Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The National Must Have Heard My Plea...

WHO owns and creates culture? All the books, music, images, media that make up our lives – who has the authority to decide what qualifies as art?

Thanks to Loki for flagging this one up: after my complaint that The National does not have enough art coverage, Michael Gray has penned a meditation on the 'ownership' of culture. 

After a spot of throat clearing (there are constant arguments about what qualifies to be taught in school or exhibited as public art), he goes on to provide no answer but to summarise the conflict between rapper Loki and the complacent consensus in the Scottish arts.

I thought Loki was challenging the National Collective, not an abstract ideal of the arts establishment. I do hope this euphemistic use of language isn't an attempt to make the particular abstract, avoiding the very specific critiques that Loki made, and protecting a collective that, actually, is not a collective. 

More interestingly, Gray notes that:

The official arts, Tom Leonard argued, presents a narrow selection of works based on status, power and control.

And Loki added this trenchant comment:

Culture and media, he said, “functions as a safety valve to dissuade any meaningful critical investigation of the world we live in”.

Frankly, the rest of the article wanders around the point, observing that working class voices are often excluded, and that a consensus is built around what appear to be progressive politics, but still use the language and format of the established 'high culture'.

I'd add that any art that has state funding will have made some compromise within the parameters of what is acceptable to the funding body - as such, art can become an expression of a cultural norm, defined by the state.

It would be good if the debate between Loki and National Collective could be widened, to examine the underpinnings of the cultural industry. But this article is not enough. More like this, please.


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