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<nettime> Pauline van Mourik Broekman on ACE's 100% finding cut for Mute
t byfield on Fri, 1 Apr 2011 20:43:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Pauline van Mourik Broekman on ACE's 100% finding cut for Mute

This is really heartbreaking. 

Mute might merit passing mention in ritualistic histories of nettime,
but I doubt the list would still exist if it weren't for the Mutants'
collective efforts. To call those efforts 'sustained' risks sounding
like some awful award; but in a field where many have flitted around
from one project to another, sixteen years of publishing some of the
best writing in the field is absolutely sustained -- and sustaining. 



   [256] Mute's 100% cut by ACE - a personal consideration of Mute's
   defunding, by co-founder Pauline van Mourik Broekman [257] Editorial
   content | [258] Articles

   [259] Share

   ___ reads | [260] view pdf | [261] Printer-friendly version
   Submitted by [262] mute on Friday, 1 April, 2011 - 15:34

   By Pauline van Mourik Broekman

   Please send us your comments and feedback on Mute's 100% cut by ACE
   this week. We are hoping to set this in the context of the broader cuts
   across the arts and society, which represent a sustained assault on the
   conditions for free expression, critical thinking, and independent
   production - be that directly or indirectly. You can do that on
   [263] http://metamute.org , Facebook [264] http://linkme2.net/p5 ,
   [265] http://twitter.com/mutemagazine [266]  {AT} mutemagazine , on our list,
   Mute-social [267] http://lists.metamute.org/mailman/listinfo/mute-social
   , or email, [268] mute {AT} metamute.org. Thanks!


   We are very sad to announce that, on Wednesday, Mute Publishing found
   itself in the category of 'losers' as these emerged from ACE's National
   Portfolio Organisation decisions. The magazine had presented to ACE a
   programme that combined a web and print magazine, books and events,
   community self-publishing, education, and digital strategy support and
   advocacy work, but faltered in the second stage of the assessment
   process, where its financially precarious position and 'weak'
   governance structure - as well as the perception other organisations
   were better placed to deliver to ACE's strategic goals - proved fatal,
   resulting in a 100% cut to core funding.

   We regard the process of being placed in competition with other arts
   organisations as poisonous and distracting: while we will privately
   question the sizeable uplifts granted to large, established
   organisations (which, in the greater scheme of things, need further
   funding about as urgently as Paris Hilton needs another handbag), in
   the end we recognise it as a familiar part of the divide-and-rule
   principle that has long marked the operations of support agencies like
   ACE, where a chronic reliance on the parent body for the basic
   apparatus of organisational reproduction nurtures fear among the
   'dependents' - slowly but surely stripping them of all sense they can
   do anything for themselves, let alone together... The spectacle of
   slavish gratitude for the spoils of public funds, in which even
   organisations cut or killed felt compelled to reiterate the basic
   tenets of ACE's funding paradigm (excellence, innovation, global
   leadership and creativity), were truly depressing in this regard - not
   one voice standing out for offering a different vision or lexicon of

   For us, the relevant story is elsewhere, as it has always been, and is
   effectively being obscured by a smoke-screen of rhetoric: it is said
   that 'adventurous and risk-taking programming is being rewarded', and a
   'resilient' arts portfolio composed. Although we concertedly
   participated in the process, adapting our organisation's operational
   model to that demanded by ACE's 'Achieving Great Art for Everyone'
   agenda (within which we happily chose to deliver to the Excellence and
   Innovation Aims), the relevant story lies in the devastation being
   wrought upon the social in general. Here, in the name of prudent
   economic management, Government's disinvestment in art and education
   (two fields with which Mute interfaces most intimately) appears as a
   symptom of a larger programme of creative destruction, launched in the
   name of an aggressively kickstarted, entrepreneurial Britain that we
   all know is doomed to fail, but not without wrecking the lives of

   To be a 'winner' in the arts variant of this competition (and that
   means those who, as The Guardian dubbed it, 'won big'; not the hundreds
   kept on on a shoestring), several kinds of compliance are required.
   Firstly, a near religious belief in the power of art to 'deliver'
   personal transformation. Second, a normative and by now entirely
   standardised model of art-organisational development, where success is
   measured via the ability to diversify funding sources (via trading
   activities, rights management, sponsorship, philanthropy and a variety
   of non-public sources), have 'reach and impact' (loose catch-alls
   combining audiences, media reception, influence), and offer
   'engagement' - all of which, it is reiterated, can only be achieved by
   bodies in possession of larger executive boards, which have represented
   on them 'experts' from the realms of Finance, Legal, Development and
   Artistic Vision, and who watch Income and Expenditure lines like hawks,
   assuring they mitigate risk, execute their mission and stay on a number
   of targets, as these encompass financial, audience and strategic
   partnership projections. As Mute - and many others, such as the
   Scottish based Variant magazine (another 'loser' of late) - has
   attempted to discuss in a series of articles stretching back decades,
   the backdoor this structure has offered to an entirely corporatised
   version of art, wherein genuine diversity and antagonism is replaced by
   superficially different versions of doing the same thing (and many
   platforms for critical discussion gradually desist from analysing
   culture as a whole to discussing the ins, outs, rights and wrongs of
   particular art forms), is one of the great untold stories of mainstream
   contemporary culture.

