list of studies

Some of SOTA’s list of worries have been confirmed by recent studies:

– De actuele landschapstekeningen van de Kunstensteunpunten,
– “De Waarde van Cultuur” van P. Gielen, Elkhuizen, Van den Hoogen, Lijster en Otte door Universiteit van Groningen,
– “Anderhalf Jaar Later: De Aannames van Halbe Zijlstra” (2014), van Versteegh, Van Heuven, en Van der Kooi door Kunsten’92 (NL)
– “Publieke Middelen voor de Kunstensector” (2013) van Buekens, Baetens, Laermans, Van de Velde en Van Looy door KU Leuven.)

Action points for a change of policy

Published March 5th 2015

 1. Art as equally valued within the diversity of practices in society

Society flourishes on a multiplicity of practices (science, education, health-care, trade, politics, …). We believe the position of the arts, in this palette, needs to be reinforced. One important element for achieving this goal, is the enhancement of the social and economic position of the artist within the field. In order to achieve this, there needs to be a better collaboration between the various involved ministries.

a) Implementing & enforcing the CAO wages for all artists working for institutions and other commissioners. Stop funding institutions who don’t respect these agreements.

b) Collaborating with the federal government for an improvement of social security status of the artist:
– translation of the art.1 bis of the social security into Labour Law
– retaining RSZ reductions for artists
– cancelling article 63.2, which limits the period of eligibility for unemployment benefits

c) Safeguarding and promoting intrinsic properties of the arts within inter-departemental dialogues (eg. education, sciences, social affairs, tourism, foreign affairs, internal affairs,…) in order to strengthen the ‘kunstendecreet’ in correlation with activities belonging to other domains.

d) Ordering a study to enhance the possibilities for artists to work internationally. In the past every Belgian embassy had a cultural attaché for local support in a foreign country in relation to culture, but after the federalization of culture these functions were cancelled. Finding solutions to overcome this gap.

e) Enhancing communication and partnership on an inter-communal level between Flemish and French speaking institutions.

2. Diversity of players within the arts field

Proliferation is inherent to the arts. A healthy arts field is composed of a variety of players. This is often mistaken for fragmentation within the field, while on the contrary, variety strengthens an ecosystem. Therefore the aim is to nourish this diversity and not to blindly obey the imperative of ‘bigger is better’.

a) Reinforcing the direct support of artists:
– 2015 – 2016: reconsidering cuts in direct subventions (project subvention, development grant, etc…)
– from 2017 onwards, increasing the budget for direct support to 35% of the total budget for the arts.

b) Putting the ‘core costs’ of subsidized organizations and institutions in balance with their ‘overhead costs’: raising the artistic budget (artistic creation and payment of artists’ wages) within the total budget of these organizations to 50%. Enforcing more transparency of these figures. Instigating a debate about the definition of ‘core’ and ‘overhead costs’.

c) Reserving a minimum of 25% of the structural support budget for small and artist run organizations in order to guarantee sustainable support for experimental players within the arts field. We applaud the proposition of the 3 year project subventions, only if this does not hollow out structural support for small organizations.

d) Stopping the unbalanced distribution of cuts: By favoring big organizations, an unhealthy polarization risks to arise, in which the majority of players become dependent on a powerful few. Safeguarding the diversity of players within the arts field, in particular the small and medium players.

e) Guaranteeing the autonomy of the different players. Stimulating partnership and collaboration between organizations of different sizes and profiles. Protecting smaller players from forced mergers with larger scale operations under the false pretense of ‘optimization’.

f) Coordinating, in dialogue with ‘steunpunten’, a database with an overview of all infrastructure, services, materials, etc., available for organizations and artists within the Belgian territory. Such a ‘pool’ can be an alternative way of saving by utilizing more fully existing resources.

g) Developing a transparent concept and vision of the dynamics of the various players within the sector, not focusing solely on the inflow of ‘young talent’. Working towards an integrated vision, which also takes into account midterm mobility, as well as outflow or de-institutionalization.

