Learning from precarity | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 28, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0779-7397
  • E-ISSN:



The arts sector was in a precarious state long before covid-19 broke out. Job insecurity, low or no wages, fluctuating funding and alternating government attitudes towards the sector have caused artists to get used to living in a constant state of precarity. Therefore, this essay will explore what precarity, crisis and imagination mean for the arts sector. It will examine to what extent these notions, intrinsically connected with the sector itself, are capable of producing change for the sector — and for society as a whole. Starting with a reflection on the three notions of crisis, precarity, and imagination in relation to the current state of the arts sector, this essay will argue why they might be the ingredients of a ‘perfect storm’. A perfect storm consisting of all the necessary elements that could produce a lasting institutional change in the arts sector. Next, this essay will delve into the precarious state of the arts and the artist in two neighbouring countries: Belgium – and more specifically Flanders – and the Netherlands. This essay will look at the social, cultural, and political differences between the Netherlands and Flanders in how they value and fund the arts and how they handle relief funds for the arts sector during the corona crisis by examining the immediate responses to the crisis in a time frame from March until July 2020. Finally, this essay will examine whether the current crisis – and subsequent ‘perfect storm’ – can revive the debate on a basic income, and argue why the arts sector is an ideal place to experiment with this.


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