Shifting to Sustainable Values and Practices

Shifting to Sustainable Values and Practices

This dimension describes the need for reassessing the values, perspectives, and narratives within the realm of transnational cultural practice. It highlights a shift from narrow, quantified assessments towards prioritising broad accessibility, long-term thinking, slowness, and love in artistic practice.

Frameworks, including cultural policies, funding programs, and their embedded values, significantly shape the global transnational arts and culture landscape, dictating which artists and art (and with that, society) are supported and created. This requires continuous questioning of the values and metrics that these frameworks promote. Globus, founded on the belief that the Nordic approach requires a global perspective, advocates for this questioning.

Narrow definitions and assessments of artistic content and formats, emphasizing high-tempo productions and measurable outcomes, are hindering the transformative potential and impact of the arts. In response, the Globus 23 cohort advocates a shift away from purely quantified practices, favoring broad accessibility, long-term thinking, slowness, and love in artistic practice.

A transnational cultural approach that learns from diverse knowledge and value systems might take into consideration and help to relate to urgencies in societies (from ecological concerns to complex geopolitical and economic power relations).

The challenges
Measuring and assessing art in a too narrow sense prohibits societal experimentation and more critical approaches to sustainability.
Support frameworks not aligning sufficiently with changing needs in the cultural scene (a need for slowness, longevity, togetherness, a wish for sustainability, etc.).
Quantification and unification of cultural practice in a neoliberal paradigm. Artists burn out through fast-paced timelines conditioned by economic precarity and the demand of endless flexibility.
Visibility as a measure of success and professionalism.
Frameworks decide which art is being made, setting boundaries for imagination and who can participate and impact on a local and global scale.
Explore the pathways

Whilst art is known to be a powerful tool for creative exploration, self-expression, and well-being, current conditions around practising art are restricting such potential. Practitioners suffer from burnout and poor mental health due to the precarity of financially supporting the continuation of their work, along with the constant pressures of maintaining visibility for merit or validation. However, this brings into question the underlying foundations of how and why we create art, and whether it is possible to create a sense of support and community that helps artists deal with concrete uncertainties in healthy and resilient ways.

Critical points have been raised by practitioners, including the potential of "care" and the need for "slowness" woven into working practices. At present, the deliberate practices of slowness and care stand in contrast to prevailing norms. Transnational collaboration sheds light on how power and privilege can influence access to these practices, particularly concerning factors such as geography and socioeconomics, among others. Here we see transnational working as highly valuable and necessary in cultivating new visions of care and well-being in practice, to understand how we can embed these concepts more widely within art communities, organizations, and the systems that shape society on a global scale.

We work in a network where our partners or the partners of our partners are directly affected by current societal uncertainties. Our modus operandi is gearing more and more toward challenging the idea of productivity and aims at supporting artistic work when, due to circumstances, it needs periods of hiatus and hibernation.
Seeds for Solidarity

Observed signals of change

Supporting and dealing with slowness

Trying to go against the normative rhythms of society

"Creative processes take time. Acknowledging this is one thing, but really supporting slowness is a challenge. Everything seems to work against it, one’s own mentality most of all. Deeply ingrained beliefs, attitudes, and emotions always seem to guide towards something fast, acceleration and quick doses of dopamin, instead of enjoying the circling around of topics, thoughts, ideas, discussions that eventually might lead to something. "

– Source:
Seeds for Solidarity

Interview / Curatorial practice for slowness

Weaving slowness into work to nest ideas and open new kinds of resources - Currently slower timeframes are required as a self-investment and remains against the norm despite having greater benefits for long term prospects and perspectives. Can funding make slowness tangible by allowing the time, resources and flexibility for projects to work at their best suited pace?

"We've been aiming to be a haven for our artistic collaborators, providing these very slow and sometimes frustrating processes because they are so deliberate. Then, the artists can also come back to us and return when they need a period of laying low, resting, or developing new ideas. However, this contradicts our actual existence, as we don't have long-term funding or long-term sustainability.(...)"

– Source:
Seeds for Solidarity

Universal basic income

Repercussions of financial insecurity for artistic work

"Our partners and collaborators have and have had varied life situations, and especially during Covid years and continued now with the increasing economic uncertainty we have realized that unrequited money is sometimes essential for our partnering artists to continue their work and take care of their basic needs (such as rent and food, or mental health services). Our modus operandi is gearing more and more on challenging the idea of productivity, and aims at supporting artistic work when due to circumstances it needs periods of hiatus and hibernation. "

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In the arts sector, "success" is often gauged by a practitioner's visibility and perceived professionalism, as well as the scale and monetary value of their works. The concept of "quality" and the definition of art itself have predominantly been framed within a Eurocentric perspective, thereby excluding numerous alternative forms of expression, such as those found in indigenous cultures. To initiate a shift towards broadening the values, we need to reimagine what we measure.

Measuring qualitative aspects within artistic practice, by delving further into the themes and knowledge located within the art itself, can show great potential for shifting the focus of "value" within art towards tackling the complex global topics we face today. We see transnational artistic collaboration as an opportunity to shape and accumulate new forms of values-based data around sustainability or social change from global perspectives, with the ability to offer alternative and more innovative approaches to tracking or documentation practices for positive change. Furthermore, accumulating such data can act as the necessary starting point for developing new value systems that are open source and can provide a ripple effect, recognising new ways of working and arts that perhaps fall between the gaps but can produce life-changing or impactful works.

