Artists are in shock after the vote, but we need them now more than ever
Source:theguardian Date: 2016-06-30 Size:
“We had a headache,” wrote Philip Pullman on Twitter on Friday, “so we shot our foot……

The Scream by Edvard Munch sums up the current mood as ‘the referendum result rings particularly bleakly for Britain’s cultural world.’

“We had a headache,” wrote Philip Pullman on Twitter on Friday, “so we shot our foot off. Now we can’t walk, and we still have the headache.”

There is, of course, no one like a novelist to reach for the apt and telling metaphor at a time of chaos. The referendum result rings particularly bleakly for Britain’s cultural world. Most artists, curators, musicians, directors and scholars think of themselves as instinctively and reflexively open to the world, optimistic about its possibilities and curious about its imaginative byways. Supporting Britain’s membership of the EU has been a natural part of that. The same is true of our universities, which is why vice-chancellors were almost all strongly urging a remain vote before the referendum.

A sense of common cultural inheritance and endeavour lies at the heart of this instinctive allegiance. An hour’s walk around the National Gallery (whether that of Edinburgh or London) tells a story of complex artistic interleavings between Britain and its continental neighbours. Here lies the evidence that the Channel and the North Sea have more often proved to be well-travelled routes than impermeable barriers.

The referendum has brought into shocking light the depths of the rifts in British culture

And, of course, that continues today. The art scenes in Glasgow and London, for example, have blossomed over the past 20 years not because they were ever parochial or local, but rather through the fact that Europe has been at hand. This has worked both in terms of influences and ideas, and in terms of the practicalities of career. An artist might have a life, for example, that includes a home in Glasgow, a teaching post in Frankfurt, galleries in London and Berlin, and shows in Brussels and New York.

The traffic has been two-way. British artists such as Tacita Dean and Douglas Gordon live in Berlin, but many Europeans have settled in London, to the great benefit of the British art scene: Wolfgang Tillmans and Tomma Abts, for example, are both Turner-prizewinning Germans who have studios in Britain. Without this trans-European sense of connection, the busy British art scene, and museums such as Tate Modern, would be unthinkable.

The same is true for classical and new music, where Britain depends firmly on Europe – quite obviously through its history, but also in the way it operates in the practical sense. Think of Sir Simon Rattle and his clutch of British colleagues at the Berlin Philharmonic. Think of Britain’s orchestras, totally unimaginable without their European players; the Hallé in Manchester, for example, contains 14 nationalities. A similar mix is present in many museums and galleries. Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum (now working in Berlin and replaced by a German, Hartwig Fischer, in London), recently told the parliamentary select committee on culture that the curatorial skills base of the UK depends entirely on the EU.

Even in theatre – an art form rooted in the English language – connections run deep with Europe. Writers such as Mark Ravenhill, one of a generation of playwrights who has found his work as least as frequently performed in Germany as Britain, identify deeply as European citizens. And while Katie Mitchell is revered as a director in Germany and is about to open Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in Aix-en-Provence, the figure who may be wielding most artistic influence on British stages at the moment is her Dutch fellow director, Ivo van Hove. The Royal Court, home of new British playwriting, was in mourning on Friday after the results came in, offering audiences the online chance to “fortify each other through these days of change” under the hashtag #MoreInCommon.

There will, then, be a period of shock among Britain’s cultural workers. That feeling will be shared by our universities, 16% of whose funding comes from the EU and 15% of whose academic staff are European nationals – so many people who have made their homes in Britain and will be anxiously contemplating their lives ahead. That is before one takes into account the many European, fee-paying, students. After the shock, though, will come the soul-searching, just as it will do for so many others in Britain.

The referendum has brought to shocking light the depths of the rifts in British culture. By and large, university cities wanted to remain but rural areas and post-industrial towns and cities wanted to leave. The young and the better educated wanted to remain; the older and the less well educated wanted to leave.

Cultural figures, on the whole, wanted to remain – and thus they find themselves on one side of this great divide in British life. What we will need, in the months and years to come, is our artists and our intellectuals to venture across that rift and interpret our fractured country for us. We need the plays and the poems, the songs and the stories to make us stare into the dark heart of what has happened, and what is to come. There is much work to do.

[Editor] 张艳

    Artintern