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Variant, issue 37/38, Spring/Summer 2010

Complete issue: text    pdf

Front cover: pdf

Glasgow is posed as a poster-child for post-industrial culture-led urban renewal; ex-Council leader Steven Purcell – the schoolboy-like figure, hand outstretched, on the front cover of this issue of Variant – placed at its epicentre of city-boosterism. All this is now unravelling; Purcell quitting his posts amidst cocaine and alcohol confessions. Yet straining to be asked, obfuscated by personal ‘scandal’, is how deep does the cronyism and corruption run in the City's plunder of infrastructure in the pursuit of urban revalorisation?

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issue 37 cover


Radical Change In Culture / Manifesto
All too aware an entrepreneurial ideology in the public provision of culture has been passed-off onto Scotland, Variant prints this encouraging counterclaim from Poland:
"Culture is one of the most important fields in the struggle for a more democratic, egalitarian and free society. If the changes currently proposed to this field by the Polish authorities are not subject to a wide social debate, consultation and criticism, they will bring catastrophic results for both the producers of culture and society as a whole."

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On bullshit in cultural policy practice & research
Eleonora Belfiore
Taking Harry G. Frankfurt's essay 'On Bullshit ' as its starting point, Belfiore explores the analysis of bullshit and the prevalence of bullshitting in the contemporary public sphere. Frankfurt's short essay provides an intellectual framework to interpret and understand contemporary rhetoric and practice in the cultural policy field, as well as recent trends in cultural policy research. Through a discussion of selected UK cultural policy documents, the article aims to show that many of the key actors in the cultural policy debate indeed display the 'indifference to how things really are' and the cultivation of vested interests which Frankfurt attributes to the activity of bullshitting. In conclusion, Belfiore spells out the implications of the present status quo for 'critical' cultural policy research.

Please note: ‘On bullshit in cultural policy practice and research: Notes from the British case’ was originally published in the
International Journal of Cultural Policy, Volume 15, Issue 3, August 2009

For further information, including an index of all the journal’s published papers, please visit:

Remembering Brian Barry
Femi Folorunso
" of a handful of British academics and public intellectuals who, sometimes belatedly, sought to rescue the public understanding of ‘equality’ from bureaucratic activism and intellectual game playing."

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Launch of ‘Friends of Belge’
An Appeal for Solidarity

Desmond Fernandes
Ragip Zarakolu, owner and director of Belge publishing house, and recipient of numerous freedom of expression publishing awards, has been subject to targetting in ongoing court cases in Turkey that clearly contravene internationally recognised rights of free expression. In November 2009, for example, Ragip and writer N. Mehmet Güler, as defendants, were absurdly facing prison sentences under Anti-Terror Law for the dialogue of a character in a novel. One of the aims of ‘Friends of Belge’ is to raise a solidarity fund to support Belge as it continues to be targeted in such ways. ‘Friends of Belge’ Patrons include Professor Noam Chomsky and Rosie Malek-Yonan.

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Update : 10/11th June 2010

Report by Solidarity with the Victims of All Genocides

Print Creations
Comic & Zine reviews

Mark Pawson
Including: Clayton Patterson’s Front Door Book; Robert Delford Brown: Meat, Maps & Militant Metaphysics; Mostly True; his local Stencil Printers; Barterama, the printed matter swap fair; Village Pub Cinema by Henry Ireland; Creed by Kris Skellon; Book Trade Labels From Around The World...

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Doodley-doo? Doodley don’t!
Life and Sabotage

Gesa Helms
"There are two lines of enquiry for this review (of an admittedly rather unimportant book, Claire Faÿ’s The Doodle Notebook. How to Waste Time in the Office, that has already received far more than its fair share of coverage):
a. what kind of practices are proposed “to take on the daily grind”?
b. who can propose such practices and who can engage in them?
Following these two lines, I want to critically engage doodling in a debate over work-place agency, resistance and sabotage; to draw out the limitations constructed for creative office workers; and provide a couple of openings to raise implications for a politics on work, autonomy, subversion if we were to arm ourselves with a bit of stationery."

