The desire for a dialogue between free agents in the cultural scene and decision makers of cultural policy faces several constraints and challenges, insofar as it provides basic decisions of the previously conducted cultural policy in question. Here one would like to consider the fundamental questions of cultural policy from a new perspective: What is culture and what are cultures? Why is culture a public responsibility? Which culture is to be promoted and protected in a city? These aspects have already been widely discussed. The lengthy discussions, unfolding over decades in Germany as “the people of poets and thinkers” instead of “the people of judges and executioners” have, to some extent led to the high value of culture being legally institutionalised after the fall of the Third Reich. Even if they constitute valuable foundations, these symbolic and representative achievements must be further expanded and recorded, especially in the context of maintaining relevance in these changing times. A changing society requires a continuous confrontation with cultural policies and their various functions on the levels of cities, regions or countries.

The diverse discussions during the Congress have shown that the role of culture is currently not fully recognized. Although the importance of culture in society is determined by (German) law, an acute scarcity of resources dominates the environment, which only allows for a limited implementation and development of contemporary cultural production(1). The contributions of the congress speakers are unanimous: The maintenance of tradition remains an important role. The financial and symbolic loads of cultural institutions in the public sector lead to a certain rigidity of cultural policy. The loudest voice against this is a conception of cultural policy that does not recoil from an increased functionalisation of Culture. According to this view, cultural policy is also economic policy, urban policy and social policy (2).

How can the independent scene compete in this environment? How can it be perceived as an equal player in the arts industry? The most important cultural and political challenge of the independent scene is the blurriness of its definition: What is the alternative scene and who belongs to it? During the congress different definitions and ideas have have been formulated in this regard (3).

1. Cultural significance: Recognition as a rare commodity

“The lasting remains of a society is its culture. It is not only ornament, but the foundation upon which our society is based and for which it is built.” (Enquete‑Commission, 2007)

Is recognizing the value of culture ineffective?

Some legal texts were written in the past few decades that have precisely determined the importance of culture and endeavoured for its promotion and protection. The Unesco Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression has been in effect internationally since 2005. In Germany, although the significance of culture has not yet been enshrined in the basic law (keyword: question of legalised culture), the country sees itself as a cultural nation and cultural community (Article 5 of German Basic Law). As the authors of the Enquete Commission “Culture in Germany” noted, “This is reflected in the cultural responsibility of the municipalities, the constitutions of the states and the practice of the nation in its field of competence.” (Enquete Commission, 2007 p.4). In fact, the responsibility for cultural and educational policy is essentially attributed to the states (keyword: cultural sovereignty of the states).

The responsibility of cultural funding is anchored accordingly in the state constitutions, such as in Article 18, Section 1 of the state constitution for North Rhine-Westphalia:.. “Culture, art and science must be supported by the state and municipalities.” From a legal perspective, because of a lack of precision, the question arises as to whether the supposed obligation to cultural financing is seen as voluntary. Would it not be better, to anchor the importance of culture in society as a compulsory task? This question was the basis for a lively discussion in the course of the congress. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang SchneiderProf. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider
Universität Hildesheim
mehr zur person
Prof. Wolfgang Schneider, as expert member of the Enquete Commission “Culture in Germany” reported about one of the first decisions of the Commission; namely the proposal for a constitutional amendment “state objective”, Paragraph 20b: “The state supports and promotes culture.” He took the position that this change would strengthen the legitimacy of culture in local areas. Culture should be treated in a fashion similar to other communal services in the field of “existential support” such as the cleaning of public spaces.

Klaus HebbornKlaus Hebborn
Deutsche Städtetag
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Klaus Hebborn, Assistant Secretary of the German Association of Cities, contradicted by answering that he avoids using the expression “culture as a voluntary task” and prefers to speak of a “municipal responsibility for culture”. Both concepts must be strictly separated from each other: “As municipal responsibility, there remains a hidden design aspect. One could make culture a compulsory task of a municipality, such as the areas you mentioned [garbage collection, road maintenance]. But then one has to be aware that then the freedom of design relatively quickly disappears.” Kindergartens are a good example. They are a required of a city and are managed according to very detailed specifications. Mr. Hebborn stressed that cultural policy is a task that can only be undertaken without governmental intervention. The German Association of Cities orients itself according to this principle.

