Australian Art and Politics: Part 1
The Australian Liberal Parties Arts Policy is based on Pretty Woman. The businessman character, on which all Liberal Party policies are based, bunny hops a high-end sports car into town. Cars and Real Estate (the commodities that currently form the basis of the world’s economic growth) are recurring mainstream success motifs. The businessman will be in town acquiring a family owned shipbuilding business in the red. Time flies when you’re plundering assets. Redundancies drag on too and you’ve got to at least look to be transitioning the unemployable workforce into the new phase of their lives: looking for jobs when there aren’t any with a recently updated CV.
The businessman in Pretty Woman is lonely, so he buys himself a week’s worth of company. Thank god she drives better than he can. Once we look past the synthetic wig and the mini skirt with the peek-a-boo midriff top, we all realize the street hooker is a diamond in the rough. She has long wavy red hair like mine, so she must be good.
Julia Roberts moves into Richard Gere’s Presidential suite. The concierge must be nice to her because the hospitality industry just love the Public. Haha. Upstairs, Julia washes away the street and any STD’s she may have contracted down there. The Pretty Woman and the businessman have sex on a grand piano in a function room. It’s not illegal to have sex in public if you’re loaded (with money), it’s just cheeky.
A shopping spree can cure all of life’s little injustices, so Julia goes to Rodeo Drive with Richard’s credit card. A killer sound track assures us things are looking up. The hooker must prove she is a real lady now, by having a ripper day out at the Polo and loving the Opera. Classical Orchestras are outdated, bloated, nationalistic cover bands, but they’re also still a true indicator of real class.
The sooner artists begin self-identifying as Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman, the more heartache we can save. Being a fun lovin’ happy hooker, ready to entertain rich people who buy tickets to see you, isn’t as bad as a lot of jobs. The artist who sells the most tickets is the best artist/whore and wins. The artist teaches the businessman what’s truly important in life and (like Julia) gets to keep the relationship with the rich businessman. Maybe commitment even. Those at the top of the creative pyramid reap all the rewards while the rest of us are left shivering on the street corner hustling strangers for gig and pining for a nice businessman to teach.
Arts philanderers, I mean philanthropists, don’t grow on trees. You have to cultivate a meaningful relationship over time. Increase the levels of trust by not helping yourself to his wallet whilst he’s taking his early morning dump up in that hotel room.
Art is becoming increasingly aware of the politicization of the creative act. Art is being privatized like all the other industries we should have kept under Governmental control. The set moves follow a formulaic formula – a lack of funding followed by anything goes as long as it can find a sponsor.
The Arts Minister George Brandis is messing with the arts because he can get away with it. The Creative Industries as yet, have no united front on which to lobby government. The entire sector has been turned in on itself. We compete against each other for the meagre rations offered by both major Australian political parties. The Creative Industries are a dynamic portrait of group dysfunction because there’s so many of us fighting over so little.
The Coal Industry has been far more effective at campaigning for sustained governmental support than the Creative Industries. We should head hunt some of their people, they’re flogging a dead, polluting horse more effectively than we’re flogging a creative live one. Andrew Bolt is shooting arty fish in a barrel. Only Communists on the dole are an easier shot.
Creatives aren’t putting pressure on Governments to cough up more dough, we’re falling for a diversion. Even Crown Casino is supplemented by Government. There’s a Police Branch just near Crown that deals almost exclusively with the fallout from people losing their life savings. Gambling costs the state a lot more than art does but misery is a major revenue stream for the State.
Pick the target, freeze the target, personalize it, and polarize it.
That’s what Brandis has done to us with shrewd cunning. Artists are his target and he’s lined us up good and proper. We’ve set the bar so low we’re fighting not for more money, like we out to be, but over who’s dishing out the same money. Who cares? What the creative sector needs is more money, not more creative bureaucrats.
We’re in a steep slippage phase toward an American style system of no Governmental funding for the arts at all. Corporate and Private philanthropy dudes get to ride in on white horses from stage right and we all whoop with delight and kiss their sweet asses. It costs money to make culture, and we have to thank the gods that the affluent are even interested in us. ‘Thank you affluent supporters of art for supporting art and offsetting your tax’. We take and take and take, and we have bad manners and never give anything back. That’s the narrative I’m hearing but I cannot concur. Have you heard of W.A.G.E.?
‘Art makes the world a more interesting place, and we demand payment for it. Working Artists and the Greater Economy is a New York-based activist organization focused on regulating the payment of artist fees by nonprofit art institutions, and establishing a sustainable labor relation between artists and the institutions that subcontract their labor.’
Artists need more money to make art. A more politicized group of people would call what artists already do for free SLAVERY. But artists aren’t political, we’re too busy scrambling round in the sand for loose chump change. If we turn down a gig because there’s no artists fee, there’s a thousand artists with a more compliant attitude, waiting in the wings, fire in belly, ready to sculpt, paint, dance, act, sing or live art their way into the next round.
‘It’s not hard to understand why the labour practices of the artist fit so perfectly with the needs of 21st century capitalism. The art world is still dominated by a romantic notion of creativity, one that emphasises individual genius. While many artists have liberal politics, they’re also often committed to building their own profile through competitive achievement. Artists are not unionised – indeed, many are deeply suspicious of collectivity. The desperation of many creative people to succeed means they’re often willing to underquote, to put in extra hours, to accept unpaid internships and even to work for free. For employers, these are all desirable attributes, and ones that they’d dearly like to see emulated in other professions’
If the relationship you have with your arts practice is less important than the relationship you have with an art curator, you know the system is broke.