3. Diversity of art forms

We also emphasize the importance of the diversity of art forms. The intrinsic value of experimental, trans disciplinary, artistic research, social-artistic practices, etc… requires our full attention. Policy has to be responsive to this diversity, with a refined palette of parameters. Standardization in the arts is a contradiction in terms and often means the elimination of many art forms. We applaud the bridging of the divide between different disciplines in the new ‘kunstendecreet’, but we would like to raise awareness of the singularity and specificity of different art practices.

a) Guaranteeing a balanced allocation of funding, spread over all art forms, including experimental and research-based practices.

b) Guaranteeing that the constellation of the different Commissions mirrors the diversity of art forms, and that they include peers of these different practices. Such diversity within the Commissions guarantees precise evaluation and customized support. Follow the advice of the Commission.

c) Search for forms of co-financing on a Flemish level, across policy-boundaries, specifically for trans-disciplinary labs. Trans-disciplinary research requires co-funding models between education, socio-cultural work, science, innovation, …

4. The particularity of the models to finance the arts within the diversity of supports

Public subventions are inherent to the specific and complex economical organization of the arts. Other models of financing must be treated with caution. They cannot replace the existing system of subsidies. We refuse the Anglo-Saxon model of obligatory private income sourcing for culture. It is important not to confuse the organization and economy of a free and autonomous public arts sector, with a so called cultural ‘industry’ run by the logic of the market.

a) Safeguarding the principle of state subsidies as the main instrument for supporting the arts.

b) Avoiding quantitative pre-conditions for funding applications (such as minimum number of presentation dates, minimum amount of own income within the production budget, etc …). Ensuring that such selection criteria do not sideline the role of the commissions.

c) In the case of funds being raised through a Tax Shelter, these funds should be transferred directly into the budget of the ‘kunstendecreet’. Tax shelter money should remain a public good.

d) Commissioning a study to examine how the possible spill-off of artistic activities can flow back to the budget for the arts.

5. Diversity of organizational models for various art practices

SOTA strives for the self-organization of artists, because they know better than anyone, the specificity of their own practices. Self-organization should not be confused with the self-reliance of an entrepreneur within so called ‘creative industries’. One cannot apply one standardized model to the complex ecosystem in which artists work. Small, bottom-up organizations and self-organized networks can develop more closely alongside artists.

a) Guaranteeing the independence of artists and the organizational framing of their practices, by allocating structural funding to artist-run organizations and initiatives. Delegating this role to large scale institutions is not a solution.

b) Guaranteeing access to structural support for workspaces, residencies and alternative management offices. Rectifying the current discrepancy between disciplines in this regard.

c) Ensuring that a minimum 15% of expenses in project subventions can be spent on overhead and administrative costs. This percentage embodies the average overhead costs within shared workspaces and communal administrations.

d) Organizing a study in order to simplify the bureaucracy for individual artists and small initiatives so that the administrative costs can be minimized.

e) Commission a study on the development of cooperative self-organizational models and on peer to peer systems as production models for the arts.

f) Collaborate with the Regions and City Governments to recognize workspaces as a single category within city development and urbanism.


Pressbericht maart 2015


(english version bellow)

Brussel, 6 maart 2015

Op 22 februari 2015 organiseerde State of the Arts* een symposium waarin ze haar visienota voorlegde aan een breder veld. 150 kunstenaars, onderzoekers, cultuurwerkers, … staken de koppen bij elkaar om de sociale uitdagingen waar kunst en cultuur vandaag voor staan, samen, in solidariteit  aan te gaan. I

Dit symposium heeft de bestaande SotA-visie bevestigd dat het cultuurbeleid dient te vertrekken vanuit de intrinsieke kracht van de kunst, in eerste instantie vertegenwoordigd door de kunstenaar en zijn praktijk. Een cultuurbeleid dat transversaal – vanuit systeem- en diversiteitsdenken- dient door te werken in andere beleidsdomeinen en -niveaus teneinde de verbeeldingskracht van de samenleving duurzaam te ontwikkelen. Daarenboven legde het symposium ook enkele aspecten bloot die op dit moment sterk leven en broeien te velde.