Michael FaberMichael Faber
Stadt Leipzig
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Michael Faber, Cultural Mayor and Councillor for Culture of the City of Leipzig, has also noted the difficulty of a framing culture within a legal structure. He and other speakers highlighted the Free State of Saxony as a praiseworthy example in this regard. The Free State of Saxony is the only state in Germany that has “regional cultural legislation” in its constitution (Article 11 of the Saxonian Constitution). This clause describes the interaction between cultural regions, districts, municipalities and the state. In this sense it is “not a traditional compulsory law of the state, but rather a law describing cooperation,” said Klaus Hebborn. This regional cultural legislation represents an innovative approach by providing a framework for cooperation between different administrative levels (country, culture rooms, circles, local authorities) and therefore financial responsibility. Other voices at the congress have questioned the aspect of cooperation, however, because there was a danger that the state “only” distributes money to the municipalities and thereby takes no part in the planning of cultural policy. The municipalities are hereby less financially constrained, but they remain individually responsible for the distribution of funds.

In fact, the difficulty does not lie so much in recognizing the value of culture, but more in the allocation of the financial responsibility among the levels of government. In other words the problem lies in the consistent implementation of this recognition. The public sector officially recognises the undeniable role of culture in the democratic development of society, but refuses to provide the appropriate means. There are numerous scientific studies such as that presented by Dr. Mariusz PiotrowskiDr. Mariusz Piotrowski
Living Culture Observatory
Warschau (PL)
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Dr. Mariusz Piotrowski during the congress. In this work »Kultura pod pochmurnym niebem – Dynamiczna diagnoza kultury Warmii i Mazur« [Culture under cloudy sky– Dynamic diagnoses for the culture in Warmian-Masurian] published by Prof. Barbara Fatyg, the significance of “living culture” was investigated in regard to how it arises. The investigation found that binding legal instruments for the promotion and protection of culture are missing.

In addition to the proposal for a federal constitutional amendment, there also exist ideas for the implementation of a so-called “cultural impact assessment”, such as that undertaken during the planning for large construction projects. This would constitute a further improvement of the legal framework for culture. The speakers at the congress unanimously welcomed this proposal and extended it to some extent as a basic requirement for any governmental action. This will be explained in detail later.

The scarcity of resources is an everyday fact

According to the participants in the congress, the social and legal recognition of culture is not yet reflected in currently available funding instruments. Although the public sector’s (federal, state and local) cultural budget is generally on the increase, in the context of a social structural change towards a knowledge-based society these financial resources are not sufficient. The Federal Agency for Civic Education has summarized the public expenditure for culture for the year 2009: “According to the cultural financial report published in 2012 by the statistical offices of the federal government and states, public spending on culture rose from 1995 - 2009 by 22.2 percent to 9.13 billion Euros. 13.4 percent of spending was made by the federal government, 42.2 percent by the states and 44.4 percent by the municipalities / associations of communes.” (BPB, 2014)

The issue of financial responsibility attracted a great deal of attention at the congress. Who should take on the role of cultural expenditure? The role of the federal government is becoming more important. The Office of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media that was created in 1998 has recently announced an increase in the cultural budget for 2016 by 56 million Euros (4.4% more as compared with 2015). This very welcome development unfortunately does not offer relief of the financial burden of cultural output that rests on the shoulders of the municipalities. The voluntary nature of cultural responsibility results in many cases in situations where the relevance of the budget for culture is called into question in competition with other social important fields. As opposed to child-care or road maintenance, culture is continually presented as a mere icing on the cake for society. In everyday municipal governance, the importance of culture must be continuously asserted and defended.

