[...] our ability to oscillate between non-fiction and fiction is crucial in imagining other worlds, in being creative, in presenting different models of society or in addressing ecological issues.
The classic nineteenth-century museums provided depth by presenting history, offered a stepladder by way of an exemplary canon and provided 'grandeur' to anyone exhibiting there, and even to those wandering around in them. The consecration of the actual work of art could only take place in relation to the deep wells of history. In art education, there was a similar hierarchical relationship between those who knew and those who did not (yet) know.
Without trying to romanticize their function — the history that institutions carry with them can also be crushing and the bureaucracy they embrace can be too rigid to allow for any rebellion or literal 'uprising' — one can safely say that classic institutions at least stood for a hierarchy of values that assessed and measured creativity differently from the way it is done in the present dominant system of measuring investment and output.
After the 1999 Bologna Agreement, not only did the educational arena in Europe become highly uniform and rational, it was also redefined as a market space where educational institutes fiercely compete for students, outbidding each other in offering easily interchangeable competencies. Within this system, students are treated like entrepreneurs, while the relationship between teacher and pupil takes the form of a contract.
According to Sloterdijk, the overturning of verticality into horizontality, and of book culture into net culture, also generates a kind of controlled 'jungle pedagogics' within education, whereby 'interdisciplinarity' is the buzzword that eradicates all disciplines (and thus depth — 'time to dig deep', as Richard Sennett  would say).
Beginning in the 1970s, the function of the museums has slowly but surely been eroded by the rapid succession of temporary exhibitions and biennials, introducing a structural amnesia in the field of art, causing it to suffer from a loss of depth (Gielen, 2009).
The creative worker of today is not so much a trapeze artist but more of a (social) networker.
Mobility and networking are today part of the art world's doctrine, and in fact that of the entire world of professionals. Artists who stay at home in their studios are morally reprehended and accused of localism. They nourish false illusions on an island where they still have solid ground beneath their feet. But nowadays artists are either international or they are nobodies. Curators are connected or they are nobodies. These may sound like the ground rules of the contemporary art world, but they are also the adages of global late capitalism, which has, over the past few decades, effortlessly invaded the artistic realm through cultural and creative industrialization. This late capitalism, by the way, has a lot to gain from us seeing ourselves as mobile actors in a fluid networked world. Individuals as well as organizations feel that their true selves are 'corporate identities on the open sea', as Sloterdijk says in his writings about globalization (2006:90).
The 'immanism' of liberal representative democracy, as the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy calls it (1991), regards society as the sum of independent individuals, who are finding it increasingly difficult to forge relational ties.
[...] creativity is often equated with 'problem-solving', which is something else entirely than causing problems or, rather, problematizing issues, a task that was until recently reserved for the artist or dabbler.
Creative capitalism of course tells its protagonists that they are, or at least should be, in control of their own lives and working conditions. It is their moral obligation. In exchange for this opportunity for self-regulation, the artist as well as the curator is prepared to offer her or his virtuosity cheaply, and sometimes for free. The desire for autonomy, fuelled by the neoliberal appeal for realism and 'personal responsibility', eventually leads to 'self-precarization'. Artistic entrepreneurs take risks and neglect institutional securities (disability insurance, pension funds, etcetera), believing they can take care of these things themselves. Within these parameters, work offers the experience of a unique chance for self-realization, and that is exactly why labour is offered at low rates.
What's more, because art institutions are less and less able to build and protect their own value regime in an auto-referential way, artists are increasingly positioning themselves according to a measurable economic reality within the current neoliberal hegemony. This not only causes them to take less risks, but also means that the grace period for 'unprofitable' artistic experimentation is shortened.
Just as the market today is overflowing its banks, the art institution will have to go beyond its own borders to intervene in the world. It would be an illusion to think that we can keep neoliberalism from penetrating the walls of the institutions. What's more, it would be reactionary to defensively withdraw again to one's own temple in the spirit of the modernist ideal. Rather, art will have to burst at the seams and break into 'alien' social domains such as the domestic domain of the private home, into the familiar spheres of its peers in art academies and studios, into civil space and the political arena and, yes, into the free market and ruling neoliberalism.
From the very moment that art started calling itself 'contemporary' (everything that is made now is contemporary and therefore has no historical depth, but neither does it have a future), it not only lost its verticality. By applying such sterile self-labelling (which by the way is remarkably in tune with the movement in the 1970s through the 1980s towards post-Fordism and neoliberalism), art lost its own voice. Everything that is made today can be labelled 'contemporary' and this automatically disqualifies anything that was made yesterday. Contemporary art refuses to make a clean break with the past, precisely through an uncomplicated forgetting. But in its embrace of the hyper-current, art above all lost the vigour to really concern itself with history. The intoxication of the contemporary leaves no time for solidification and so everything remains fluid. In its desire to be 'with it', to 'keep up with the times' and not, like the historical avant-garde, be ahead of its time, contemporary art gave up on any utopian plan to really intervene in the world. In short, the route from fiction to non-fiction was closed. Contemporary art has exiled itself to a safe island within the white walls of the purely imaginary, where anything is possible as long as it makes no claim to reality.
Practically all mainstream political discourse is suspicious of, and skeptical towards, the State, planning and the possibilities of organized change. 'Is' slides into 'ought', as historical claims about the emergence of a new kind of network society quickly become breathless celebrations of this networked world. To say that this is an ideology is not to say that the material shifts described by these theorists are not real; it is only to acknowledge that the technological changes which these writers identify do not spontaneously give rise to political discourses or perspectives. The appearance of spontaneity is itself an ideological effect. The widespread acceptance of this network ideology – with its conviction that hierarchies have been superseded by networks, and its privileging of flexibility and fluidity over fixity – signals that some arguments originally presented by post-68 theorists such as Lyotard and Deleuze and Guattari have now been absorbed into the mainstream. The ubiquity of concepts such as diversity, plurality and inclusivity together with the widespread hostility towards the idea that there could be absolute values, means that Lyotard's once-reviled 'postmodernism' now practically constitutes common sense. The success of the network ideology is part of a general crisis of political and cultural authority. Certain left-wing versions of the ideology (especially those circulated within the neo-anarchist currents which have become synonymous with the Occupy Movement) maintain that authority is an intrinsically right-wing concept. Authority itself is bad.
It is important to recognize, then, that post-Fordist capitalism and neoliberalism are a capturing of workers' desires. The problem is not desire itself — as opposed, let's say to the ascetic rigour of the disciplined militant — but the way in which capital has been better able than the left to absorb and instrumentalize the desires that erupted in the 1960s. The right has been able to profit from identifying the left with an allegedly superseded 'top down' version of politics which is all about blocking or containing desire.
Isn't it strange that public institutions don't reflect upon their own significance, even though the urgency is so great?
There seems to be a widespread aspiration to imbue institutions with new meaning. They are seen as potential locations for the perspective of future humanity, as places that may constitute authority in a more democratic and collective fashion, and even as an instrument to reinvent the State. The political is not only happening in the sphere of politics, and — conversely — the aesthetic is not only happening in the realm of art and culture.