A Proposal for Mediation

Following the call for openness and dialogue, arts engage wishes to propose as a model, the principle and use of mediation. 

Mediation addresses the difficult position government agencies find themselves in when individuals within the society disagree on social, cultural and/or religious issues in art. The advantages of mediation for agencies are: 1) the agency is freed from the balancing act of trying to pass impartial judgement; 2) the agency is not reactive, but facilitatory, 3) the agency can effectively focus on policy and administration, rather than arbitration.

Using the mediation model also creates the possibility for content creators to not have to submit works prior to their production. With such a model the agency will not need to 'vet' and second guess what may be problematic issues even before they occur, as there is a practical process for addressing concerns upon and after production or presentation.

What is mediation? It is a process of facilitation of discussion between persons or groups in a dispute in order to bring about agreement or reconciliation. 

How does this work? In the process of mediation, when a member of the public or a group finds an aspect of the work problematic, objectionable, or has a different opinion than the creators of a work, the agency acts sensitively to allow both parties to discuss the issue in a fair and open manner. For example a play is performed and a member of the audience (noted here an audience member does not immediately translate to a majority 'public' opinion) finds an element of the work objectionable. The audience member may feel compelled to contact the agency to express their concern. The contacted agency does not immediately panic and respond blindly by, for example closing the show. Instead, the agency refers the audience member to the artists responsible for the work and requests that they have an open and fair discussion of the issue with the audience member, with the view to arrive at two possible outcomes for the issue they differ on: either the issue is resolved in the sense both have gained something from the experience and can see or understand each other's perspectives even if they do not finally agree with each other’s position; or if it is not resolved between the two, both parties agree to commit to a broader community discussion, again with the intent of understanding each other and resolving their differences in a mature and mutually respectful manner.

Mediation requires an engaged interaction between the parties, and it is here that exchange within the community can happen, not name-calling, baiting or aggression. Such a process demands that both artists and audiences are open and honest about the issue on hand, and importantly acknowledge that both have a stake in cultural production and consumption.