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Dear Tjaša, Andrej and Izidor,

You've probably already heard of it from somewhere: right at the end of last month, non governmental cultural agents, employed in this sector or self employed, the so called "independent culture producers" of Slovenia's second largest city, went into an uproar. Through certain channels, they received – even before the official statement – the news that the municipality of Maribor (MOM) is nearly bankrupt and that its »review« of the next year's budget included, among other things, cutting the financial resources for all programmes not imposed by law in half. In concrete terms: withdrawing funds for the social kitchen, maternity home, safe house, one off social assistance, public works, one of the biggest festivals of scenic art in Slovenia, the Maribor Theatre Festival, as well as programmes and projects of local NGOs. Disregarding everything else, the result of this measure will most likely be the deepening of inequality inside the cultural and artistic field, meaning among those who are active within the framework of public institutions and those who are active in the NGO sector or have to more or less eke out a living as self employed. In both cases, as is common in the Slovenian fields of culture and art, funds of course come from the same source – public funds.

At the time of writing, exactly two years and a few days have passed since Maribor has seen its biggest protest yet – one fifth of its citizens had supposedly taken to the streets. Why this associative detour? In a sense, it is a matter of "coincidence"; some time ago, I was cooperating in the planning of a "protest interactive performance" on the subject of criminalisation of uprisings in Slovenia in 2012 and 2013, in particular the protesters, who were arrested, detained and sentenced in a staged trial (and then acquitted) at this very protest. For this occasion, we also used coloured polystyrene foam to make fairly convincing replicas of the famous granite cubes that are an iconic image of the protests (at least) in Maribor. The above mentioned news regarding financial funds resulted in a "crisis meeting" of Maribor's cultural and non governmental workers along with those working in the field of social entrepreneurship. After the belated arrival of the first group, there was a somewhat humorous proposition to try to exert pressure on MOM by, among other things, what is most probably the most efficient threat – yet another protest (through the symbolic act of throwing the mentioned cube replicas at the MOM building). In short, there is a possibility that in the (in many ways) malnourished Maribor, culture will soon become a bit uncultured.

After cultural agents arrived, the "crisis meeting" became quite radical in general. If before we were talking predominantly about compatibility between budget-cut measures and, for instance, the realisation of the goals as set in the draft of the MOM's Local Programme for Culture 2015–2020 (Lokalni kulturni program 2015–2020, LPK for short), that will soon undergo the legislative decision making process, I do not understand "radicalisation" as a mere »indecent« incitement to various "criminal offences" (in the near future, some of the cultural agents might face charged of instigation or something similar, in the same way as one of the more famous Slovenian activists was charged with that very criminal offense about six months ago under the suspicion that he was "co-responsible in the act" of occupying the empty Kino Triglav after one of the protests in Ljubljana). No, by "radicalisation" I also mean that some basic questions have finally been asked, for instance: why should the malnourished sector of culture plug the budget holes that were brought about by reckless investments (and a whole lot more)? Even more so after we consider the fact that the LPK draft wisely – although a bit too late – concludes that "Maribor has undergone dramatic changes in the last few decades: instead of a large industry, it is now characterised by knowledge based SMEs and, in particular, important infrastructure organisations", which include educational and cultural institutions as well. In short, that in the future, the city's development strategy needs to be directed towards a "creative city" since due to global circumstances of production and a "new" global division of labour, somehow there is no other option (yet). At the meeting, there was even discussion of establishing some kind of a syndicate of "independent cultural producers" and protesting in case the budget cuts and their consequences are actually realised (which is very likely to happen).

Without a doubt, at least one of you is wondering why am I once again trying to make my point by fixating on the particular/singular. "National and municipal public institutions need to be the backbone of cultural activity in the city and cooperate in a coordinated way with each other as well as with independent cultural producers" says, among other things, the MOM's LPK draft (something similar can undoubtedly be found in national documents on cultural policy). And it is often true that from the viewpoint of "independent cultural producers" (both individual cultural organisations and especially individuals), it often seems as if the privileged full time employees/workers of public institutions are some kind of "internal parasites" of the local cultural activity (statistics of the Slovenian Association of Arts and Culture NGOs and Freelancers Asociacija for the year 2011 show that "the investments into them have not brought the results they should have")1.

But if we agreed straight away that the logic of how public funds are distributed inside the (Slovenian) field of culture is somehow discriminating, we would soon find ourselves trapped in a phenomenon that supposedly plagues (European) "countries in transition" and that Maja Breznik, for instance, nicely pointed out in her analysis of cultural and political trends in the EU. Breznik detected two co existing models of cultural policy in Slovenia (the social democratic and the neoliberal) and found another peculiarity: the mechanism of state protectionism mostly defines itself as left wing and the neoliberal cultural model as right wing, yet in "countries in transition", such as Slovenia, it is often the exact opposite. The first model of cultural policy is attached to the traditional state institutions/art and the second one to contemporary art and institutions for contemporary art that are more economically flexible2. For instance, it was the local NGO scene that in the 1990s, when socialism and the established models of cultural policy were falling apart, pursued reforms aimed at »efficiently« managing cultural organisations, introducing cultural management, supporting reforms of the public system, opening the door for free trade etc., since the culture of entrepreneurship established itself as a substitute for national culture (that in the late 1980s was its second "other" against which the "progressive" agents fought against).

I wonder what "efficiency" means in the context of cultural production? The quoted arguments of the Asociacija Association, which in principle fights for equality of all the participants in the field of culture, got caught up in the (enforced?) "managerial logic". This is actually one of the key traps of the particularised/singularised analysis that often eliminates some general perspective and general questions (or if we use the terminology of the previous contribution, relevant to the one before it: "the general and the abstract discourse").

