eipcp Policies
09 2011

Culture and Education or Spillover Knowledge Economies

Lina Dokuzović

Lina Dokuzović


The production of knowledge and of cultural or artistic practices has been inextricably linked throughout history, whether having been formally recognized, taking place in accredited institutions or not. However, there has been a recent rise in institutionalized interdisciplinary programs between culture and the sciences, PhD in artistic practice programs, artistic research programs, the emphasis on the “educational turn” in culture, curating and art, museal teaching programs, among others that link culture, education and knowledge production. These programs are marketed as hot new perspectives and have frequently been used as a selling point for placing universities, museums as well as other institutions on the map internationally. At the same time, with interrelational practices in culture and education or knowledge production having a long history,[1] the disregard of both that history as well as the political conditions and societal implications of their interrelations in the process of founding such interdisciplinary programs becomes peculiar.[2] It is also peculiar that while these programs are popping up all over the world, but particularly within Europe, that the fields of culture and education have consistently undergone drastic budget cuts and radical austerity measures nevertheless.

Pitching such interdisciplinary programs as new radical institutional perspectives not only co-opts existing practices and marketizes them, it outlines measures for a new double-standard in public recognition and financial support. This article will, therefore, outline that double-standard by initially breaking down how it is concretely applied in European Union cultural policy and look at how the EU’s broad notion of culture links to harnessing knowledge production in the first part. The second part of this article will then approach the adverse by-products or trickle-down effects of those measures, looking at the exclusion undergirding inclusion, as well as the differing perspectives on the notion of “spillover.”

Interdisciplinarity, innovation and clustering

In May 2007, the European Commission proposed an agenda for Culture, based on three common objectives, one of which is “culture as a catalyst for creativity.”[3] According to that document, cultural industries have become the fastest growing industries in many European nations.[4] In times of economic crisis, the relevance of that information becomes significant and has brought greater attention to cultural policy on an EU level. Reports, such as the Eurostat, have stated that culture functions hand in hand with knowledge production, particularly within higher education, allowing increased mobility between the two; culture has immense potential in integrating women into developing markets, particularly when interlinked with education[5]; and it significantly supports the growth of related sectors, especially in conjunction with knowledge production regarding the innovative potential necessary for scientific research and technological development. The “Interim Evaluation of the Culture Programme 2007–2013” states that:

“This contribution of culture to Europe’s economic development is of increasing interest given the recent global economic downturn. The cultural sector operates in an international and rapidly changing environment where transnational co-operation, mobility, international circulation and the capacity to work on an international level are becoming more and more important. The impact of the crisis on international cultural co-operation cannot yet be fully understood, as it may take some time before public funding cuts at the national level, or reductions in private sponsorship begin to affect the capacity of project promoters to find matching national funding. However the first indications are that budget cuts are taking place, which raises new challenges for cultural operators who wish to engage in international co-operation and also highlights the importance of EU support for such co-operation.”[6]

The benefits that culture has been reported to have for other industries has officially been recognized by the European Commission, in which its significance is not only observed independently, but has subsequently also been shifted from one particular agenda to “mainstreaming culture to all relevant policies”[7] for the support of innovative growth and development. That impact on innovation via proximity to culture is known as “spillover,” in which a wide range of industries receive maximal benefits through culture at minimal cost, i.e. “knowledge spillovers occur when new ideas and technologies developed by creative businesses are fruitfully applied elsewhere without compensation.”[8] Innovation is vital as it is a main objective for resolving some of the EU’s major economic and social challenges in today’s competitive knowledge economy in which Research and Technological Development (RTD) plays a great role. RTD is the main agenda of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and European Research Area (ERA), which were established through the Bologna Process reforms as the designated space of the European knowledge economy. RTD is one of the priorities, if not the main priority, for bringing Europe ahead as a globally competitive knowledge economy.[9]

