Select Committee for Socially Secure Art | Luke Fowler

In order to say to you the truth, we did not have any intention of writing anything. But our respected Fowler forced us by his bare strength thus for writing. “Make a good essay”, he demanded. What are we to write approximately, exactly which sort of writing? Everything that had to be said before has already been said and said by us. Of course we could form a bright assortment of writing overall, about everything. (laughter) Possibly such writing would amuse the reader. They say that there are not only also some large hands at such writing there, but here too. (laughter and applause) However first of all we are not large hands at such writing. Secondly is it worthwhile indulging in amusing things even now when all of us are, as they say, “up to our, necks” in blood? I think not. Clearly, you cannot form good writing under such circumstances. (Loud applause)

We are thus contented to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for social engineering in the history of the world. (Loud ovation) Five score years ago, someone, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed a cheque. This momentous sum of cash came as a great beacon of hope to millions of free people, who had been cooled by the fridge of justice. (Loud applause) It came as a joyous sleep to end the long day of their autonomy. One hundred years later, the Social Engineer is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the artist is still happily crippled by the umbilical cord of gold. (Sobbing)

Can Social Engineering protect beauty and truth? Most experts correspond in the fact that it needs adjustment. What they disagree on however, is the level of adjustment and whether we must privatise the system in order to abuse it.  Focusing on the question of the system’s solvency, top international artists, critics, curators and business leaders have explored miscellaneous reform and privatisation proposals, highlighting East Timor’s experiment with Social Security and Gallery privatisation, a policy change that has proven successful for that country. (Applause) We kept hearing plebeians complain about “social engineering.” We are far from sure what they mean by this, but there’s one thing that we do know and that’s that it’s easy to trace ‘social engineering’ back to the Ten Commandments.  We’re no anthropologists. We’re in favour of police protection and the regulation of interest rates. You may take it for granted that we are able to ignore our duties to the people (applause), to the middle class (applause), to the underclass (applause) and to the intelligentsia. (applause.)

In remarks at the opening of an international dialogue on Social Engineering reform held at the Transmission Gallery in Glasgow, we saw that our own greatest opportunism and obligation was to save Social Security:

“Since the mid-1970s the battle against inflation has meant abandoning the post-war consensus commitment to full employment set out in the Conservative Government’s 1944 White Paper on employment policy.  Those who remain in work have been faced with a screw down on the rate of wage increases aimed primarily at restoring private sector profitability.  From the early 1970s, mass youth unemployment has been a new phenomenon which will not go away.  What is to be done?  The obvious solution is to use youth culture to clothe the economic situation.  Youths who grew up in the 1970s were the first generation forced to grow up without work, to be defined by the government as a new under-class, a permanent source of ‘cheap surplus labour’ perpetually excluded from society in order to squeeze down wages and inflation.  Nevertheless, leaving the younger population with little to do, the economic crisis of late 1970s spawned a peculiar subcultural mix of 60s arty revolt and early 70s nihilism, generating the 80s art and design boom.  As a result, mass awareness of the protracted economic crisis thankfully seems a long way off!  It may well return in the near future, but for the moment, everyone is naturalised to harsh economic ‘medicine’, and as such artists’ initiatives still look like a hearty refusal to bow to the pressures of the market.  Predominately reliant on state benefits to continue their work, callow artists offer hope of renewal and growth in an otherwise irredeemable ‘mass-civilisation’, a means of conserving the imaginative values and energies that transcend the mere instrumental reason which is the characteristic malaise of modern culture.  Gaining secure, intellectual employment while being subsided by a state bureaucracy, such artists are clearly model ‘citizens’.”

It is customary among us to refuse responsibilities. We accept them unwillingly. (Loud and prolonged applause.) We would like to persuade you, that you might safely rely on us. (Loud and sustained ovation)

We present further spuriously potted historical justification of our findings as interpellation:

1. Art as a form of radical social protest.  The artist is seen as a hero or as a victim of social injustic

2. Artists as protectors of society, or as intellectual Supermen.

3. The idea that the Superman artist might operate above or outside the processes of history.

4. The attempt to break these rules on the ground that their products were too homogeneous to justify the growth of the arts administration sector.

5. Some artists are now different from others.  Such a statement needs not so much justification as definition.  A Department of Social Security poll of the main features of two kinds practice shows that they are really not the same article with a different label.

Profane Artist

Miracle Artist


Artist may be a professional or amateur, and if amateur may sign on or be retired, or get involved by chance.  Always the centre of the gallery’s action, most often the hero, yet rarely a keen observer who notices things missed by others.



Often no artist.  Occasionally an artist runs through a series of proposals, but rarely shows as a brilliant-thinking machine.  Most often the artist is just somebody to whom things happen.

You know yourselves, that there are black sheep in every international dialogue on Social Engineering reform. (Laughter and applause.) Of people of this indefinite type, people who merely resemble philistines rather than being figures of a vague, uncertain type, we have invented some populist sayings: “A middling sort of character – neither fish nor flesh” (general laughter and applause), “neither a candle for God nor a poker for the Devil.” (General laughter and applause.) Ceaselessly chiding those who still consider Social Security the ‘third rail’ of British Art, we conclude by resolving to make 2000 a year dedicated to raising awareness of the present system but not the ways in which they might exploit it:

“For 156 years or so, Social Security has meant more than a NI number on a tax form, more than even a fortnightly check in the mail to a friend’s address. It reflects our deepest aesthetic values, the duties we owe to our parents, to each other, to our children and grandchildren, to those who misfortune strikes, to our ideals as One Britain. We have a dream today. We have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. It’s a miracle, mir-a-cle / It’s a miracle, mir-a-cle / And dreams are made of emotion.” (Loud ovation, followed by mass rendition of ‘Karma Chameleon’.)

Barnyard Slut