Far from being unusual or unproblematic, these are commonplace questions that pivotal public art institutions in Finland, with others geographically, have been critically engaging with for some time.
In a recent talk by Marita Muukkonen of the art magazine FRAME, and formerly of NIFCA, she has stated: “Looking at recent policy and political developments in arts and culture in Finland and the EU it becomes clear that cultural-political instrumentalisation and economisation is infused with nationalist and protectionist tendencies, and that is a growing concern.” Marita also worryingly identifies the strengthening tendency of the transformation of cultural politics into cultural economics, the idea of arts and culture as a competitive factor of national economic growth.
Here in Scotland we are daily saturated with the competitive nationalism of ‘Scotland the brand’: The 250th anniversary of Rabbie Burns’ birth has already been appropriated by the Scottish Government as ‘Homecoming Scotland’, “Promoting Scotland as the modern, confident and dynamic nation it is today”. Its advisory board is chaired by Allan Burns, not a poet but director in Scotland of the multinational drinks monolith Diageo: “It aims to co-ordinate the handling of the full programme of events in 2009 to ensure maximum economic benefit.”
Under the guise of National Culture, does the parliamentary process really have little else to offer than the regional exploitation of natural resources and labour forces by globally mobile capital? And what of the separatism of global competition that acts as a vehicle for national and cultural chauvinism?
But let’s take the influence industry at its word, if there is such a thing as the 'knowledge economy', if it truly is a contest, isn’t it time we at least caught up with our northerly and eastern neighbours and started to ask equally searching questions about the manifestations of Scottish cultural nationalism?
Marita Muukkonen’s text, ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Possibilities for Contemporary Art Institutions to Function as Critical Political Spaces’ (which formed part of the Public Preparation series for the upcoming Biennale of Young Artists, in Estonia, http://www.biennaleofyoungartists.org), will form the basis of a discussion to be held at Market Gallery in collaboration with Variant magazine. Please read the PDF of Marita's text before the discussion, which is available at: http://www.variant.org.uk/events/Market30/MM_Market.pdf
2-4pm, Saturday 27th October
334 Duke Street, Glasgow, G31 1QZ
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