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?


One thought on “Capitalism.

  1. It’s a really good point that the search for the new is utterly capitalist. The system can’t exist without movement – which is actually an interesting thought about how you might go about killing it. The desire to experience new work is also the desire of a hungry mind, and I don’t think you can lump that as a capitalistic impulse, indeed, it gets fitter and fitter, more aware of the means of production and the commercial interests behind it.

    Capitalism is in one reading, just another ‘ism’. Indeed, it is shaped by collective desire, but, it also tries to control that collective desire. At the moment, I’m inclined to think the balance is wrong. The relationship between customer and producer is vital, supply and demand is a simple notion. However – desire, supply and demand is a more complicated machine. The further we get from the product, the more you have to package, rebrand, market, ship, shopfront, the further the system has the ability to dictate to the customer – and a really similar thing happens with festivals – how much curation is too much curation? Can you have have a discussion which is on one hand openly democratic, while on the other hand relies on a scholarly education of art history? Is there space between the objective scholarly theorisation and the collective gasp of the audience?

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