The limitations of the Jan. 11 event: the propositional part, perhaps, needs improvement.

A view of the January 11 event, with focus on its proactive aspects: our proposal.

Ever since I read about a demonstration by cultural professionals scheduled forJan. 11, I have felt what I might describe as a mixture of skepticism and good hope: has the most fragmented and least cohesive working class in Italy finally found the strength to do what it has not been able to do in so many years, which is to unite in a single voice to try to make those who should be reigning the fortunes of culture in Italy understand that indeed, there is something wrong (to put it mildly) in our country, and that cultural professionals have some good and thorough proposals to make to try, at the very least, to help the government and the ministry intervene where it is most needed? Perhaps, the expectations placed on the event are a bit too high (and skepticism is a sentiment that does not belong only to yours truly, given some of the comments read on the event’s Facebook page ), but that is not the point of the post. And even if it were, I would still hope I am wrong in placing low expectations on the event.

We could also reason about the occasion that triggered the protest: the celebrated 500 Youth for Culture announcement. But that is not even the point: let us therefore gloss over the fact that to move the protest required the spectacularization of a reality that is much more creeping and much deeper than that of a call for bids, a reality that moves on the blurred boundary between the training represented by the continuous internships to which young cultural professionals are subjected (and the 500 young people would be called upon to perform nothing more than an internship), and the underpaid work in the cultural sphere (despite the fact that the discourse can be extended to other work areas as well). Because this is indeed about showmanship: I can think of no other terms when thinking of a notice announced in grand style, amidst the expectations of most, and which then after weeks of waiting turned out to be a confirmation of a now unfortunately known reality, thus receiving a media buzz that few other times we have seen for any ministry measure (also because it was about 500 young people who would potentially get a job, and it is not every day that a public body seems to be able to give work to 500 young people). And what I would like to analyze in this post is not even the reasons for the protest, which are largely understandable and shareable, certainly to be supported.

What I would like to examine are the possible proposals that should come out of the protest: at least as far as I am concerned, a protest that is not proactive is not even worth considering. This is really the point: any person with common sense will agree that it is useless to destroy, if then one has no idea how to rebuild. And in this regard, a post has come out on the event’s official blog entitled What we are asking for: a small list of proposals put forward by the organizers. Mind you, in an Italy where we have become accustomed to protests that are anything but constructive, the list of 500 no’s seems almost like a refreshing oasis in the desert. However, it is not at all clear what the outcome of the demonstration should be and what exactly the protests are directed toward. The targets seem to be basically two: the lack of work for cultural professionals (or rather, the lack of adequately paid work) and, again, the 500 youth ban. As for the first objective, in my opinion, demonstrations are not needed, not least because they will probably not (unfortunately) succeed in moving a public opinion that is not very interested in the problems of culture (and a confirmation of this is also given by the scant prominence that the mass media are not giving to the January 11 demonstration). Rather, ideas are needed: it is too little to say that we need to pass Bill 362 (the process of which, moreover, is already underway and well underway) and that a new competition is needed because the technical-scientific staff of the MIBACT are undersized (of course they are and of course a new competition would be needed, and the need is by no means new: we all know it). The topic is complex, both for this post and for an event: therefore, there would need to be working groups, identified by the professional associations, working closely together to identify precisely, in their own field of reference (archaeology, art history, archives, restoration, digitization) all the waste, mismanagement, useless projects in order to understand where funds could be found for good training in the first place and properly paid work in the second place. And in the end, having pulled the sums in each of the groups, the common goal would be to work out proposals for reforms and more accurate management of public funds, to be submitted to the Ministry.

But to do this takes time and, above all, demonstrations are not necessary: it is necessary to interact with institutions. More within the reach of a demonstration, then, might be the second goal of the protest, the call for 500 young people, and this is where the most constructive aspect of the demonstration should be seen. The focus that the organizers seem to be losing sight of, however, is not so much who will be hired for this internship, nor how much they will be paid: the fundamental focus of the proposal should be the what, that is, on what activities the 2.5 million euros of the call will be spent. It is pointless to hire even the best professionals in Italy (and to pay them an adequate salary) if they will then go to work on an ephemeral project for which maintenance and continuation will not be guaranteed: this is the logic with which web projects for cultural heritage have been carried out by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage until the current administration (we provided some examples in a post a few days ago, again on the subject of the call for proposals). And again,Annex 1 of the call for proposals gives no indication of how the continuation in time of the products to be produced by the five hundred young people will be guaranteed. Not to mention the fact that for these products there are already good alternatives on the web (the web is already full of tourist portals, portals on the territory, portals on the great war, thematic blogs and whatnot). Therefore, conferring the assignment to the best professionals, but without reviewing what the assignment consists of, would go down as a further waste of resources, if the projects are ephemeral. Then I do not go into the merits of the last paragraph of point 3, because it is clear that the intent of the call is not to stimulate good employment (the ways to stimulate good employment are others), but to bring to life digital products that will be produced by these five hundred young people, specially trained (although it is not clear by whom: hopefully not by those who have set up the ministerial portals up to now).

Point 3 of the article that appeared on the protesters’ blog is therefore largely revisable: not only is it necessary that the projects be entrusted to competent professionals. It is also necessary that continuity be guaranteed for these projects, and that they be useful projects: what is the point of creating duplicate projects? We therefore reiterate the proposal we had made in the post cited above: if the web for cultural heritage is to be promoted, that a part of the 2.5 million euros be allocated to subsidize already existing projects, which will be guaranteed Ministry sponsorship, and which could be selected on the basis of the skills of those who manage them, their seniority (because if a project has existed for so long it means that it is richer, that there are serious intentions behind it and that it will be easier to maintain it and ensure its continuity), their quality, their scope (if aimed at the public), their degree of innovation, their benefits and their convenience (if aimed at companies, professionals or administrations). The remaining part, on the other hand, would serve to review, consolidate, and ensure the continuation of what already exists: indeed, ministerial web projects are very lacking in terms of accessibility, usability, ease of navigation, and ability to interact with the public (and we have also talked about this here on Windows on Art, and will probably continue to talk about it). Considering then also the fact that in portals such as Cultura Italia there is only a part of our artistic heritage: so many properties are still waiting to be filed and catalogued. And, as the protesters suggest, the task of renewing the Ministry’s projects should be given to competent professionals, who will receive proper compensation for their work.

The propositional intentions of the protesters, in my humble opinion, should be subjected to review, and we at Windows on Art are of course available to lend our support: this post is nothing more than a reformulation of our proposal on how to employ the 2.5 million euros of the call for proposals. Sharing or not, clearly: this does not detract from the fact that in any case the goal of the proposal should be what to do with the fund. But if the objectives are not clear, we run the risk of not grasping them: this is, after all, the risk of every event, from which the one of the professionals for culture scheduled for January 11 certainly does not escape either.

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