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Can Artistic Practices Negotiate the Demands of Cultural Institutions, Public Space, and Civil Society?

Tessa Jackson OBE, Chief Executive, Iniva, London
2 May 2012

There is no doubt that artists are addressing this question and its associated issues in their work, as anywhere in the world. However the region comprises so many different descriptions of civil society; the politics and economics of one country enable while those in another disable. Volatility can be a positive signal of change or a characteristic of uncertainty and ultimately stasis.


Cultural institutions, governmental and independent, have a responsibility to act as positive agents of activity and debate. How they play a strategic role is recognised both contemporaneously and of course with hindsight. Therefore, lacking in strategic purpose could be said to be a dereliction of duty. Yet to what purpose?


The best cultural institutions offer ways in which a particular society can know itself, look at itself and question or appreciate itself (often in relation to elsewhere). The MENA region has significant examples. Yet as there are disparities in capacity, there is disparity in terms of who some institutions and new initiatives are for. Who is benefitting? How are they contributing to society?


The MENA region, vast as it is, is no different to other parts of the world. Yet it has the opportunity to be different in how it responds.

Tessa Jackson OBE

is Chief Executive of Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), London.

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