Monthly Archives: September 2014

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.
 
 
Slow but steady devolution and the English question
Losing is never easy. Devoting years and years of your time to one endeavour and realising it didn’t pay off in the end can be soul crushing. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, learned this the hard way and appears to have done what all bad losers do: blame the game. After a well executed No campaign Salmond could’ve admitted the loss and even celebrated the gained result of a more autonomous future for Scotland, but instead he chose an alternative approach. Salmond decided the no-voters were ‘tricked’  and that Scotland could reach the inevitable, complete autonomy even without the silly referendum by simply unilaterally declaring independence after gaining enough powers. ‘Tricking’ the voters to tick the No box was apparently the result of a last-minute, dubious vow of more devolution by the Westminster leaders. According to Salmond, who is now stepping down as First Minister, the promises have already been dismissed.



Boris Johnson, the outspoken Mayor of London, responded to Salmond by saying “it would be bonkers to rewrite the constitution overnight”. Devolution will happen as promised, it just takes a little more time due to the obvious gravity of the matters at stake. The Mayor also reminded that as the devolution goes forward another, already earlier recognised issue of the so called West Lothian question finally needs addressing. This idea of “English votes for English laws” refers to the questionable right of Scottish (and also Welsh and Northern Irish) Members of Parliament to vote on matters that affect only England. According to many, as the English voice is less and less heard in issues concerning Scotland, it would be only fair to exclude Scottish MPs from the English debates.

In a grand scheme of things the West Lothian question is hardly as acute as putting the “devolution revolution” of Scotland into action. Taking into account that the British government effectively was the Scottish government from 1707 until 1999 it might be okay to let the Scots even the scores out for a little while longer and intervene in British business for now.


To end on a positive note: there has been some promising discussion on a broader, more participative way to start the new devolution and constitutional debate. The government and all of decision making processes should be more open, more transparent and, above all, more public engaging.

Ukip planning to increase tuition fees for EU students

The UK Independence party (Ukip) is currently having its annual party conference to shape and announce their vision for Britain’s future. This eurosceptic, right-wing populist party would be happy to increase the tuition fees for EU students so that they would match the charges of students coming from outside the EU. By doing this, it would allow British students to obtain a degree in for example medicine, science or maths free of charge.
If Ukip gains enough power in the next election and the proposal goes through, that would mean bad news for Finnish students studying in the UK too. At present, for example in the University College London an entry level fee for UK and EU students (undergraduate programmes) is at £9,000 per year whereas for overseas students the charge is at £15,200.
Ukip has gained more and more support within the last few years and its once largely ignored annual conferences are now receiving an increasing amount of media attention. However, according to the latest polls, Ukip’s support rate is less than 15 percent, which is not yet enough to rewrite any education policies.    

The less attractive tourist attraction

In London one becomes very familiar with queues, early bird deals and booking tickets far ahead to see the different shows and sights. It is guaranteed that whatever attraction you decide to go and see, you will not be alone: hundreds if not thousand have made the exact same plan to come and see that specific building, landmark, piece of art or even a bare road sign on that same day. Gets a bit too crowded, doesn’t it? This is not the case for all tourist attractions, however. While nearly seven million people visited The British Museum last year, guess how many visitors found their way to East Anglia’s Beacon Hill Fort? The correct and rather depressing answer is six. That works out at just one visitor every nine weeks, making Beacon Hill Fort the least popular attraction out of 1,279 listed by VisitEngland. So, it certainly doesn’t get chock-full in Beacon Hill Fort, which is somewhat surprising considering the importance of the site as one of Britain’s key defences against a possible Nazi invasion and that it wasn’t even decommissioned until the fifties. Oh, and it costs a moderate one pound to enter.

The lack of visitors might not be completely the sight’s fault though: currently it only opens its doors on one Sunday a month from 2pm till 4pm. But still, only six visitors per year is about 79,994 less than the Pencil Museum in Keswick gets. That is a museum devoted to bits of wood wrapped around some graphite.

After all, Beacon Hill Fort has some unquestionable historical value and is surely worth seeing. If historical fortresses are not your cup of tea, you can always pencil in a trip to Keswick.

The Price of Awards

Kim Varstala from the Finnish Institute blogs about the effects awards have on the visibility of contemporary art and the future of art galleries. The text is a part of the institute’s new project: Visibility and Impact of Contemporary Art in Contemporary Society.
 
Throughout the 20th century, British artists kept gaining international recognition. By 2008, twelve of the top 50 living artists under the age of 50 were British. How was this rapid market success of British art possible? The answer is recognition through awards.
 