2. Different cultural and political “repertoires”

The recognition of the value of culture is the first challenge. It determines the extent to which culture as a whole is attributed space for manoeuvring. It neither specifies which culture is meant, nor the level of priority given to this unspecified culture. This in turn determines the distribution of funds, which as noted above, are quite limited. The issue of prioritizing certain types of culture is not only a question of money but also points to ideological notions of cultural policies. The question of the categorisation of cultural policy was a focal point of the congress. Prof. Dr. jur. Oliver ScheyttProf. Dr. jur. Oliver Scheytt
Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft e.V.
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Prof. Dr. Oliver Scheytt spoke about the context of the dilemma surrounding meaning and priority. What significance is assigned to culture? What are the values, symbolisms and social objectives that it should convey? Keynot speech by Prof. Dr. Oliver Scheytt

Through her research, French political scientist Pascale Laborier has studied the legitimation process of public action in the cultural sector in unified Germany and proposed the term “repertoires” in cultural policy. By this she means “the composition of theories, arguments and doctrines that gradually form a vocabulary with which the actors present the legitimacy of public action in the cultural field - including its modalities” (Laborier, 1996, p116). In the 1990’s, Laborier worked out three repertoires: the legitimist (keyword: high culture), the relativistic (keyword: socioculture) and the liberal-rational (keyword culture as an instrument). Although the congress showed that the latest developments in the field of cultural production and the formation of an independent scene tend to put these three opposing thought structures to the test, these allocations of meaning still function as cornerstones of cultural policy.

The financial and symbolic burden of state-run cultural institutions

There were many voices in the course of the congress that both highlighted and denounced the financial and symbolic burden of cultural institutions in the public sector (or state cultural institutions). The state institutions generally collect not less than 95% of the municipal culture budgets. 5% remains for financing other agents. How should one deal with this observation? What are the implications?

Klaus Hebborn, Assistant Secretary of the German Association of Cities, has clearly shown the dilemma of communities, which seek to preserve the status quo via conservatism while seeking to support the future via innovation. Where should the emphasis be placed? In the context of resource scarcity, the public sector tends to preserve culture. In an admirable metaphor of Daniela RatheDaniela Rathe
Stadt Tübingen
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Daniela Rathe, former Cultural Affairs director of the city of Tübingen, this is clear: “The bus is full, someone can only get in when someone else gets out.”

The burden of publicly controlled cultural institutions was discussed in detail in the well-received book “Cultural Infarct”. One of the four authors, Prof. Dr. Dieter HaselbachProf. Dr. Dieter Haselbach
Zentrum für Kulturforschung
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Prof. Dr. Dieter Haselbach, sociologist and consultant for cultural institutions, was present at the congress. He defended the thesis of a necessary “de-institutionalisation of institutions”. Although his thesis met with a good deal of criticism and rejection at the congress, his argument in terms of better evaluation mechanisms of the institutions was broadly discussed. In fact, as Prof. Dr. Schneider assured us: “No state theatre or museum must be legitimised” with a concept. Just existing is justification enough. In contrast, independent projects are constantly asked for justification.

This lack of evaluation indicates a certain belief: The publicly controlled cultural institutions are the only legitimate depositories of true civilisation. In this regard, culture is understood as a common ideal and universal good, which is produced by an educated elite and in the course of enlightenment is something that the common people should not be deprived of (keyword: democratization of culture). This corresponds to the “legitimist repertoire” of Laborier. Many voices in the congress called for a revision of this perceived conception as an outdated of the term culture. This revision can be argued on several levels. While some congress participants refuted the notion that only publicly controlled cultural institutions could produce qualitative culture, other participants questioned the dichotomy between “high culture” and socioculture.

Social functionalisation

In addition to the burden of legitimist institutions, during the congress two constraints were identified that tend to limit the scope of cultural policy. Attention was drawn to tendency of functionalisation that unfolds both on social as well as on economic levels.

Dr. Skadi JennickeDr. Skadi Jennicke
Die Linke
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Dr. Skadi Jennicke, dramaturge and Group vice-president and spokesman for cultural policies of the Left Party in the Leipzig city council seized upon “forced functionalisation of culture.” In fact, the challenge of the tremendous influx of refugees has been repeatedly identified as a specific responsibility of the cultural field. This was brought to bear not only in the opening speech by Uwe Gaul, Secretary, Ministry of Science and Art of the Free State of Saxony and in the article by Torsten Bonew, Deputy Mayor for Finance of the city of Leipzig, but also in the contributions of Michael Faber, Deputy Mayor for Culture for the City of Leipzig and Martin SchumacherMartin Schumacher
Stadt Bonn
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Martin Schumacher, Head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Science of Bonn. There is no denying that the integration of refugees represents a hitherto unforeseen cultural dimension and social task, but this should not reduce future allocation of resources for cultural policy.