Op 5 maart werden SotA’s standpunten bezorgd aan Dhr. Sven Gatz, Vlaams minister van Cultuur, Media, Jeugd en Brussel, en aan diens kabinetsleden. State of the Arts hoopt dat de minister haar visie zal meenemen in zijn beleidsnota die is aangekondigd voor begin april 2015.

a/ Betrekken van alle beleidsdomeinen bij het versterken van de rol van de kunstenaar

Wij vragen de minister om in relatie met de andere beleidsdomeinen en -niveaus die impact hebben op het functioneren van de kunstenaar (bvb. onderwijs en vorming, economie, wetenschap en innovatie, werk en sociale economie, internationaal; op lokaal, Vlaams, federaal en supranationaal niveau) een pro- actieve en coördinerende rol op te nemen.

Een promotie en vrijwaring van de intrinsieke kwaliteiten van de kunsten zal het kunstendecreet en de centrale positie van kunstenaars versterken.

b/ Betrekken van de kunstenaar bij besluitvormingsprocessen binnen de culturele sector

De samenstelling van de commissies dient de verscheidenheid aan kunstpraktijken te weerspiegelen door er peers van verschillende praktijken in op te nemen. Zulke diversiteit garandeert een precieze evaluatie en op maat gemaakte steun.
Wij vragen de minister bij de samenstelling van de commissies het belang van de diversiteit tot prioritair criterium te maken.

SotA wil bijdragen aan innovatieve praktijken op het vlak van publieke cultuurfinanciering. Zo moet het huidige systeem van subsidie radicaal worden herdacht. Bijvoorbeeld door de oprichting van een

kunstenparlement dat bestaat uit zowel kunstenaars als cultuurwerkers en politici. Hier worden debatten gevoerd en beslissingen genomen over wie wordt betoelaagd, welke de bedragen zijn, en welke de beoordelingscriteria zijn.

Wij vragen de minister steun te verlenen bij de oprichting van een brede sectorale werkgroep die het systeem en de perceptie van de publieke subsidiëring toekomstgericht overdenkt.

c/ BestaansONzekerheid van de kunstenaar

SotA wil bijdragen tot de versterking van de positie van de individuele kunstenaar. De voordeelregel kunstenaars (“kunstenaarsstatuut”) is essentieel voor het bestaan als kunstenaar. Echter, deze voordeelregel vertoont, ondanks de ingevoerde aanpassingen, bijzonder veel mankementen. Hij blijft onderhevig aan de willekeur van de uitvoerende machten waardoor een groot aantal kunstenaars om vaak bijzonder onduidelijke, onrechtvaardige redenen er niet ‘onder vallen’. Maar vooral problematisch is dat deze voordeelregel uitgaat van de verkeerde, achterhaalde, negatieve visie op arbeid. Voor creatieven is de notie “werkloos” en niet “mogen werken als werkloze” een absurde, psychotische realiteit.

SotA wil zich inzetten voor het herdenken vanuit een nieuw perspectief van -in een eerste fase- ‘artistieke/creatieve arbeid’ en onderzoek verrichten naar niet-monetaire alternatieven en nieuwe samenwerkingsvormen.

Op korte termijn wil SotA de positie van de individuele kunstenaar ten opzichte van verschillende culturele actoren versterken. Aan de verschillende spelers vragen wij transparantie omtrent de verdeling der budgetten; degelijke afspraken over arbeidsvoorwaarden en het garanderen van loon volgens de overeenkomstige CAO’s.

Wij vragen de minister om met spoed voorlopige oplossingen te realiseren en tegelijk de uitdaging aan te gaan van een fundamentele herdenking van het bestaande systeem.

d/ De essentie van de labcultuur

Omgevingen die wild experiment, accidenten, fouten, het niets-doen mogelijk maken; die uitdagen, het procesmatige, non-lineaire, onderzoeksmatige, intuïtieve, twijfel en een zelf-kritische ingesteldheid omarmen… Dionysus! Een bloeiende labcultuur met een veelheid aan eigenzinnige collectieve en individuele werkplaatsen, labs, research centra zijn een noodzakelijke voorwaarde in de ontwikkeling van de kunstenaarspraktijk en bijgevolg het culture veld. De expertise, kennis, methodologie en taal- die is opgebouwd in de huidige labcultuur- dient verder te worden ontwikkeld, als onontbeerlijke humuslaag, voortdurend transformerend, gistend. Het weze duidelijk dat deze (id)entiteiten niet kunnen functioneren binnen de structuur van grotere culturele instellingen.