The European Commission states that: “The link between education and culture is a thread running through the EU’s policies on education, which will be continued, for example, under the Lifelong Learning programme.”[10] The Lifelong Learning Program (LLP) is a European umbrella program for funding. Its main agendas include supporting maximal mobility in the EHEA and tapping into otherwise unrelated areas of industry through its “transversal” programs,[11] which provide for increased spillover potential. With the high capacity for spillover between culture and education, the university becomes the ideal space for implementing such agendas. Initiatives that manage to structure the power of spillover, which bring together as many industries as possible to benefit form each other at minimal cost, can be seen in so-called “cluster” building, particularly in the building of the so-called “creative cluster.” Clusters are concentrations of various interconnected interests and industries which support fruitful competitive growth. They can exist on a concrete geographic level, for example, the clustering of tourism, gastronomy, pedagogy and culture in the European Capital of Culture project or they can exist on an abstract budgetary level, such as partnering Ministries of Education and Science/Innovation to private industries through third-party funding for interdisciplinary research projects. Clusters on the university level can thereby create “clusters of excellence” – referring directly to the “excellence” that is reached when satisfying the standardized statistical outputs normalized by the educational reforms – which then in turn substantiate greater public funding for those institutions. So in effect, Lifelong Learning provides the ideal framework for spillover, with clustering providing the ideal strategy.

While spillover may represent the economic advantages of clustering culture – whether that advantage is through the official yet vague and broad-ranging understanding and application of culture within EU policy on the one hand, or be it the production of art and culture as social constituent, on the other – basing prosperity on co-opted accident is a rather questionable approach to begin with. If the term “spillover” is taken literally, as something which is spilled over or leaked as the accidental result of actions or relations, then it must be understood as having both positive and negative effects rather than existing as pure serendipity.

Discipline, exploitation and exclusion

The global capitalist economy functions on a “flourish or perish” basis. In a supranational structure like the EU, nationality becomes abstracted and branded, allowing a large grouping of similar yet diverse nations to in fact function as an economic cluster in fruitful competition with one another in a confined space. Inclusion into this cluster, therefore, depends highly on potential gains, profit and innovation for that space – which in turn defines and reaffirms (supra-)national inclusion. Buzzwords like intercultural dialogue, affirmative action, integration and diversity management all indicate structural attempts at filtering the productivity that is tolerated and included or that which is not beneficial and thereby excluded. Those that have integrated into the standards outlined by such programs, guidelines and laws, deliberately or not, comply with the exploitative conditions of the market economy to varying degrees, depending on the level of their inclusion. However, those who refuse to integrate or who are not given the chance, due to more extreme forms of discrimination, suffer from a wide range of marginalization or complete exclusion.

When examining profit production via social exclusion in the current European economy in crisis, two parallel levels can be observed: first, EU-internal structures and secondly, the transgressive consequences that stretch beyond the space of the EU which are displaced to the peripheries through migration and deportation policies. This process can be observed in the segregated forms of the same action with, for instance, the free movement for capital, goods, services and citizens within the EU, and the simultaneous maintenance of deportation camps, “waiting rooms” and “security agencies,” which are both complex yet permeable structures, but which are also responsible for the hoards of unrecognized bodies on the shores and at the borders of the EU, such as in the case of Frontex.

On an EU-internal level, the flourish or perish concept has wide-ranging consequences. In the fields of culture and education, flourish means cluster with more profitable industries that can aid to innovation that in turn support multiple facets of industrial development, i.e. adapt the aims and structure of the very knowledge and culture produced to be maximally profitable. Perish, on the other hand, means be wiped out by austerity cuts in the shrinking public budget if the culture and knowledge produced is not profitable or desirable enough for the broader economy (not society). They are thereby either left to the shark pool of the private sector, forced to brand and modify themselves – or presented with methods of tightly framed integration into other fields through clustering. The result is that critical or experimental production in culture and knowledge becomes severed from the public sector and structurally marginalized and subject to precariousness from the very start. The notion of Lifelong Learning becomes the embodiment of spillover, as it is essentially a voluntary investment into production in all industrial sectors with the promise of eventual compensation, resulting in a new class of workers investing into what ends up being lifelong debt.

