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<nettime> Culture Board for Bulgaria
bg.desk {AT} culture.org on Thu, 24 Sep 1998 07:49:16 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Culture Board for Bulgaria

Culture Board for Bulgaria
A Body for Cultures in Ruin

For Whom It May Concern,

We would like you to read this document and respond to this idea. It was
our wish and motivation to consider a format which could accommodate
certain situations in which countries and cultures find themselves in
these days. Ever increasingly, we are witnessing the phenomena of ruined
nation states, crashing financial markets and bankrupt governments. So
far, this is only interpreted in the usual journalistic way of reporting
the political and financial aspects of the crises. But we, cultural
workers, know better. It is only perceived as 'news'. Arts and culture in
this situation are the last to be considered contemporary, sensitive
instruments that could express the 'signs of the times'. First of all
culture is a prime target of budget cuts and this has become the only
language in which officials can speak. Art, by definition, is always in a
defensive role and cannot make demands. We do not like to further the
culture of complaint, nor is this the right time to dream up new utopias.
We propose to radically face current global economic forces. We want to
intervene in their sphere. Culture should not be left out: condemned to
compensate for and be at the receiving end of this trauma.

The proposal is to form, install and implement a Culture Board which is
modelled after the Currency Board - the main instrument of the
International Monetary Fund to straighten out ruined economies. This
supra-national body, unaccountable to the electorate, actually controls
the government.  It is the result of an agreement between the government
and the IMF - its sole purpose being to control the issue of new bills and
manage all foreign currency reserves. In reality, this body IS the
government because it defines financial policy and steers legislative
initiatives. Still, there is little awareness about the way these boards
work. Knowledge about these mechanisms has not been transferred to the
field of culture. It is about time to change this.

The situation is no longer as it was envisioned in 1989. We no longer
speak or think of transformation, readjustment, restructuring, etc. In a
situation of continuous implosions, mass poverty and popular depression it
is of little use to come up with the dream of a 'normal' functioning
'civil society'. Instead, horizons are closing down. People do not expect
a recovery anymore. We are now talking about survival. Now is a situation
of ruin in which we have to contain, stabilize, and eventually - rebuild.
A Currency Board is already in place in Bulgaria, a typical example for a
country in recent ruin. Bulgaria, at least for the time being, will in
this project function as a case-study. If the first Culture Board can be
put into place effectively, other countries could follow.

A Culture Board should work out priorities beyond everyday party politics
and mediate between the global and national or regional levels. We do not
perceive it merely as an advisory body. In that sense, we are playing for
real. Think about NSK's Virtual State, after several embassy openings,
performances, discussions, then years later... But this was still a
parallel reality. Culture Boards could be more down to earth, dealing with
harsh economic realities. Before 1989, culture was managed as a prime
state affair (and so was its funding). This logic changed overnight in the
nineties and step by step Culture was being run as a business, including
sponsorship, self-financing, post-Fordist working circumstances
(free-lancers, etc.). This is now the dominant ('neo-liberal') ideology.
The Culture Board is both the ultimate expression of this, flipping into a
radical critique. We can no longer speak in the melancholic terms of
postmodernism. Nor do we need a self-imposed (cyber)optimism, selling a
future which is actually fading away.  We need concrete facts, reports on
the actually existing poverty in museums, artistic circles, closed
magazines and missed opportunities, encounters with the migrated Others
and their remembered shadows.

Culture Board should function as a radical mirror, not as an image. It
commissions reports on the existing situation, about complex coalitions,
strategic alliances and tactical moves in order to establish new cultural,
political and economic links in a situation where on one hand there is a
vacuum, while on the other there is complete stagnation.

For instance, the Culture Board may decide that it's more feasible to
close down an inadequately funded state-owned museum, rather then to keep
it running for the benefit of its employees alone. Or that, instead of
selling copies of ancient objects from the cultural heritage (see the
example of the Thracian gold travelling shows), it would be better to go
beyond Taschen Kultur, Disneyfication, simulation and cultural tourism,
and sell the whole monastery to be reconstructed in another country. Or
that an extremely valuable - in creative terms - artist should be
re-settled in an affluent society rather than be wasted in the ruin. Is
Culture anything more than the Spectacle, pretending to be 'contemporary'
but in fact doing little more than preserving Heritage (by making a
business out of it)?

The time has come to find post-managerial solutions which go beyond the
logic of efficiency. We have reached the limits of budget cuts and the
'flexibility' of individuals to fit into this or that curator's taste,
funding requirement or application form.

Culture Board is not only in charge of visual, performing, arts etc. but
of the realm of media as well.  Not only of all the bankrupt museums, but
of all soon to be closed down magazines, theaters, never-existant
performance-spaces, empty exhibition halls, rotten archives, forgotten
projects and projects without a chance for realization, all the corrupt
creative unions with their vanished property and non-functional production
facilities, etc.

Culture Board is based on a web-site where it can receive and evaluate
information, issue decisions, disseminate information, accommodate
requests for know-how and advise, etc. Culture Board monitors the existing
web sites of the BG President, Government, various institutions,
newspapers, etc. In order to evaluate the results of the implementation of
its decisions it travels to the country for on-site evaluation,
implementation and information gathering based on the need-to-know
motivation of its members.

The motivation and the purpose of the Culture Board is the stable cultural
credibility of a country.

See you at: www.culture.org

Best regards,

The Culture Board

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