ACTORS THAT ARE TRANSFORMING CULTURAL POLICIES
The transformation of cultural policy in the sense of involvement by the independent scene in the discourse was supported and promoted by certain actors. Who are these actors? During the congress there were four groups of actors: Representatives of the independent scene, cultural politicians from the city, cultural administrators and the public:
A triangle is formed by the representatives of the independent scene, the cultural politicians and the cultural administrators. This was understood as the field of potential cooperation on cultural policy. The public is both instigator and addressee of this socially anchored design process of cultural policy. Of course, the entire field of cultural policy includes other actors, which were not directly taken into consideration here Cartography of the cultural politicy in Leipzig (see the cultural-political cartography developed during the congress).
The discussions have made it clear that the emergence of sustainable cooperation presupposes certain changes, both on the part of the independent scene (1) and on the part of the traditional local decision makers in the cultural sector (2). The following three are particularly important keywords: Visions, expertise and structures. In order to assert themselves as legitimate and recognized players within the field of cultural policy, these actors must work together to develop an independent and thought-out vision for the cultural policy of their city, which they should steer by their respective skills within specific structures.
1. In the independent scene: The creation of sustainable structures
The independent scene has to internally restructure itself in order to be able to succinctly present itself externally. The internal structuring covers various issues relating not only to the independent scene’s ideas of identity, but also in terms of the legitimacy and the institutionalisation of the representation of the independent scene.
About self-understanding and cohesion of the independent scene
The question of self-understanding of the independent scene is tightly interwoven with its conceptual vagueness as discussed above. But how does the independent scene understand itself? Who feels that they belong to it? During the congress various speakers talked about the development of a network and a community in the independent scene. How is it possible for individualistic freelancers and activists to come together and create a network?
mehr zur person Jonas Büchel, urban planner and cultural manager, co-founder and managing director of the Urban Institute in Riga, talked about his experience from social and urban planning in the context of his activities in Riga. In 2013, six curators from the independent scene came together in the context of the European Capital of Culture Programme 2014. They launched a movement of young cultural workers and activists by defining the city as a crucial development area for artists, cultural workers and especially the whole population. The specific concern was to ensure the temporary use of vacant infrastructure, which led to the establishment of a community in Riga that is eminently active in cultural policy. The movement free Riga triggered a great deal of resonance within the population of the city, because the people understood that this energy has created space for new perspectives (S. Best Practices Catalogue).
Christophe Knoch, lawyer and spokesman for the Coalition of the Independent Scene of all the Arts in Berlin (KFS) reported on the initial phase of the KFS. In 2012, all sectors of the arts came together. As he described, the coming together of the independent scene was a big surprise for him, especially because it was previously very difficult to make decisions together. At the same time, he did not hide the aspect that the KFS had to deal with a strong sectionalisation in their midst. The making of decisions always comes down to the safeguarding of one’s own interests, however the debates on the so-called City-Tax (using 50% of the revenues from the City Tax for the independent scene) overcame the divisions between the sectors and actors. (S. Best Practices Catalogue).
naTo e.V. / Initiative Leipzig + Kultur e.V.
mehr zur person In Leipzig, representatives of the independent scene came together in the association of Leipzig + Culture, which was founded in 1999. In 2001, the non-profit decided to respond to years of underprovisioning by organising a project known as “White January”. This project demonstrated how colourless the cultural calendar of the city would be when none of the independent scene’s activities take place. Its most important campaign was and to this day still is “Five for Leipzig”, an action in 2012 that took on a national scope and demanded 5% of all municipal cultural budgets for the financing of the independent scene. (S. Best Practices Catalogue as well as Inaugural address by Falk Elstermann the opening lecture by speaker Falk Elstermann).
Every similar network or alliance has designed itself around local solutions to these problems. This has been the result of active commitment on the part of individual actors. How is it possible to carry this initial spark into the longer term? During the Congress, the question of identity emerged as an important issue. After a period of initial euphoria it is important to create a long-lasting connection between the individual actors in order for them perceive each other as peers. In this process, new forms and means of communication within the scene need to be manifested. The exchange of experience and knowledge should be made possible with the aim of creating more ideological and structural opportunities for freelancers. This process often requires intense debate, through which the territory of the independent scene should be defined in relation to that of the entire cultural field and not as encompassing the latter.
