Forum Lectures #21: Kim West, Gustav Strandberg & Josefine Wikström

Critique of the Freedom of Art: A Counter-Report

In Swedish debates it has in recent years often been claimed that Swedish cultural policy has a “left-wing bias”, is “politically correct”, or “woke”, in a way that threatens the freedom of art. Such claims have found support in a report published by the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis in 2021, This Is How Free Art Is (Så fri är konsten). In the report, the agency’s experts asserted that “cultural policy governance that has or could have a detrimental influence on artistic freedom does in fact occur.” According to the experts, the most serious indications of such “detrimental influence” could be found in how certain national cultural funding bodies posed politically correct demands on the applicants and on the forms of their artworks and projects.

Critique of the Freedom of Art is a counter-report. It shows that the Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis – and the many voices in Swedish media that have repeated its argument – lack grounds for the claim that there “does in fact occur” a politically correct homogenization of publicly supported cultural practices, on the part of national policy bodies. Starting from This Is How Free Art Is, this counter-report instead poses a series of critical questions: how should we understand the concept of the “freedom of art” under contemporary conditions? What are the relations between that concept and the field of the “creative industries”? What does the metaphor of “arm’s length distance” actually mean? And which would be the political implications of a critical understanding of the “autonomy of art”?

On a more fundamental level, Critique of the Freedom of Art wants to contribute to opening a discussion about what a long-term, progressive, and anti-racist cultural policy could be in Sweden today, against the background of a political situation characterized by the increasing influence of conservative, xenophobic, and anti-intellectual forces.

About Kim West, Gustav Strandberg & Josefine Wikström

Gustav Strandberg, Kim West & Josefine Wikström are researchers in Aesthetics and Philosophy at Södertörn University, where they direct the research project “Autonomy, Culture, Action: On Culture’s Spheres of Political Action in the Neoliberal Welfare State”, financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, 2021–2024.

Forum Lectures

Forum Lectures is a series of lectures by Danish and international thinkers and cultural workers reflecting on how art co-forms commonality. Forum Lectures bring thinking and shared study back to the university and invite public lectures on the last Tuesday of every month from 17:00 - 19:00.

The initiative is hosted by the research group of the New Carlsberg Foundation research centre Art as Forum. Our researchers are occupied by a.o. the infrastructures of the arts, collective modes of production, the entanglement of political theory and aesthetic theory, assembling strategies of curation, dematerialized art, acts of strategic separatism and temporality in digital art.

The lecture is free and open to everyone interested.