Regime change
Fulya Erdemci on the future of SKOR

Issue no3
June - July 2022
Make Friends Not Art

The decision to stop funding of SKOR seems to be an ideological choice. Director Fulya Erdemci talks about the consequences of the culture cuts for her institution.

—Domeniek RuytersIt must have come as a surprise, this decision of Zijlstra to quit funding of SKOR. Or was it announced?

—Fulya Erdemci'More than a surprise, it came as a shock. Although we were in contact with the Ministry of OCW, we didn’t get any sign or hint about it. SKOR was highly commended in the advisory report of the Raad van Cultuur, the official advisory body to the Ministry.'

—Domeniek RuytersDo you have a clear idea about why Zijlstra thinks SKOR should not be funded anymore?

—Fulya Erdemci'Not at all! I am not sure either if Zijlstra has a clear idea himself or even a notion of what SKOR is about. I don’t think that there is any interest in the quality or function of individual institutions on a micro level, his proposal is mainly about the change of regime: from social welfare to neo-liberal. A system overhaul generally has little to do with individual performance. For instance, in his policy proposal, there are often references to the specific focus on the issue of public(s). However, in the same document “art in public domain” is not mentioned at all, which is remarkable, as it is one of the most democratic interfaces of contemporary art that can reach larger publics. Even the ones who do not usually go to the museums or places designated to contemporary art. So, in Zijlstra’s policy, art in public domain was either slipped away or confused with “public art” – the latter being the legacy of the social welfare state, which represents the “ancient regime” for the new government, thus, taken out deliberately. By the same token, SKOR could have been slipped away from his proposal for the new BIS infrastructure. But these are just guesses. We actually don’t know anything concrete, as we haven’t heard any reasons from anyone officially nor unofficially.'

—Domeniek RuytersCould you tell me more about the main identity and function of SKOR? The last few years SKOR has been changing under your leadership. In which direction?

—Fulya Erdemci 'SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain is an internationally operating art institution based in Amsterdam, which initiates, develops and creates art projects in relation to public domain. It was founded in 1999 when its predecessor the Praktijkbureau Beeldende Kunstopdrachten became independent from the Mondriaan Foundation. SKOR became an independent Foundation subsidized by the Ministery of OCW and continued to create “extraordinary” - as defined by the Raad voor Cultuur advising Zijlstra - structural projects in public domain like “Pursuit of Happiness” (2003) or “Parasite/Paradise” (2005) at Leidsche Rijn (a vinex area). The projects created by SKOR react to socio-political changes in society and new developments in contemporary art, urban design and landscape architecture. Through addressing such current topics, SKOR contributes to the debate about the politics of the public domain. SKOR has played a structural role in the formation of such an impressive history, “heritage” of “public art” in the Netherlands in the last 26 years. When I arrived the Netherlands as the director of SKOR in 2008, the country was cornered mid-way between the dissolution of the welfare state and the establishment of neo-liberalism. Relatedly the concept of “public”, thus, the role of art and cultural institutions was already shifting. In order to reload and reposition SKOR in the new context as well as internationally, we started a research in 2009 on our role and the fields in which we have been traditionally active like healthcare, urban transformation, social housing and education (which are, at the same time, the prime sites of global market-driven transformation in governmental policies). Furthermore, in order to open up the changing structures within which we act, and to make them visible whilst explicitly and publicly questioning the role of art and commissioning processes in the course of this transition, we started an extensive discursive platform; a public programme, including a major symposium series called “Actors, Agents and Attendants” whose first edition was realized last year focusing on the issues of civility and care, specifically the healthcare, and whose next edition “Social Housing – Housing the Social” will be realized this November in Amsterdam. Hence, under my direction, the main aim was to transform and adapt SKOR to the new context from inside out (well before Zijlstra announced his plans). I tried to furnish SKOR with the “curatorial agenda” and responsibility of being a critical agent: the main line of change was from the “facilitator” to “curator” with a shift in the focus from the “public” to the “publics” referring to the diversities. Certainly, SKOR has the power (experience, knowledge and capacity) to change itself and achieve the transformation from the “public art” (caring art) to “art in public domain” (there are different uses and definitions like art as public domain or art in civic space, etc), an emancipated form of contemporary art that situates itself as a critical agent in the public realm, specifically unfolding the ideological structures that we all are living in. As SKOR’s working context varies extensively, the content of its projects varies as well, from the political to the poetic, while its vocabulary of ‘genres’ and media ranges from inspirational spatial designs and monumental sculptures to immaterial memorials and revisited land art projects, and from documentary films and photographs to publication projects and performative conferences and events. In recent years, SKOR aims at bringing out the critical research of the artists investigating and ‘testing’ the recent socioeconomic and political transformations and their repercussions. In the last couple of years, the ‘liberal democracy’ – what Chantal Mouffe calls ‘post-political democracy’ – and its varied programmes and applications have become major focal points for artistic production. Events and activities for “My Name Is Spinoza” (2009) set an example for this. These events were realized through a considerable number of partnerships and collaborations with fellow art institutions and organizations based on a collective platform . Spinoza’s revolutionary views regarding tolerance, respect and freedom of speech, which have maintained their social relevance today, were taken as inspiration by artists such as Job Koelewijn, Francisco Camacho, Thomas Hirschhorn, Aernout Mik and Nicoline van Harskamp. Thomas Hirschhorn’s Bijlmer Spinoza Festival was envisioned for a ‘non-exclusive audience’: the residents of the Bijlmer neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Likewise, Francisco Camacho’s Group Marriages Initiative aimed to gather 40,000 signatures to submit a petition to the Dutch parliament to allow more than two citizens to enter into a civil marriage. Camacho managed to collect approximately 10,000 signatures, which was not sufficient for the initiative to be placed on the parliamentary agenda but signified an extraordinary level of audience participation for such an alternative, if not progressive, proposal. [figure 6215_5930_mg-0192.jpg][figure 6215_5929_3-mxk1619-ret.jpg] While these two projects articulated the mega global changes that have unavoidable impacts on our lives, Maider Lopez’s “Polder Cup” related to human scale. “Polder Cup” strived for generating interaction and relationship between diverse layers of the society, putting emphasis on the Netherlands geography that is surrounded by water. Unlike a typical football game, López’s displaced football field intersected by water channels challenged the rules of football and encouraged players to seek and invent new strategies. With such slight shifts or interventions in the public spaces, she empowers the publics to bring out their capacity to change.'

