17 May 2023

Reset seeks to understand and reframe the discussion around arts and culture in South Australia, nationally and internationally. It is led by a collaborative group of people representing the three universities and members of the arts and culture sector in South Australia: CP3 Associate Director, Professor Justin O’Connor (UniSA), Tully Barnett (Flinders University) and Maggie Tonkin (University of Adelaide).

We asked CP3 Associate Director, Professor Justin O’Connor, to tell us more about Reset and give us an update on recent developments.

What are some of the most significant milestones or achievements for the Reset collective to date?
The first year, 2021, ended with a large conference – one of the first after all the lockdowns had ended. We followed up in early 2022 with a substantial working paper and a short statement or manifesto. In that year, with the local state election and the Federal one in May, we were very concerned with trying to engage with government agendas, especially as Tony Burke MP had spoken at our conference. Reset made a number of media interventions as well as submitting directly to the consultation process for the new National Cultural Policy. In late 2022 we also spoke at a number of European conferences, getting the word out there on the international scene.

You are regularly invited as a plenary speaker to share your expertise in this subject, including the UNESCO Creative Cities Meeting for the Victorian Network (March 2023); the Izmir Leading Cities Programme hosted by United Cities and Local Government Association (December 2022); and the South African Cultural Observatory 4th International Conference, Pretoria (November 2022). What were some of the highlights or achievements from these events?
I think the most high-profile session was 25 minutes in front of the United Nations senior management group. Chaired by the Director General Antonio Gutarres, I was invited to speak on culture as a global cultural good to the heads of all the UN agencies. I also enjoyed the whirlwind tour of northern Europe, with Tully Barnett and Emma Webb from Vitalstatistix, engaging with the EU, and many pan-European agencies for cultural advocacy.

What are some of the most interesting events and places you have presented on Reset?
I spoke in Jo’burg late in 2022, which is the first time I’d been to sub-Saharan Africa. The city was an eye-opener, with its disparity of rich and poor. So too was the hope invested in the creative industries as an engine for economic growth. Making an intervention which argues against such an agenda while finding alternative sources of hope for the future was quite challenging.

Are there any other recent or upcoming Reset events you can share?
In April, I’ll be speaking about Reset to the Ministry of Culture Research centre in Hanoi, Vietnam. I’ll also be organising a side event in Paris on culture as a global public good in June. In Adelaide, we’ll be organising a Reset “summer school” in November, working alongside Vitalstatistix who have their Bodies of Work programme on at that time. Watch this space….

What do you hope Reset can achieve in the next 12 months?
In 2022 were very much focused on governments – elections, policy, media influence. In 2023 we’ve gone back for a rethink as to the way forward. I will be publishing a book this year with Manchester University Press, Culture is Not an Industry, which draws heavily on Reset’s work. But we will also be developing a new manifesto, more critical of the way government is going, or rather, arguing that the cultural sector needs to be less reliant on what government does and does not do.

How do you think the new government initiative Revive may impact Reset’s goals?
The policy will inspire us to get out there, making annoying noises.

Find out more about the Reset project.