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DRAGAN KLAIC Creativity: Another Crowded Bandwagon?

From Divine Creation to Creative Industry ELIA Teachers Academy, Brighton, July 2007
Abstract: The author seeks to dispel some of the accumulated conceptual fog around the notion of creativity and to probe it in relation to the transformation of the economies in Europe, prevailing artistic ideologies and shifting modes of cultural production. He offers a critical look at the existing cultural infrastructure and its capacity to absorb and nurture creativity and positions creativity primarily as an ability to initiate, develop and enrich a range of productive relationships with partners and teams, institutions, funders, media, communities and cultural industry. Dr Dragan Klaic, a Permanent Fellow of Felix Meritis in Amsterdam, teaches arts and cultural policies at Leiden University. Educated in Belgrade and at Yale, he held professorships at the universities in Belgrade and Amsterdam and was a Visiting Professor at the Univ. of N. Mexico, Univ. of Pennsylvania, CEU Budapest and Univ. of Bologna, led Theater Instituut Nederland, co-founded the European Theater Quarterly Euromaske, and presided over the European cultural networks ENICPA and EFAH. He is the initiator and Chair of the European Festival Research Project and active across Europe as writer, lecturer, researcher and advisor. Author of several books, among which most recently an exile memoir, Exercises in Exile, in Dutch and Croatian (2004 and 2006), Europe as a Cultural Project (2005), Mobility of Imagination, a companion guide to international cultural cooperation (2007) and of many articles and contributions to 50 edited works. Contributing Editor of the Theater magazine (USA). E mail: draganklaic@gmail.com

I am spending this month in Collegium Budapest, the Hungarian Institute for Advanced Studies as a Research Fellow. The place strives to provide ideal conditions for academic creativity. I am part of a team of scholars who work on a book about the literary exile from East Europe in the 20th century. Exile meant for those authors mobility under durress and continuation of creativity under very demanding circumstances. We reside in Buda, in the House Wallenberg, built by Swedish foundations in memory of Raoul Wallenberg, a scion of a Swedish industrialist family; he used his creativity to stop or at least to slow down the killing and deportation of the Hungarian Jews in 1944 deploying various strategies, tactics,

schemes, even tricks and bribes to outsmart Eichmann and Hungarian fascists. Over 420.000 Jews were deported and mostly killed since March 1944 but some 75.000 survived to greet the liberation in January-February 1945. Here you have it: creativity as a a life saving capacity. Ironically, Wallenberg himself was arrested by the Soviet liberators and never came back from the prison. Swedish diplomacy was not creative enough to get him out of the Lubianka prison. Diffusion of meaning Creativity is so commonly being invoked nowadays that its meaning has been cheapened and diffused. Once it meant first of all the Divine Creation, the deistic enterprise to make the whole world from scratch. At the other end of the spectrum we encounter fashionable egalitarian populism: everyone is creative, everyone could be creative, it is not more than an act of strong will. There is also the neoliberal appropriation of creativity as a factor to boost employability and corporate growth and jack up the profits. Creative industry is a nasty oxymoron, muddling boundaries between artistic creation and industrial production, between non-profit and forprofit culture and twisting the original notion of culture industry that Adorno and Horheimer used in a critical sense to point out the alienation of the artist from its work, its commodification under the circumstances of industrial reproduction and the ensuing manipulation of the audience. Another current obsession is with leadership, especially artistic leadership. I am myself guilty of this sin: in the summer of 2006 I circulated a preliminary proposal for an an European artistic leadership program but I am having now some second thoughts about the feasibility and effectiveness of such an effort. The notion of leadership comes from politics and the corporate world but in our context it reasserts the individualist, exceptional notion of the artist, overloaded with romantic myths. Do artists make leaders and still

remain productive artists? Do artists accept leaders? I am not so sure. How artists work Let us look at the circumstances of creative activity: artists work alone, with other artists, with artistic collaborators and non-artistic collaborators. This happens in the privacy of own working space or in a a community setting, within a cultural institution or in a corporate sphere. In any case, the relational dimension of the creative process is recognizable. Often, artists are being perceived or imagined as loners, as lonely producers but in fact they require a dense web of relations and dependencies to perform. At the Leiden University Faculty of Creative and Performing Arts we run a course in which we bring in guests from the filed of culture to introduce their specific competences, those on which artists regularly rely, such as tax assessor, copyright lawyer, curator, critic, restaurer... and then we have students trace and map professional relationships of artists whom they shadow for a while. We hope they will comprehend the functioning of an individual artist within a system, even in multiplied overlapping systems with stapled up dependencies. Cooperative capacities are commonly assumed to be deployed within an artistic team but a recent Leiden University research found that more powerful teams are less effective than less powerful teams, at least in business. More impact and decision making power brings, it seems, less trust and less information sharing, reducing the effectiveness of the team's performance. In contrast, less empowered teams try harder and work in more harmony, thus achieve more. This conclusion needs to be tested in cultural production, in an artistic context. But the question that needs to be posed is: how much is the team dimension integrated in the professional artist education? Not much, I would dare to say. Anti-institutional bias Institutional set ups seems to be crucial today for the artistic careers despite the noticeable restraints and limitations of cultural institutions, all practically derived from a very narrow 18-19th century