And to finally come to where I actually wanted to (already in the previous post) through this long detour: the strategies of critique from (according to some "objective indicators") a supposedly weaker position. For instance: as a self organised workforce in the field of cultural artistic scientific activities (in concrete terms: the members of the collective Neteorit and similar associations, for instance), we could quite easily find ourselves trapped in a critique fuelled by the "managerial logic" and start to enumerate how many events we organise on a monthly/yearly basis with (practically) no resources, how many hours of free work do we invest and how many people participate in these events each time, and then compare all this to the events in public institutions (educational and cultural), their resources, infrastructural and administrative conditions etc. As said, this logic is enforced by the neoliberal (cultural )political model; a model of entrepreneurisation of culture, based on the classic conception of autonomous agents on the free market. By "managerial logic" in this sense, I am aiming foremost at the application of something that was primarily formed in natural sciences in the late 19th century and then flourished after World War II within the framework of the development of marketing techniques in the so called managerial revolution, at the field of "human affairs". The logic of social engineering, or in a bit more acceptable terms: the management of "human resources" and the application of the dictate of efficiency, as a rule measured (exclusively) in quantity. If we use this type of argument in critical discourse, it is very likely that we only touch upon the real "crux of the problem" that incessantly reproduces the mentioned inequality (along with many other ones). Today it is culture, tomorrow somebody else.

The distinction between the unequal position of cultural workers in public institutions and NGOs and those (formally and informally) self-employed in the European context – as you know all to well – has for quite some time been simultaneously acquiring the character of an inter generational conflict, as Dr. Vesna Čopič, an expert on cultural policy, pointed out yesterday when the draft of the mentioned MOM's LPK was revealed. Even before she spoke in the less formal part of the event, aimed mainly at suggestions on how to join the goals of the LPK with the mentioned planned budget cuts and what to do in general, Čopič (based on what was said beforehand) brought to the fore the notion of solidarity. Of course, everyone present agreed this word, pleasant to the ear. Some directors of public institutions, for example, began to point out that in the following two years (at least), when budgets cuts are to hit hard, they would undoubtedly show their solidarity and offer their own infrastructure to NGOs as best they could. The greatest paradox is that they too will be affected by the cuts in financial funds, but in a very specific manner: for the most part, there will be enough funds for the salaries of the employed, but not for the realisation of their programme. In this case, "solidarity" is therefore almost inevitable. "Those working for NGOs will be able to work for free in heated facilities", was how one of the precarious cultural workers from Maribor commented such solidarity after the event. How to devise a solidarity based partnership between the public institutions and the (formally or informally) self employed or even those that have somehow already managed to self organise to a certain degree and establish some connections (I am, of course, once again thinking of Neteorit and the like)? As you also know, a certain type of partnership, in legal terminology supplemented also by the expression "co-producing", has actually been "silently operating" for a while now. I am thinking, of course, of partnership/co production, "pushed through" by the logic of funding through programme tenders (for instance: for the purposes of tender documentation, a public institution offers its statement on contribution of resources, most frequently in the form of an evaluation of the offered infrastructure that is made available to the applicant and its upkeep). In short, my question is this: will the type of partnership, which I think was not brought about exclusively by the "good will" of those in positions of relative power (I believe that we do not only inhabit the same space, but that rigid public institutions quite often simply need a type of activity that is carried out by self organised precarious workers in culture), be dictated by the logic of funding, the "economic base"? Or will we try to (re)define it ourselves?

Let me conclude with the copy paste technique or a self quote form one of the recently written texts about the performance on the criminalisation of protests we mentioned at the beginning: "The performance ends with a metaphor, but a physical one: regardless of which position you are currently taking in the physical space (in the social space, structure etc.), this position is revealing and not neutral. The space is divided in two by means of designations, with each half designating a specific thing. You can choose where to move physically. Non choice is not an option."

See you at the roundtable on December 18th, Kaja

1 — "We at the Asociacija Association believe that from the viewpoint of resource efficient use of public funds, it is necessary to finally bridge the gap between the proportion of awarded public funds and the quantity of offered cultural goods. As is evident from the "Report on (Co-)Financing Cultural Programmes and Projects" ("Poročilo o (so)financiranju kulturnih programov in projektov"), in 2011, co financing of NGO projects and programmes between 2007 and 2011 received 5.63 % in average (distribution by executive body), while authors of the "Analysis of the Situation in the Field of Culture with Suggested Goals for the National Programme for Culture 2012–2015" ("Analiza stanja na področju kulture s predlogi ciljev za Nacionalni program za kulturo 2012–2015") have found that despite clearly disproportionate financing (in the field of performing art), both the governmental and the non governmental sectors are content wise equally providing for public cultural goods (in 2009, for example, 82 premieres from the field of performing arts took place public institutions and 124 new works were performed in NGOs)." Translated from the Slovene original "Razvojni potencial Republike Slovenije: kultura in umetnost kot četrti steber trajnostnega razvoja. Stanje, odprte teme in aktualne problematike kulturne politike".

2 — In Slovenia, the liberalisation of cultural activity does not mean that there will be actual privatisation, for privatisation regards exclusively the act of carrying out an activity, but not financing (the state is still the predominant funding body). See: Maja Breznik, Kulturni revizionozem: kultura med neoliberalizmom in socialno odgovorno politiko, Mirovni inštitut, Ljubljana, 2004, pp. 57–65.

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