Both in Bolivia as in Holland there is an ongoing debate on ‘art’, well, more a debate on the ‘financing of art’. In Holland of course the drastic budget reductions (20-25% on the budget for culture) by the right wing government led to public outcry, demonstrations and so forth. In Bolivia there is a new law on art in preparation that sparked some demonstrations, ‘flash-mobs’ and a debate in the media: the artist community considers its chapter on financing to be far insufficient. The slogan at the beginning of this blog is part of the artists’ campaign here in Bolivia. Interesting stuff.
An intriguing issue is the effects of social codification and/or ‘market mechanisms’: the supposed distinction between ‘real’ art (defined as such by the ‘experts’, the works of art that are shown in expositions and museums etc.) and ‘amateur’ art. If the slogan ‘Without art there is no life – without creativity there is nothing’ has a grain of truth, than we should be worried about the elitist character of art, the monopolization of ‘art’ by specific interest groups, the mercantilization, the poor governmental or societal support for art, the lack of art in education at all levels, and so forth. If art is an important means of self-expression, contributing to spiritual and social health at individual and group level, it should be more actively promoted in all social strata.
Nothing new or original here: Joseph Beuys for instance. He was (according to Wikipedia) ‘a German performance artist, sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist and pedagogue of art’. He grounded his artistic work in concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy. He is considered as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Among others, he was elected as a Green Party candidate for the European Parliament (probably one of the reasons why he does appeal to me….). Beuys promoted among others free art education for all, the discovery of creativity in everyday life, the need to bring creativity into all areas of life and the idea that “everyone is an artist”. So a radical ‘democratization’ of art. He died in 1986, when I was still working in Niger, West Africa.
In a world of individualization and automatization, art and expression may be very needed to maintain or strengthen the social fabric, to relate ourselves to the other. Art contributes to critical self-reflection, to social innovation, to more openness and tolerance for other cultures, to the quality of life.
Rob van den Boom