Cultural policy and participation – attempts to bring the periphery to the centre, and its failures [Oral Presentation]
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Schrag, A. (2019) 'Cultural policy and participation – attempts to bring the periphery to the centre, and its failures', 9th Nordic Conference on Cultural Policy Research (NCCPR), Bifröst University, Iceland, 28-30 August.
Over the past few decades, Socially Engaged Art practices have flourished in response to the participatory policy turn (Saurugger, 2010). Similarly, there is a increasing concern that if culture should be funded by the public purse, it should demonstrate public benefit. Participatory/Socially Engaged Art practices have therefore been ideologically framed as necessarily socially productive and positive processes, and cultural policy has focused much attention upon these fringe activities, dragging them towards the centre of cultural production. From the a practitioner’s perspective, however, these policies were seen as an ’instramentalisation’ of artistic processes in order to elicit specific political control: Jonathan Vickery (2007) claimed that government administrations were using culture to ’construct civic identities’ that were amenable to the state. Indeed, the blurring of the explicit and implicit uses these policies (Ahearne, 2009) seems to demand the central tenet of these artist expression to be ameliorative, to end social conflict, and smooth the turbulence of social tensions. However, this paper understands that democratic (cultural) processes must include conflict. As Rosalyn Deutsche argues: ’conflict, division, and instabilitydo not ruin the democratic public sphere; they are conditions of its existence.’ (1996). This presentation therefore examines the practical and conceptual concerns which occur when cultural policy instrumentalises Socially Engaged Art in such a way. It is presented from the perspective of a practitioner, and includes 2 case studies which explore the issues when cultural policy (in the UK) pulls peripheral cultural activities away from their natural home on the edges into the centre.