In this context, the notion of a divisional system between sectors was repeatedly brought up during the congress. Should the independent scene create its own space, as is currently being handled in the planning for the new Cultural Development Plan of Leipzig? Or should it rather be split into sectors such as music, theatre, dance, visual art, literature, media or socioculture and represented individually in each case? The conceptual confusion between the independent scene and socioculture can cause certain actors in cultural policy and administration to consider the independent scene as a separate division. However, the independent scene is not a division but a large field that is subdivided along traditional lines.
Basic democratic legitimacy
The conceptual vagueness of the independent scene was repeatedly accompanied during the congress with scepticism from the perspective of the public decision makers. With this conceptual vagueness that defines the independent scene, who then should represent it? The legitimacy of the representatives of the independent scene constitutes a necessity for a process of their recognition as legitimate points of contact for the city’s cultural politicians and administrators.
Such a legitimation points to the governance of a network or an alliance. The speakers all agreed with the realisation that this type of coalition should be construed from the perspective of non-hierarchical direct democracy. The following criteria need to be discussed: Who is eligible to participate in such an alliance? Are there any criteria for exclusion? Does this not create an environment of exclusivity? How does one design participation? How should the choice of speakers be organised? Another discussion point was about methods of participation and their promotion within the alliance. Here, the majority of congress participants felt a strong disdain for top-down networks as they have been created exclusively out of urban development policy decisions such as the “Creative Network” in Spandau, which was founded by the coopolis agency at the behest of the district of Spandau.
mehr zur person Stefanie Raab, founder and CEO of coopolis - planning office for cooperative urban development, responded to the criticism with a plea for transparency.
Transparency is a key concept in relation to the legitimacy question of such a coalition. How are decisions made? Who is allowed to take the floor? Transparency is important, so that the members of such movements continue to feel that they belong and are represented. It requires a continuous exchange between the representatives and the entire independent scene. This ideal vision of a legitimate representation of the independent scene met with certain constraints. It should not be forgotten that such representation is invariably founded on a voluntary basis: Ultimately, the “doers decide”. For that reason, the question of legitimacy is related to the question of the institutionalisation of networks.
The institutionalisation of the alliance of the independent scene
During the congress there was a great amount of discussion about the issue of institutionalisation of an alliance of the independent scene. What form might this take? What conditions are needed? Some dissenting voices have always been against tendencies toward an institutionalisation of the independent scene by arguing that it will necessarily end in nationalisation and some sort of framing regulations. It would mean that the independent scene loses its defining flexibility. Additionally, others see a potential causal link between institutionalisation and disengagement by arguing that a highly structured organisation could lead to a retreat or even withdrawal of its members. This voice, however, was not in the majority. The majority has spoken, in fact, for a solution that assigns permanence and durability to the cultural policy work of the alliance of the independent scene. In this regard, three solutions were presented: The legal entity, the coordination centre and knowledge transfer.
Several speakers, among others
Musikland Niedersachsen gGmbH
mehr zur person Markus Lüdke, CEO of Music Land Niedersachsen GmbH, highlighted the benefits of the adoption of a legal form of the collective alliance. This model enables the previously unconsolidated coalition to become a juristic entity and act as a legal point of contact to authorities. This would make it easier to obtain funding. In the congress, the spokespeople from various free scenes speculated upon the most relevant legal form of such a political alliance, whether non-profit, network, association or cooperative. Christine Ebeling
mehr zur personChristine Ebeling, spokeswoman of the Gängeviertel in Hamburg, reminded us that the choice of legal form depends upon the purpose of the respective alliance. In the case of the Gängeviertel in Hamburg, the cooperative form appeared most expedient from the perspective of shared usage and provisioning of spaces in and around physical buildings. In the case of Leipzig + culture, the spokespeople have recently decided to register it as an association. Getting to that point was long and very controversial. The Coalition of the Independent Scene in Berlin has not yet achieved consensus on a legal form and for the time being remains a coalition without the status of a legal entity.
The second approach relates to the relevance of a coordination office in an association for the independent scene. As already mentioned, the work of a spokesperson is not remunerated, even though its fulfilment takes a great deal of time. Because volunteer work requires such a great deal of energy, many coalitions often succumb. Christophe Knoch provided several examples in Berlin, such as the Dance Office, which consists of two part-time employees. They have the luxury of time to consider and contemplate. However, it is a problem that the coordination jobs are financed by the public sector and not by the contributions of the members. This could lead to a state of dependence. The discussions during the congress did not delve further into this idea, but it is necessary to think about the range of tasks that should be attributed to a coordinator: The preparation of meetings, in the constitution of statements, the bringing together of the members?
