Variant is an independent arts & culture magazine; a platform for critical debate and the circulation of challenging ideas utilising both a pulp and on-line presence.
article archive


events archive
NGM 2013 | Competitive cultural nationalisms across Northern Europe: research practices and cultural policies - call for papers
October Workshop @ Transmission - invitation to participate towards understanding our conditions of 'doing'.
From Funding To Franchise (Workshop) - What does the end of Flexible Funding mean for artist-run spaces in Scotland?
Variant pub-table discussions, December 2010
beneath the crazy paving... urban governance & 'in-between' spaces
"MASHING UP" : Art+Labour a public conversation
Panelists: Angela McRobbie, Scottish Artists Union, Graham Jeffery, Katarzyna Kosmala, Gesa Helms, Brett Bloom, Owen Logan; facilitated by Gordon Asher
  Art+Labour LINKS
Variant pub-table discussions, August 2010
Doodley-doo? Doodley don't! Life and Sabotage, Gesa Helms
"Art Workers Won't Kiss Ass", Owen Logan
What's Left in Feminism?
Maud Bracke,Catherine Eschle, Ailsa McKay, Marina Vishmidt...respond to Nancy Fraser's 'Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History'
chaired by Eleanor Gordon
Imaginal Machines
Autonomy & Self-Organization in the Revolutions of Everyday Life
Stevphen Shukaitis
The harnessing of creativity for urban growth agendas...
or, doing differently.

re:public exhibition at TBG&S, Dublin
Poverty Advocacy & Action
Chik Collins, University of the West of Scotland, and Clydebank Independent Resource Centre: 'To Bankers from Bankies - Incapacity Benefit: Myth and Reality'.
Gesa Helms, University of Glasgow: 'Beyond Aspiration: Young People and decent work in the de-industrialised city, Discussion paper', June 2009.
COMPETITIVE EDGES Symposium : Culture, Nationalism & Migration
A vital opportunity to historically locate contemporary cultural trends and to situate the politics and discourse of diversity in a comparative international context; to examine cultural policies in the context of uneven development and the phenomenal rise of the speculative international economy.
Following the Mute-organised discussion, Variant continue the exploration of the perils and opportunities for critical cultural activity in neoliberalising institutions.
Discussions with representatives of community & activist groups groups from Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and Manchester on community-based engagement in the planning processes of urban regeneration.
60th Anniversary of Human Rights Declaration discussion
A panel discussion at Document 6 : International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival
Eastwards Ho! A New Urban Frontier?
A series of films addressing conflicts over urban space, regeneration and privatisation.
THE ASSAULT ON CULTURE: A Mute Magazine talk on privatisation and
critical artistic practice.
Overidentification and/or Bust?
Public discussion with Stevphen Shukaitis on issues raised by the publication: 'Cultural Activism Today - The Art of Over-Identification'
Everyone's at it!
The Rentier Economy and the Morality of the Cultural Industries

A talk by Jeremy Valentine
Art in the Age of Competitive Cultural Nationalism
Discussion event
Privatising Culture : A One-Day Symposium
on the publication of the draft Culture (Scotland) Bill
Occasional Documents: Towards Situation, Howard Slater
Dialogical Aesthetics: A Critical Framework For Littoral Art, Grant Kester



The 5th Nordic Geographers’ Meeting
University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland, June 11-14, 2013

The NGM is a biennial meeting of Nordic geographers, taking place in turn in one of the Nordic Countries.
The 5th Nordic Geographers Meeting will be held in Reykjavík, Iceland, at the University of Iceland, 11 – 14 June 2013.
The theme of the NGM 2013 is Responsible Geographies. Both human and physical geographers are encouraged to participate under this broad heading. The conference language is English.

Variant call for session + workshop papers


Competitive cultural nationalisms across Northern Europe: research practices and cultural policies


In 2006, Scotland’s current first minister Alex Salmond alleged a Northern European “arc of prosperity”, citing Ireland’s boom-time national image. Also in 2006, Marita Muukkonen, then of Finland-based art magazine FRAME, and formerly of the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Arts (NIFCA), wrote:

“Looking at recent policy and political developments in arts and culture in Finland and the EU it becomes clear that cultural-political instrumentalisation and economisation is infused with nationalist and protectionist tendencies, and that is a growing concern.”

With the strengthening tendency of the transformation of cultural politics into cultural economics highlighted – whereby the processes of arts and culture become a competitive factor of national economic growth – the fuller integration of the aesthetic disciplines into the nation’s economic production of value emerges as a most notable concern.

Moreover, the new articulations of existing power relations that are bound up in these processes – i.e. the way in which notions of passion for and pleasure in work serve as disciplinary devices, enabling high levels of (self-) exploitation (Abbing, 2007); the extremely low levels of union organisation in much cultural labour (Hesmondhalgh/Baker, 2010) – evidently reveals that a promised freedom of autonomy and self-realisation for ‘creative’ workers as a means of economic development did not protect from national financial crises.

With many of these debates situated firmly within policy and practice – marking the shift from a framing of cultural to creative economies (Garnham, 2005) – with this session we invite proposals which enquire into the scope and space for a critical geographical engagement with the issues raised, such as:

  • the extent to which research practices have explored national ‘cultural intimacy’ (Herzfeld, 1997) across Northern Europe – the complex ways in which state and local practices interact, the nation-state eventually containing disparate groups’ contradictory actions and ideologies within national symbolism and sentiment;
  • the impacts on cultural equality and communicative freedom in the context of cultural-economic policy approaches of ‘competitive nationalism’;
  • and with these two strands of inquiry firmly in mind, the extent to which research practices and policy measures come to perform the making of (ir)responsible geographies, and, moreover, frame the meaning of such activities.

For us, such debate is central in furthering the understanding of the effects of cultural policy in the context of ‘place-making’ and the production of space, so as to “critically account for the way ‘power is exercised upon and through practices of mediated public communication’” (Barnett, 2003). And in doing so, allow an exploration of the positions taken and interventions made that not only render policy ‘mobile’ but provide insight into the productive capacity of these across cultural policy, practice and geography.

With this call for papers we are seeking contributions to two sessions:
(a) a paper session, centred around 20 mins papers; and
(b) a collaborative facilitated workshop, based on short impulse papers (5 mins) or poster presentations.

Click here for further details.



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