Strategies and aesthetics: Responses to exclusionary practices in the public art sector
School of Social Work University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam School of Social Work University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This paper starts from an analysis of the Dutch public art sector; an analysis of a) cultural policy rhetoric, b) the distribution of public funding allocated to cultural diversity, and c) the accessibility of publicly funded arts institutions, reveals the marginal position of non-western artists and art organizations. The analysis provides ample basis to reflect on the question whether the Dutch public art sector can best be understood as characterized by exclusion on the basis of racism, religion or culture. Next the paper shifts the focus to lived experiences, because non-western artists are obviously no passive victims of exclusionary practices, but respond in various ways to the public arts system. On the basis of interviews and an analysis of the non-dominant art sector, we discern three main strategies: the "I'll stick to my group" strategy, i.e., catering (with private funding) for one's ethnic group predominantly with repertory theatre plays or traditional music of the country of origin. In these instances there is a strong, linear relation between the artwork and ethnic identity. Second is the "art/identity is politics" strategy, which expresses a strong - highly political - relation between the artwork and ethnic identity. These artists fight for a position in the public sector "as they are". Third is the "beyond identity" strategy, which is exercised by artists whose identities coincide with Braidotti's description of nomadic subjects. The multicultural traces in their artwork need not be named, nor the quality of the work judged on the basis of those traces (only). The paper discusses current examples of all three strategies. The analysis of the public and non-dominant art sectors shows that even for those who are "beyond identity" it is incredibly hard to escape the dominant (Western-European) routines and perceptions in the public art sector - i.e., exclusion based on a complex mixture of race, religion and culture - that forces one into a protective instead of a pro-active, creative position with regard to one's artwork and identity.