Mihai Florea is a professional actor and a part-time teacher and researcher in Theatre Studies at the University of Bristol, UK, and recipient of a Duignan bursary for a PhD thesis titled Actor in a Second Language. He has presented academic papers at universities in the UK, Finland and Lithuania. He is an Associate Member of the Brokering Intercultural Exchange Network, and a co-founder of Nu Nu, a theatre company that supports professional actors who use English as a second (non-native) language. He also established and coordinates CASL (Centre for Actors in a Second Language), an online research tool dedicated to the theme of second language acting. One of his articles, entitled ‘Egg-fying’ Hamlet: The Second Language Actor and Shakespeare Grammaticality will appear in April 2019.
Are there limits to democratizing the arts through a discourse of diversity?
My intervention seeks to respond to aspects encompassed in sections a) and c) of the Call for Papers: Managing Democracy through a Discourse of Diversity and Democratizing the Arts Practice. The aim is to interrogate what are (if any) the limits to the idea of ‘’involv[ing] more and diverse people in the artistic process and while doing so gaining more societal as well as social relevance.’’ (Henze 2017)
The argument is conducted in the context of my experience as an arts manager/theatre-maker based in the UK but born and having had the experience of Communist-style cultural policies in Romania.
The paper/provocation will be focused on a comparison exercise between the principles for diversity and participation, as outlined in the Arts Council England’s document Creative Case for Diversity versus the principles underpinning the cultural manifestation called Song of Romania, which was a corollary of the Party’s ambition to ‘’increase the contribution of the people’s genius to the national and universal cultural patrimony.’’
The comparison exercise brings into discussion ambitions for diversity in art in the UK, whilst detailing how and why the ideal of involving the masses into art failed in Communist Romania. The purpose of the exercise if to understand if some of the lessons learned in the Romanian context could be applied in the current discussions of diversity and democratization of the arts in the UK. Aren’t we risking – by inclining towards an idea of a total democratization of the arts – entering a zone where the border between artist and non-artist completely disappears? Wouldn’t that leave way for a total politicization of the arts, like in the Communist case? Wouldn’t democratization and a race for diversity (sometimes for diversity’s sake) compromise the professional levels of artist and her art, by trying to make the work ever more accessible, ever more inclusive? Are there (or should there be) limits to democratizing the arts through a discourse of diversity? Can art ever be fully democratic?