Viva la Art!
By Teun Castelein on July 9, 2011
Dear art colleagues,
Just like you, I have been contemplating the question of how to save the arts in our country for the past few weeks. So I have devised the following strategy. It is not a pretty one, but I seriously believe that it’s our only chance of survival, so please read carefully.We start by directly and completely abolishing ourselves as artists. Next, we retreat to our dusty attics or move into a ghost town in the southern part of Limburg or north east of Groningen. We close all museums, theaters, educational institutes and the lot, and deliberately choose to have a generation -or several generations- growing up without art and culture. The arts -or whatever might be left of it- goes old-fashioned underground, and the 700 million we may still receive from the government is stored in a Swiss bank account.
As a next step we secretly reinvest that money, via a number of shady little investment companies, in popular culture. For example we might become owners of a number of soccer players, start a beer brand, and to top it off, become major shareholders of SBS6 television. Cent by cent we invest in regaining a powerful position at the center of society, which is a much better place to reside at than the present one, and take it from there.
It is important though that we don’t kill off the opportunities that arise by acting too severe and rigid. Sensationalism needs to be avoided at any cost. Take for example a soccer player that starts dancing a choreography by Hans van Manen during a match…It will arouse suspicion. Or imagine SBS6 broadcasting a program on literature on prime time…Not done. Soccer should remain soccer and SBS6 should continue broadcasting their usual crap. The turnaround is a multi-annual plan and must be done in a subtle way. Otherwise everyone will zap away again.
For a successful renaissance at the heart of society I wish to implement several successful concepts of ‘undercover marketing’:
A widely known example of undercover marketing is the sequence with “Drink Coca Cola” which was ‘invisibly’ edited into feature movies. People didn’t consciously notice the appeal of the soft drink mogul -it was only visible for a fraction of a second- but unconsciously they chose the drink more often during the break. Here I do see opportunities for us to give unconscious quality impulses with resulting consequences through our purchased mass mediated television station. Imagine a mass of viewers getting an urge to sculpt, paint or follow modern dance lessons after watching ‘Hart van Nederland’. Another successful example of undercover marketing is the promotion of the cigarette. By having celebrities like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe exhaling nicotine a trend was set. Wouldn’t it be great if soccer star Wesley Sneijder would consistently quote Nietzsche after every game: “I’m not a man, I’m dynamite.” As a consequence his fans start reading the works of Nietzsche and banners of Nietzsche would decorate the stadium.
Taking undercover marketing very literally would be creating a product/brand with a hidden agenda. We’d take something as simple as beer, that at first seems just another feelgood beer but slowly reveals a truly beautiful ideology. This ‘all peoples beer’ got to be very cheap and might even be cool looking thanks to a hint to nationalism. When the beer is drunk at every local bar and pub we use the product and its marketing campaign to start communicating our true intent. The beer promotes a better world where brotherhood is still highly valued, and where market mechanisms are considered inferior. Where art, altruism and knowledge are not evil. We begin to organize “demonstrations”, do some “promotional stunts” and come up with a special “action pack”. A Trojan Beer.
That last concept I have already started myself. Me and some friends annulled ourself as artists and are now starting a career as beer brewers/entrepreneurs. In this contemporary utopia of market mechanisms it is simply too ungrateful to still be an artist, so I call upon you: Just stop…for now. Accept the zeitgeist, take the money and sympathize with the enemy. Do like me, or take an example from my former classmate Fleur Agema. Educated at the Art Academy in Utrecht Fleur is now a celebrated PVV politician. Yes, even Fleur Agema is an artist, a conceptual one. You might not immediately recognize the artist inside of her, but you can. Just listen to her political statements in reverse, and you’ll you hear her cry out loud “Viva la Art!”.
One day she’ll seize power as the first female prime minister of the Netherlands. Then we’ll know.
Like me, Fleur has higher goals. We are now underground and/or undercover, but the art will prevail: Viva la Art!
Editors note to readers outside of the Netherlands: this letter is a reaction to the very drastic cutting in the Art budget in the Netherland and the raising of sales tax for artists at the same time. (some information in Eglish about those drastic cuts can be read in this article at Wired magazine). The PVV is a Dutch political party led by Geert Wilders. In the 2010 elections they won a lot of seats in parliament and became the third biggest party and are officially ‘tolerating’ the new Dutch center-right minority government. He has named art a ‘Leftist Hobby’. Halbe Zijlstra is the new State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science who took all those drastic decisions.