—Domeniek RuytersCould you tell a bit more about the international position of SKOR?

—Fulya Erdemci'SKOR is highly respected internationally. In the last couple of years, we have been trying to broaden its network and relations (through “Actors, Agents and Attendants” symposia series, international Open Launches and presentations in Istanbul, Berlin, New York , etc) aiming to create its international community and new alliances (Goldsmiths University in London, De Appel in Amsterdam) and collaborations (Serpentine Gallery, London, IKSV and International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, BAK - the 2nd Former West Congress held in Istanbul-, Situations, Bristol (UK), Stedelijk Museum, Witte de With, Van Abbe museum, etc). In 2009, together with 6 European art institutions i.e. the Baltic Art Center in Vic (SE), Situations in Bristol (UK), Mossutställningar in Stockholm (SE) , Vector in Iasi (RO) and Consonni in Bilbao (SP) we established a platform called ENPAP (European Network for Public Art Producers) with the support of EU to be able to make comparative studies, peer-to-peer reviews, and co-productions. Such studies proved that SKOR is one of the most established institutions that performs best practices not only in the Netherlands but also all over Europe.'

—Domeniek RuytersWhat do you consider to be the main destination of SKOR in the near future. Is there still a future for SKOR when state funding stops? Are there other sources/partnerships available?

—Fulya Erdemci'Although this withdrawal of the government (with its public sources and services) and leaving its role and place to the market and corporate companies did not come as a total surprise, after the 10th of June, it feels like as if we are a part of a surreal science fiction, reminding the Godard’s Alphaville: “Something’s not in orbit in the capital of this Galaxy”. As I mentioned before, SKOR has been restructuring itself for almost two years, so, we were far ahead and already half way through the process of restructuring, including exploration of new partnerships and other sources, when Zijlstra’s policy decides to “delete” SKOR. Certainly, in terms of the time frame, it seems quite difficult, however, when we consider the commissioning method of SKOR, it is not impossible. Through its projects SKOR brings diverse public and private parties together to create a collective platform. SKOR uses its public funds as sort of seed money to attract other funds. For instance, in 2010 for projects, each EUR 1 from SKOR created a total value for the art project of EUR 5.77 through external funding. We call this the SKOR multiplier effect. I have personally lived through a similar process in the last 10 years in Istanbul. Even if you are ready, as an institution to work closely with private and/or commercial sponsors and partners, the business milieu also needs to be ready to be taken along with the institutions to perform this role. In Istanbul, it takes years to establish such a support system based on private companies (which, by the way, has its own repercussions that need to be discussed extensively, too). In the Netherlands, there is a tradition of art patronage in its history and I hope that this process would be faster. However, in any case, I was expecting from the Dutch politicians a more rational and secure proposal for a system that doesn’t risk the already existing cultural infrastructure that took years (in SKOR’s case 26 years, or Rijksakademie more than a 100 years) to establish. We all know that the infrastructure needs revising, but this new policy proposal is like “gambling”, disregarding (and diminishing) all the success and achievements of the existing system and risking its livelihood. In the protests that took place on the 26th and 27th of June (that I am sincerely impressed by the coordination and solidarity of the Dutch and international art milieus), the Dutch and international artists and cultural circles expressed the invaluable and unavoidable impact of art (and its institutions) in making of the society and how this new policy can destroy it for good: As it was written in the flash mob card stunt, this policy only refers to “Everything about the Price, Nothing about the Value”! (quote Oscar Wilde).'

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