I’m very much looking forward to attending Edge Lands, a ‘flash conference’ sliding in alongside Edinburgh Showcase on August 21st. Directed and facilitated by the amazing Andy Field and Hannah Nicklin, one of the most potent questions that will be discussed is “How can we stop making Capitalism?”
This question collides into a number of areas I have been thinking about. In writing Next Wave’s 2012-16 Business Plan, I articulated NW as “obsessed with the new / adamant about context” (there’s more to that, but it’s for another time). An obsession with the new is completely, utterly capitalist. Does it get me off the guilty hook if I insist it must be balanced with histories, people and situation; that without discussion and understanding what came before, we’re just a little dull?
Arts Hub’s Fiona Mackerall seemed to sniff something in the air, and interviewed myself, former Next Wave AD Marcus Westbury, and Darwin Festival/incoming Ten Days on the Island AD Jo Duffy on this very topic. You can read Fiona’s take here.
If you went to the essence of conservatism, I think you’d find individualism and freedom of choice as basic tenets. To my mind this shares quite a lot of space with the notion of artist as ‘genius,’ who disappears into a dark lair and emerges with brilliant insight, fully formed, no help from anyone else required. I don’t have a lot of patience for genius – I think it’s a myth, I think everyone is informed by their context, their community, their collaborators and personal histories. I also think new ideas are generated by an immersion in and appetite for new ideas; that if you are regularly expanding your mind, reading and listening, you’ll come up with more new ideas. It’s a kind of fitness, so to speak.
So does that align the arts more closely with that conservative side of politics that nurtures and protects individuals?
We positioned next year’s Next Wave Festival as “necessarily political.” By that I never meant “necessarily left-leaning” – but it is true that for me, ‘political’ means genuinely engaged in a conversation with those around you, and considering your actions in relation to your society, and future generations. From my perspective, Festivals are about gathering people together to examine possibilities, alternative solutions, different ways we could imagine being with one another – as utopian as you could wish for. If your politics are informed by the notion that the individual’s will is more important than the collective, I guess you could see a festival – any gallery opening – any performance – as an inherently political act, aligned in some way with a more left-leaning perspective.
Perhaps far more dangerous than capitalism is rigidity?