Britain has no shortage of prestigious artistic awards and funding for both individuals and institutions. There is a whole range of national, regional and local awards issued, for example, by the Arts Foundation, the Contemporary Art Society and Arts Council England, and for the struggling artist they are all equally important: In her address at the Paul Hamlyn Awards in 2010 Charlotte Higgins quoted artist Bedwyr Williams as saying that “winning awards was like ‘being refueled in mid air just as I was about to attempt an emergency landing’. To tonight’s winners: we heartily congratulate you. And we cannot wait to see you fly”.
Leading the pack of prestigious art awards is the Turner Prize, a contemporary art award presented by Tate and held at Tate Britain. Since the Patrons of New Art established the Turner Prize in 1984 it has become the most prestigious art award in the world. The setting up of the prize itself was a stroke of genius by Tate in a time of financial difficulty, as it allowed for mounting of contemporary art without having to collect it.
Awarded to a British-based artist, who has arranged an “outstanding exhibition” in the last twelve months, the Turner Prize signals what is worth keeping and provides crucial information to collectors, dealers and lay audiences about the value of an artist. The age limit of 50 also meant that the Turner Prize was able to introduce young and promising British artist described as “late emergent” or “early mid-career”. This particular focus group from the Turner Prize’s early days later became known as the Young British Artists.
Everyone made a point of following the Turner Prize and seeing the nominated artists’ exhibition. By the early 90s the increased media interest had turned the award into a national obsession which meant that the Turner Prize definitely became the direct and complex valuation device we know today. According to a study by Pierre Pénet and Kangsan Lee, the profound effect the award has on the contemporary artist can be explained using three different variables: brockerage, deliberation and institutional labeling.
Brockerage means that the Turner Prize causes a significant departure from institutionalized valuation routines by bringing together a great diversity of profiles in its jury. The nominees are automatically put “in the front of the pack” which therefore increases the likelihood of dramatic success.
Deliberation means that buyers may find owning a work of art that has drawn large public attention appealing. In a market environment that lacks value standards, attendance and media figures serves as an experiment of how much an artist is worth.
Finally, institutional labeling has proved to be an important variable. Even just by being nominated an artist is thereafter known as a “Turner Prize artist”, which sends reassuring signals to buyers and increases the price that an artist commands. Looking at all the participants and winners of the Turner Prize, it’s the taking part that matters for their future career, more so than actually winning.
The proliferation of new arts prizes centered on the same criteria as the Turner Prize (age, nationality and a one year time span) is likely to make hastened success a broader phenomenon in the contemporary art world. New York has the Hugo Boss Prize, Paris the Marcel Duchamps Prize, Berlin the National Gallery Prize for Young Art and Tampere the Young Artist of the Year award.
Does the recognition that artists receive through these awards also mean that the role of galleries, dealers and critics is starting to evaporate? An interesting example is Damien Hirst’s (Turner Prize winner 1995) highly successful move to consign his art directly to an auction house on 15 September 2008, selling an unprecedented $270 million worth of art.
The increasing self-sustainability of artists due to recognition through awards means that the art world is at a turning point. Allan Majotra, founder of the online gallery PicassoMio, has been looking more closely at the future of the art galleries and museums and these are two of his conclusions: firstly, in order to survive, galleries will have to become sophisticated retailers and will have to begin employing strategies that are currently used by luxury and other retail companies. Artists will benefit from his trend and will force galleries to stop using techniques as exclusivity clauses in their contracts.
Secondly, Majotra predicts that Art fairs will decline in popularity. New technologies and larger galleries will lead to the declining importance of art trade fairs. There will be a significant consolidation in the arts market and, similar to the world of galleries, the art fairs will decline in numbers.
 
So does this mean, paradoxically, that the awards presented by museums and other institutions in order to promote contemporary art are actually more beneficiary for the individual artist? If so, one could argue that this indirectly leads to the alienation of the public towards the contemporary art field in general which, in turn, hits back at the museums issuing the awards in the first place.
The museums seem to be aware of this trend and are developing solutions to cope with future cuts to both financial grants and attendance figures. In a Guardian blog post Jonathan Jones discusses the possibility of future “artless museums” as a concept yet to emerge. He writes that a bookless library is already open in San Antonio, Texas, dedicated to e-reading and poses the question whether there one day will be artless museums too?
“We’re already on the way there. It’s not just that all major museums now make much if not all of their collections visible on websites and apps …you could see the entire collection digitally and then examine some choice painting for real, in the ‘analogue’ room”, writes Jones.
Tate Britain has established that a gallery has no responsibility to show all of its collection and can keep much of it in store while showing some of it in its networks of galleries, making more available online. Are artless galleries the inevitable future caused by praise of the individual? Will the recognition artists gain through awards continue to trump the general public’s interest in contemporary art?
Bibliography
Jones, J. 2014. The Guardian. “Welcome to the art galleries of the future”, accessed on 15 September 2014.
Majotra, A. Fine Art: What is the Future of the Art World? , accessed on 15 September 2014.
Penet, P & Lee, K. 2014. Poetics vol. 43 pp. 149-171. “Prize & Price: The Turner Prize as a valuation device in the contemporary art market”, Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam.
 