On an EU-external level, however, with the competition for building the strongest knowledge-based economy in the world providing an essential constituent in the EU’s external policy, those consequences become reflected differently. The level of productivity that an individual displays allows those “external” workers providing high innovative potential increased access to society in the EU, allowing maximal profit through their limited inclusion. Those individuals are in turn considered part of the export economy, because of the high amount that they invest into the area before leaving, taking any risks or maintenance costs with them. It is the same process as spillover for innovation on a globally competitive scale. When understanding the notion of mobility within the EU, it becomes clear that culture and education are key players in guest economies for maximally efficient and profitable innovation, allowing temporary marginal access to the EU, supporting profitable brain-drain and spillover for innovation, supporting guest consumer and export economies.[12] At the same time, however, universities in, e.g. the UK, are put under pressure to cooperate with the Home Office or actually work together with deportation camps.[13]

Education and culture are key in understanding these structures, as they each supply a kind of “untapped” immaterial resource in their endless potential, maximally assisting in times of economic crisis in a crumbling economy based on limited and over-exploited material resources. Culture and education become increasingly profitable when linked together, and even more so when linked to migration policy, tourism or other (supra-)national clusters. By taking advantage of the inadvertent affects of culture, it can become integrated into all other industries with minimal costs and maximal returns, so it is crucial to observe a structural process of how money is being squeezed out of culture and education through budget cuts, but put back in a dispersed way when linked to RTD and industrial innovation.

Thereby the numerous internationally branded interdisciplinary programs emerging should also be seen from a different perspective. They embody the structure and notion of profitable clustering, highlight Lifelong Learning agendas with frequent voluntary investments and related debt, and manage to “discipline” experimental practices which may have not been perceived as profitable in the past. The exclusion of a long history of interrelational work in culture, from artistic research to radical pedagogy, manages to aid in disciplining the future of such practices by repackaging them as a product and as a discipline, in which a formal discipline “points to the issue it keeps under control.”[14] The whole complex process of repackaging, standardizing, commodifying and “disciplining” of these practices and histories visibly exposes the consequences of critical cultural and knowledge production: Spillover effects and innovation are supported, but critical potential is not. The former will be formally disciplined through integration and the latter via marginalization.

However, if we return to the notion of understanding “spillover” literally and consider disasters that result from accidents, perhaps this knowledge can be used in a different way. While, on the one hand, programs and policy agendas explore the transversal effects of spillover within lifelong learning and clustering, transversality, interrelational practices and living learning have been used as some of the most radical emancipatory practices for contesting precisely the discipline and exclusion of culture, the arts and knowledge. The notion of transversality has been used to question the division and structure of disciplines to begin with, and living learning[15] has been a means for strengthening fights for social justice by harnessing collective experiences and alternative knowledges gained from struggle by those excluded from the institutions where knowledge is disciplined. Such concepts have been part and parcel of struggles ranging from those against austerity measures to struggles for basic existential needs, and have re-articulated and created their own parallel histories, knowledges, arts and cultures.

It is not my aim to completely disqualify the value of institutionalized interdisciplinary programs. What I am trying to do though is to show that whether it takes place through mere questioning, sabotage or the re-appropriation of institutionalized knowledge to be brought back into struggles,[16] it is up to each of us to understand the complex processes taking place around us today, and to learn from a long history of radical artistic and cultural practices, autonomous educational practices, and the social and political potential that their overlaps and links generate in order to define how and under which terms we create and work with culture and knowledge. It is clear that “relevant” knowledge will not be given. It has been divided, quantified and is being sold to the highest bidder in a global competition. The histories and knowledges that are hidden, emancipatory and empowering must be retrieved, self-defined and continually re-assessed through lived experience and struggle.