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"Art Workers Won’t Kiss Ass
Owen Logan
Taking the Chicago-based art collective Temporary Services' "A NATIONAL CONVERSATION ABOUT ART LABOUR AND ECONOMICS” as his starting point, Logan "wonders if the last great avant-garde idea of collapsing art into life is not a double-edged sword, curtailing strategy and tactical thinking while advancing a more pleasurable politics of expression." This Logan informs with Understanding Social Welfare Movements - Annetts, Law, McNeish & Mooney's 'argumentative and lively' book - which "reading against the grain of some aspects of social movement discourse gives a good sense of a new Left-leaning social aesthetics that is gregarious but not necessarily collective in any substantial sense."

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Precarious Labor: A Feminist Viewpoint
Silvia Federici
Precarious work is a central concept in movement discussions of the capitalist reorganization of work and class relations in today’s global economy. Silvia Federici analyzes the potential and limits of this concept as an analytic and organizational tool. She claims reproductive labor is a hidden continent of work and struggle the movement must recognize in its political work, if it is to address the key questions we face in organizing for an alternative to capitalist society. How do we struggle over reproductive labor without destroying ourselves, and our communities? How do we create a self-reproducing movement? How do we overcome the sexual, racial, and generational hierarchies built upon the wage?

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Overidentification and/or bust?
Stevphen Shukaitis
Overidentification refers to an "approach of adopting a set of ideas, images, or politics and attacking them, not by a direct, open or straightforward critique, but rather through a rabid and obscenely exaggerated adoption of them." Shukaitis examines Laibach's (the musical wing of the Slovenian art collective Neue Slowenische Kunst) formation of overidentification as a strategy of cultural-political intervention in the context of the Slovenian / ex-Yugoslavian punk movement, asking, in a broader scope which encompasses BAVO (an independent research project focused on the political dimensions of art and architecture): "Is overidentification useful as a strategy of political intervention for an age marked by the presence of cynical distance within cultural and social spheres?"

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Learning to Breathe Protest
"Almost a decade after the first Bologna meeting in 1999, Europe has just witnessed the first phase of widespread protests against various attempts by the state to implement the ‘Process’ and the commodification and enclosure of education."
An introduction and personal account of the protests at the art academies in Vienna and Munich, in the context of the wave of struggles and occupations that occurred across the educational sector in Europe, USA, South East Asia and South America in late 2009, written by people involved with salong (Munich), interflugs (Berlin), academy of refusal (Vienna), 10th floor (London), March 2010.

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‘We have decided not to die.’
On taking and leaving the University

Marina Vishmidt
Focusing on California and the subprime model of state education, Vishmidt interviews people who have practical and analytic experience of the University occupations movement:
"At the most basic level of analysis, the crisis of state education in California is like a wunderkammer version of the crisis of the American state; a scale model which makes legible the effects of financialization on the public sector... and how its ‘bankruptcy’ can become a point of contestation of the whole economy as serviced and modelled by state-funded higher education, as well as a point of secession and re-composition."

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The Tyranny of Rent
Neil Gray
...responds to Eliot M. Trettter’s article ‘The Cultures of Capitalism: Glasgow and the Monopoly of Culture’ (Antipode: 2009). Tretter’s work, deeply influenced by the research of urban theorist David Harvey, can be seen as a continuation of the critical vein of historical geographical materialism. But, Gray argues, Tretter’s "narrow emphasis on the monopoly aspects of culture and representational issues omits other forms of monopoly and underplays the still central question of labour in the valorisation of capital. However, Tretter's re-appraisal of the Workers City group, and his appeal for their enduring relevance, provides a platform from which to analyse a continuum of dispossession that has never stopped and to bring important lessons from the contested past into a productive and critical relationship with this present era of recession and financial crisis."

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