The arts debate juggernaught is almost there….

The Arts Council’s gargantuan ‘arts debate’ public consultation is drawing to close.  They have published a report outlining their findings from consultation with the general public, artists, key stakeholders, one man and his dog and it is available here.  I’m only working my way through it at the moment and I’m looking forward to discussing it in a class I’m teaching on Arts Policy on Monday, but the opening gambit gives me some cause for concern:

“The strongest message was the importance of quality of experience for everyone involved: there was a clear, shared aspiration that public funding for the arts should focus on providing high-quality arts experiences for as many people as possible.”

If the outcome of this long and expensive project is going to be that in the future the arts council should concentrate on funding ‘good’ art for the benefit of as many taxpayers as possible, then my worry is that we will have gone the very long way round to come back to the excellence / access debate that has been occupying arts policy in the UK since the Arts Council was granted its Royal Charter in 1946 and that is frequently resurrected in times of financial crisis.

Judith Butler comes to the rescue!

“There is a new venue for theory, necessarily impure, where it emerges in and as the very event of cultural translation.  This is not the displacement of theory by historicism, nor a simple historicization of theory that exposes the contingent limits of its more generalisable claims.  It is rather, the emergence of theory at the site where cultural horizons meet, where the demand for translation is acute and its promise of success, uncertain.” (Gender Trouble (1999 preface) p.x) Stumbling across things like this now and again puts the spring in your step.