Ukrainian open-source manifesto on the role of art and culture in times of crisis

Following a suggestion by the Ukrainian Ministry of Finances to cut culture spending by half, the independent gallery Асортиментна кімната published a manifesto calling for the recognition and protection of culture. The  gallery has made the extended text of the Manifesto and all the supporting materials available as an open-source document, which people are invited to share and adapt according to their needs and campaigns.

The manifesto reads:

You cannot destroy culture. Nobody can. But culture can destroy any political system.
Culture is everything non-material and collective that exists in a country and that legitimises it. Culture is past and how we remember it. Culture is present and the rules by which we agree to live together in the society. Culture is also the future.

Culture will persevere without your support. When we will desire a certain culture from our society — be it culture of solidarity, empathy or consolidation, we will remember this moment. The moment, when the government has decided, that culture is redundant in the times of crisis. Because it’s exactly in crisis that culture is needed the most.

In the situation of a pandemic and self-isolation, our cultural and artistic plans have to change — not get cancelled but get transformed. Everything unnecessary, redundant and archaic has to stay in the past. How we organise our cultural projects has to be adapted to the new reality — and the main focus in this process has to stay on transparency of decisions and expenditures, healthy lack of bureaucracy and flexibility.

In the situation of deficiency of strategic decisions and financial deficiencies as a consequence of the former, the culture of decision-making in our governments has to change. All the “there is no time for strategy” and “we’ll think about it later” stem from deep past and cost too much to afford. All the impulsive decisions like “to close”, “to cut down” and “to downsize” are only feeding the panic and chaos, deepening the crisis, that has only just started. We are in the eye of the storm. Stop. And urge your governments to look for decisions together with the engaged ones, not instead of them.