Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Cani Abbaiano - journal

 Our class created a journal for our one class called Economy of arts under the guidance of journalist Manuela Gandini who regularly contributes to Alfabeta 2 a critical Italian journal focussed on arts,culture and society.The title of the journal translates as The dogs are barking. You can get the actual journal here in pdf but it is in Italian. 

 Here is the editorial that I wrote. 
“An old west African proverb compares the artist to a dog. Positioned at the interface of the
human and the natural worlds, the dog in most ancient African societies enjoyed slippery and
highly ambiguous cultural status.
Neither a human being, nor a wild animal, it was nevertheless admitted in the domestic
sphere where it was recognised as man's best friend.
Loyal to a fault, it was committed to its master to the point of helping him hunt wild animals.
This is why it enjoyed special rights.
Because a dog was never happier than when its nose was up another's rear end- the anus,
that sensory button of the world - it also symbolised debasement and degradation.
Just like the dog, the artist also enjoyed special rights, including the right to conduct
forbidden experiments. His task was to translate society to itself”. – Achille Mbembe, Cape
Times, June 5 2012
The economic crisis has stimulated a range of conversations against the capital and consumer driven
system that the Western world have been comfortably nesting in for years. It has illuminated the
flaws of a system that has dominated and affected the core values of Western society the 21 st
century. It has in fact illuminated us to see that change is necessary, that is also a change in the
values that informs our decisions.

It is from here that we can see why it is necessary to create an enquiry also from the perspective of
the arts. The most obvious reason is that economic crisis’s or government financial policies affect
also the cultural sector. Producers of culture needs financial support and space in order to live, and
produce work.

When analysing the current situation crashing financial markets, greed driven corporations and
speculation are terms that superficially touch on the causes of this crisis. It easy to lay out the
blame on investment bankers, CEO’s and governments, but it did not come over night with a few
evil personas. It is a system of values - a culture - that has been the basis of the production and
consumption that we live in. We are not innocent bystanders or just simply victims of this system;
we were also participants in it. This includes the cultural sector; us as artists, curators and writers.
Thus as cultural workers we need to understand how we fit in to this economy, what systems of
production we use and what we do to change or uphold it.

Starting with a historical analysis allows us to see how we got here. Understanding how the arts
came to reflect the financial system of speculation, understanding the invention of the art market.
This also reflects on systems of power and how it came to be in the hands of a select few. We
look to the economic crisis of the past, the great depression, reflecting how it was dealt with even
sometimes in bazaar ways.

If one can understand the past we can reflect on the current situation. How is art valued today, what
is its role in society and how does political policies and the financing of it affect it. In the globalised
world we can learn from each other and trace similarities. An analysis of different concepts of
financing and public perception in different geographical areas starting from the sophisticated
funding system of Northern Europe to the complications of funding in a developing country; South
Africa. Another analysis shows the political complications affect art in Columbia and the review of
public art policies in Taiwan. We understand that we are not isolated.

A final part looks at how it has come to this, how the world has been perceived theoretically and
philosophically and how artist imagine and approach the situations. One might argue against or an
autonomous group of artists occupying and appropriating corporate buildings and urban spaces, or
Utopic imagined spaces as unrealistic, but it serves as mirrors held up to imagine what can be, or
what should not be.

One might ask why it is important that we as cultural workers publish a volume of articles on art
and the economy. The answer is this, we are the dogs, we need to dig up the old bones, we need to
start barking at the gates to warn of the thieves that enter to prevent them from stealing the good
ideals of society. We are not wild animals outside of the house; we are part of it and will contribute
to improving it.

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