Artists have no power because we don’t think we have any power. And because of the over supply of artists that Universities keep signing up to nothing. Setting up for failure. Universities are big business doing what big businesses do, serving their own needs above and before all else. It’s positively masturbatory behaviour. Every year more creative hopefuls graduate from a University near you. And start applying for the Artstart Grants and the shows and the whatever else is on offer, which isn’t much. Art Schools are a PONZI SCHEME, Being the Andy Warhol of your generation is the myth you’re paying to have a go at, and it’s as elusive and expensive as the Australian Dream of Home Ownership. You’re really being sold a debt, and there’s nothing quite like debt to curb ones ambitions.
We don’t need the same funding money each year. We need 10 times more arts funding.
The Creative Industries are huge, we’re all so busy maintaining our own slice of the pie we haven’t gotten our collective shit together, yet. Enough though, of what’s wrong, let’s consider strategies to move this shit forward (insert hip hop hand gestures here my bitches):
1. Unite the Creative Industries: it’s not about you, it’s about us:
A level of narcissism is de rigeur in an artist, and fully indulged in curators, but put ‘us’ in front of ‘I’. Remind politicians there’s bucket loads of creatives and we all vote. Arts Policies aren’t a priority because we haven’t gotten our collective shit together yet and advocated for the strength of the sector. Form an online activist group that we all sign up to. Maybe call it Art Off, or Art It, or Art Out.
Once, I was teaching at a Catholic School and distributing a newsletter home to parents via the kids in my form class. The newsletter told all the parents of all the Catholic kiddies who they were voting for in the upcoming election. And why. Which was basically who was going to best deliver them what they wanted. Money. Governmental subsidies for Catholic Education. And I thought: that’s organized, you’ve got to hand it to them, no wonder they’ve been round so long, these Catholics. Enduring storm after storm and not even disappearing yet. They really do have their collective shit together, talking as one big scary group whom Governments appease from fear. Funny isn’t it?
The State funds the institutional sexism that the Catholic Church perpetuates. At the Vatican there isn’t a strong female prescence within the hierarchical movers and shakers of God. Even the mad monk would have to concede that fact.
2. Talking to the Press, the Politicians, the Public:
We artists don’t have an advocate speaking up for us. Who’s ready to talk to the media about what we’re bringing and why it’s important? For society. Art seems to want to stay out of the media. Mostly the media we get is about scandal. Buying a looted shiva, art forgery and the like. I like those stories too, but we have to narrate in a couple of happy art news stories. Somebody’s got to be putting forward an art news story with a feel good factor (that doesn’t include a car) to a hungry 24 hour news cycle. The company line seems to be No Art News is Good Art News. There’s a lot of fear and mistrust of art, and we don’t even deserve it yet. Somebody, (I reckon a highly paid arts director of a major institution), needs to get some industry consensus together and start talking to government and the media and the public about art. In a way that doesn’t put everyone to sleep. This problem of money and art is not going to solve itself. It’s just gearing up now, to go on and on and on.
I’ll transgress. Let’s get Danielle Freakley to be our media representative. Her Quote Generator project is momentus work, and who wouldn’t watch her going head to head with Arts Minister George Brandis on Q&A late one Monday night. She would quote rings round him. Danielle’s voice through the voice of others makes me proud to be an artist. Here’s Danielle shining on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton 7.19 mins. Do yourself a favor and watch, and observe Andrew telling Danielle to shut-up, and she doesn’t, and she ploughs on straight past him, on live TV. That’s the sugar we need.
3. Make Idle Threats: Just for the fun of it:
We give, we give, we give, how about we mess with the status quo, just for a laugh. Stop begging and start demanding, change things up a bit. Art is a confidence game, let’s grow a pair and start flashing. A good place to begin might be with talk about who forgot to pay artists for their work and why? Artist Comrades, next time you get a job, Ask not what you can do for an Arts Organisation, ask what they can do for you.
Artists are like farmers, we’re the primary producers. It may well be time to pull up some fruit trees, roots and all, if you know what I’m saying. Unless your art labor is sustainable, what’s the point, why bother? Withhold labor till the price goes up. This circus can’t go on without us.
Fellow artists, comrades, I speak to you now. Directly to you. We must stop giving our work away for free. We must unite, and fight a system which pits artist against artist and rewards only the very top of the pyramid, (many of whom also have the key institutional teaching jobs too, Institutionalized punks). Curators don’t curate art, they curate artworld money/power systems.
4. Find Better Rich People:
I know we can’t slam a gift horse in the mouth, it’s already gotten us into way loads of trouble, but we need to revisit Corporate Arts Sponsorship deals. If it’s not a sweet match, all hell can break loose. Everyone has different reasons for going to an art gallery, let’s consider what corporates bring, and what they take.
We need an ethical checklist for sponsors, begin with-
- No big polluters
- No money generated from profits made from infringing on peoples human rights
- No Arms Dealers et al
Get me a ticket to the Birdcage at the Melbourne Cup and I’ll find art some donors. I’m only wearing Alexi Freeman. I have a nose for lateral thinkers who like to party and want to minimize their tax whilst making some art happen. A subscription to BRW will help in identifying who’s cashed up and ready to spend. Everyone wants to get into art. I’ve made a list of Australia’s wealthiest, now it’s time to go hunting.