Cultural rights are seen as everybody’s right to enjoy art. What about artists’ rights to a fair compensation for their human and societal contributions? This question is of increasing importance as the creative sector has significantly transformed working life, overtaking several industrial sectors in volume and turnover. As a lawyer and working life researcher, I wish to focus on the legal status of artists in working life, as well as the working of funding agencies. Labour law is insensitive to the ways artists work. Long-term, full-time employment is labour law’s simplistic premise. What deviates from this is termed a-typical, as a deviation from the ‘standard’ although this ‘a-typical’ is increasingly a rule rather than an exception. The legal implication is that an increasing number of working people become members of the precariat.
Project funding is a major means through which artists can work in their profession. How freely can artists pursue their work when confronted with the conditions funding agencies place for the applications? Moreover, there is an exorbitant burden put on people who need to secure funding to carry out their work. Many application procedures make funding out of reach for individual persons and small groups. At the same time, a new profession has emerged, experts on how to apply for funding, consuming resources that artists should use for their work.
We need a changed perception of work that takes account of all activities people are engaged in, including activities in civil society that are a major source of bottom-up innovations. Here artists can, with their longstanding experience, serve as precursors. A universal basic income is a way of undoing knots in present structures. The digital age, again, offers new ways of doing things. For the burdensome processes of applying for funding, a reversed process could be applied. Funding platforms could be a location where artists present their projects, from which funding agencies would pick the projects they want to support. Both a universal basic income and a reversed application process safeguard the autonomy of the creative processes. Instead of different requirements that each founding agency has for applicants to abide by, an application should be treated ‘as is’ that funding agencies should decide on, in line with their mission statement.