Wij vragen de minister een aantal fundamentele beleidsinstrumenten op het gebied van processteun voor individuele kunstenaars te handhaven en verder uit te bouwen: ontwikkelingsgerichte- en trajectsubsidies (VGC); ontwikkeling van meer atelierruimte en structurele ondersteuning van zelfgeorganiseerden structuren, werkplaatsen, research- en lab-entiteiten, en ruimtecreatie voor transversale samenwerkingen.

e/ Een vettere vinger in de onderwijspap

SotA onderschrijft het belang van samenwerkingsverbanden tussen kunst en onderwijs. Een aparte werkgroep over de relatie tussen deze twee velden zag na het symposium het licht. Deze groep onderscheidt een aantal belangrijke punten: alternatieve modellen ontwerpen voor een vruchtbare kruisbestuiving tussen kunst en educatie; bestaande modellen van samenwerkingsverbanden in de betreffende velden verrijken vanuit de praktijk van de kunstenaar; kunstenaars betrekken bij het vorm geven van educatieve modellen die verbeeldingsrijke systemen van kennisproductie stimuleren.

Wij vragen de minister beleidsinstrumenten te ontwikkelen die de uitwisseling tussen kunst en onderwijs versterken en ook de kennisontwikkeling hierrond te bundelen.

 f/ WoordenWerelden

SotA zou u graag een dienst leveren: een aantal SotA-onderzoekers zouden wat graag bijdragen tot een uitgepuurd taalgebruik in de beleidsnota en in de publieke communicatie in en door het culturele veld in het algemeen. Onze tenen en synapsen krommen en schichten bij het slordige gebruik van woorden als

diversiteit, participatie, autonomie, veerkracht, overheidscompensaties voor het falen van de markt, en- en-financiering enzomeer. Woorden construeren per slot van rekening mee de realiteit.

Laat ons een manier bedenken om samen het taalgebruik uit te puren. Op te schonen. Een co-creatieve niet-vrijblijvende oefening ten faveure van het algemeen belang.

g/ Structureel overleg / visieontwikkeling

Onmiddellijk na het symposium is SotA begonnen met de samenstelling van verschillende werkgroepen om bovenstaande materie verder uit te diepen. Deze bestaan uit kunstenaars, onderzoekers/denkers en medewerkers van kunstenverenigingen/organisaties. SotA streeft hierbij naar een grote transparantie en openheid naar iedereen die wil deelnemen aan deze discussies en zoekt hiervoor naar nieuwe werkvormen en overlegstructuren.

Heel concreet stelt SotA de inrichting van een structureel overlegorgaan voor waarin overheid, instellingen en kunstenaars de ontwikkeling van bovenstaande centrale thema’s in de komende twee moeilijke jaren samen opvolgen. Mocht u dit in uw visienota kunnen meenemen, zal dit beslist met veel enthousiasme onthaald worden.

We verwijzen aanvullend ook expliciet naar de nog steeds geldende meer uitgebreide ‘SotA visienota van december 2014. –

Over SotA

State Of the Arts (SotA) is een open platform van kunstenaars, artist-run en zelfgeorganiseerde initiatieven en iedereen die bezorgd is om de gesteldheid van de kunsten vandaag. Het werd opgericht in 2014 vanuit een gedeelde verontrusting over de soberheid richting die de maatschappij in het algemeen en de cultuurpolitiek in het bijzonder heeft ingeslagen ten aanzien van de verbeeldingskracht van de samenleving in het algemeen, en de kunstpraktijken in het bijzonder. Het platform is een draak met vele koppen, die niet perse met één stem spreekt, maar wel degelijk bezorgdheden en drang naar alternatieven deelt.


COMMUNIQUE DE PRESS Brussels, March 6 2015

On the 22nd of February, State of the Arts* organized a symposium during which it’s visions were shared with the larger field. 150 participants (artists, researchers, cultural workers, etc.) put their heads together to take up, in a spirit of solidarity, the social challenges that the field of the arts faces today.

This symposium confirmed the existing SotA vision that cultural policy should be based on the intrinsic power of the arts, primarily represented by artists and artistic practices. A transversal cultural policy – developed from thinking in systems- and diversity – should resonate in different domains/levels of policy in order to develop the imagination of the society in a sustainable way. Moreover, the symposium revealed issues that are pertinent and debated in the field today.

