How to go ahead: cultural institutions

Het afgelopen decennium was een moeilijke tijd voor culturele instellingen zoals HMK. Aan de ene kant zijn er forse bezuinigingen doorgevoerd en aan de andere kant is er een grotere druk op institutionele prestaties en organisatorische efficiëntie – wat op zijn beurt heeft geresulteerd in overproductie en overbelasting in het culturele veld. Met Slow Burn, ons huidige jaarprogramma, nemen we tijd voor care: we denken na over alle dingen die we hebben gedaan, we herstellen van de dingen die we verkeerd of te veel hebben gedaan, en we nemen tijd om ons af te vragen wat HMK zou kunnen doen en zijn in de toekomst – voor de instelling, haar kunstenaars, haar medewerkers en haar gemeenschap.

Onlangs lijken deze vragen nog dringender en urgenter, zij het op manieren die niemand van ons ooit had kunnen bedenken. Hoe kunnen culturele instellingen zich aanpassen aan, en leren in deze nieuwe en precaire tijden, zelfs als de deuren gesloten zijn? We stellen jouw mening zeer op prijs! We runnen deze plek tenslotte voor iedereen. In ons derde en laatste forum willen we graag dat je jouw mening met ons deelt door de volgende vraag te beantwoorden:

Welke uitdagingen moeten culturele instellingen zoals HMK nu overwinnen, en wat kunnen ze doen en zijn, nu en in de toekomst?

2 reacties

  • Tjeerd de Vries schreef:

    I find this difficult to answer, though I’d focus on virtual and augmented reality. Perhaps, building life-size, transparent umbrellas for visitors, to keep safe from any contamination while visiting?

  • Rik Dijkhuizen schreef:

    This is possibly the hardest question of the three in this FORUM. And that comes as no surprise. Already for years cultural institutions are facing challenging times, and the link between art and society has always been somewhat strained, or not so obvious to say the least. We all agree that culture is part of society but to what extent should cultural institutions be self-sufficient? Or to what extend do they need support from the community. Things become even more complicated when we consider the dichotomy between art as ‘l’art pour l’art’ or ‘engagement’, and to make matters worse: What is art?

    Right now, that situation is getting amplified. Many cultural institutions are facing a substantial loss of income (a.o. ticket sales) and they lack monetary reserves to balance this out. Keeping the doors open would cost even more money, because there are too few visitors to have the full machine running. In previous years cultural institutions managed to be creative with costs, mainly by providing freelance contracts to employees, overworking, overproducing, low fees for artists and entire armies of interns, more than willing to do a paid job for free. This while exhibitions become more expensive (depending on other, commercial industries for materials, logistics, professional support etc.) The consensus here is: “at least I do something I like”, but what is the cost? An overall consensus of feeling less valued than worth. And here things get tricky: an entire industry has lost all its resilience to fight any setback, a precariat of creative professionals, forced to ‘run around screaming’.

    How do we move forward? What quality comes from this situation? And what is quality? But also: to what extend should art institutions abide to the wishes of the public; in case these institutions need to generate extra income asap, when they are allowed to open their doors again? If we take out extra emergency funding altogether (#neoliberalism), these places of reflection, open thinking and creative experiment are forced to fully go for the pricey blockbuster approach, with even more cuts in HR and fees. Recipe for disaster, if you ask me. Personally, I don’t think this is a sensible or even humane solution.

    Maybe a better solution is for institutions to reflect the reality of the situation in their programming – fewer exhibitions, less pricey productions, stopping overworking and overproducing, success that is not measured by visitor numbers but by quality and relevance, reorganising money distribution (why pay thousands of euro’s on outdoor campaigns while the staff is seriously underpaid, or not paid at all?) – and being totally transparent about it. This would also mean redetermining the requirements to receive funding, because up until this point, funding depends mainly on visitor numbers and generated income, putting even more pressure on an industry that is close to collapsing. This is somewhat of a radical idea (and not without flaws), but why keep pretending things are functioning while things should absolutely change?

    It’s worth contemplating that the creative industry is remotely similar to the public health industry. I don’t make claims that the creative industry is vital, but it’s of great importance to keep us engaged, sane, inspired, relaxed. It’s the industry that thinks of how to move forward in life, to reflect, to speculate etc. In public health (for a large part state funded) it’s not about giving what is desired, but what is required. It’s about taking care, not about providing a hotel experience. That could be lesson for institutions: on one hand we need more funding to work, on the other we have a responsibility to offer what is required, not desired. Maybe institutions were forced to give what is desired (blockbusters), or moved into an opposite direction (going full overintellectualised, hermetic exclusivity). Somewhat of an awkward situation… All fine, but the question remains: how do we justify receiving more funding then, to ‘heal’ the industry?

    I think for the future cultural institutions (the ones that depend on funding) should engage more (not in quantity but in quality), move away from the two formats mentioned above and make things more accessible. I really can’t see a Picasso anymore, but I also don’t like to look at things that make me feel stupid or left out. Aim for quality, engagement, relevance, insights, not entertainment or overintellectualisation. And in return, these institutions should receive more and structural funding to actively and structurally take care of the institution, its employees, its artists and creatives. Taking care, and take care in return.