CULTURE AND PRECARIOUSNESS

It seems that the cultural sector is reluctant to abandon its almost endemic precariousness. Since the crisis made its appearance a decade ago, the blows are still there, though they adopt, it’s true, different forms and produce consequences of very different nature. In turn, culture, as such, is still a sector of economic content, subject to the same avatars as the other areas of activity, and a sphere in which the same patterns of inequality and imbalance perceived in other business fields repeated.

The professionalisation of culture has led to a high degree of specialisation of the profiles, giving light to new lines of activity that a few years ago were completely unknown. In parallel, consumption habits, the way of approaching art and the place that exhibition spaces had traditionally occupied have had to adapt to a change in circumstances. This evolution is motivated not only by the prevailing economic situation, right after the new millennium started, but also by the beginning of a period of transition in which a generational change comes together with a deep social identity crisis. This gap in the sense of belonging and the path towards a dehumanising individualism poses numerous challenges, and more so in an area such as culture, whose reason for being rests with the individual and his development in society. Many of these turning points usually coincide with significant world milestones, such as, without a doubt, the beginning of a new century, a situation that in our case came along with a technological revolution that opens up new ways of exploration but also contributes to deepening the uncertainty of our immediate context.

Campaign "no por amor al arte" launched by Plataforma PAC in 2018

All these changes don’t imply a strengthening of the profession or a revaluation of the work done. Although some slightly hopeful data emerge every year, a joint analysis shows that culture remains a very precarious sector that feeds on the passion of those who want to keep it alive. Paradoxically, there is an exploitation of our culture by tourism. The increasing volume of visitors that come to our country every year is a good indicator that, in addition to the excellent weather and the gastronomic variety, our cultural wealth plays a decisive role in. However, mechanisms to achieve a better distribution of these revenues or systems that serve to put culture in its place are not enhanced.

Other contradictions also coincide: the cultural sector is one of the most demanding in terms of required training and specialisation. 69.3% of cultural workers have higher education, compared to 42.9% of the national average (Yearbook of Cultural Statistics MCD 2018), a circumstance that is not accompanied by higher salary compensation. Likewise, there is a slight increase in employment generation (3.6% of the national total), although the number of single enterprises or self-employed is 64.7% and temporary contracts have increased by 19.4% since 2017. Thus, these data draw a sensitive, poorly resistant and depleted panorama to fight against setbacks.

Guided tour in Cádiz Museum

To make it worse, this sector replicates some of the imbalances seen in other economic areas: 60.9% of workers are men, and the remaining percentage are women. This could be an inner feature without major significance, as we know that in other sectors it happens in reverse; but the gap is noticed because there is a high percentage of artists who decide to establish themselves professionally abroad, where they get stability and better pay. A recent study carried out by Marta Pérez-Ibáñez and Isidro López-Aparicio on the situation of Spanish female artists (“Women artists and job insecurity in Spain. Analysis and comparison based on a global study”, Revista Arte, Individuo y Sociedad, vol. 31 (4), 2019) shows that 60% of them move abroad, of which 75% are under 40 years old. It also highlights the data collected on income, where 46.9% of the artists declare to obtain less than € 8,000 per year.

With all this, it is clear that the cultural sector has to face many future challenges, not only to overcome the difficulties inherent to its economic sensitivity, but also to many other circumstances that require a response more in line with the new times and the course of historical events. We will be here working to contribute to this (r)evolution.

 

The CEART opens this Thursday, November 14th in the room A an exhibition dedicated to this master of photography, which will be open to the public until February 9th. The show includes one of the artist's latest projects, focused on the hard work carried out by the miners of Serra Pelada, an open gold mine in the heart of Brazil where employees daily risked their lives.

Immigration, poverty, marginal life, slave labour, man's relationship with the land, the use of natural resources... are issues that have always fascinated Salgado. From the beginning of his career as a photographer, his work has opted to give visibility to the most disadvantaged groups and to create with his images a vivid and impressive visual story without fakes. With a raw black and white, this author's work transits between photo-reportage and naturalistic photography.

And the idea that permeates all his work is human dignity. Salgado portrays employees, miners and gatherers from a purely humanistic approach that wants to value their integrity, their strength and their resilience.

“If you photograph a human, so that he is not represented in a noble way, there is no reason to take the picture. That is my way of seeing things.”

Salgado entered this discipline long after completing his studies in economics between Brazil and the United States, and a doctorate in statistics in France. But in 1973 his life took a turn, and he decided to start his career as a photographer. He achieved to work at the Gamma Agency and Magnum Photos for more than 15 years until in 1994 he founded his own agency “Amazonas Imagen”.

With the “Gold” project, the photographer portrays a harsh reality that takes place in the Serra Pelada mine, a name given to a totally devastated and anarchically excavated mining enclave, the world's largest open-pit gold mine, through which more than 50,000 people have passed. In the heat of the legends about the mysterious “El Dorado”, the enthusiasm for this precious metal led to the development of strenuous exploitation practices for the workers and to originate tales of grief and glory, of human victory and defeat between the soil, the tunnels and the cargo baskets.

The CEART exhibition brings together Salgado's full portfolio in his characteristical black and white and large-format photographs that leave no one indifferent.