In defense of freedom of the arts, the Daniel Sachs Foundation is partnering with Sweden’s largest arts and culture summit to stage an interactive performance experiment where politicians and artists meet to explore the delicate boundaries between culture and politics.
The arts are a vital component of open and democratic societies. Art needs to be free from political or commercial influence, free to experiment and free from any expectation of instrumentality in order to fulfil its potential. In 2020 the Daniel Sachs Foundation launches an artistic experiment to explore the limits of public policy in the field of art and culture during the People & Culture summit. The experiment is carried out in collaboration with People & Culture and Scandinavian Playback Theatre Studio.
Freedom of the Arts Increasingly Challenged
There is an increasing concern, among cultural institutions and members of the public, with the rise of nationalist and populist movements around Europe and the instinct to instrumentalize the arts and culture sector in promoting certain narratives. Cultural policy is turning into an ideological battlefield in which worrying examples of political violations of the Keynesian arm’s length principle are becoming more frequent. This guiding principle aims to ensure the relative autonomy of the arts, minimizing political influence over artistic expression. It was established after the Second World War and builds on the devastating experiences of Nazi cultural policies and propaganda. In the polarized political landscape of today, the need to reinforce the freedom of the arts and foster understanding of the existential importance of the arm’s length principle among politicians is urgent.
Exploring the Boundaries of Culture and Politics
During the People & Culture summit 50 Swedish politicians, political youth organization representatives and artists are invited to participate in a performance probing difficult aspects of political interference in the field of art and culture. Interactive performance theatre breaks down the wall between performer and audience and is used as an educational tool aiming to open a courageous dialogue that moves participants from polarization towards mutual understanding. The purpose of the experiment is to give participants an immersive experience and emotional understanding of the importance of the freedom of art to open and democratic societies without disregarding the multifaceted set of roles politicians must fulfill in funding and supporting the arts.