art and organisation: making australian cultural policy, by deborah stevenson

book review

In Art and Organisation: Making Australian Cultural Policy, Dr Deborah Stevenson of the University of Newcastle, provides Museum National readers with an accessible means of updating their knowledge of arts and cultural policy practice. Stevenson offers an overview of shifts in arts and cultural policy-making at all levels of government since 1983, the commencement of Labor's thirteen years of governance led by Hawke and then Keating.

Art and Organisation not only reviews Labor's cultural policy statements, Distinctly Australian (1993) and Creative Nation (1994) and the Coalition's pre-election policy of 1996, For Art's Sake-A Fair Go for All of Us. lt seeks to contextualise the discourses repositioning the arts as a sector of the cultural industries through a consideration of related trends. Such trends include: intensifying State Government riva lry and entrepreneurialism; the heightened claims of regional cultural development; and the emergence of cultural tourism. Importantly, Stevenson also returns to recently neglected questions of women's creative and representational priorities, arguing that it is made necessary by the ever more corporatised framework of arts and cultural policy-making processes. The breadth of the book reflects its origins in lectures presented to postgraduate arts administration students at the University of Technology, Sydney.

If readers are unfamiliar with influential figures such as Pierre Bourdieu, Paul Di Maggio and Janet Wolff and the key Australian contributors to the discipline, the book is useful because it refers to their arguments. These authors are listed in the 'Select Bibliography' but their absence from the 'Index' does not facilitate fluency in their ideas. Stevenson acknowledges that the industry development approach to arts and cultural policy-making is at odds with artistic integrity. However, she does not adequately seize her opportunity to interrogate its implications for artists, their organisations and their publics.

Scrutinising the authoritarian distinctions between 'elite, official, mass, popular and national' cultures underpinning policy-making, as her predecessors and colleagues have done, is no longer sufficient. Our expectation, in a text entitled Art and Organisation, is that Stevenson herself, as opposed to reporting on the efforts of others, will address the task of reframing art's central aesthetic questions in ways which are consistent with contemporary theoretical perspectives on power. Stevenson does not take up the challenge.

Artists seem invisible in Art and Organisation. For example, there is no discussion of the decline in artists' incomes during the time period surveyed. The question which must be asked of any change in arts and cultural policy is what will it mean for artists? New and internationalised forms of capital are stimulating the arts and the cultural sector. Without artists (and museum and arts workers), however, with a commitment to a vigorous public sphere, knowledge will increasingly be produced purely for sale.

notes: 

Art and Organisation: Making

Australian Cultural Policy

Deborah Stevenson

 

University of Queensland Press

St Lucia Queensland 2000

ISBN 0 7022 3003 0

RRP $29.95