On the 5th of March, SotA’s views were delivered to Mr. Sven Gatz, Flemish minister of Culture, Media, Youth and Brussels, and to his cabinet employees. State of the Arts hopes that the minister will integrate this vision in his policy notes, which are expected to be announced on the 1st of April 2015.

Bellow, from a to g, is a summary of the main points.

a/ engaging all domains of policies to reinforce the role of the artist

We ask the minister to play a coordinating and pro-active role towards other policy domains and levels that have an impact on artist’s practices. (Ex. Education and training, economy, sciences and innovation, work and social economy; on the local, Flemish, federal and international level)

The promotion and safeguarding of the intrinsic qualities of the arts will reinforce the arts-decree as well, procuring a central role for artists.

b/ involving artists in processes of decision making in the cultural sector.

The composition of the committees should reflect the diversity of existing art practices by incorporating peers from different disciplines (vs. practices). Such diversity guarantees precise evaluations and customized forms of support. We ask the minister to prioritize the importance of diversity as a criterion for the compiling of committees.

SotA aims to contribute towards innovation in public cultural funding. The current subsidy system needs to be radically reconsidered. An example is the founding of an arts committee? comprised of artists as well as cultural workers and politicians. In this (‘arts’) parliament questions such as who to support, for which amounts and using which assessment criteria, are debated and decided upon.

We ask the minister to offer support in the creation of a broadly based sectorial work group to prospectively rethink the system and the perception of public subsidies.

c/ artists’ existing insecurity SotA aims to contribute to reinforcing the position of the individual artist. The rule of advantage for artists (“kunstenaarsstatuut”) is essential for the existence of artists. However, even considering recent adaptations of this rule of advantage, there are still many defects. The status is still subject to the arbitrariness of the powers that be, so that many artists are found not to be ineligible, based on unclear and unfair reasons. Most problematic is that the rule works on the assumption of a

negative, old fashioned view on the concept of labour. For creative people, the notion of being ‘unemployed’ and not ‘allowed to work as an unemployed’ is an absurd and troubling reality.

SotA commits to rethinking, from new perspectives, the concept of ‘creative/artistic work’, and to researching non-monetary alternatives and new forms of collaboration.

In the short term, SotA wants to reinforce the position of the individual artist in their relations with different cultural actors. We ask the different players for transparency concerning the distribution of the budgets: solid agreements on working conditions and a guarantee of incomes according to the ‘CAO’ laws.

We ask the minister to urgently seek provisional solutions and at the same time take on the challenge of rethinking fundamentally the existing system.

d/ the bare essence of Lab-culture

Environments where wild experiment, accidents, mistakes and ‘doing nothing’ is possible; Environments where issues of challenges, the non-linear, researching, intuitive, questioning and self-critical process may exist … Dionysus! A fruitful lab-culture with a multitude of obstinate collective and individual workspaces, labs, research centers are an essential condition for the development of art practices and consequently for the cultural field. The expertise, knowledge, methodology and language – which is constructed in the existing lab-culture- needs to be developed, as an indispensable layer of humus, constantly transformed and fermented. It is clear that these id/entities do not function between the structure of big cultural institutions.

We ask the minister to maintain a bundle of fundamental policy instruments in the support of processes for individual artists and to enlarge them: subsidies for the developing of trajectories (VGC): ontwikkelingsgerichte- en trajectsubsidies (VGC); development of more studios/spaces and structural support for self-organised structures, workspaces, research and lab entities and the creation of spaces for transversal collaborations.

e/ A fat finger in the educational pie.

SotA under scribes the importance of collaborative relations between art and education. A separate workgroup on the relation between these fields came to light during and after the symposium. This group discerns a series of important points: by developing alternative models for fruitful synergies in between art and education; by enriching the existing models of collaborative relations in the concerning fields out of the practice of the artist; by including the artists in the formation of educational models who stimulate the imagination and systems of knowledge production.