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Maria Pirkkalainen.

Brutalism back in fashion

There probably isn’t a West Londoner without an opinion on the infamous Trellick Tower over at Golborne Road. It’s bold, tall, exposed with concrete and designed for the socially affordable future in the late 1960s as part of the British New Brutalism movement. After decades of bad press and demolitions, these brash concrete buildings are now back in style with more respect and admiration than ever.
Brutalism is currently featured in a special series by Dezeen, starting from the basics of the architectural movement and continuing with for example an excellent list of the lesser-known concrete gems, chosen by Michael Abrahamson, the editor of the Fuck Yeah Brutalism blog. And there is an extensive programme of art events presented by Bow Arts at one famous Brutalist piece by architect Erno Goldfinger, the Balfron Tower, all the way up to mid October 2014. For example this weekend during the Open House London event, the building opens its doors and over 20 apartments to the public before its extensive renovation.

What makes brutalism fashionable after all these decades of negligence? Is it just the fact that nostalgia has finally reached even the most controversial architectural movements of our times? The article in Dezeen suggests that one of the reasons could be that the Brutalist buildings were designed with future in mind and the progressive socialist idealism behind them still appeals to the public as well as designers. Although at first perceived as idealistic, in the 1970s many of these Brutalist housing buildings were met with increasing crime and poverty that led to the failure of the movement.

Although the movement is gaining new-found respect, a long road still lies ahead. While for example Balfron Tower is a listed building due to its architectural and historical value, the same has not happened to its neighbouring Robin Hood Gardens. What is the reason for this? It is interesting to follow how the Brutalist buildings – especially Balfron Tower after its renovation – will develop in the following years. And before that, to see what happens during the open doors at Balfron Tower, when over 20 artists open their flats and exhibitions to the general public for free. This and te whole Balfron Season has in fact been thanks to a housing scheme by Bow Arts Trust, which offers artists temporary residence in emptied flats – an excellent idea as well!
Reclaiming our rivers and harbours for public use
What about diving head first into the water and greeting the busy City while swimming? As a part of the official program for the London Design Festival, Urban Plunge, an exhibition at the Roca London Gallery, ponders what kind of architectural proposals could enable urban swimming spots in downtown London, New York and Copenhagen. Some of these suggestions have already been put in, such as the Harbour Baths in Copenhagen, while others could be either years or decades away.
For the past few years, the idea of reclaiming our water spaces has generated a lot of successful responses in Helsinki, Finland. A popular way to do this has been with the addition of a sauna.  Kulttuurisauna, situated in Merihaka, has gained an almost institute like status among the inhabitants in only a year. Another good and quite different example is Sompasauna, a wooden heated self-service public sauna at the developing Kalasatama district, which is free for everyone to use.

What in the idea of urban swimming attracts the wide public? The curator of the Urban Plunge exhibition, Jane Withers, tells in an interview at Icon Eye in September 2014 how in general the idea stems from better urban development. Water spaces are often vast, but un-used spaces in the most central locations of our cities. How could we make them a more accessible part of our everyday lives?
The other reason behind the attraction lies in experimenting. Jane Withers describes how urban swimming gives a sheer thrill of water-level urban perspective. And it’s easy to add how with the right use of design, such as with Helsinki’s Kulttuurisauna, these urban swimming spots can easily gain even more visibility and importance within a city’s structure and planning.

However in reality, the steps needed to create urban swimming spots don’t always come so easily. The article in Icon Eye states how for example in Copenhagen, urban swimming has been enabled over the past 15 years by modernising the sewer system to improve water quality. When would this be possible in London?

The Finnish Institute’s very own neighbourhood in King’s Cross is featured in the Urban Plunge exhibition as well. The idea of King’s Cross Pond Club, a man-made natural pond in the middle of London’s largest construction site, explores how we could re-introduce natural cycles into the urban environment. Another idea the exhibition plays around with is a romantic bathing pool at Blackfriars. What do you think of these and what are your own ideas or favourite urban swimming spots?

