In the summer of 1989, the playwright and dissident Václav Havel articulated the demands of the opposition in a petition signed by more than forty thousand people. The petitioners were asking the communist government (among other things) to put an end to the persecution of independent associations and the censorship of media and culture. Only one year later, Havel was democratically elected as president and the state supervision of culture ceased. Already in January 1990, the Central Association of Czech Visual Artists perished, and a new law was passed that legalized the free establishment of independent unions, clubs and movements.
However, the initial euphoria caused by the newly gained freedom of expression was soon met with the limited cultural funding available in the newly founded market economy, and in the past thirty years has been replaced with disenchantment arising from precarious working conditions. The conference focused on the strategies and criteria that have been – and could have been – deployed by the post-Communist state to support the arts that does not simply comply with the principles of consumerist culture. In her paper, Slovenian researcher Vesna Čopič compares the development of the state cultural policy in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc, focusing on the decline or perpetuation of socialist structures. The expert on cultural policy, Eva Žáková, and the curator of OFF-Biennale, Hajnalka Somogyi, outlines in more detail the development of cultural policies in relation to the visual arts support in the Czech Republic and Hungary. The final debate, hosted by Anežka Bartlová, discuss the particular measures that could be adopted by the state to improve the working conditions of visual artists nowadays.
The discussion forum of the fotograf festival #9 was held on October 18th 2019 in The Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.