Therese Kaufmann is a co-director of the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies in Vienna (eipcp), and one of the editors of the multilingual web journal transversal. She currently coordinates the multi-annual research project Creating Worlds (2009-2012). She has worked in a number of projects connecting visual arts, debate and theory production. She was coordinator of the transnational art- and research project “translate”: Beyond Culture: The Politics of Translation (2005-2008). She also took part in the project team of republicart (2002-2005): both projects were funded by the Culture Programme of the EU. Therese is a member of the editorial board of the journal Kulturrisse. She teaches regularly on cultural policy and cultural theory. From 2003-2006 she was a board member of EFAH, now Culture Action Europe and still takes a great interest in EU cultural policy and transnational cultural policies in general. She graduated in German literature and art history at the University of Vienna and in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College / University of London.
What is eipcp? What are the main activities of the Institute?
The eipcp (European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies) is an independent arts and research organization based in Vienna, Austria. It was founded in 2000 and pursues the primary goal of connecting cultural and artistic projects with research and publishing in the arts, philosophy, cultural theory and cultural policy. The activities of the Institute comprise a number of transnational arts projects in partnership with arts institutions and an extensive network of artists and researchers throughout Europe, the publication of the multilingual web journal “transversal” and a book series as well as transnational conferences, workshops and debates.
What would be your professional advice to young researchers planning to pursue a career in the field of cultural policy?
What seems to me important is to not lose sight of the political questions in cultural policy, of the issues it needs to reflect and the challenges it should be tackling in terms of how it relates to the eminent social, political and economic transformations in today’s world. Cultural policy should be about visions and ideas, which also reflect a specific stance in society and in relation to what we define as the “political”. How do we conceive of cultural action, participation and cooperation e.g. in relation to economic globalization and the social recomposition of our societies? How does cultural policy relate to increasing inequalities? How does cultural policy relate to citizenship rights, how does it deal with Europe’s colonial legacy? How does it formulate the concept of “mobility”, when at the same time most European countries want to shut down their borders? In contrast to what many of the current programmes and courses in cultural training seem to convey, this cannot be solved only through pure management. I feel that we are still at the beginning when it comes to transnational cultural policies as something that formulates transnational cultural cooperation as a form of empowerment between equal partners and also a means of struggle against discrimination.
What was the worst professional advice which you have heard?
Not to be too critical
Who (or what) motivates you in your research work?
I think, what motivates me are very often interests, people (and their work) as well as questions actually coming from outside the cultural field (if there is really an “outside”), e.g. from political activism, small-scale media projects, philosophy and research areas such as critical migration studies or postcolonial studies. They can all contribute a lot to how we think of future developments in cultural policies – especially if they are understood as something going beyond the national realm and working on a transnational level in a transversal manner. I have always enjoyed working in projects that connect different practices, fields and approaches, between art, research and politics.
What still keeps you in the cultural research field?
As I said before, the cultural (research) field is not something closed to me, but needs to be opened up in different directions. (On the level of policy, e.g. clause 4 in the “Culture Article” of the European Treaty can offer some potential! One only has to think of culture in the external policies of the EU…) Theory and practice cannot be distinguished so easily, and cultural research can be a form of (political) action. Theoretical approaches and research questions should, for example, be taken into account in relation to the consultation process for the new Culture Programme of the EU (which, in my view, ideally should be given the financial means to develop into a worldwide programme, in terms of its scope comparable to Erasmus Mundus, the mobility and cooperation programme in higher education…)
What are you working on now, what’s next?
At the moment I am involved in a research project, which explores the interrelations and overlaps of art production and knowledge production today. Creativity, invention and knowledge are at the core of contemporary modes of production and in this project we want to look at the actual conditions of knowledge production in the current context of the so-called knowledge economies and in cognitive capitalism. Especially the universities (and also art academies) have become objects of competition between regions and continents, but they are also sites of struggle and contestation (just look at the recent worldwide university struggles). Here, I take a specific interest in the geopolitical dimensions of knowledge production and how we can look at it from a perspective of postcolonial critique. In addition to the last issue of the multilingual web journal “transversal” on knowledge production and its discontents there will be a number of forthcoming issues dealing with these subject matters, the next one especially on the role of art academies and on art education.
Read the blog post also on Labforculture’s Young Cultural Policy Researchers Forum: