[The Seven by Nine Squares home page] [YAWN 21] [Art Strike 1990-1993]

No Federal Culture

This "NEA Controversy" that has "everyone" in an uproar can be seen in several lights-not all of which will be found very useful in the broader project of liberating expression of all kinds, indeed all human activity, from imposed orthodoxy; and furthermore, in the dismantling of the capitalist apparatus itself.

The most usual way to see this "controversy" is to see it as censorship. That this is not the case eludes many people, especially those who would attract to themselves a certain prestige: the prestige of the oppressed. There is no censorship involved in this "NEA Controversy." The word "freedom" suggests that cultural workers must use their own resources to avoid the stricture of external control. That these resources are distributed in an unegalitarian way is the real problem, and it won't go away until the problem is confronted and the dominant capitalist system is dismantled.

Over-reliance on government subsidy has always yielded disastrous results. Such subsidies only serve to increase the intrusive impulse of hierarchical power. This fact, given the current debate, should be obvious.

The real danger is that any cultural worker who accepts NEA grant money by definition becomes part of an Official Federal Culture controlled from Washington. The more "acceptable" to this Federal Culture a cultural worker tries to make her work appear (in an effort to get more grants) the more powerful this Federal Culture becomes. Pre-censorship pre-empts and empties the work of vital content and relevance. Why should anyone want to seek the approval of a panel of "experts"? This is surely not what it means to have freedom.

What we've seen with this "NEA Controversy" is an overt attempt to strengthen Federal Culture through the method of forcing cultural workers to sign affidavits guaranteeing certain content in their future work. This is an instance of an effective plutocracy imposing self-censorship on its own people. We should be thankful that it is finally out in the open, where it can be vigorously discussed, and actively opposed by all cultural workers of conscience.