Mr Schulze, you yourself once criticized the Thuringian Literature Prize when it was publicly accepted. How was it exactly?
Ingo Schulz: It was 2007, so that was quite a while ago, and back then there was something else that was taken for granted. The state of Thuringia had the literature prize, which is endowed with 6,000 euros, financed by “E.ON Energie”. The prize is awarded every two years. This was of course a dilemma for me: 6,000 euros is not a small sum and I wanted to accept the price – but this forced me to deal with E.ON, because as everything was in fact financed by E.ON, that made me the advertising medium of this group. There would be no objections if the E.ON Literature Prize had existed – that would be clear. But it was the Thuringian literature prize and it was a manageable sum. If you think you have to fund it and turn the winner into a publicity medium, I didn’t think that was acceptable.
Instead of refusing, you preferred to raise the issue publicly, directly during the awards ceremony.
Schulz: I was fortunate that year to receive this important community grant for the Villa Massimo in Rome. That year, I could have afforded to refuse such an award because I had this scholarship, but normally no one can afford to refuse something like that. But you can also fund it in other ways. And then I said: If the Free State of Thuringia is ready to do it on its own, then I will give it my prize. And that’s how it happened: they invented an annual literary scholarship, the Harald Gerlach scholarship, in which my 6,000 euros went.
Now the level of moral arousal in people is distributed quite differently. Do you also know colleagues who don’t care about something like that, according to the motto: A horse as a gift…?
Schulz: Everyone must decide this for themselves. I wouldn’t want to judge anyone, but overall it’s something that affects our whole society. Today, there is more than one awareness of this. There are many things to consider. In the end, we are all stuck in one way or another: even if I get something from the state, where does the state get its taxes from? It’s a society with its rules, and you can’t get out of it as an individual.
So you say that we must also let art question the economy, right?
Schulz: When I look at an exhibition sponsored by XY, I also wonder if XY shouldn’t also be questioned in this art. I think this sponsorship also creates dependencies. I can’t really blame the companies for this – it’s a location factor for them. I believe that the legislation on sponsorship also stipulates that it must bring visibility to the company. We have made laws that also require the company to make you an advertising medium. The community, the politicians, have to decide and change that.
However, sponsorship also makes a lot of things possible that you wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. Unless you have a private opera house in the west wing and your own photo gallery in the south wing, right?
Schulz: But it’s also a question of taxes: if you sponsor, you pay less tax. So you get something released from the community. And we have to see to what extent it makes sense to entrust it to individuals. For a museum director, it can sometimes be easier to work with private companies because decisions are then often quicker. But this is fundamentally debatable. Fortunately, today there is a greater awareness of this.
For laymen, it is often difficult to see which company participations are still hidden behind sponsors. As a visitor to an exhibition or a concertgoer, hardly anyone knows where the money comes from. What do you mean?
Schulz: No, it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand either, only where it takes over. I think it’s also a question of dignity. We can afford art and we should. You have to think about sponsorship, because you’re losing taxpayers’ money as a result. It really is a compromise.
For some, this currently unclear situation leads to a demand for some sort of stamp of approval for funding in the cultural sector. Would it be useful to create here clear and binding criteria for everyone?
Schulz: I did not know. I think that’s a good thing.
The interview led Philippe Cavert.