The exhibition is open at the Roca London Gallery until the 10th of January 2015.
Electronic women at the forefront
For every year from 2010, Wysing Arts Centre’s annual one day music and arts festival has aimed to focus on what’s currently interesting in visual arts, and to tease the fine line between experimental art and music. With a 17th century farm house, a gallery and three stages nine miles west from Cambridge, the set-up of this year’s Space-Time: The Future Festival on the 30th of August focused on the future, with that being in female electronic artists.
Wysing Arts Centre has provided an alternative environment and structures for artistic research, experimentation, discovery and production for the past 25 years. The centre’s thematic residency programme aims to support the artists’ possibilities to explore new ways of working and the centre has welcomed Finnish artists such as Pilvi Takala. And with the help of its own music and arts festival, this publicly funded arts centre has succeeded in turning its premises into a playground for the wider public as well.
With this year’s focus being on women, the line-up consisted of superb artists and live performers such as Yola Fatoush and Sue Tompkins. The acts included live music, performances and the festival also had a marquee for the independent traders. The director of Wysing Arts Centre, Donna Lynas, states in an interview in the M-Magazine in July 2014 how the event’s theme continues later in Futurecamp, a series of fortnightly talks, discussion, screenings, performances and workshops that all address the way we live and create now and how this might evolve and affect the future.
Lynas continues how in general, music has been an important part of the creative process for visual artists, but for a long time it hadn’t really been written about and talked about. The yearly event wants to bring the distinction between these two different disciplines – or the lack of it – to the table.
In addition, the event raises two other big questions. Are women in electronic music still not gaining enough spotlight? And what is the role of a festival for a remote arts centre? With the press and international visitors, an event such as Space-Time: The Future gains extra visibility that can be seen to lead to larger funding and new audiences for the exhibitions and artists as well.

Art and the Public

Dr Johanna Vakkari, the Finnish Institute’s Head of Arts & Culture, blogs about the institute’s new project: Visibility and Impact of Contemporary Art in Contemporary Society
 
“Try to imagine society without the humanising influence of the arts, and you will have to strip out most of what is pleasurable in life, as well as much that is educationally critical and socially essential.”
Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England (The Value of Arts 2014)
Art in the city
 
Besides museums and galleries, an effective way to bring art closer to the public is to show it in a public space – in places frequented by people.  These projects are however not always greeted in kind. I recently listened to BBC radio 3 repeat of the series Free Thinking chaired by Matthew Sweet from 2013. The experts were talking with the public about the theme: Are Audiences Killing Culture? The question was that if art is brought to ordinary places near the public, does this mean that it loses some of its values and begins to operate from the bases of more populist or entertaining ideas.
 
There are, though, numerous examples around the world showing that this is not the case when considering the quality and innovativeness of works of contemporary art in public places. An interesting case is the Fourth Plinth -programme, which invites well renowned artists to plan new works to Trafalgar Square. The programme has been going on since 1999, having generated big public debates on contemporary art and its audiences because of the controversial and polemic character of many of the works exposed thus far. At the moment on the fourth plinth there is Hahn/Cock by German sculptor Katharina Fritsch from 2013 and the next two commissions for 2015 and 2016 will be by Hans Haacke and David Shrigley. (See: http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/arts-culture/fourth-plinth).
 
Another brilliant example is the Art on the Underground –programme, which already for several years has provided in the Tube environment of London a world-class programme of contemporary art. Among this year’s events are e. g. the Re-Dress by Jaqueline Ponclet at the entrance of Edgware Road tube station, which opened in July, Trevor Paglen’s panoramic photograph, An English Landscape, installed at Gloucester Road tube station in June and the new tube map with a cover by Rachel Whiteread. In 2013 Mark Walliger started a project during which he will make individual artworks showing a labyrinth in each tube station of London (270 in all). This programme also includes many other events and activities, such as the schools poster competition realised in 2013. (See: art.tfl.gov.uk).

Jacqueline Poncelet’s work Re-Dress is a companion piece to the artwork Wrapper, also by Poncelet, for a new building alongside Edgware Road Tube station.

In a questionnaire made in August 2014 on Finnish people’s attitudes to public art, 70 % of the 1004 interviewees say that they would like to have works of art in their ordinary surroundings as in their home quarter, in their working places and in schools.  They think that, apart from the aesthetic effects art would increase safety and comfort and also the real estate and residential area value. (Kyselytutkimus 2014). The questionnaire was ordered by the per cent for art -programme, which refers to a principle that a certain per cent (0.5 – 2 %) of the costs of a new building or residential area should be invested to works of art commissioned in the building area and in buildings. This international idea was conceived in the 1920’s and, despite being only a recommendation in Finland, several towns and municipalities have followed it. (Taidetta arkeen 2013).
 
