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Since 2011, EVA BLIMLINGER has been Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. A historian by academic training, she has previously held posts at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, and the Historical Commission of the Republic of Austria

IN INTERVIEW: EVA BLIMLINGER, ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS VIENNA

Thursday April 6th, 2017

What do you associate with the term “efficiency”?

That it should be interpreted differently from the way it normally is.

For instance?

Efficiency is generally described in quantitative terms, to improve economic data or show that structures have been made leaner. In my view this interpretation should give way to a qualitative concept of efficiency. After all, establishing a culture of constructive dialogue, an open-door policy at management level or low threshold communication paths can also be examples of efficiency at work. All these are qualitative measures that benefit those involved, make it easier to resolve conflicts and help ensure the organisation itself is more efficient. This is because they create a different set of circumstances from the outset and do not retrospectively fall back on standardised procedures.

But these are also measures that cannot be expressed so easily using numbers.

Of course, number is the constant companion of efficiency. In any company, you can easily ascertain how many people you would have to sack to improve your results. But you could also – and this is what we did in the Rector’s Office at the Academy – try to improve the results by rearranging work among your existing staff, thereby creating different working conditions. This allows you to achieve results of the same or similar level, but creates a completely different situation for the employees.

It just means more work.

It means a lot more work. But it is more humane and a lot better for the atmosphere in the workplace. The nagging worry that someone will have to be made redundant is dispelled. The result is increased motivation and qualitative efficiency because people see that their work is valued. An efficient organisational unit implements processes that result in a high degree of satisfaction. Efficiency is not just something that can be counted and measured.

What else might it be?

I would also construe efficiency as greater distributional justice. Many economists might see it differently, but in my view, from a social perspective, an efficient society would be one in which the greatest possible number were doing well. Moreover, for me, ensuring basic human living needs are fully covered for as many people as possible – if possible all people – is quite simply a pretty central concern. Not having to always worry about health, physical needs, living, financial security, etc., would be the bottom line.

And beyond that, is culture a basic need?

Of course art and culture are basic needs, as they give us an opportunity to act in community with one another. If I cannot afford art and culture, I am excluded and dissatisfied. But the same is also true of sport. If the most avid football fan can no longer afford match tickets, it will not be conducive to his greater satisfaction.

Does art need the money?

Art needs business; above all art needs the state. In this I am very much of an etatist persuasion. In my view, the state has an obligation to finance art and culture generally, and education in the fields of art and culture specifically. Particularly in a country like Austria, which benefits to an incredible degree from art and uses all fields of art, be it the visual arts or the performing arts, as a trademark. It must be worth it for the state, what we term the “cultural nation” of Austria, to provide sufficient money. And as for business, you simply have to look very closely at the objectives of companies that seek to promote the arts – sometimes you also have to say “no” on ethical grounds.

How has digitalisation made itself felt in art?

Firstly, as part of art itself, although I wouldn’t presume to imply that artists have to get involved with digitalisation. The mission of an artist is to create art, regardless of whether it is digital or not. Secondly, we can see that students of art are very interested in things that are not digital. Interest in crafts has recently increased so much that we would find it hard to satisfy the demand. A generation has arrived at the Academy that has grown up in a digital world. For them, however, being able to work with wood or metal is something that is completely new. And very popular.

Since 2011, EVA BLIMLINGER has been Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. A historian by academic training, she has previously held posts at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, and the Historical Commission of the Republic of Austria

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