Category Archives: Reflections on Openness: Interviews, Articles, Conclusions

Instituting the Institution

Simon Sheikh

Toward the end of his life, the French-Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997) wrote a very pessimistic text called ‘Imaginary and Imagination at the Crossroads’, where he claimed that we were in a state of crisis that had to do with both the singular human imagination and the instituting social imaginary.1 We were witnessing the end of a great period of creation and innovation, which effected – equally – four designated areas of the imaginary: politics, philosophy, science, and, singled out as privileged, artistic and cultural production. Art is here seen as the vector for measuring both social and singular imagination and institution. Castoriadis dated this demise back to the 1950s, and saw the subsequent period as one of growing conformism and preservation as opposed to invention and revolution, and he meticulously goes through each of these four categories searching for evidence. Now, it would be easy to dismiss this as a typical lament for historical modernism, and indeed the text has its fair share of cultural pessimism and bitterness, and can even be said to contradict his own theories of the imaginary and of the instituting of society as an everlasting process, which would mean that imagination could not really be measured as high or low at any given period.

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An Attempt to Conceptualize the Modernization of the Public Sector in Culture

Vesna Čopič

Summary of a lecture held at the Open Institution conference

During the last 20 years, we have witnessed a proliferation of regulatory and strategic documents, which have proved to be paper tigers. At the same time, reality has shown a quite different picture. In the cultural public sector, no transition that would result in a shift from paternalistic institutions to open modern organizations has actually occurred. Instead, we have a frozen situation, with a radical gap between public cultural institutions and NGOs. While the institutions are perceived as a legal obligation of the state, NGOs remain outside the traditional cultural policy model as something optional. The result of such a system is that there have been no major shifts in the allocation of public funds and NGOs remain a foreign element.

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The Cultural Public Sphere

Contra Economistic Cultural Policy

Jim McGuigan

Introduction

An alternative perspective to economistic cultural policy is framed by public sphere theory. The concept of the public sphere derives from liberal-democratic thought. However, it is important to distinguish a liberal-democratic concept like the public sphere from, say, the mere naming of a political party such as the Liberal Democrats in Britain, at present a junior partner in the British Conservative government that calls itself a ‘coalition’. The political philosophy of the public sphere is quite different from and, moreover, critical of this and similar currents of neoliberal politics that are devoted to the theology of market forces and are hell-bent on destroying the final vestiges of what Pierre Bourdieu called ‘the social state’.

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Zagreb Conference Final Discussion Report

The last session of the Zagreb conference was structured as an open debate, where the present participants were invited to propose any of the issues they considered most relevant. It opened up more concrete questions on how to open public institutions and tackled more structural issues relevant to the cultural sector in particular and the public sphere in general. As noted at the beginning, the participants of the session were mainly from South East European countries, proving these practitioners’ need and interest for more detailed discussions on open institutions and the potential changes they can bring to cultural systems in their respective countries. The participants in general agreed that fundamental changes within the cultural sector must be made. Several directions and focal points emerged during the discussion and could be subsumed into two general questions: What is the change we need? and How to bring about that change?

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