The Finnish people’s attitudes resemble the results published in the report People and places: Public attitudes to beauty  (IPSOS MORI 2011). Almost half of the respondents experience beauty through art and one of the focus areas in the research was to find out what beauty means for places and communities, e.g. in the built environments.  Beauty is naturally a complicated concept because it means different things to each individual, and the beauty in art people are referring to in this research, does not necessary mean the beauty in contemporary art.


Art as a tool
 
When speaking of art as a tool for something else, there are two concepts that first come to one’s mind: welfare and creative industries.
 
Artists have always interacted with industry, the most famous example in modern times being Arts & Crafts – movement and the Bauhaus. The creative industries or culture industries are, however, post-industrial and late concepts launched when decision-makers started to search alternatives for the breaking heavy industry.
 
As Ingrid Elam, Swedish literary critic and Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, mentions (2012), Tony Blair introduced the slogan ´Cool Britannia´ in 1997 meaning new creative industries that were to replace old industrial society with its factories and big business and at the same time in German they used the slogan: ”from industrial culture to culture industry”. Hundreds of small companies have been established in the place of big industrial corporations.
 
Although some artists have been able to create factories in a Warhollian way or to generate employment opportunities for other people, when talking about the concepts of cultural and creative industries we often don’t mean works of art in se but such activities like e. g. design, IT, computer games and advertising. In this field the contemporary art, design and fashion are nowadays more and more intermingled.
 
Yudhishthir Raj Isar, independent cultural analyst and professor of Cultural Policy Studies at The American University of Paris, has asked (2012) how an artist might benefit from having his or her work framed in ’creative industries’ terms? There are, of course, famous designers, whose enterprises’ products we always link to their names and persons (perhaps also erroneously), but in most cases it is the brand which counts and the names of artists/designers are not generally known to the public. This is probably especially the case with immaterial work and innovations – artists are invited to work in companies also because of their abilities to think outside the box and to find solution where we usually would not even search for it. According to Elam (2012) the place and role of the artists in cultural industries is fairly unknown and there is a lack of research about this sector of the arts. Also the meaning of terms like innovative or creative has become insignificant as they are being used in any context. The shifting of vocabulary, earlier used in the context of art, to common practices might reduce the understanding of the special character of the arts. Raj Isar opposes the idea that economy would be the only field in which artists can deliver value for money: “Aren’t there other issues that are just as central to the condition and contribution of the artists? Their place and role in a healthy democratic polity, for example.” (Raj Isar 2012). The question is, does artists’ engagement with cultural or creative industries improve the visibility and impact of contemporary art and artists in society?
 
It must be remembered, though, that in a broad sense the concepts culture industry or creative industry are used to indicate the whole field of culture. We may speak of the music industry or book publishing as a cultural industry and in the field of visual arts galleries and art fairs and museums can be defined as sections of cultural or creative industry.  
 
Another growing field is the use of art in welfare services. Here we are talking about community work, art projects aimed for children, elderly people, unemployed, prisoners, patients in hospitals and so on.  The idea is that with art it is possible to open and even resolve different problems in society. The English Art Council’s report refers to the studies, which shows that art and cultural activities can have positive symptoms of conditions, physical stability, or self-esteem, and the ability of people to manage them. (The Value of Arts and Culture, 2014). There are several studies going on in various counties on the effects of engaging art activities to people whereas the impact of arts in public spaces on individuals, community and wellbeing has been investigated only a little.
 
While talking with Finnish artists, both middle aged and those having just finished their studies, I had a strong impression that many of them are socially and ethically highly conscious. They produce art or join art projects, which apart of artistic aims also have political or social goals. Also art universities, museums and other cultural organisations are funding communal projects – projects that bring art to the groups of people that are not among ordinary museum and gallery visitors. Community art projects have become one of the strong trends in contemporary art. There are opinions according to which art should not become a social work. I believe that the concern is not altogether justified because social work and community art are two different things. Community projects can also be an effective method where art can influence people’s everyday life.
 
The recent study by the Arts Council England, The Value of Arts and Culture to people and Society (2014), brings new information of the importance of arts and culture in the UK.  It is dealing with the whole field of arts and culture industries.
The key themes studied are Economy, Health and Wellbeing, Society and Education. To get as plausible information as possible, the study group sourced over 500 research reports at the beginning and then analysed 90 of them more closely. It is not easy to find good evidence of all the impacts of art and culture and in the report the researchers have clearly brought up the gasps and difficulties they experienced. There are also the questions of equality and diversity to consider because the people most actively involved with the arts and culture are from the most privileged parts of society. According to the report, the activity depends on the level of education, socio-economic background and on the place of residence.
 
