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:

Best regards,

The Culture Board