Transparency of the evaluation process of Arts Promotion Center Finland (TAIKE) and comments on a survey of Center for Cultural Policy Research (CUPORE). Part I. (Romeo Kodra)

THE FEEDBACK. I decided a month ago to write to the Arts Promotion Center of Finland (TAIKE) asking for feedback concerning the evaluation criteria of an application for which I did not receive support. The first reply was that “Taike doesn’t give feedback on individual project proposals/applications. When applying a grant, please familiarize yourself with the call for applications on that specific grant”, which to me sounded like an answer with the intention to check my capacity of reading and understanding a text/the open call. So, I insisted. Then, I received another, more articulated, reply:

“Our criteria of evaluation vary according to grant. Here are some that apply to all:
You must be professional in the field, have artistic training from art schools or have good working experience.
Actively working on the field.
Interesting project plan.
Realistic budget.
For example, I work with Uusimaa region grants. There less than 10 % of applications receive a grant. According to my unofficial statistic 80 % would qualify for grant, they meet all the criteria mentioned above. There is no ‘if you tick these boxes you will get the grant’.
The peer evaluators (= selected artists) do a painful task of trying to sort out from the 80 % which 10 % get the grant. In the beginning of the process we do all discuss together what the process looks like: how many from which fields of art, young/old, region, which sections (composer, singer… painter, ceramic artist) etc. A very complex puzzle. For 2021: 837 people applied for Uusimaa working grant, 41 got the grant.
I do not know if this helps you at all.”

The first part of the email, regarding the “criteria that apply to all”, confirmed the priority given to the institutional+ized artists: “professional in the field”, “artistic training from art school”, “working experience”, “actively working on the field”. All concerning “profession”, in other words artists that profess and confess themselves as belonging or related to something (institutions, ideals) or someone (as disciples); “field”, as if the art was not an expensive “field” and for this reason impossible to define, confine and limit; and “working”, as if it was a clear criterion and not a process of becoming (for more information see the concept of inoperosity in Giorgio Agamben and its relation with genealogy of power and biopolitics in the Western civilization or better the living labor in Marx).
Regarding “interesting plan” I do not want to say anything because is self-evident as totally arbitrary criterion, and the “realistic budget” is not something that should represent any difficulty in giving feedback, as far as anyone understands that the numbers are numbers and not opinions.

The second part regarded the difficulties of the selection process, evidencing firstly the hard work of the evaluators. I am very interested in the archetype of the industrious/Ilmarinen in the Finnish mythology and consequently culture. I do not know why but this tendency of “trumpeting” its own work, paid with public taxes by the way, reminded me another occasion where I noticed a same tendency, the presentation of Municipality’s “Helsinki Art and Culture Vision 2030” (min. 18.44, accessed on 9.9.2021).

Secondly, the email, beyond the “painful task” and “complex puzzle” (which I sincerely believe), highlighted the fact that the “peer evaluators” were “selected artists” (of course by the institution TAIKE), as if the TAIKE’s “selected artists”, supposed belonging to the category of the ARTIST, automatically could guarantee the correctness and quality of the evaluation. Even this second part is very interesting for me, always related with the Finnish mythology (the mythologem of separation/conjunction) and consequently culture, especially for its illuminating construction of discourse, intended literally and linguistically, through which the political power, supported by the capital (private corporate groups), infiltrates the arts and culture, their academic institutions as well as artistic creativity and freedom in general. This kind of construction is a classical persuasive model of discourse through which the neoliberal governmentality and the Capital attract artists thanks to their non-elaborated egoistic and elitist character’s traits as can be noticed by the definition of “selected” and “artists”. Isn’t clear for everyone that my being artist does not guarantee neither my understanding nor my empathy or sympathy of other artists? Moreover, I may be prostituting art for the representational aspects of the art, for the facade of art. I may be deliberately selling myself for money by permitting to the political power the use of my image, status, authority for clear aestheticization of policies and consequently anesthetization of the masses. Do I guarantee the correct evaluation of other artists’ applications without a transparent justification/rationale?

In any case considering that I did not receive pertinent answers I asked again specifying that it was not my primary interest to question the result of the evaluation of my application, but to understand and make a better application the next time. In addition, I specified that I have some theoretical and practical knowledge on the processes of evaluation – making the examples of Creative Europe and Horizon Europe programmes of European Commission where the applicants receive feedback with the points for each criteria as well as its justification/rationale – but did not know if the same process is applied within TAIKE. Moreover I asked whether I was the first person to ask these question.

From 16th of August I did not receive any further information.

THE SURVEY. Yesterday, I received an email from TAIKE and the Center for Cultural Policy Research CUPORE. (… continues).