Mute magazine loses its funding
Eurozine partner Mute (UK) has had its grant from the Arts Council of England (ACE) cut by 100 per cent as from 2012. Mute was among the 200 or so “losers” in the new funding round, in which overall funding dropped by 15 per cent. The ACE’s own budget has been cut by 30 per cent over the next four years.
The Mute editors have published a statement intended to prompt a broader debate on their website about cuts across the arts and society. We republish parts of the statement here:
“We regard the process of being placed in competition with other arts organisations as poisonous and distracting: while we will privately question the sizeable uplifts granted to large, established organisations (which, in the greater scheme of things, need further funding about as urgently as Paris Hilton needs another handbag), in the end we recognise it as a familiar part of the divide-and-rule principle that has long marked the operations of support agencies like ACE, where a chronic reliance on the parent body for the basic apparatus of organisational reproduction nurtures fear among the ‘dependents’ — slowly but surely stripping them of all sense they can do anything for themselves, let alone together… The spectacle of slavish gratitude for the spoils of public funds, in which even organisations cut or killed felt compelled to reiterate the basic tenets of ACE’s funding paradigm (excellence, innovation, global leadership and creativity), were truly depressing in this regard — not one voice standing out for offering a different vision or lexicon of practice.”
“To be a ‘winner’ in the arts variant of this competition (and that means those who, as The Guardian dubbed it, ‘won big’; not the hundreds kept on on a shoestring), several kinds of compliance are required. Firstly, a near religious belief in the power of art to ‘deliver’ personal transformation. Second, a normative and by now entirely standardised model of art-organisational development, where success is measured via the ability to diversify funding sources (via trading activities, rights management, sponsorship, philanthropy and a variety of non-public sources), have ‘reach and impact’ (loose catch-alls combining audiences, media reception, influence), and offer ‘engagement’ — all of which, it is reiterated, can only be achieved by bodies in possession of larger executive boards, which have represented on them ‘experts’ from the realms of Finance, Legal, Development and Artistic Vision, and who watch Income and Expenditure lines like hawks, assuring they mitigate risk, execute their mission and stay on a number of targets, as these encompass financial, audience and strategic partnership projections. As Mute — and many others, such as the Scottish based Variant magazine (another ‘loser’ of late) — has attempted to discuss in a series of articles stretching back decades, the backdoor this structure has offered to an entirely corporatised version of art, wherein genuine diversity and antagonism is replaced by superficially different versions of doing the same thing (and many platforms for critical discussion gradually desist from analysing culture as a whole to discussing the ins, outs, rights and wrongs of particular art forms), is one of the great untold stories of mainstream contemporary culture.”
“ACE’s decisions reflect a presumption digital has been ‘dealt with’ by conceiving of it as integrated in routine organisational development processes, rather than demanding to be explored as a highly self-reflexive area of work with a long and rich history linking into video, performance, independent publishing, installation art, software development, literature and more. Given the consolidation, surveillance and privatisation happening in the digital realm as we speak, now seems exactly the wrong time to be making such a move. The fact that ACE (and partner organisations like the BBC) are seeking to align themselves with digital innovation and broadcasting at exactly the same time just demonstrates further ignorance and shortsightedness.”
Read the full statement