Retort member and Mute contributor, Iain Boal, has generously sent this letter to The Guardian. The letter also went to ACE Chief Executive, Alan Davey, and Chair, Dame Liz Forgan.
In response to the many kind messages of support we’ve received from the UK and beyond, we’d encourage supporters of Mute to either countersign this letter by emailing email@example.com (we will add you to the text field), or, should they have something longer to say, add their own comment or statement.
To: The Editor, Guardian
cc: Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England; Dame Liz Forgan, Chair, Arts Council England
April 8th, 2011
We are writing to express our dismay at the savagery of the cuts to the culture sector reported last week (Guardian, 30 March) and to draw attention to some of the less obvious collateral damage. As contributors to, and readers of, one of the many organizations defunded last week that went unmentioned, we are in a position to appreciate the important role of Mute Publishing since the mid-90s, a beacon in the digital-culture landscape and a vital international forum for intellectual debate and exchange in the field of art and culture.
Looking in from outside the UK, it seems to us that Arts Council England (ACE) has disastrously miscalculated the value of many such ‘marginal’ cultural producers now feeling the axe, even those that do not have, uniquely in our experience, Mute’s range and depth and commitment to engage across barriers and borders. All the more valuable, indeed, at a time of brutal encroachment upon what is left of the public sphere and enclosure of the cultural commons, compounded by the neoliberalization of universities and the bonfire of the humanities.
At such moments, outfits like Mute provide a vital space where open-ended, non-determined discussions are fostered, discussions that may take years – literally – to make any significant appearance in the ‘mainstream media’. These conversations are the life-blood for writers, thinkers and artists; they offer an irresistible attraction precisely because they are not tethered to institutional, strategic and commercial interests that drive more ‘visible’ forums. Belying its financial precarity, Mute has engaged a veritable bank of issues ahead of other far better resourced producers, publishing germinal texts on education, the knowledge economy, regeneration, intellectual property, web 2.0, immaterial labour, music, film and urbanism. ?It is therefore with real sadness that we learn of the blow it has been dealt, which affects us all, but are not surprised that the Mute crew is meeting it with the strident optimism and independence their recent public statements demonstrate (http://www.metamute.org/en/mute_100_per_cent_cut_by_ace). The Chair of the Arts Council recently vouchsafed that ‘Our artists, musicians, actors, directors, sculptors, acrobats, writers, dreamers and inventors are as precious a resource as North Sea oil or the coalfields, and they are a lot more renewable and enduring’. Even judged by this grisly instrumental calculus, ACE has cut off its nose to spite its face. Nevertheless Dame Liz Forgan is right about one thing: the critical community and the valuable work Mute has occasioned will endure after the North Sea oil has run dry.