Art in crisis
The Forum for Democratic Culture and Contemporary Art was founded to address the current exigencies of political, pedagogic and artistic practice. We are observing a rising level of cultural pessimism within our disciplines. Art is a crucial indicator for the state of democratic culture in society as a whole. With the wider emergence of right-wing movements in Europe, contemporary discourses on art and culture are coming under growing pressure. These developments necessitate a responsible political debate and positioning within the world of art. The increasing establishment of New Right movements in political offices signifies their operative infiltration of cultural policy-making and artistic discourse. This politically motivated interest entails the direct responsibility of art for monitoring and progressing its own discourses. The task is to prevent gaps from forming that are then filled by New Right ideologies.
Cultural pessimism as a political hazard for art and democracy
Cultural pessimism is a destructive approach to ongoing developments worldwide, and expresses a fundamental doubt regarding the very possibility of influencing them. In particular, cultural pessimists are re-interpreting social progress in liberal societies as apocalyptic scenarios of civilizational collapse.
We are already observing along the cultural-pessimism narratives an increased formation of artistic/aesthetic and political Third Positions.
A rejective stance towards modernity has prepared the way for cultural pessimism in large portions of the art world. For example, a person’s own real-life circumstances are experienced as a privilege and at the same time viewed with contempt. Regressive anti-capitalism is formulated through criticism of the art market, while anti-modern tendencies are manifested not least in identification with traditionalisms. The evils of the world are perceived in modernity and globalization, which originate in a cultural imperialism of Western civilization. This results in a need among privileged art creators for moral restitution towards the putative underprivileged of the Third World. This is why they sometimes sign up to anti-emancipatory movements. An identity-driven policy that has set itself to strengthen and defend minority rights is at risk of transposing into the field of identitary politics, which are attempting to achieve the precise opposite. The apperception of experiential privilege is often expressed in an anti-imperialist mindset – America and Zionism serve here as exemplary bogeymen.
The New Right’s identitary policies borrow from tribalistic “ethnopluralism”, so as to invent from the so-called “majority society” a homogenous “genetic stock”. They draw here upon the apocalyptic scenarios of cultural pessimism, and warn us against “racial extinction” through “ethnomorphosis” and the disappearance of cultural identity and traditions. It is here at the latest that culturally pessimistic mindsets are formed in opposition to the Enlightenment as such and democracy itself.
The answer to populism and the culturally pessimistic worldview of Europe’s New Right cannot be left-wing-influenced populism and cultural pessimism. The only option for countering the political dangers of cultural pessimism is the Enlightenment, since this is able to elucidate the causal ramifications of the culpability feelings involved and to counter the evils of the modern world.
The Forum stands for a progressive, constructive engagement with the role of art in an open, post-migrant society. We accordingly work closely together with groups of experts who engage with the conditions and dangers of identitary narrative and nationalist movements. Our network observes and documents the political discourses of the New Right on the internet and in public spaces like educational institutions. In this way, we can swiftly and purposefully thematize ongoing developments affecting art and society.
In presentations and workshops at art colleges and academies, we describe the current political dangers for art and democracy. The Forum formulates options for thematizing these in artistic form, and organizes conferences, lecture series and workshops on the political situation of the art world. On this website, interviews and critical postings on exhibitions, events and ongoing developments in the world of art are continually published.