Several times during the congress it was said that cultural policy is social policy. Thus, the second cultural policy repertoire of Laborier is addressed (the so-called “relativistic repertoire”), which is based upon the consideration of the wishes and diversity of the people. The protection and promotion of cultural resources of minorities, whether ethnic, sexual, social or religious should be undertaken through the formation of an open and multicultural society and lead to to an appreciation of everyday life. It corresponds in many respects to the program of so-called “socioculture” (keyword: cultural democracy).

However, it was repeatedly pointed out that there exists a dangerous trend of cultural policy to be understood as social policy, with the result of it being equated with integration and education policies. Artistic and cultural projects have social impact, but they must not be perceived as solely fulfilling this objective. The social relevance of art unfolds in the freedom of both artists and the cultural sector.

(Creative) economic functionalisation

The second constraint was described by Dr. Skadi Jennicke as an effect of economisation, which can also be understood as an economical functionalisation of art and culture. The dominant discourse about the creative city (keyword: Richard Florida, creative class and creative city) means that culture must increasingly be legitimised as an economic instrument. During the congress, several speakers and participants addressed their perception of an increasing expectation (and the resulting constraints) upon artists and cultural workers to make cultural and artistic activities a lucrative and profitable form of employment. It was made clear that municipalities increasingly reduce the social significance of culture to its mere economic effects. It became clear that there exists a certain confusion of concepts regarding culture in relation to the creative economy. With the instantiation and enforcement of Florida’s thesis upon the city to maintain a creative class, culture is not only being perceived as a pure economic factor, but also promoted as such. Several also drew attention to the impact of EU policies in this regard.

There were also polarised reports about the “Cultural Capital of Europe” programme as an instrument of cultural promotion. Michal Hladký, designer and project manager of the European Capital of Culture Košice 2013 recounted how economic and growth-oriented expectations should collude with the artistic endeavours of cultural workers. Among other roles, the Cultural Capital was designed to serve as an instrument of city marketing and help both the EU and the respective municipalities to optimise the respective location. Through his explanations of the necessity of mediation between the different groups of actors, it became clear that the creative economic interpretation of culturally planned projects has become inevitable.

Local politics also reflects this attitude of the promotion of culture as an economic factor. Michał Sowiński, independent cultural producer and publisher from Krakow, has reported on the festivalisation of culture in his city. The promotion of culture often focuses exclusively on events within the framework of the festival. In this way, the city of Krakow is hoping to improve its image in order to attract more tourists. This in turn means a limited-time promotion period for the arts and the cultural sector, which degrades cultural work as seasonal work and completely disregards “normal” citizens of a city who live there all year round and have a right to cultural activities. Against this background it is impossible to develop an enduring cultural landscape. This conception of cultural policy corresponds to the third repertoire of Laborier, the liberal-rational repertoire that is based on an alleged “significance-free” approach to culture. In this sense, the public decision-makers understand themselves as mere technicians or administrators and position themselves apolitically, thereby negating any ideological background of their actions, although they must have ideals. In this way, culture exists mainly from the perspective of its effects and not its contents.

As a final point is the question of artists. Where do they remain as part of these three conceptions of cultural policy? Should not cultural policy be developed primarily from the needs of the arts and cultural sector (see the article by Prof. Dr. Schneider)? »Konzertierte Wertschätzung statt prekärer Arbeitsbedingungen! Plädoyer für eine Kulturpolitik im Interesse von Künstlern« by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider

3. A question of definition: What is the independent scene?

The presentation of the constraints imposed upon cultural policy make it clear to which extent space is limited for an unrestricted development of art and culture. But where does the independent scene fit into this scheme? How can the independent scene make space for itself? The first question is one of definition: What is the independent scene? During the congress it became clear that there is no common consensus and that it is not (cannot be) specified from which components the independent scene is established. Synonyms such as socioculture or creative industries were repeatedly mentioned, whereas it was generally spoken of as the antonym of institutions. An analysis of these different attitudes shows some overlaps and clear boundaries of the independent scene with regard to these alternative terms that refer to competing conceptions of culture.

