[Reset: To turn a piece of computer equipment off and then on again when it does not work correctly, to make it start working correctly again.]
Reset: is an eight-month programme of events involving art and culture practitioners, policymakers and academics from all three universities in South Australia. The deepening crisis in arts and culture was only made worse by the pandemic, and its current failure to secure its value as an essential part of our democratic society has long roots. We seek new ideas and practices to help us rethink the value of art and culture and re-establish their place in public policy and in our everyday citizenship.
The proposition: Arts and cultural policy is in crisis, the pandemic has only exacerbated this. A fundamental process of resetting is needed – reflection, rethinking, dialogue. This resetting includes elements of ‘restoration’ – acknowledging what has been eroded and needs restoring – and reconstruction – moving on and building anew taking account of the realities of the current situation. We need to reset our shared understandings of art and culture, and the language in which we frame these. Economic, and to a lesser extent social policy, instrumentalism has hollowed out much of our language and our ability to rethink the problems we face. We have lost the ability to articulate the specific value of art and culture, as social practice and as public policy.
Reset: A New Public Agenda for the Arts offered two days and nights of thinking and discussion about how the arts and cultural sector could work to break out of the current impasse through a radical reorganisation of cultural practice and policy.
The idea of the ‘creative city’ has its roots in the 1980s. In the face of accelerating de-industrialisation, the rise of grassroots social movements, alternative arts and new popular cultures held out the hope of a new kind of post-industrial city.
The global events of the last 18 months, from Covid to BLM to bushfires, have shattered many assumptions about everyday life. Yet the fundamental questions so awkwardly thrown onto the table by the pandemic run deeper than these events, and concern far greater long-running challenges framed around crises of climate, health and social justice.