A third approach for promoting the continuity of such coalitions deals with the distribution of the knowledge in their midst. How should communication within the association best be undertaken? How are new members informed of the current status? The spokespeople present from the Alliance of the Independent Scene reported on the difficulty of constantly having to convey the knowledge of the network over and over again. How can you ensure that discussions do not have to start from scratch every time new members arrive? Christine Ebeling, spokeswoman of the Gängeviertel in Hamburg, advised that a data-management system can be a good solution for this. It can enable one to archive minutes from meetings, documents, flyers, etc. and can furthermore facilitate innovative differentiable flows of communication. Mailing lists are also inescapable for ensuring consistent and stable communication at several levels. In addition, there is the possibility, as in the case with this thesis paper, to document the formation of an association or alliance with a book. Such publications, in addition to the inherent aspect of mediation, also have the great advantage of strengthening the identity of the alliance.
Makers of cultural policy should see the emergence of such an alliance as an interaction with emergent social changes within the broad spectrum of activity and career development of the cultural sector and artists in order to bring about a relevant change to cultural policy.
2. The appointment of municipal decision-makers: defending the importance of culture
The term “Municipal decision-makers in the field of culture” means culturally-focussed politicians and administrators. Culturally-focussed politicians are representatives of a city or municipality that are competent in the field of culture; such as those that have a seat on a city council or are spokespeople for their parliamentary party on the committee for cultural affairs. These people are regarded as specialists for culture in their political party. They make decisions at different levels regarding the allocation of the budget. Cultural administrators on the other hand are responsible for implementing these decisions. As servants of the public, administrators do not formally have political decision-making power. However, it seems unrealistic to assert that cultural politicians are the only creators of cultural policies that cultural administrators are subserviently required to implement. The administrators are recognised by the cultural politicians as experts in cultural subject matter - and enjoy a clear context of impact that is expressed by the continuity of their activities as opposed to mandate limited by elections. Ultimately, it is the heads of department that serve as an interface between the political and administrative spheres of cultural political power.
What needs to happen so that the local decision-makers in the field of culture can actively participate in the transformation of the cultural policy? In the congress it repeatedly emerged that they need to gather expertise in order to capture the complexity and diversity of culture in their city. From this knowledge, they should be able to develop a conscious and well thought-out vision for the cultural policy of their city or their state in order to apply it within politics or administration. Irrelevant of activity in the political or administrative field, they are faced with the task of demanding an enhancement of the value placed upon culture.
It requires vision and instruments
Many speakers at the congress, including former or active cultural heads of department appealed for the need for a cultural-political vision. The cultural sector is constantly in flux and it requires close monitoring by the public authorities in order to do justice to claims of societal challenges. How can this vision be realised? What skills are necessary for this?
During the congress, the instrument of a “Cultural Development Plan” (CDP) was very thoroughly discussed. Klaus Hebborn, Assistant Secretary of the German Association of Cities, pointed out that CDP’s were, however, after enjoying a strong popularity in the 1970’s and 80’, mostly “exiled” in the 90’s. Today, however, they are experiencing a sort of renaissance. A contemporary CDP is no longer understood as a top-down approach, but rather as a design tool of participatory cultural policy. CDP’s allow and sometimes invite politicians and administrators to cooperate with the population and with the protagonists of the cultural sector on a visionary discourse: What do we want to have achieved in 5 or 10 years?
Martin Schumacher, Head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Science of Bonn, talked of his experience. He was entrusted with a CDP when he took office in 2010. He understood it more as a master plan. To this end he created a thinktank in Bonn that was launched in order to cooperatively reflect with the cultural actors of the city about a vision for the cultural policy of their “city in transition”. This text will return to discuss the participatory aspect in the 3rd part. At this point, it is important to emphasise the aspect of attitude. This collision of cultural policy decisions needs visions that must spring from a certain level of knowledge.
In order to fulfill their tasks, cultural politicians and administrators need an overview of the entire cultural field. They must be able to monitor artistic and cultural tendencies. They need specialized cultural training that gives them a degree of skill in appraisal that transcends that of amateurs or hobby artists. It is easy to realise that the significance of culture remains incomplete if such authority for the adoption of a cultural policy mandate are missing or are not yet part of the administrative apparatus. Much criticism has been expressed in terms of this lack of authority of decision-makers: “One would never leave the field of social work or the financial sector to the ‘untrained’, but in the cultural sector it is okay”; “It should not be considered sufficient that an authorized decision-maker merely be a singer in a choir or in the shower”; “It must not happen that a department head of cultural affairs in a German metropolis has never heard of Fluxus.”The development of a visionary and relevant cultural policy needs thematic expertise and insight into the reality of the cultural sector. For this reason, several times over the course of the congress attention was called to the perception that cultural politicians and administrators should engage more with the agents of culture and the arts; and that, for example, visits to cultural events should be understood as part of their work.
