Half a year after we have returned from our foreign productions and adventures, it is still adapting to Dutch life.
When you live a life on the road you are always an exception and there are far fewer rules for a traveler than for someone who is permanently located somewhere. So much is suddenly possible when everyone knows that you will be gone soon!
Back in the Netherlands, the system, to which even the art world is subject, suddenly becomes very clear.
There is an extraordinary number of rules in the Netherlands. For example, dogs are not allowed to walk for themselves. How strange it seems, if you have been in 8 countries for a year where the dogs move freely between people, to see them walking on lines.
Most rules are all meant to protect us and take care of us. We have many rights. If something goes wrong, a new rule will be added immediately.
People get sleepy, but also grumpy, and complaining.
After all, what can we bring in for ourselves in this neatly arranged life? What can we do our very best for? Everyone seems to be looking for meaning. What do we do all this for?
Art seems to be able play a role in this whole, but what is that role?
In a plea for the autonomy of the arts, Jeroen Boomgaard (Open 2006) says that art in society has the role of our conscience, of reflection and of the representation of things that seem to be forgotten in a world focused mainly on functionality and efficiency.
But there is also a pitfall. The government is also aware of this. She knows that art can be used in that way. And therefore asks that the arts be used more and more efficiently.
For the use of something. Artists can receive subsidies for solving problems related to loneliness, for example, or for innovative ideas that we can then apply in a very practical way.
But with that, art loses its autonomy. Autonomous arts no longer exist at art academies as a study direction. Stripping the autonomy away from art also takes away the power that art has. It is made dependent and can therefore also be held liable for an alleged failure. Useful art can no longer function as a conscience. In a society that seems to have sacrificed most of its values for unimpeded economic market progress, the autonomy of the arts could offer an alternative. (Open 2006)
After having made several visits to the Dutch embassies in the various countries that we visited, it becomes even clearer how much the Netherlands is focused on the market economy, a dominant pivot that is never under discussion itself.
The arts must be useful to society! That is the trend. If it does not yield a lot of money or an extraordinary status, then Dutch art abroad is not a cost for the government.
In Africa, the Dutch embassies are always in the smallest building, preferably shared with Europe or something, because on that continent, there is nothing (more) for them to get. You can get a subsidy to set up a lucrative beer factory, but there is no money for arts and culture.
Why would you invest in someone else’s society if you don’t get anything in return?
Well … I don’t know the answer, but the French, the Belgians, the Norwegians and the Swedish do it.
Arriving here in the Netherlands again, it appears that an investigation has been demanded by the national government concerning work regulation on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Hans Borstlap, head of the investigative committee, concludes that there are too many self-employed people in the Netherlands who could actually be employed by large companies.
I remember a while ago that Jet Bussemaker declared, as the then sitting Minister of Education and Culture, that artists should receive ‘normal’ wages just like everyone else.
Yeah!!! called all the artists. Not realizing that what was actually said was this: “There is less subsidy for the arts and the arts need to be used even more usefull for the public good, because we want to pay for usefulness, and not for art itself.”
Does this art system still work?
Anyway, now the work regulation committee of Hans Borstlap has proposed that all self-employed persons should be employed, unless …
This means that all artists and dancers and theater makers and all kinds of other makers are obliged to demonstrate that they are unable or unwilling to work for companies or that there is no one who can or will hire them.
I thought to myself that I actually don’t mind being employed. Certainly if I can continue to do the great work that I already do. Then I would like to do that in service. So whom should I join?
The government also clearly wants something from me (I am bombarded with letters from various government institutions, you too?), so maybe I should just apply for a job at the nation? I actually do exactly what they want from me, but now I usually do it for next to no money, so I don’t mind doing the same work and get normal payment for a change.
Below you can read my application letter in full:
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science February 12, 2020
Attn. Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister
P.O. Box 16375
2500 BJ The Hague
Regarding: Open Application
Attachments: CV and portfolio
Dear Mrs. Engelshoven,
I would like to apply for a permanent job as an artist in the service of the state. The reason for this is the presentation of the final report of the ‘Regulation of Work’ committee.
I am very motivated to continue my activities and professional practice as a professional artist. In recent years I have done this with great pleasure and success. With my work I inspire people, and I make an appropriate contribution to a healthy reflection on society and our national community. The reactions to my work confirm me in this, and I experience that many share this view with me.
But getting fair compensation for my work as an artist is increasingly an arduous process, which is also very distracting from what I am good at and what I enjoy doing, namely making art. It is increasingly becoming apparent that government funds made available for making art are already exhausted when quartermasters, culture brokers, policy advisers and other organizational elements have finished their work. The actual production of art, and the supply of the consequent value to society, is severely limited by this.
In the statements I read about the final report of the committee ‘Regulation of Work’, I see an opportunity to improve this in a pragmatic way. Since the results of my work mainly provide added value for Dutch society, I would like to apply to you as a performing artist. This seems to me to be the most obvious employer-employee relationship for permanent employment as an artist. Since there are no vacancies in this area, I would like to work with you on this in a creative and innovative way. Hence this open application.
My proposal is that I report directly to you, whereby frequency and content can be determined in mutual consultation. As a return service for a fixed fee, which as a starting point may not have to be more than the statutory minimum wage (undeniably many times less than the usual hiring rates for external personnel from the government), I will be able to continue my activities as an artist and continue to contribute positively to depolarization, inspiration, reflectivity, etc.
For an overview of my recent work, I would like to refer you to my website, www.makefactory.nl
My application is also in line with a previous appeal by Mrs. Jet Bussemaker, formerly Minister of Education, Culture and Science, who argued that artists should receive reasonable compensation for their work.
I would like to be invited by you to explain this orally, and to discuss the possibilities and form of a possible employment contract with you.
Thanks for your comment,
Well… what will be the answer to that?
To be continued!