Culture as Infrastructure – A CHASS Seminar

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Justin O’Connor, Professor of Cultural Economy, University of South Australia
Dan Hill, Director, Melbourne School of Design
Tully Barnett, Director, Assemblage Centre for Creative Arts, Flinders University

Over the last two decades the dominant paradigm for art and culture has been the ‘creative economy’ and its urban counterpart the ‘creative city’. These have prioritised ‘jobs and growth’ and ‘urban regeneration’ (parsed as rental yields, visitor numbers, inward investment etc.) and have been accompanied by growing precarity, inequality, indebtedness and ‘gentrification’. Whilst other fields of social science have sought to reframe social and economic policy around providing for the social foundations in the context of sustainability and social justice, and urban geographers and designers have sought to re-embed urban policy in the everyday lives and needs of its citizens, (urban) cultural policy has remained resolutely in a neoliberal mindset. As a result, it has been left behind. At the recent 2021 ‘State of Australian Cities’ conference there were over 500 papers, panels and keynotes. Only two mentioned the word ‘culture’. Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut’ concept attempts to frame the ‘social foundations’ within planetary limits, giving rise to a number of applied ‘city doughnuts’ including Amsterdam, Brisbane and Melbourne. Only the last includes ‘art and culture’. Many UN and EU instigated projects for sustainable urban development also fail to mention culture, just as it is absent from the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In this seminar we attempt to suggest not only why culture has been so excluded from new forms of contemporary thinking about socio-economic policy and urban sustainability, but also how we might reframe culture within this new agenda. To this end, Justin O’Connor will talk about his work linking art and culture to the ideas of the Foundational Economy Collective and their concept of material and social infrastructures; Dan Hill will talk about his work with urban design and city governance, and his reconceptualising of urban infrastructure as culture; and Tully Barnett will speak about the Melbourne doughnut and the reasons for, and implications of the Melbourne doughnut’s inclusion of both ‘art and culture’ and ‘connection to country’ in its model.

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5 September 2022
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm UTC+0
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Council for the Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences
+61 3 8344 9081
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