In 2011 the turnover of arts and culture industries in the UK was £ 12,4 billion with 110,600 full-time employees, which means 0,45 per cent of total employment. According to the report: “Overall in terms of culture, the UK is perceived to be the fourth best nation out of 50. This is a result of Britain being seen as the fourth best nation in terms of having an exciting contemporary culture (eg music, films, art and literature).” Apart from national economy, arts and culture also have a positive effect on tourism and local economies. It is noted, however, that despite the strong contribution of arts and culture to national and local economies, the incomes of individual artists can be fairly low.
 
***
It seems that to promote the central position of arts and culture, especially during these economically uncertain times, we need more indicators and new ways to measure its impact to contemporary society. The brand new publication of the British Council, Culture Matters, Why culture should be at the heart of future public policy, discusses these matters, cultural diversity and the importance of the cities as cultural core areas. It also proposes the reassessment of the role of cultural ministries.
 
According to the Art on the underground organization, one of their missions is to engage audiences, encourage their participation in and increase their knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of contemporary art. These are the same tasks that most museums and galleries are working with – and in this blog we would like to open the discussion of how to achieve these goals: what, where, why, how?

 
Bibliography:
 
Assessment of Economic Impact of the Arts in Ireland. Arts and Culture Scoping Research Project. Submitted to The Arts Council By Indecon International Economic Consultants, 2009. http://www.artscouncil.ie/Publications/All/Assessment-of-Economic-Impact-of-the-Arts-in-Ireland_661310142/
 
Culture Matters, Why culture should be at the heart of future public policy. The British Council 2014/E176. http://www.britishcouncil.org/organisation/publications/culture-matters
 
Elam, Ingrid 2012. An industry like no other. In Konstnären och kulturnäringarna / Artists and the Art Industries. Ed. By Ingrid Elam, Photographs by Lars Tunbjörk. Stockholm: Konstnärsnämnden, 20-25.
 
Heinsius, Joost & Lehikoinen, Kai (Ed.) 2013. Training Artists for Innovation. Competencies for New Contexts. Helsinki: Taideyliopiston Teatterikorkeakoulu – Kokos Publications.
 
Ipsos MORI, People and Places: Public attitudes to beauty, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2011. http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/publications/1270/People-Perceptions-and-Place.aspx
 
Kyselytutkimus: Suomalaisten silmissä taide nostaa asuinalueiden arvoa. 2014. http://www.ornamo.fi/ajankohtaista/uutiset/kyselytutkimus-suomalaisten-silmiss%C3%A4-taide-nostaa-asuinalueiden-arvoa
 
Raj Isar, Yudhishthir 2012. Artists and the Creative Industries: Problems with the Paradigm. In Konstnären och kulturnäringarna / Artists and the Art Industries. Ed. By Ingrid Elam, Photographs by Lars Tunbjörk. Stockholm: Konstnärsnämnden, 28-39.
 
Taidetta arkeen. Ehdotus valtion keinoiksi edistää prosenttiperiaatetta osana julkista rakentamista. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön julkaisuja 2013:5. Helsinki: Operusministeriö. www.minedu.fi/OPM/Julkaisut
 
The Value of Arts and Culture to People and Society. An evidence review. Manchester: Arts Council in England. 2014. www.artscouncil.org.uk