typology, driven by specialization and hierarchy. Those institutions are today stripped of some of their traditional and automatic authority, disoriented by globalization, by the explosion of the cultural industry, the ICT revolution, rapid demontage of the welfare state, and the surrounding demography radically altered by migration. If so many artists are frustrated with the dominant types of cultural institutions is it because they feel being crowded out by managers, experts, technicians, intermediaries? By communication and marketing staff? Deeply ingrained suspicion of artists towards institutions comes from a common belief that they are wasteful bureaucratic, overregulated, abusive, exploitative. Well, there is some truth in those charges. The institutional innovation in culture has been stalled. The last big wave of settting up new sort of cultural institutions occurred after 1968, thus almost 40 years ago! Not many new types of cultural organisations appeared since then. In the last 20 years cultural institutions have been forced to behave as businesses and to treat their public and artists as clients. They become larger in a hope to draw advantages from the economy of scale not necessarily applicable in the cultural production and consequently they are having an alienating impact on artists. Artists as empowered techno-pioneers ICT innovations are reflected in new business models and economy, including cultural economy, but not that much in the public and nonprofit cultural organizations, while at the same time so many artists profited from this innovative developments and mastered new digital tools of cultural production, distribution and documentation. If artists feel shut out from the arrogant cultural organizations and not as their stakeholders, they tend to become more nomadic and to act inside and outside institutions, in a for profit and non-profit context, alone and working with the others, at home and abroad, developing amorphous and discontinuous career paths. Their adaptability to globalization is to be read in their creativity of patching up a continuity through many discontinuities and syncopated engagements at various places and in divergent frameworks. A small entreprenuer agaist corporate giants
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A much touted model of artist as a cultural entrepreneur seeks to apply creativity to recognize and exploit economic opportunity but in fact enforces internalization of neoliberal ethos and ignores the twists and challenges of artistic development, issues of artistic integrity and looks only to the bottom of the line of economic success that only very few artists can claim. An one-sided concept at least, especially as artists as entrepreneurs embody a fragile SMB against the virtual monopolies of increasingly big cultural industry corporations. This is an inequality of opportunity, power, legal and business competence that opens a prospect of systematic exploitation and abuse. The current copyright regime is benefiting corporations that utilize cultural products and industrially replicate them for global distribution more than they benefit artists who are the initial creators. At the end, artists are forced into part-time collaboration with the globalized cultural capitalism in exchange of opportunity to assert part-time their autonomy, be occasionally let alone, to produce on own terms and at own risk, for own pleasure and for an uncertain market. Autonomy, not independence Independence is a dangerous delusion while autonomy is a relationship, dynamic, negotiable, renegotiable, to be tested and asserted again anew, on multiple axes of engagement; with individuals and with institutions, non-profit organizations and for-profit corporations, with public and private parties. So, it is not a status but a changeable condition, requesting flexibility, negotiation, repeated realignment of interest, values and purposes, resting on a creative talent to engage peers, collaborators, audience, media, funders, cultural organizations, communities and cultural industry. Shaping a context for own work While artist seek optimal conditions to do their own work they are increasingly required to shape a receptive context for it, esp. in a crowded, oversaturated cultural market. They too have to apply their creativity to the development of programming formats and templates which intermediaries are often not able to innovate and launch. Much creation without proper context gets lost, wasted.
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Key capacity the artists need in the development of context is intercultural competence, applied to identify possible partners and develop satisfying partnerships, nurture alliances and master the dialectic of local and global. This means that artists need to think and act strategically and not piecemeal, seking to liberate themselves from the internalized values of neoliberal globalization and rely on an emerging global civil society. Climate change and its consequences: an opportunity In this global context, a major challenge is to understand the processes initiated by the climate change and the debate about its consequences. As we, baby boomers, turn gradually into senior citizens -- a huge potential public with much education, cultural curiosity, available time and some cultural budget at its disposal -this shift also coincides with the exit from the period of doubts and denial into acceptance that the climate is indeed changing because of rekless human behavior. In the coming years new coalitions of concern will slowly emerge, in parallel with the new economic models, envisaged in the recent Stern Report to the Blair government. New forms of political organization will also replace the discredited and exhausted political parties, leading perhaps to a global civic movement that will bring changes in life styles and broadly shared values but only if cultural production invents and spreads new metaphors and images of alternative modes of existence. Creativity deployed in the cultural production in opposition of the fossil-fuel dependency seek to imagine a sustainable society, based on energy conservation rather than waste and on alternative energy supplies that is an opportunity for many artists to get in synch with the civil society and assert the critical capacity of arts instead of the celebratory energy that the cultural industry depends on to market the feeling-good sentiment. Not the creativity invested in the identity enforcing, prompted by politics, and not creativity measured by economic yardstick only, but creativity turned towards the utopian horizons. Utopia has been for centuries an eminent artistic domain.

Who else, if not the artists will be providers of utopias as alterative versions of the future? Who else, if not the artists will be the criticaster of the quick-fix consumerist pseudo-utopias? Dragan Klaic This article is derived from a speech given at the ELIA Teachers Academy in Brighton, UK in July 2007.