To define contemporary democracy through arts and culture.
Contemporary representative democracy is in crisis. The collective imagined ideal and practice of democracy is being challenged, but what is the alternative?
What is democracy now is the question this project will ask, within an interdisciplinary creative process which brings together a democratic representation of artists and citizens. Through dialogue, debate and creativity each project group will endeavor to realise their notion of participatory democracy as a new collaborative work of art.
The collaborative creative process works through disparity, trust, lack of trust, inspiration and necessity towards consensus. The Icons of Democracy process should tear apart the perceptions, ideals and current practices of democracy. Questioning procedures, beliefs and practices- what we think we know, and what is the state of democracy. It might be ugly. It will certainly be revealing.
Dialogue, debate, creativity. How does the project group get from some sort of consensus, to some sort of creative concept and then to a real artwork? In principle, the work of art can be in any medium, of any duration. The choice of artists who might work with the group is the responsibility of the curator/artist. Is this an example of the democratic process? It must involve the public either as participants or audience and ideally should be presented in public spaces.
Intrinsically linked to the theme of democracy is the issue of trust. As a discernable movement towards the tipping point of no trust is evident, Icons must engage with the views of the public on the trust deficit and its causes.
Adding to the impetus for this project is the conjunction of the US Presidential race, the EU referendum and the refugee crisis.
Currently in discussion with arts organisations, festivals, universities and special events, developing a series of Icons for this year - starting on September 15th, the International Day of Democracy and beyond.
Text from the Inter Parliamentary Union’s Day of Democracy website:
Democracy in practice: Six things that frequently go wrong:
Male domination of public life
For most of history, and in most countries, government has been a male preserve. This is still true, and it is rare for women to be represented in public office in proportion to their numbers in the population. This not only undermines the democratic principle of equality, it deprives public life of the full contribution that women could make to it.
Corruption among office-holders
Corruption is usually defined as the abuse of public office for private gain. It contradicts the principle that office in a democracy is exercised on behalf of the people, not the office-holder and his or her family, friends or personal connections. When chronic, corruption undermines public trust in government and support for the democratic process itself.
"Tyranny of the majority"
Although decisions taken in accordance with a majority view are necessarily more democratic than decisions taken by a minority, they can become oppressive when they infringe upon the basic democratic rights of an unpopular individual or group, or when an ethnic, linguistic or religious minority is permanently excluded from any share in power.
Executive control over parliament
It is the task of elected governments to provide leadership in the policy and legislative process. However, where parliaments lack effective independence from the government, whether through inadequate resources and expertise, or through tight ruling party control, they are unable to carry out their oversight function effectively, with consequences for the quality of policy and legislation as well as reduced public accountability of the government.
Lack of media pluralism
The key requirement for the communication media in a democracy is pluralism: multiple sources of information and diversity of views and opinions. This diversity can be threatened from two directions: from government, through control over public media or more subtle forms of pressure and censorship, and from the private sector, when there is undue concentration of ownership of different forms of media.
Loss of public interest in politics, of confidence in government and of belief in the value of the democratic process is a potential danger to the survival of democracy itself. It is usually symptomatic of something seriously wrong with the governmental process, and of a widespread sense that people are powerless to change or influence it.