An overview of the entire scene would enable them to promote cooperation between the various actors the cultural sector. The issue of cooperation between "publicly" steered institutions and the independent scene was also touched upon several times during the conference. Publicly funded infrastructures exist and independent actors should be able to make better use them. As an example, the expertise of technicians and managers from these institutions could also be made available. In this regard, the promotion of such cooperation should be a role of the cultural administration.
Implementation of this vision within the administration and politics
The development of a vision is the first step. The second step is the defence and promotion of such a vision within political and administrative levels. As mentioned above, cultural activities must always prove their legitimation when it comes to distribution of public funds. Herein is the task of the local decision makers in the cultural sector: To fight for the role of culture in their professional spheres. Out of this vision should emerge a line of argumentation that differentiates itself from other sectors (environment, economy, education, etc.). Daniela Rathe, former Cultural Affairs director of the city of Tübingen, has clearly brought this task to the point: “Tübingen is a city focussed on the climate. All the money goes into the environment. […] I am fighting an internal struggle with the other [city] departments. I always say to the social office: “Hey, don’t forget about me!” The director of cultural affairs exhibits her creative will, but is also aware of her role as mediator. She must continuously explain why society’s culture is necessary.
The department of cultural affairs provides an interface between cultural politicians and administrators. Its role is especially important for representing the cultural and political vision on both sides. Mr. Faber, Culture Mayor and Councillor for Culture of the City of Leipzig, was approached at the Congress by spokespeople of the independent scene regarding his department’s guiding role and its significance. His response promised an unwavering “Maybe” on the future cooperation between the spokespeople and his office.
Manifestation of cooperation: Urban development/cultural politics
In this context, the need for dialogue between cultural politics and urban development politics has been very clearly emphasized during the congress. Therefore, cooperation is no longer part of the lexicon of desirable possibilities but has entered the jargon of necessity.
Many studies have shown in recent years how closely cultural production and the usage of space are intertwined. “Culture opens spaces”; “Culture needs spaces”. The question of free space has been greatly discussed during the congress. An important contribution of the speakers, including
mehr zur person Yiorgos Papamanousakis, Founder and Managing Director of the company Urban Transcripts, was to represent space as a stakeholder. Space is not only a framework within which culture or art is created and can take place, but has an inherent value in and of itself. It can create potential for living, breathing human beings. Diana Wesser, performance artist, director of festivals and art projects in public space in Leipzig, has also pointed out that the neighbourhood should be understood as an ecosystem, as an organism. In this regard, many speakers have warned of the acute danger of gentrification for cultural production. According to Diana Wesser, it is not just about denouncing property-speculators, but according to the example of Leipzig thinking about “what we had” versus “what we have”. She thus expressed her desire for the general acceptance of an unfinished city, to indicate that not everything can or will be finished. One needs spaces not only to consume, but also spaces where one can realise oneself. This is consistent with the theories of Henri Lefebvre who has shown the need for imaginative spaces in his famous essay “Right to the City”.
Although the G-question [the gentrification question] is indeed currently heavily under discussion, it is unfortunately inactive at the political and administrative level. This requires collaboration between local decision-makers in the fields of cultural and urban development. Decisions should be taken as a result of the interaction of the two bodies. The city planners present among the speakers at the congress have regrets that there are so few points of intersection between the two fields. They expressed their desire for a kind of interactive city making in which the prioritisation of culture should be a foregone conclusion. A cultural impact assessment would be very welcome along these lines. This would allow the risks of planned projects regarding potential gentrification be better weighed than previously.
In addition to the required culture of dialogue between cultural and urban development policies, concrete examples of securing spaces for culture were also discussed during the congress.
KUNSTrePUBLIK / ZK/U
mehr zur personPhilip Horst, founding board member of the artist group Art Republic and co-director of the Centre for Art and Urban Affairs (ZK/U) from Berlin, talked about his experiences while managing the ZK/U. The initiative purchased certain rooms with the help of a Swiss foundation and thereby withdrawn them from the free market. A long term lease agreement allows them to further develop their cultural and artistic activities into the distant future. Other participants spoke of the idea of the consideration of an urban planning contract, which would be a type of taxation on real estate speculation, the proceeds of which would then be distributed to the benefit of the independent scene. More on this in an interview with Christian Gracza.