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With Europe’s Far-Right Turn, German Politicians Campaign For Cultural Freedom: ‘Art Does Not Have to Please’

The online petition organized by Green Party MPs warns that far-right politics across the continent has dangerous implications for the arts

Far-right protester, Hannover, 2014. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: Cephir

Far-right protester, Hannover, 2014. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: Cephir

Far-right protester, Hannover, 2014. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: Cephir

Two Green Party politicians in Germany have warned of the right-wing drift in governments across Europe and the implications this has for cultural freedom. They say that right-wing governments in Austria, Hungary and Poland are looking to ‘use the creative scene towards their own ends with a policy of national isolation.’ In turn, they have set up an online petition demanding freedom of the arts from political interference.

The petition, titled ‘The Brussels Declaration – For the Freedom of the Arts’, is the work of Green Party deputies Erhard Grundl and Claudia Roth. ‘Politicians should not judge art, or try to instrumentalize it […] Art is free, it does not have to please and it must not serve,’ they write. Grundl and Roth single out how in their own country, the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) has stated its desire to ‘tackle the desecration of the cultural industry.’

The petition goes on to criticize Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary for only supporting an arts scene that is ‘ideologically loyal’ to the ruling Fidesz party and demonstrates ‘commitment to the nation’. The right-wing Law and Justice Party in Poland, and Sebastian Kurz’s government in Austria are also criticized for their lack of engagement with arts institutions and professionals who don’t share their politics. Such developments pose ‘warning examples of nationalist cultural policies that also stand for restrictions and cutbacks in Germany,’ they write.

At the end of May, the curator Nicolaus Schafhausen resigned his position as Director of Kunsthalle Wien citing the resurgence in nationalist politics in Austria. ‘It is in the end a very personal decision that has everything to do with my personal conscience and how and where I feel I need to position myself in this political climate,’ he explained to frieze. ‘All of us in the cultural institutional context will have to be making these decisions in the coming time. I know where I stand and it’s not on the side of acquiescence and compromise.’

The German Green Party MPs’s petition states: ‘Culture is created through exchange, not through isolation. It must be defended, cultural participation promoted, and the social protection of artists improved.’ It has garnered over 41,000 signatories at the time of reporting.

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