AN OPEN LETTER FROM ARTISTS
September 12, 2003
It is time to secure the rights of artists globally. These rights are at risk because international trade courts are ruling on artistic matters.
We are artists and citizens of the global village. We come from every community and work in all artistic fields. Through our words, music, films, dance, paintings and plays, in every language on earth, we entertain, inform and engage our fellow citizens in the adventure of being human.
It is an exciting time to be an artist. Technologies can overcome physical distance and allow our works to be shared more widely than ever before. We have the potential to exchange and blend our rich diversity of cultural practices in ways our ancestors could only imagine.
It is also a dangerous time. Many human conflicts arise from a failure to recognize cultural complexities or from perceived threats to cultural values. The road to security and prosperity requires that we celebrate and encourage our cultural diversity and embrace and respect our cultural differences.
Some believe artistic creations are no different from conventional goods and services and they deny or ignore the powerful cultural importance of works of the human imagination. For some of the world’s largest corporations, artistic works are commodities to be bought and sold like any other. They seek to dominate the world’s markets with homogenized forms of popular culture and thus marginalize artists in many of our communities.
Our world of unequal economic relationships has created unequal cultural relationships. We believe governments have a responsibility to resist the economic push by implementing policies that support diverse local artists and cultural producers, and ensure pluralism in the media and the arts. This will create more choice and bring about a greater balance in exchange between cultures. Governments must also preserve threatened cultures and languages, especially those of indigenous peoples.
An important struggle between these incompatible visions is underway in trade negotiations. Trade officials negotiate rules that would hasten a global monoculture and make it virtually impossible for communities to support their artists. We oppose these efforts.
At the same time, discussions have started within and outside UNESCO to develop a new global Convention on Cultural Diversity to provide a legal foundation for government measures that support cultural diversity and to encourage governments to use that authority domestically. We support this initiative.
As artists, we come from different disciplines; as citizens, we come from different countries.
But, we are united in our call to the world’s leaders:
“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be
stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as
freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”
Eugenio Aguirre (México, writer)