‘Populism, Power and Place’: on Devolution and the Scottish Referendum

Taina Cooke from the Finnish Institute blogs about current issues of devolution and the Scottish referendum.
On Thursday 11th September Policy Network organized a breakfast seminar on ‘Populism, power and place’ in which the questions of Scottish referendum as well as devolution across the UK in a wider sense were discussed. Currently the UK’s democratic structure is centralised and the politics work predominantly from top to down. The potential of devolution, the transfer of power from a central government to local authorities, has nonetheless been recognised for a long time. The structure of UK’s local government underwent a significant reform in the 1990s but now, as a result of Scotland’s situation, the topic of devolution has surfaced yet again. Hope is pinned on devolution as the much-needed tool in promoting democracy, restoring trust in politics and tackling the drivers of populism.
The seminar was chaired by Michael McTernan (acting director of the Policy Network) and the panelists included Vernon Bogdanor (professor of government, King’s College London), Jonathan Carr-West (chief executive, Local Government Information Unit), Joe Goldberg (cabinet member of Haringey council), Gerry Hassan (cultural policy researcher, University of the West of Scotland) and Kat Healy (policy, research and evaluation officer, Community Foundation for Northern Ireland).
In beginning of the seminar the focus was on local governments and devolution in general. The imbalance between London and the rest of the UK is distinct and unsustainable. Global, grand scale politics encourage populism when citizens do not feel like they are being involved in decision-making processes. Local councils need more power in order to recognise and respond to the needs of the local people. It was stated that we are currently in a between state of vertical and horizontal governing in the UK when power is slowly shifting from the centre to local authorities. The present state is somewhat difficult to manage and, according to some of the panelists, might just lead in replacing the idea of one evil centre to multiple ‘local monsters’.
A hot topic of conversation was of course the Scottish referendum. Gerry Hassan reminded that even if Scotland does not get independence things still need to change. In the case of a no-vote, Scotland faces ‘the one last chance to try and work with the union’ according to Hassan. If Scotland does not receive more autonomous powers, such as taking a full care of their own economics, there will likely be a second referendum in a few years’ time.
Even when Scotland is currently in the brightest spotlight, there are other areas too seeking more independence and power. Scotland has put the wheels of greater devolution in motion and areas such as Wales, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire, Cornwall and also London want their share of the decentralised powers. The British Government is definitely facing difficult times balancing between extreme devolution on one hand and keeping the union together on the other. Professor Bogdanor pointed out that greater devolution inevitably leads to greater differences based on geography, which can indeed prove to be problematic in terms of one, internally whole United Kingdom.
 
 
Read more on the devolution movements of different regions:
 

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.
The mystery of Britain’s lowering crime rate
Crime experts across the country are facing an unexpected, but positive dilemma: why is crime in the UK falling? Ian Cobain reports about the phenomenon in last week’s Guardian and attempts to get to the bottom of it. Indeed, unlike the common man might think, statistics show that the total crime rate in the UK is lowering. The reported crime rate is currently lower than it has been for decades and it is not only the public that failed to see this coming, but it is the experts as well. No one really knows why crime in the UK seems to be falling, but a number of different theories exist.
One theory claims that crime is not actually disappearing, it is just changing its forms. The supporters of this theory argue that traditional crime surveys do not ask the right questions and hence fail to ignore the most modern-day, often Internet based, forms of crime. Another explanation could be found in the fall in drug use. According to this theory the crimes committed by heroin and crack cocaine users accounted for a fair share of the total crime rate from the 80s until mid-2000s. The main reason for the current trend of lowering crime is in fact that by 2014 these drug users have either quit or died. A more optimistic theory, however, states that the explanation can be found in a general cultural shift towards greater civility and caring. Combining reduced crime opportunities and better policing with taking good care of our fellows is the greatest explanatory factor to falling crime according to this viewpoint.
In any case, rather than wasting a lot of resources in trying to find out why crime is falling how about just enjoying the outcome? And even if crime is not falling, at least we have a pretty set of statistics for the government officials to frame and hang on their walls.
P.S. If you want to take a look at the exact amount of crimes taking place in different parts of the UK visit www.police.uk and look up the open data utilizing ‘crime map’
Saving tip of the week: ‘Ginger discount card’
A red-haired Scottish man realised you don’t need to be a pretty lady to get free drinks: ginger does the trick too! Well maybe not for free, but at a discounted price anyway. Richard Macrae was given a homemade ‘Ginger discount card’ for his 30th birthday by a friend as a joke. For everyone’s surprise it seemed to work too and Mr Macrae estimates he has saved about a couple of hundreds pounds over the last 4 years. “People have always given me stick for my hair colour but now I’m going out three nights a week and saving a fortune. The joke’s on them,” says Mr Macrae on The Scotsman’s interview. He says when presenting the card in bars, restaurants and shops surprisingly often retailers get the joke and agree to take some money off his purchases. He has even built up quite a reputation over the years and is now known as the ‘ginger discount guy’ in his hometown Aberdeen.
 
Well isn’t that just a great example of creativity and initiative! Ginger discount card might not get a lot of use in Finland, but how about a ‘Too-shy-to-ask-for-discount’ discount card?

Community Projects at King’s Cross

Maija Bergström blogs about redevelopment of the King’s Cross area. This is the third part of a series of posts about King’s Cross, the new home base of the Finnish Institute in London.

