I join the dots between things and look for patterns. I probably over-do it at times, but it’s how my brain works. Here’s my latest set of dots.
Firstly a phrase echoing from the IFACCA Summit, Shelagh Wrights’s diagnosis that the arts suffer from ‘dodgy advocacy’, ran through my thinking – actually more worrying – about some themes from the IPPR/RSA event about the future of the public sector in the North East I mentioned last week. Themes like the need to acknowledge the unworkability of current ways before innovation kicks in.
Then that connected up to an essay I found via Matthew Taylor blogging about ‘policy-based evidence making’ with the rather wonderful title of ‘On bullshit in cultural policy practice and research’. In it, Dr Eleonora Belfiore uses research around evidence for ‘the impact of the arts’, as a case study in bullshit, that mode of discourse which puts persuasion above accuracy, what she describes as an ‘indifference to how things really are’. (Just for the record I think she’s right in general, but rather harsh on the arts, coming across at times as the kind of academic who’d be happier just having cultural policy and no actual messy culture.)
I then wondered if the current collective mindset of the publicly-funded arts and cultural sector is open and self-critical enough often enough to imagine all possible futures. (I include in that the funders involved, including government.) Have we become too accustomed to growth? Do we still believe that someone somewhere will have a pot of money they need to use at just the right moment –? For all our needs? What might we have to give up to respond to climate change? There is strong evidence for the impact of the arts, more than Belfiore can admit for her argument I would suggest, but if we only look for the answers that are useful to us, do we make ourselves overly-reliant on those we’re making the case to? Don’t we have to strive for the moment William Burroughs called the naked lunch - 'a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork' – so we can start to move beyond it?
The final dot (never end on Burroughsian apocalyptic paranoia!) was catching up on the new series of The Thick of It, which is a lesson in the way political discourse has been perverted by language. It’s somehow missing something the first series and the specials had, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. (Maybe the loosened grip on power makes Malcolm something of an underdog, albeit one with horrible bark and bite?) It is still very funny though, especially if, like me, you think swearing can be grown up and funny.