How good are good intentions?

But real art is simple, direct, honest and fun. Art is not there to try to change the world or educate people

I recently found a picture from a past art festival of some years ago, which had a slogan that reads “Replace Your Fear of the Unknown with Curiosity” (or something very similar). I think it was called U-Turn and it must have happened around 2007 or 2008. Its budget was as big as they come for projects that are 100 percent financed by the Danish Arts Council. I remember the point was to host an “international quadriennale” – the word “quadrennial” is really ridiculous, in all languages – and to put Copenhagen on the world’s art map .We Copenhageners apparently deemed ourselves art-chic in those days. The project went bankrupt due to poor management but I have nothing against the helpless managers of this project. I’m just using it as an example to mock the state of mankind.

Now, a few years later on, I was reminded of the “turn your fears into curiosity” mantra. It just seems so childish and ridiculous to spend millions on such delusional nonsense. I mean, who do they think they are? The worst isn’t the stupidity, or the wasted millions in taxpayer money. It is the pretentiousness and the self-righteousness. The elitist attitude that a bunch of Danish art curators have a chance to educate the masses and make the world a better place.

The Prestige of culture

Since 1998 – first as editor of a weekly city guide and since then as a director for a major arts and culture celebration – I must have been involved in at least a dozen projects whose agenda is “how can we create the ultimate cultural event”. I worked together with politicians and powerful people with a burning desire to make the world a better place by initiating a major arts and culture project. Less than a month ago, I sat with our dear mayor, Frank Jensen, a truly polite and attentive man. He asked some of the arts and culture elite to come up with the ultimate cultural event on a zero budget. I have never, in my entire life, felt more compelled to run away screaming from a meeting. The garbage that was spoken – and by my kin! Torture.

I don’t have an opinion about Frank Jensen or on his take on arts and culture, I don’t know the man or his intentions (though I did admire his patience and politeness at this meeting, though). But as I was sitting there, and as I have experienced a dozen times in the past decade – and as this sign about “fear and curiosity” made clear to me a couple of days ago – I have come to realise that good intentions seem to derive mainly from stupidity and oversized egos. Nobody, who has ever spoken of this type of “massive immersive event of arts and culture”, has wished such an event would exist without imagining himself as the event’s artistic director, manager or director.

Doomed to failure

But real art is simple, direct, honest and fun. Art is not there to try to change the world or educate people. It may be doing just that, but definitely not by caring about anything else than its topic. When arts and culture have intentions, they become dishonest tools for social prestige. A good song is meant to make you dance, or cry or laugh – nothing more. If the dancing or the laughing makes you a better man, so be it.

At those meetings I often meet young and hopeful people who “want to work with events” or “culture”, and many who “want to be an entrepreneur”. But being an entrepreneur is not a goal. Nor is culture. Many politicians keep wasting public money by initiating projects that are doomed to fail, again and again, because they are eager to achieve the prestige of something they do not really understand. Culture money and art funding should go to projects that exist, that are real, simple and honest. It’s really not that hard, as long as you stop thinking of arts and culture as this magic social voodoo thing. Insecurity, ultimately, rules the world.

Thomas Dalvang Fleurquin is founder of the Distortion Festival and director of Nus/Nus.
Distortion Festival


By Thomas Fleurquin

Thomas Dalvang Fleurquin is founder of the Distortion Festival and director of Nus/Nus.

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