A common project of the Swiss Coalition for Cultural Diversity and the Swiss Commission for UNESCO
Significantly, the principle behind the UNESCO Convention, cultural diversity, should be strengthened between, and in, countries; as an engine for cultural development and identity, it deserves equal rights with the short and medium term objectives of economic growth. Accordingly, more weight should be given to this in the balancing of goods and interests.
Although there is a parliamentary culture group with 72 members, its meetings are poorly attended. There are hardly any cultural statements to be found on the websites of the parliamentarians. Significantly, the statement of the Minister of the Interior and Culture, Mr. Couchepin, in the 2007 report on the draft of the law supporting the arts, says the eligibility rules would not “lead to any cost increase”. This “Couchepin paradigm” should be fought against.
The tight control of funds reflects the growing importance of culture in our society and does not take into account current changes in values. In economically unstable times, the State-supported role of culture becomes more important, as less work requires of each individual enhanced responsibility and an awareness of one’s own identity. This is defined not only through work but also by membership of a social, cultural community. The awareness and tolerance for diversity in these various ideological groups is a crucial peace-building factor. Therefore:
With respect to the allocation of funds, the question will always be asked: Is the artist living here and will the effect of support be here? Instead of asking: is a work useful for the local population or the decentralized cultural dissemination? (An example: unlike in Australia, it is not possible for a Swiss gallery to obtain from Pro Helvetia a contribution towards the transport and insurance costs of participating in an art fair in South Korea although it serves to represent Swiss culture abroad.)
If the legislative work on the Cultural Promotion Act and its regulations are ever completed, a Cultural Council should be created after the model of the well-established “Round Table” of the cultural organizations managed by Suisseculture. However, such a consultative body of NGOs has been called for several times but a regulation at the legislative level has been rejected by the National Council and Council of States up to now.
Culture and arts publishing is a favourite victim of the structural media crisis of 2009. The Presidential Conference of Suisseculture said it was extremely concerned about the disappearance of feature pages. “The Art Newspaper” laments the declining production of art books and art criticism. The budget that already forces art programmes into the off-peak times on television has been massively cut in favour of individual event broadcasts that are oriented to the mainstream. The visual arts are especially affected because of the high entry barriers. Symptomatic: The Radio and Television Act 2006 covers films, literature and music as part of the cultural contract – visual arts are mentioned nowhere.
Changes to the types of text run parallel to the reduction of the specialised art journalists – an endangered species. However, criticism is part of a discussion that reflects the work of art in a public and professional manner. Art criticism shapes art policy, the procurement by public authorities and private collectors. The “tip” has prevailed; the positive or sometimes negative short recommendation in entertainment magazines or in the pages of newspapers. Frequently the “making of” and the portrait of the star are the product of the PR departments, whether he is now called Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst.
As for art publishing, there has been an even clearer market failure of both print and electronic media. Some publications have jumped into the gap like the pan-Switzerland/Europe “Kunstbulletin” published by the Swiss Art Association, the “Swiss Art” published by visarte or regional cultural magazines such as “Das Kulturmagazin" (Central Switzerland), “Artinside” (a special publication of the Basler Zeitung). What is needed is as follows:
The National Council and the Council of States have approved a version of the Arts Promotion Law, in the context of which the Federal government can allocate grants to museums and collections for operating and project costs, as well as insurance premiums for major exhibitions. Insurance premiums for particularly important collections in public museums have to be included in the operating costs in the Regulations. Furthermore, direct art education by the museums as part of art education should be compensated. (For example: free admission for school classes and a second free admissions for children with an adult.)
In most urban areas (“space design”) but also in rural transport renovations (“roundabout art”), there is an opportunity for artistic presentations.
Often it is part of renovation potential – rather than traditional sculptures by innovative interventions (“contextual art”). Existing works have to be dealt with respect, but without taboo. The city of Zurich has set up a commission establishing such criteria. With the help of such bodies, municipal or Cantonal cultural representatives could seek meaningful coordination that would have to include copyright and cultural aspects. (For example: “Expiration Date” and reassessment of a site-specific character after twenty years; rules for dealing with “discarded” works.)
There are similar questions with respect to “art and building” projects. For publicly commissioned works, local interests are often more heavily weighted than are variety and quality. (For example: uniform competitive procedures in accordance with model regulations, extension of the well-established compulsory Federal and Cantonal art and building requirements to private construction projects of more than CHF 20 million.) A number of measures should be examined:
The UNESCO Convention also extends cultural diversity to an object protected by international law. Thus, Switzerland is encouraged to respect its aims even in foreign policy and external economic activities. (For example: no export risk guarantees should be granted for projects forcibly inundating irreplaceable cultural goods or displacing ethnic minorities.) It is therefore not enough for the Confederation in its activity to support without commitment, “local culture” through the SDC. The agency should also include the safeguarding of cultural heritage.
Only what is known can be legally recognized, promoted and protected. The statistical basis for culture and art industry in Switzerland is underdeveloped. For example, between 20 and 50 percent of small businesses and enterprises of the creative industries are not included in the statistics. Accordingly, knowledge about the art and design field is unreliable. Culture statistics must fully take into account the cultural diversity of contemporary art and cultural heritage.
Cultural diversity also means respect for materials. (For example: no plastic windows in buildings worthy of protection for reasons of economy; no energy renovations that are inconsistent with the actual site or building worthy of protection.)
Cultural diversity manifests itself in the regions with their regional characteristics, in the typical regional architecture, and in the specifically trained craft and environmental techniques (agricultural knowledge). The Swiss cultural landscape is unique in its diversity and distinction. Its integrity is of the highest importance for national cohesion and tourism.
It is in the regional cultural landscapes that the cultural characteristics of each kind (dialect, building culture, theatrical approach, art, etc.) are crystallized which, together, represent the diversity. They need sustainable conservation and careful maintenance.
Art and education – a project of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO– should not be sacrificed to the trend for accelerated natural sciences’ loading of the curricula.
Original Text: German
Christoph Doswald. Independent curator and journalist. firstname.lastname@example.org
Hans Furer. Secretary General Association of Art Galleries in Switzerland. email@example.com
Regine Helbling. Secretary General visarte Switzerland (professional association of Switzerland’s visual artists). firstname.lastname@example.org
Claudia Jolles. Kunstbulletin editor-in-chief. email@example.com
Cordula Kessler. Head of National Centre for Cultural Heritage Conservation NIKE. firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephan Kunz. Deputy Director Aargau Kunsthaus. email@example.com
Peter Studer (Commissioner). President of the Swiss Art Association. firstname.lastname@example.org