14 December 2013
The government has no intention of closing state theaters or other state-funded cultural institutions, Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik said Dec. 13, adding, however, the redefinition of the state’s role was necessary and the production of culture should be “open to competition.”
“A perspective based on the closure or the disbandment of culture and art institutions is something far outside of our vision. What we are talking about is the restructuring and modernization of the state’s art production,” Çelik said responding to a parliamentary question on the eventual closure of state theaters during the debate on the Culture Ministry’s budget for next year at the General Assembly in Ankara.
“It should be acknowledged that a culture and art field where the state has such a financial power and the artist is a public employee cannot be liberal and pluralistic,” Çelik said, emphasizing that culture and art could become vehicles of a certain ideology if they remained too dependent on the state.
“It should also be acknowledged that the culture and art field was left sterile and the relations between the state and cultural production should be restructured. This should be opened to competition,” Çelik said.
The status of both state and city theaters’ is in limbo after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan suggested last year that they should be privatized.
Back in June, Çelik’s Ministry controversially removed the Director General of State Theaters Lemi Bilgin only days after he initiated the publication of full-page advertisements in several daily newspapers, outlining the performance of the State Theatres over 2012. The ministry is said to have considered these advertisements a reaction against recently surfaced plans by the government to close down the state theaters.
Many artists took to the streets to protest against the eventual closure of state theaters many times over the last year.
Çelik told during the plenary session the reform aimed to reach international standards. He also said cultural institutions should be vigilant regarding morals when using public money.
“You have to put a standard when public funds are used. Whoever uses public money should be careful about general moral standards. I’m saying this assuming that everyone is aware of the difference between being careful about moral criteria and moralism,” Çelik said.
The demolition of Istanbul’s historic Emek Movie Theater triggered protests fiercely repressed by the police. The destruction of Ankara’s landmark Akün and Þinasi theaters also led to solidarity initiative among artists.