from the Western world to Africa and the traps of thinking so narrowly about the value of culture. Go read it here.
"We have to realize that culture is not yet another form of “service delivery”. It is the way human beings imagine and engage their own futures. Without this dimension of futurity and imagination, we can hardly write a name we can call ours or articulate a voice we can recognize as our own". 
"We need to move away from this form of crass materialism and this empiricism of wants and needs in order to rehabilitate cultural and artistic critique as a public good in and of itself. The value of art cannot solely be measured on the basis of its contribution to material well-being. Nor is artistic creativity a luxury or an immoral pursuit that should be redeemed by its annexation and inscription in the official, state-sanctioned discourse of development and poverty reduction. We must resist this trivialization.
 Artistic creativity, cultural and theoretical critique is an integral part of the immaterial and unquantifiable assets produced by a society. It is a constitutive dimension of our communities and nations wealth in the same way as our physical infrastructures. It’s value by far exceeds the means by which this value is counted. The management and regulation of art and culture should therefore pertain to a different order, one that takes seriously the “intangible” and “inalienable” qualities of culture and one that, as a result, is not dependent on purely quantitative measurements and indexes".Achille Mbembe. 
And you can read a constructive response to this by Pamela Allara , I tend to agree more with  Achille in a sense that I feel that often in South Africa, getting funding is directly related to it having some social activist role, or having to fit into the role of producing art reflecting on  Apartheid or ethnic identity.  

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