An alliance of private agencies?

The first comment comes from the legal perspective. As Michael Faber, Culture Mayor and Councillor for Culture of the City of Leipzig as well as Christophe Knoch, spokesman for the Coalition of the Independent Scene of the Arts Berlin affirm it, the term independent scene refers to a form of independence. In this context it can be loosely understood as “not controlled by the public sector.” Therefore, the polarities of the independent scene versus institution is a crude and inaccurate simplification, insofar as one can speak of “free institutions”. For example, the sociocultural centre naTo in Leipzig organises itself, but is nevertheless dependent on certain financial conditions imposed by its funders.

Does a purely legal definition do justice to the issue? At the congress, there were lively discussions about the necessary distinction between the independent scene and creative industries. From a purely legal perspective, a freelancer in the field of creative industries also embodies independent operation. However, many voices contradicted this integration of creatives in the independent scene as an acute reflection of economisation pressure just described. Actors in the independent scene need not operate commercially and in this sense cannot be pigeonholed within the slogan of the creative industries. Here, the third sector model (Zimmer & Priller, 2007) seemed to be useful, as cited by Dr. Eckhard BraunDr. Eckhard Braun
Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft e.V.
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Dr. Eckhard Braun, a lawyer and cultural manager at the University of Leipzig:

The area of the market refers to cultural activities that are for-profit and generally financed through the market. The area of the state refers to the actions of all authorities that seek to fulfil statutory duties. The third sector, also known as the non-profit sector or generally understood as civil society, refers to private, non-profit organisations that provide or finance benefits and services in the public interest and for the common good. The independent scene, as we understand it here, is undoubtedly rooted in the Third Sector.

The independent scene and socioculture

After these first clarifications it seems as if a second step necessary for thinking about the relationship between socioculture and the independent scene, which was a source of great confusion during the congress. Some participants used both expressions synonymously, such as Prof. Dr. Schneider, while others sought to express the interaction between the two fields. Annette Körner, Annette KörnerAnnette Körner
Bündnis 90/Die Grünen / Stadt Leipzig
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Leipzig’s cultural and economic policy spokeswoman for the Alliance 90 / The Greens in the City Council and Chairman of the Culture Committee, explained it as a “dovetailing of the independent scene with socioculture”.

As indicated above, socioculture is based upon a certain conception of culture and therefore also of cultural policy. Socioculture is understood as “a community-oriented cultural practice spanning sectors, themes, departments and generations, which seeks broad participation of the population. [It] is aimed at cultural education of individuals and cultural organisation of society in the broadest sense “(National Association Sociocultural Sachsen e.V.) In other states it is more common to speak of “community work”. Several speakers have pointed out that despite the recognition of socioculture in the German context since the 1970’s, understanding on the part of the public funding agencies has remained very low. Diana Wesser, Diana WesserDiana Wesser
Leipziger Stadtteilexpeditionen
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performance artist, director of festivals and art projects in public space in Leipzig, had the following to say regarding the current situation in Leipzig: “For many people it is still unclear that this form [community work or socioculture] is art. On the other hand, it is not expressed that it is only art. […] This is an activist project. We want to shape society, not merely work with society or about society.”

Socioculture belongs to the independent scene. But the independent scene is not to be equated with socioculture. The independent scene is home to other concepts of the arts and culture as those of socioculture. A statement by Christophe Knoch, spokesman for the Coalition of the Independent Scene of All the Arts of Berlin, made this point very clear: “This notion that only the [publicly controlled] institutions produce serious art [is no longer acceptable].The independent scene also produces serious art.” Here it is clear that other producers from within the independent scene represent a more avant-garde type of art (keyword: autonomy or art for art’s sake (Bourdieu, 1997)). For this reason it is impossible to reduce the independent scene to mere socioculture.

This vagueness of the terminology surrounding the independent scene constitutes a major challenge for cultural policy insofar as it transcends the extant tri-polarised thought-pattern (high culture, socioculture, instrument). Some of them fit into a specific repertoire, but on the whole they cannot be generally found within only one of the conditions as set by Laborier repertoires. What does a transformation of cultural policy need? How can it be designed?

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