We ask the minister to develop policy instruments that empower the exchange between art and education as well to collect here about the development of knowledge.

f/ Words in the World

SotA can be of service: SotA- researchers should be able to contribute to a purified usage of language within the policy note, public communication and throughout the cultural field in general. After all, language constructs reality. It is irritating and troubling to hear the following words in use in a sloppy or inconsistent way:

diversity, participation, autonomy, elasticity/buoyancy, governmental compensations where the market fails, and-and-finances, etc.

Let us find a way to clean up and purify the usage of language as a neutral / not non-committal exercise in favor of the public interest.

g/ Structural consultation / development of vision.

Following the symposium, SotA has crated different working groups to study the above matters. These groups are composed out of artists, researchers, thinkers and collaborators from artistic organisations/associations. SotA seeks for a great transparency and openness to anyone who wants to contribute to these discussions. SotA seeks to develop new working formats and consultation structures.

SotA proposes to concretely create a structural consultative body where the government, the institutions and artists can follow the development of the above and central thematics during the two difficult coming years. If these preoccupations should be crystallized in the vision note, it would be largely appreciated.

We refer explicitly to the existing and extensive SotA’s vision note from December 2014 –

About SotA

State Of the Arts (SotA) is an open platform of artists, artist-run and self-organised initiatives and appeals to anyone who is concerned about the state of the arts today. Founded in 2014, it was initiated to address shared concerns about the austerity measures that politics at large, and cultural policies in particular, have taken in relation to art practices. The platform is multi-header monster and doesn’t intend to speak with one voice, but bundles concerning and the urge for alternatives.

Live stream of Symposium 2

Live stream backup from the symposium, with some glitches.

Symposium 2, De Munt, from 11:00

de munt:belg revolutie

February 22th,

On February 22ndDe Munt / La Monnaie opens its doors to an exceptional event hosted by the platform State of the Arts : a symposium assembling the different players of the arts field concerning our future.

The current austerity policy and budget cuts imposed by the Flemish Minister of Culture and the Federal Government, should not divide us. On the contrary, we should find ways to defend ourselves in solidarity and to voice our desires as a concerned collective.

Recognizing the complexity of an increasingly superdiverse society, what policy alternatives can we suggest that can take on the societal challenges of today, rather than follow the dogma of “there is no alternative” to austerity? What actions can be taken together as a field to resist the tendency towards even more market-driven arts practices – a tendency we feel will lead to monoculture?

5 different and intertwined perspectives on the importance of diversity of the arts are proposed as a way to focus the debate:

  1. Art as an equal within the diversity of practices in society
  2. The diversity of players within the arts field
  3. The diversity of art forms
  4. The specificity of finance models for the arts within the diversity of economies
  5. The diversity of organizational models for arts practices.

With your participation, this symposium can be a starting point towards articulating ourselves in an empowering way as an arts field towards cultural minister Mr. Gatz and his government and towards the rest of society. Unity and consensus among us is not necessarily the goal, but an in-depth and articulated debate are the bare essentials to becoming a stronger force within a pluralist society.

Register now

Through this call SOTA invites concerned art practitioners, organizations, institutions, etc… to gather together. SOTA will offer a set-up with parallel roundtable-discussions, as well as collective sessions, keynote lectures, a coffee bar and vegan food.

The symposium is on the 22nd of February in De Munt / La Monnaie, it will start at 11:00 and will end at 16:00 including one hour lunch break between 13:00 – 14:00.
The entry is not on the main entrance but on: Wolvengracht 39 Rue du Fossé-aux-Loups


I strike

“I strike today because I believe in a warm and inclusive society, that embraces diversity,that cares and produces mutual responsibility for each human being and promotes culture as knowledge capital. In the society I believe in, art and culture create an essential space for reflection, innovation and potential for transformation. But today the ideological shift in policy­making aims at reducing and eradicating this social responsibility and inclusivity. I stand for a strong, transparent and committed public support to art, culture and research. Only a society that guarantees multi-faced artistic expressions, which has the possibility to be independent from ideological or commercial interests can call itself a democratic society.”


Strikers Picket at the doors of Beursschouwburg.

From 10 – 12 h  +  BBQ to keep warm
Feel free to bring edibles to put on the BBQ or coals and woods to put in.
Continue the discussion  ‘What is an artist strike?’
At 12h we can join HARTBOVENHARD in La Tentation.