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Culture Council to investigate cross-border behaviour across cultural sector

We are a bit done with sex, drugs & rock'n'roll in culture. At least, not in what is presented through our galleries, film screens and venues, but in how that comes about. Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has asked the Council for Culture for advice, and the Council is going to set up a committee on this. This was just announced via Council site.

The ambition is firm: 'The societal task is to prevent, identify, stop all forms of transgressive behaviour and provide timely and appropriate help.' Apart from the task the House of Representatives has with its own members, the cultural sector is a place where excesses have recently been in the news more often than is good for all concerned.

Power relations

'In practice, it appears that the risk of transgressive behaviour is higher when there are unequal power or dependency relationships,' states the minister. 'In the cultural and creative sector, this may be the case. Think of auditions in the performing arts, commissioning in the creative sector and the power relationship between teacher and student in art colleges.'

Now this is something that plays out in every sector; the rat race for lucrative positions at Zuidas companies will not lie either. The minister understands that. So there is a difference: 'It is also often seen as a vocation, something you have to throw yourself wholeheartedly into if you want to reach full artistic fruition. That sometimes makes it extra difficult to determine where exactly the boundaries of the permissible then lie.'


The questions the Council committee is to answer are:

  • How can the industry (umbrella organisations, employers, clients) properly shape its responsibility?
  • What could the industry do differently?
  • How can the ministry support this?

self-employed workers

The minister also emphatically calls for attention to the cultural self-employed. After all, they are the most vulnerable self-employed, also because their work is rarely a substitute for salaried employment, as in healthcare, construction, or even journalism.

Yet there is already something to be done about the latter, if I may be so bold as to offer unsolicited advice at this point: opt for permanent employment more often. Not only in the performing arts, where it is relatively easy to force orchestras, theatre groups and 'production companies' all to employ artistic staff and performers. You could even opt for salaried employment in the visual arts when it comes to collaboration between subsidised presentation institutions and artists.

Carthaginem esse delendam

Biggest hurdle to overcome (if we include the expected industry objections to this proposal) is the mindset of even the most vulnerable in the arts. As mentioned earlier in a letter from Maurits Fondse published here was denounced: it is often the actors, musicians and visual artists themselves who agree to lousy working conditions and free work.

Equally, students will endure the worst indignities in the scant chances of success if it can increase those chances by even a fraction. After all, would-be lawyers also go on hazing despite all the excesses.

Changing that is difficult. But, as a modern Cato Sr (Carthage must be destroyed!), I will keep repeating from now on that there is a solution to it: the universal basic income. Once that is there, it is then only about content in the arts. (The petition still needs some signatures).

Meanwhile, of course, it will be rhetorical who will sit on that committee.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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