The wave will be terrible, and it will hit the independents harder. This is the tragic evidence that has been on the minds of actors in the performing arts since the places of creation closed. Does this inevitably have to be resolved? In no way, insists Vincent Carry in act II of the “Appel des independants” that he wears with his structure, Arty Farty, hard hit after the cancellation of the Nuits Sonores festival in Lyon, and which has already harvested more than 300 signatures from producers, artists’ collectives, festivals, media, labels… A cry of alarm and hope published on Tuesday that announces the general assembly of independent culture, at the end of which he hopes to see the development of contours of a less unequal after, both socially and regionally, and better suited to the world to come.
Several voices have been expressed since the start of the crisis, who are calling for a redesign of the performing arts. Do you believe in the possibility of this culture of the world according to, more sober and more virtuous?
I would put two flats. There are many cultural structures that have long wondered about the meaning of our events and the life of our places. The youngest in particular, within independent structures, are involved in a number of political and social issues in the cultural space. It turns out that the independent sector of culture is not very proud, that it is aware of its difficulties and its limits, and that it is capable of challenging itself with conviction. The other downside to this philosophical rewrite according to is the set of economic and social modalities of the crisis. Jobs cannot be sacrificed on the theme of a more digital or more virtuous cultural life. With pleasure to reinvent everything, as long as we don’t orchestrate a social massacre.
You point to the fact that the crisis will not affect all actors in the same way …
The cultural sector has very different realities, between those concerning the institutional sector, which remains under the protection of the State and communities and whose jobs will not be directly threatened; then that of the big groups – in music, I think of AEG or Live Nation, where we already see a consolidation by the news with the entry of Saudi capital – which we can assume that they will have sufficiently solid kidneys to get through the crisis. On the other hand, the whole sector of independents, festivals, cultural places, but also publishers or labels, will be very violently affected. The question of its overall survival is clearly posed, because these structures are chained to each other, so that when one of them stumbles or kneels down, all the others follow because of economic interdependencies strong. When a festival stops or a performance hall closes, it is behind the promoters, agents, producers, service providers, technicians, intermittent performers and artists who find themselves penalized.
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With the risk, ultimately, of leading to a scarcity of supply, with less discovery, less risk-taking?
Today, diversity and emergence are carried voluntarily by independents and local structures. Most of this scrutiny work is done with a sense of general interest. I allow myself to be more skeptical in this place about the priorities of large groups, whether Netflix, Live Nation or Lagardère.
How to slow down this walk?
By total solidarity in the sector. This is why we fight with many structures, which did not speak or more and which now share their figures, their vision, their solutions. This is the idea of the Call for Independents which we have just consolidated with a second act which we hope is national. Its vocation is to shed light on our sector, to open the eyes of public and state authorities, the media and the general public. It is also a call which aims to impose itself around the table, for the time to come, from a rewriting of public policies for culture at local, national and European levels. It is inconceivable not to reinvent public policies after this crisis in the sense of closing the territorial, generational and social divides.
Culture has a role to play provided that public policies are written in the direction of a great rebalancing of resources. Priorities must be redefined, collectively and democratically. For too long, we have shown the desire to make youth a top priority while doing the exact opposite. It is enough to see the level of distrust of the yellow vests towards certain great cultural institutions, stigmatized as have been the media, or the government, or democracy itself. The level of disapproval of culture by citizens is strong, very strong, and it is an issue that becomes even more urgent after this crisis.
How do we readjust and motivate this appropriation?
The idea of a vertical and exclusively institutional cultural vision is completely obsolete. Globalization, digital technology, social crises entwined with each other have gone through this … The challenges are no longer the same. It was already a problem when we opened the Philharmonie de Paris or the Mucem in Marseille. All our public policies are directed towards these immense totems and hide everything that has not been done, in particular irrigating the territories. The inequality between the Paris region and the rest of France in terms of public investment in culture is a real denial of democracy. The cultural policy that will be able to withstand the circumstances and remain in the spirit of social preservation that we can hope for will be that of a real network. It is the culture that we see on a daily basis and that exists with little or no public funding, that of networks, places that invent new mediations, new forms of interaction between actors and producers, new solidarities, new exchanges while official cultural policy continues to operate in disciplinary silos.
Some have been considering, since the first days of the crisis, an artistic “relocation”. Does that seem to you going in the right direction?
The independents have been engaged for a long time in this battle which consists in articulating the relationship with a local scene and the integration of a cosmopolitan, multicultural, European voluntarism … This is one of the reasons that makes this sector magnificent – it remains at the forefront despite a complex economy of means. If you have to reinvent the festival object, that’s fine. Keeping in mind that we do not have the same room for maneuver depending on whether we have 20%, 30% or 70% of public funding.
What can we hope for the near future?
This crisis forces everyone to reflect and put their activities into perspective. Beyond that, it forces us collectively, and without excluding anyone, not even the private sector or the ministry, to think about the cultural landscape that we want and need. Our networks of places, the logic of collective intelligence and solidarity in our sector are essential resources. Everything must be done to preserve them and give the keys to future generations.
What consequences on your structure, the Arty Farty association, after the cancellation of Nuits Sonores 2020?
As with many other cultural structures, it is an economic disaster and extremely worrying, which affects all of our professions. The resources of a structure like Arty Farty are the ticket office, the bar, catering, activities with businesses. All of these resources are at the forefront of economic impact since they are intimately linked to the gathering of people, and to the exact antinomy of physical and social distancing and its challenges. With sound nights remaining our main activity, we tried everything to preserve the chances of a summer edition, until we realized that it was obviously not tenable. We gave it up like all our friends in France and elsewhere in the world. We are thus witnessing our own difficulties at the same time as those of other representatives of the sector. It will be very hard. And thereafter, we can imagine that a part of the public will want to find this face-to-face, physical link, of the dancefloor and the concert hall, but also that another will think about it twice and will not be return soon to public places.