As Slovenia marks its biggest cultural holiday today – France Prešeren’s day – we look at the role of culture in the country and the life of its individuals over a chat with Mitja Čander, literary critic, essayist, screenwriter and dramatist. Though Slovenians have a profound attitude to culture and the government allocates enough money to support this aspect of local life, there are some crucial elements that need improving, says the Beletrina director.
Culture plays a major part in a Slovene’s life, in terms of theatre and museum visits, but there is a relatively weak private consumption related to this area, notes Čander. “I am thinking in a broader view, not only of cultural products, but also of cultural goods, such as works of art, where very little investment is made at the household level.”
“There is also lack of cooperation between the economy and culture, by which I mean significant sponsorships that would support cultural projects and engagements. All this is a matter of consciousness, and, I believe, it is relatively low,” says Čander.
Room for improvement
In his opinion, there is room for improvements in two areas: the over-fragmentation of cultural resources and excessive labour costs.
Slovenian government allocates around 0.7% of GDP for culture, more than the EU average of around 0.5%. But the money allocated is spread over too many areas and not properly prioritised, says the literary critic.
“We are unable to support really ambitious stories. In my opinion, this is connected with Slovenian egalitarianism, which is based on the principle that ‘everyone should have a little bit, but no one should have too much’,” he says. Another problem is that the money is to a considerable extent allocated for wages in the culture’s public sector. “And that is how we arrive at the pinnacle of Slovenian culture: the public sector wages are the priority while everything else is secondary, from software to investment funds,” concludes Čander.
He further adds that the current state of affairs leads to a paradoxical situation. “We devote a lot of funds for culture, but not much for more demanding programs and investments. We have a situation where libraries have increasingly less money for purchases, theatres have fewer resources for plays that require more complex set and costume designs, while book publishing always has resources for ambitious, large-scale book projects that require bigger investments. ”
If we want a more ambitious and more dynamic culture, we will have to think about changes in relations in Slovenia in the future, because in the private and non-governmental sectors we receive too little, adds Čander, reinforcing that “it would be better to help 10 ambitious projects than to support 30 average ones.”