Immediately after the Swedish election the SD anti-immigration party made a major proclamation advocating policies copied from 1930s Germany – pertaining to the public funding of the arts.
Since the end of the war, the driver of a car is no longer known as an Autoführer, “car driver” in German. He’s an Autofahrer, a “car rider”. Other words have proved impossible to rehabilitate. A prominent one is völkisch, meaning “national”, “ethnic”, in some situations “folksy”. The Nazis loved folksy culture, music with a lot of tuba and Glockenspiel, traditional songs, leather shorts, hats decorated with a boar-bristle brush. And they hated Modernism, urban themes, decadence, to the extent that Entartete Kunst, “degenerate art” has become a household word and a badge of honour in art circles. Friends of mine who are into folk music tell me that Irish folk is huge in Germany because their own musical heritage carries too much baggage. It’s too… völkisch.
Now the SD anti-immigration party advocates increased funding for what was in the 19th century perceived as Swedish folk culture: local historical societies, folk dancing groups, folk music bands, the national Heritage Board (gee, thanks guys, but no thanks) and certain museums. On the other hand, they want to strip the funding from art that intends to shock, disturb or provoke. To decide what is what, the party wants to make Swedish art policies more centralised. The goal is to herd Swedish arts in a more “constructive, positive and socially beneficient” direction.
Anyone with some knowledge about the issues at hand will recognise the whole thing from senator Jesse Helms’s attacks 20 years ago against Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano and other Entartete artists. It’s a breathtakingly naïve move that demonstrates yet again that the SD and their voters have very little education, poor souls. They are after all a party for the blue-eyed, blue-collar, disappointed, rural, jobless man.
Before you all get the impression that I’m a staunch defender of free publicly funded arts, though, let me tell you that I actually agree with the SD on one point here. They mention the possibility that the market, that is, the audience, could be given more say in where public arts funding should be directed. As I have discussed here repeatedly, I’m an aesthetic relativist, recognising no universal standards for good art. Just as I think boring archaeology is bad archaeology, I think art that is enjoyable and interesting to only very few people has little value and deserves no public support.
Non-populist liberal politicians in Sweden have floated a suggestion that citizens might be given an annual punch card for art events that would allow the audience to allocate public art funding. I like that idea. A lot of currently funded stuff would likely disappear and be mourned by few. But you can be equally sure that people would not put that money into local historical societies, folk dancing groups, folk music bands, the National Heritage Board and historical museums, no matter how völkisch all this is.
Swedish press coverage is here and here. A debate piece co-written by archaeologist Lars Amreus, head of the Museum of National Antiquities, is here. And check out this hilarious Danish TV skit inspired by that country’s anti-immigration party’s stance on arts funding!
Update 3 October: The federation of Swedish local historical societies also says no thanks to the SD’s proffered funds. “The homeland of the SD is not our homeland”.