Usually, the results you get will correspond with what you decide to measure. So how could we perhaps find more qualitative aspects of the projects, of the processes? How can we verbalise what is actually happening and where will it lead? And we won't know yet, but we also recognize that we sort of choose it when we choose the questions that we want to research or delve into; then that will also guide how we will present the project and the outcomes

Observed signals of change

Interview / Understanding how art changes as the world changes

Measuring 'qualitative' aspects - such as themes and knowledge - to track change in artistic practice

"...what we've been thinking about lately is that usually, the results you get will correspond with what you decide to measure. So, how could we perhaps find more qualitative aspects within the projects and the processes? How can we verbalize what is actually happening (within art) and where it will lead? We won't know yet, but we also recognize that we sort of choose it when we choose the questions that we want to research or delve into; then that will also guide how we will present the project and the outcomes. At the moment, it's challenging to think beyond the project model, beyond this cycle of production. How can we delve further into the themes and knowledge located within the art that is being created, instead of taking this more numbers-based approach? On a deeper level, with the problematics of the world at this moment, huge changes are required."

– Source:
Seeds for Solidarity

Interview / The urgency of creating open source sustainability blueprints

Accumulating as much data as possible for tracking and measuring sustainable progess of Biennales

"We are working on making a (sustainability) blueprint that is going to be shared with us as we move forward, but we also want to share it with other biennials. There's no need for correcting at this point because we don't know what the impact of the Biennale is as of now. So the most important thing right now is to accumulate as much data as possible. And that will help a lot, because the next time you do something like this, you will say like, oh, here was a very unnecessary use of CO2. But then with time and knowledge, we can understand more and we can reduce. For now, we are just collecting all the data and all the information. But the aim is to use it as a blueprint and to share it. I think it's too urgent to keep it only for ourselves, we're literally in this together."

– Source:
Interview with Unfolding the Universe

Interview / Funding can miss artists who don't work on an 'institutional level'

How can funders support smaller scale, independent artists with often exhausting application processes?

Many artists can fall through the gaps through difficulty fulfilling multiple roles beyond the production of their work - especially when it comes to self-promotion, accounting and translating your work through often exhausting application processes. How might funders set up support systems to instead nurture applications to create a more accessible entry point to the process for artists at different levels of 'professionalism'? What is seen as valuable and hence fundable?

– Source:
Seeds for Solidarity

As we increasingly see evidence of transnational practice as "laboratories" for change, working outcomes are developing towards being less production-focused and more network-oriented. Projects are working with locally anchored themes, building new types of knowledge and data, as well as opening up space for experimentation, critical thinking, and imaginative speculation amongst collaborators. However, creating these types of "laboratories" can face constraints from the funding frameworks that practitioners must work within or are supported by.

Encouraging transformative ideas through the financial support of artistic practice can be achieved by recognizing the significance of content depth and the potential impact of activities, instead of focusing on the typical demands of burdensome administrative tasks and reporting. Allowing artistic practice to transcend definitions and function as laboratories for change requires inviting people in from a shared love of art and its transformative potential, and moving away from restricted or gatekeeping environments.

There's still the perspective of what is the art world and who belongs to it, and then the way that art is being talked about; it also creates this atmosphere. Artists then reflect if they are able to speak the language of the art world. Though it might not be a language that anyone actually speaks, it's just the sentiment and idea that it's somehow unwelcoming, especially for new or emerging artists.
Seeds for Solidarity

Observed signals of change

Interview / A wish for more love letters in the art field

Loving art as the starting point to transform inaccessible language within the arts and funding

How might the art field better reflect the celebration of art itself, rather than subscribing to inaccessible language or an idea of who does and does not belong?  How can a more welcoming atmosphere be created that invites people in from a shared love of art, rather than allowing for competitive, gatekeeping environments to emerge?

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Interview with Seeds for Solidarity

Funders best practices

The way funders administrate affects the projects tremendously. The funders lay the foundations for what kind of arts and culture exists, or is possible.

Examples from the Finnish cultural field: Kone foundation encourages freedom and boldness of ideas, and does not require heavy administration or reporting. The depth of content and the transformative potential of the activities they support is key to them. Over the course of the past 10 years, this has profoundly shaped the cultural climate in Finland. On the other hand, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, requires strict reporting of all the expences, and only grants a part of the applied sum requiring non-paid labour from the grantees. It varies significantly, how much the funders trust and value the applicants and grantees, and this has repercussions on how the grantees themselves trust and value their own processes and practices, followed by what kind of art is created into the world.

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Interview / 'Creating' in different circumstances

How to improvise in working scenarios 'not in your favour' and how to make use of them

"... We've been working in a setting where things are built to support your work. There is constant electricity (artist house which is described earlier). There are facilities provided for you just to think about creating. We had these three and a half weeks in this residence, the artist house, which was really conducive to creating. Now, we're back in the camp. And with that comes all the things that we've been working with for the last six years. It's like constant disruption. Things just don't work. There are, people, music, mosques, and prayers making announcements. So, it's different, and we definitely feel like there's a difference between how we create, a difference on stage.It's about how we can continue working when we're actually facing our reality. And the thing is that we want to create in this reality."

– Source:
The Wedding
Opportunity spaces

Funding for slowness, by offering long-term funding and flexibility for practitioners to work at their best-suited pace.

Policymakers and funders can shift focus towards building a more process-based approach to arts funding, where narrow criteria and the demand for clear outcomes are replaced with a focus on more open-ended processes and cross-sectoral/multidisciplinary approaches.

Funders can actively adapt requirements within administrative processes to be welcoming to new and emerging artists or to emphasize the trust and value placed in applicants or grantees. Furthermore, implementing dialogical support structures for artists might foster a sense of community and assistance, which, in turn, can aid artists in coping with the tangible uncertainties that impact their mental well-being.