On 20th of February 2014, the Greek Minister of Culture and Sports Mr. Panos Panagiotopoulos delivered the opening speech of the EU conference “Financing Creativity” in Athens. This conference seeks to address models of cultural policy in the coming decades. Yet not a single artist was invited as a speaker nor was the conference promoted publicly. Given this situation “Mavili Collective” called for artists from different fields of practice to attend the conference. Having been excluded from a dialogue about cultural policies the artists present publicly expressed their feelings regarding the proposed role of culture and laughed. The response of the Minister is revealing.
The Minister of Culture stated in his speech that we need to be more competitive following the economies of China and Middle East since the cost of labour in Europe today is extremely high. The words most frequently used by many of the speakers were: competitiveness, business, industry, product, consumers etc. Mrs Lina Mendoni, General Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Sports made the crucial statement that “Culture is economy”. A vision for the culture that is nowadays expressed openly and indicative of how the Greek State is increasingly abandoning its support of contemporary culture. Instead, as was stated clearly in the conference, the Greek State intends to fund private institutions that will then form the cultural landscape of the country. Does such a policy reflect the wider vision of the EU for culture? Some might say the conference was a fiasco, but was the fiasco the laughter or the cultural policies/narratives being proposed?