My previous post described what community projects are and how they can be of help when developing areas. Professors Matti Kortteinen and Mari Vaattovaara – a sociologist and a geographer, respectively – from the University of Helsinki recently wrote in Helsingin Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, about the advantages of local collaboration (1). They referred to a research by Michael Porter from Harvard Business School that points out how differences in dealing with unemployment and segregation have been tackled. The most successful areas managed to recognise local, unique strenghts, and use all resources and get them to work together; not only administration and strong businesses but also grassroot level actors such as local businesses, artists and universities.

At King’s Cross, Argent, the property developer responsible of the redevelopment, aims at actively creating networks across the organizations and charities that work at the area. Local networks are not a new thing, but what I find fresh is the idea that these relations should start growing at the same time as the physical environment. Collaboration should start in the first stage of development, not superimposed afterwards.

A recent project by the City of Helsinki, managed by Forum Virium, Fiksu Kalasatama (“Smart” Kalasatama) does something a bit similar (2). Kalasatama is turned into a Living Lab, where new services could be developed collaboratively and tested promptly as the area grows. The inhabitants and those working in Kalasatama participate in planning and testing new ideas, services and facilities. Esitystaiteen keskus (Performance Center) recently launched a community arts project in Kalasatama that aims at boosting local identity and support participation among inhabitants (3).

What would motivate people and organisations to collaborate with each other? I started looking at the community projects at King’s Cross and met some of the people involved with them. They pointed out several benefits that can be gained from community projects:
Meeting new people, getting new ideas. This is especially important for people who come from deprived neighbourhoods that suffer from unemployment. Community projects can provide young people with organisational skills, networks and information about worklife. Businesses too can benefit from unexpected new networks and meeting different people and working with them. It is a good way to get fresh ideas and boost creativity. The reputation of being open to new suggestions can also help meet like-minded organisations and companies.
Sharing and recycling resources.  Recycling becomes a good option when distances are not long. Sharing is also an effective way of reducing costs and dividing them with several stakeholders. The resources that are shared or recycled can be material, immaterial, skills, spaces or mutual help. A tiny investment for a big organisation can help others to start a micro-business or provide the essentials for a common-good project.
Corporate social responsibility. For companies, helping in local community projects is a good way to carry out their corporate social responsibility programme. For people working in organisations, it can provide opportunities to bring their work into different context and help other people, and give a deeper meaning for their work.
Area becomes recognised, valuable businesses and committed inhabitants. Community projects make an area interesting and produce a range of different activities. This produces a unique identity for the area and makes people want to go there, so the area is perceived in a positive way. This creates committed inhabitants that want to live there for a long time, and is good for the businesses as well.
Trust. Committing to community projects and supporting them in long-term, helps create relationships that are based on trust. This is valuable and makes doing business with them easier.
 
Community projects are one tool for promoting collaboration at local level. They offer a channel for citizens to affect the design of their neighbourhood and its services. Collaboratively developed, place specific practises differentiate areas from each other and help create a distinctive identity for them.
As the interviewees pointed out, interesting and multilayered urban space where people can spend time and meet each other, supports the success of community projects as they offer a platform for the partners to get together.

In addition, successful projects require an atmosphere where developers, companies, charities, and citizens can find mutual benefits and gains – not only conflicts of interests. This derives from trust that is built up during a longer period of cooperation and based on knowing each other’s ways of working.

Building sustainable and working relationships takes effort. I also asked what kind of costs or difficulties can be related to community projects. Projects cost money, of course, and all the contributions – hiring staff or giving their time, electricity, land, spaces – have value. The interviewees concentrated on difficulties rather that costs as such.

Difficulty to quantify costs and benefits. As mentioned above, the perceived benefits seem to be more qualitative; such as trust, social responsibility and good reputation. They do have value, but that value is not easily turned into pounds and euros, and might not have an immediate effect to profits. Especially in the corporate world this calls for a deeper understanding of these benefits and their meaning for the company.

Finding the right partners and interesting projects. Community projects are quite popular in the UK and often there are lots of organisations doing a similar job at the same area. Especially in a dense city such as London this might result in a difficulty to find like-minded partners that are easy to cooperate with.

Summing up: engaging local organisations, businesses and institutions to community projects could be an effective way to promote collaboration and make an area successful starting from the first phase and stage of development. As relationships take time to grow, they should be boosted and encouraged during the whole building and development process. Mutual benefits could be made more concrete to make them more compelling to businesses as well.

Community projects could be promoted more widely in Finland as a tool for developing new area – King’s Cross serves as an interesting and positive example of the recent turn to a more communal way of developing a new area.

(2) “Smart” Kalasatama project, Forum Virium (3) Performance Centre launched a community arts project in Kalasatama

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