#konstnärligfrihet – Enough is enough!

5 December 2017

Konstfack's Vice-Chancellor Maria Lantz on the latest #metoo related appeal #konstnärligfrihet – with witness testimonies from individuals active within contemporary art.

As Vice-Chancellor of Konstfack, as an artist and fellow human, I welcome all testimonies about actions that violate a respectful and equal view of and behaviour toward other people. This is also true of the appeals related to #metoo. In one of the latest, called #konstnärligfrihet (artistic freedom), there are over 2000 testimonies from people active within contemporary art in Sweden about oppressive and diminishing abuse of power as well as harassment and abuse. Because I have been both a student and a teacher during the 25 years the testimonies extend back in time to, I can unfortunately confirm several stories. It is a dirty historiography we see – and at the same time uplifting that so many are now speaking out. It is obvious that changes must be made to the practice, norms and structures within contemporary art.

Sometimes the testimonies are related to art colleges and universities. Today, there are routines and policies for all unequal/offensive/non-professional treatments. During the past ten years Konstfack has "only" had two cases at the Staff Welfare Board. None of these related to sexual harassment nor did they lead to a conviction. Konstfack has also during the past 10 years not received any reports against teachers in relation to sexual harassment and abuse. However, there is risk that regulations remain as well-formulated words and hidden statistics. Is there a silent culture at our place? We need to review this, continuously.

In relation to employment, knowledge about norm critique/intersectional perspectives is a requirement we have when hiring a teacher or professor. We are going to focus on this even more. Furthermore, we should immediately include questions about abusive behaviours during the reference stages as an assessment of "educational skills" when we hire teachers. Specifically, it means that questions about sexist behaviour, suppressive techniques, etc is directed to the applicant's references and/or dependants. I hope that all art colleges and universities do this. Otherwise people with this type of unhealthy behaviour continue to be rewarded in our system!

In addition, I want to explain that we have ongoing work in relation to the working environment at Konstfack:

- Working environment issues is a permanent point on the agenda of regular management meetings. We will do a follow-up on previous employee surveys. No notifications about sexual harassment occurred in 2015, however, notes about certain trends in suppressive techniques.

- A similar survey is planned for students.

- We are reviewing our party and alcohol policies. We know that the risk for abuse increases when alcohol is in the picture.

- We encourage staff and students to report violations of all kinds. The question will also be raised in the afore mentioned surveys.

In a learning environment, which often influences the rest of a young person's life, it is vital that safety, productivity, development and wellbeing applies to everyone. Every day, in all areas. In Konstfack's values, it is listed that "our type of work is inclusive and we show each other trust and mutual respect." This is what I want to remind you about – significantly more often now than before #metoo. Zero tolerance applies to anything that is contrary to this. Enough is enough.

Maria Lantz, Vice-Chancellor, Konstfack

Welcome to a panel discussion on #metoo and the art institutions' responsibility, at Moderna Museet in Stockholm on Wednesday 13 December at 6pm.

Updated: 5 December 2017