Ladislav Snopko, Curator, former Minister of Culture of the Slovak Republic
I have been always acting like a minister of culture. I have been organizing cultural events and, for a short time, I was the official Minister of Culture.
When I was the Minister of Culture, I was striving to enforce a constitutional principle in the three main fields of support for culture and art. I was talking about the constitutional right of a citizen to access culture; the protection of cultural heritage and monuments; and support for culture. The first one, the constitutional right to access culture, is based on enabling every citizen to consume the type of art that he or she considers important. For example, if a book that someone is interested in is expensive, he or she should have a possibility to get it from other sources, such as a library. If a citizen wants to express himself in a creative way, there should be opportunities to do have a hobby and to meet with other people who have the same interests, for example in amateur theatre groups.
The second point, the protection of the cultural heritage is the preservation of recognized monuments. However, when talking about the third point, supporting culture, I was arguing that not everything that is created is art. Here, I was contending that only the best ones should be supported. The community of artists wanted a law to protect the artists. So, I was asking them, why shouldn't there also be a law to protect doctors and shoemakers. They are also important. An average doctor can become a good family doctor. But who would need an average artist? It's better if he or she would make living by doing something else.
Artists who in the previous regime were creating in the style of socialist realism had the postulate that they are something more than the rest of the society. In their work, they were praising the communistic party and they acquired a feeling that they are special.
As the state was an atheist state, these official artists were like magicians or some spiritual people that were giving glory to the Bolshevik
; and this is where their pride came from. Their art was bad, but socially they belonged to the top of the society. They were better off than anybody else. So, my destiny as a Minister of Culture was to free those artists from being the most important people in the society and to show them that the artists who were living in a lower social status were making good art. This was the change that happened after the revolution.
I was hoping that this change will bring new spiritual values. This is not happening because people are very comfortable and have bad taste. It is as if the trends are winning over the meaning and content. But this is not just our problem anymore, this is happening all over the world. This is consequence of the change of communication between people, from quality to quantity. Because of this, people cannot distinguish what information is important. It is also a problem with teachers; even they are not able to distinguish between the two things. And it is not only with the teachers, but with the elite of the nation.
However, I don't think that quality has completely disappeared. It's just that not everyone knows about it. It is not dominant. Our public sector is overflowing with a lot of unnecessary material stuff. Before, the motivation for human creativity and acting was something higher, such as hope. Now, the market has produced people that are motivated by addiction. It is an addiction to fashion, trends, cars, pretty girls, money, and whatever else, including heroin. I call it the "MSG generation". MSG is a chemical that they use to flavor salty sticks (pretzels). Before you finish eating one, you already want another.
When I'm comparing the communistic regime with the current one, it is as if I would be comparing life in a zoo with life in the wild. A problem occurs when you let out all of the animals from the zoo into nature. They can become crazy, because they don't know what to do with this freedom. This happened to us. A lot of people still want someone to feed them. They don't know how to take care of themselves.
This interview was in Slovak with the aid of a translator
Photo by Mariana Ribeiro