A new UNESCO analytic report on the status of the artist, published in September 2015, focuses on four key areas that are affecting artists’ social and economic situations today: digital technologies and the Internet, artist mobility, social protections, and freedom of artistic expression.
As the world continues to change with its advances in technology and the digital sphere, artists have to navigate these new waters to be able to do their work freely and safely, while also juggling often confusing logistics and ever-present social and cultural norms and pressures that sometimes endanger their works and themselves.
While many of the concerns in the report are new, some sadly are not.
On artist mobility
Artists travelling to perform their work in other countries continue to face a mountain of complicated issues, including general logistics of securing visas, legal requirements to work abroad, and taxation rules in home and foreign countries, as well as navigating the perceptions people have of them as they enter new countries or leave their own.
Freemuse addressed several of these issues back in 2009 in its white paper, ‘VISAS/the discordant note,’ yet this new UNESCO analysis confirms that six years later many of the same obstacles remain.
The report found that most member states were open to this artist mobility and that it promoted diversity and dialogue; however there is a “gap” between the sentiment of openness and the reality of all the processes. The report recommends that member states and UNESCO should “work collaboratively” with artists’ associations and relevant international and national non-governmental organisations to allow for artists to travel and work as easily as possible.
On freedom of artistic expression
While most member states reported that freedom of expression is in their constitutions or similar documents, only a few “explicitly protect freedom of artistic expression, or artistic creation, or freedom from censorship,” the report noted. And most respondents acknowledged that they do have “limitations” in cases of criminal behaviour, child protection, libel, and slander.
The report also notes that some have reported other challenges to the freedom of artistic expression, such as a lack of facilities to present or perform artistic works, negative perceptions of artists, developing and poor economies, as well the “difficult financial position of artists.”
In light of these challenging circumstances, the report makes the same recommendation as the UN Special Rapporteur does, which is that member states “should review critically” their laws and practices that restrict the artistic freedom of expression.
On the report
The new 49-page analytic report, prepared by Garry Neil, synthesises inputs from 60 member states and outlines several recommendations and best practices around these contemporary issues for members and UNESCO to undertake to improve the status of artists through their policies and practices.
This new report supports UNESCO’s 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, one of the first international documents addressing artists’ issues, which calls upon member states to improve, through various policies and practices, the professional, social, and economic situation of artists, as well as recognising their various rights.
» Download the Full Analytic Report 2015 (PDF)
» Read more on the UNESCO’s 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist
» Artsfreedom.org – 10 November 2015:
UNESCO focus on artistic freedom
» Freemuse.org – 21 January 2009:
VISAS | the discordant note