[1] Making a selection of examples trivializes the history and complexity of these practices, but in order to clarify that point, I will attempt to show how vivid even a few of the most well-known examples are: e.g. Joseph Beuys’ lecture-performances as “social sculptures,” or his founding of the Free International University in which he attempted to collectively merge art, politics and education in the 1970s; the work of New Tendencies (NT) in Zagreb, which used emerging technologies to explore the political potential of experimental art; or for literature, see Peter Weiss' novel, Aesthetics of Resistance, which explores a history of resistant “artistic research” from 1933–1945; or the creating worlds issue art/knowledge: overlaps and neighboring zones: http://eipcp.net/transversal/0311; among many many others.

[2] While some of the programs may very well refer to history, many of them are mainly practice-based. However, what I am explicitly referring to here is that by declaring something new and cutting edge, it implies that there was no “old” practice preceding it.

[4] E.g., regarding the UK: “The research also shows that the creative industries are more innovative than many other high-innovation sectors, for example professional and business services. What is more, the creative industries provide a disproportionate number of the innovative businesses in most parts of the country.” Caroline Chapain, Phil Cooke, Lisa De Propis, Stewart MacNeill, Juan Mateos-Garcia, “Creative Clusters and Innovation: Putting Creativity on the Map,” NESTA: National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, Research report: November 2010, pg. 4.

[5] Eurostat, “Cultural Statistics,” 2011 Edition, Pocketbooks, European Union: 2011, pg. 48.

[6] Andrew McCoshan & James Rampton, “Interim Evaluation of the Culture Programme 2007–2013,” Final Report 2010, ECORYS UK on behalf of the European Commission DG Education and Culture, pg. i

[7] The Lisbon Treaty, Article 167, Paragraph 4; formerly EU Treaty, Article 151; See also: http://ec.europa.eu/culture/our-policy-development/doc399_en.htm; http://ec.europa.eu/culture/our-policy-development/doc405_en.htm

[8] Ibid. pg. 24.

[9] For a critical perspective on innovation, see: http://eipcp.net/policies/cci and http://eipcp.net/transversal/0207

[12] Lina Dokuzović and Eduard Freudmann, “Fortified Knowledge: From Supranational Governance to Translocal Resistance”, The Worlds & Knowledges Otherwise, Volume 3, Dossier 2: On Europe, Education, Global Capitalism and Ideology, Ed. Marina Gržinić, Duke University: Jul 2010; http://trinity.duke.edu/globalstudies/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/DokuzovicFreudmannGrzinicWKO3.2.pdf

[13] See, e.g. Valérie Hartwich, “Fortress Academy: The Points-Based Visa System and the Policing of International Students and Academics,” Manifesto Club Report, February 2010; or the map made by the countermapping qmary and £3Cs collectives, “counter/mapping: finding (y)our way through filters and borders”: http://www.countercartographies.org/activities-mainmenu-38/1-news/77-countermapping-qmary-map-released 

[14] Hito Steyerl, “Aesthetics of Resistance? Artistic Research as Discipline and Conflict,” art/knowledge: overlaps and neighboring zones, creating worlds, Jan 2010; http://eipcp.net/transversal/0311/steyerl/en

[15] See, e.g. the concept behind and actions of Vidya Ashram, who base their collective movements around “Lokavidya” or living knowledge of the poor and of the whole of society: www.vidyaashram.org

[16] See the case of members of the social struggles, Rural Network, and the shack dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, in Durban, South Africa. Those movements claim that valid knowledge is not determined by the social hierarchies installed in the university, but is validated by its use in practice in communal struggles. They refer to that knowledge as “living learning” and confronted the notions of “lifelong learning” by appointing members of their movements to infiltrate the university, bringing back relevant material for better articulating their collective struggle for basic needs, in which a “living archive” has been existing at the Abahlali baseMjondolo; Nigel C. Gibson, Anne Harley, Richard Pithouse, “Out of Order: A Living Learning for a Living Politics,” in: Lindela Figlan, Rev. Mavuso, Busi Ngema, Zodwa Nsibande, Sihle Sibisi and Sbu Zikode, Living Learning, The Church Land Programme (CLP), Durban: 2009.

With support of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Education and Culture, IA/4.