   As a critical platform seeking to understand culture in the round -
   i.e. in the many and various ways it exemplifies, illuminates and
   engages with larger processes (be they, to put it cheesily, part of the
   'macro' dimension of global economics, or the 'micro' level of
   subjectivity) - we have attempted to shore up our core editorial work
   with a range of others that could help subsidise this. OpenMute, our
   consultancy and tools agency, through which we also facilitate the
   publishing activity of many other independent producers, has been the
   most visible result. But the free-content economy of the web, which
   felt like a natural home for our discussions, eventually became Mute's
   nemesis, as sales and subscriptions decreased at the same speed our web
   readership grew, and a growing international community of readers
   slowly and unwittingly dealt our 'business model' a death-blow.

   We must now figure out what to do about this, as all of us who've
   worked on the magazine for so long have no intention of stopping our
   work because of a funding decision. Many different working models can
   and are already being imagined. Others in the many small to medium
   sized digitally-led organisations which have been cut will be trying to
   figure out their futures similarly, as will, it seems, many comparable
   small organisations whose governing remits aren't deemed essential in
   the current round. We are particularly perplexed by the blow dealt to
   diversity-led organisations, who engage with questions we imagine will
   increase rather than decrease in urgency in 'Austerity Britain'.

   We will attempt to continue the discussion in a number of places. One,
   on our website, Metamute.org, which publishes weekly and where we will
   open space for responses to ACE's funding decisions, on Mute Publishing
   as well as other organisations, as well as the Googlegroup,
   acedigitaluncut and media arts discussion list CRUMB*, where many are
   hoping to marshall a more specific discussion about the apparent
   disinvestment in the still badly understood area of digital practice.
   ACE's decisions reflect a presumption digital has been 'dealt with' by
   conceiving of it as integrated in routine organisational development
   processes, rather than demanding to be explored as a highly
   self-reflexive area of work with a long and rich history linking into
   video, performance, independent publishing, installation art, software
   development, literature and more. Given the consolidation, surveillance
   and privatisation happening in the digital realm as we speak, now seems
   exactly the wrong time to be making such a move. The fact that ACE (and
   partner organisations like the BBC) are seeking to align themselves
   with digital innovation and broadcasting at exactly the same time just
   demonstrates further ignorance and shortsightedness.

   Yours sincerely,

   Pauline van Mourik Broekman

   Director and co-founder of Mute, with Simon Worthington, and writing on
   behalf of brilliant staff, Editorial and Advisory Boards, namely
   Josephine Berry Slater, Caroline Heron, Howard Slater, Darron Broad,
   Laura Oldenbourg; Omar El-Khairy, Matthew Hyland, Anthony Iles, Demetra
   Kotouza, Hari Kunzru, Mira Mattar, Benedict Seymour, Stefan Szczelkun;
   Sally Jane Norman, Andrew Seto, Sukhdev Sandhu and Andy Wilson.

   *Those wishing to subscribe to acedigitaluncut should go to:
   [269] https://groups.google.com/group/acedigitaluncut?hl=en


 255. http://www.metamute.org/en/subject/cyberspace/wap
 256. http://www.metamute.org/en/mute_100_per_cent_cut_by_ace
 257. http://www.metamute.org/en/content_type/editorial_content
 258. http://www.metamute.org/en/content/articles
 259. http://www.addtoany.com/share_save
 260. http://www.metamute.org/en/html2pdf/view/20
 261. http://www.metamute.org/en/print/20
 262. http://www.metamute.org/en/user/mute
 263. http://metamute.org/
 264. http://linkme2.net/p5
 265. http://twitter.com/mutemagazine
 266. http://twitter.com/mutemagazine
 267. http://lists.metamute.org/mailman/listinfo/mute-social
 268. mailto:mute {AT} metamute.org
 269. https://groups.google.com/group/acedigitaluncut?hl=en

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