A Weekend in Sydney: Class and Culture Wars
‘Economics are the method but the object is to change the heart and soul.’ Margaret Thatcher
Everyone loves a weekend in Sydney. It’s always good. Not as good as it used to be, but hey, it’s not Sydney’s fault it’s been transitioned into a nanny state. Getting a drink after 1.30am is now so stressy you wouldn’t be bothered. Which is weird considering Sydney is Australia’s largest city, our capital non-capital capital, our small ‘c’ capital, (c being for capital rather than cunt).
Sydney, where Prime Ministers prefer to live because seriously, only a prawn would choose Canberra when, high up on a cliff, there’s Kirribilli House or your very own harbour-side mansion to hang out in instead. If I was the Prime Minister of Australia and wasn’t living at The Lodge like I was supposed to (rather than leave that state asset empty) I’d have University of Canberra students move in. The kids paying more and more to study, the kids who can’t afford to rent anywhere in Canberra could go all Animal House at The Lodge for a bit. We’d make a reality TV show of the brief period before the Uni students graduate and their optimism evaporates, because they can’t find a job because there aren’t any young people jobs anymore. They’ve got to be an intern at Bakers Delight first. That would be a sweet thoughtful gesture for me as Prime Minister to make for the youth, the poor young blighters inheriting generational poverty off of us. But bossy, I mean strong women like me don’t dream of being Australian Prime Minister anymore. We saw the shit poor Julia copped when she gave it a go and you wouldn’t wish that fate on your worst frenemy. Who wants Germaine Greer attacking the size of your ass and the cut of your jacket on national TV?
Sydney is one of those famously colourful port towns accustomed to a lot of colourful comings and goings at all hours of the day and night. Which makes it especially peculiar that nighttime Sydney is effectively now under curfew. For our own safety. So what is unlikely to happen, that we may come into harm’s way late at night, definitely won’t happen because we’re all neatly tucked up in bed already. Calling last drinks because someone could get hurt is like closing down the footy. People get hurt playing footy every bloody weekend but nobody dare blow the full-time whistle on footy early. There’d be a bloody riot. It’s game on as per usual everywhere except Kings Cross, The Rocks, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. A good night out, (seeing a band, having a dance and a chat, maybe a pash), can change what you’re able to imagine of life.
The reason why tourists, artists, musicians, actors, circus folk, film, theatre people and even sound designers and contemporary dancers, the reason we all think staying out late is a good idea is because staying out late is a good idea. The deeper into the night you go, the easier it is to make new friends, new friends who might change what you think through that most simple of devices, conversation. We live in an era so conservative that not going to bed when you’re supposed to, is against the rules. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OjW1TDANxk Patti Smith, Because the Night Is Ours 3.10mins
Inner Sydney has transitioned into a retirement village for boring old rich people whose best parties are safely behind them. The rich residents of ‘The Fridge’ are trying to stop the free concerts at the Sydney Opera House. The commoners, with their ‘harsh visual impact’ can afford free gigs and we can’t have that. Rich bastards call a free Crowded House reunion or a Florence and the Machine gig ‘noise pollution’. We’d call it music. http://musicfeeds.com.au/news/sydney-opera-house-spat-continues-alan-jones-m8s-respond-crowded-house-dig/#/slide/1
The poor businesses caught up in this latest bureaucratic bungle, the businesses who used to be in the business of selling us the fun we might have had, if we’d been allowed, well, clearly they should shut up shop and sell out to the nearest salivating developer.
The party that used to be Sydney has been decimated to make way for another type of party. The real estate party. The real estate party makes the margins in selling a good night out look like chump change. Sydney loves a real estate party better than any other party. Governments often wreck shit first, right before they sell it off to their mates. Privatisation is a con that funnels public money into private hands. Privatisation deals aren’t good value, they’re part of the death march of late capitalism. Each time shit is privatised the bills go up. http://www.smh.com.au/business/privatisation-has-damaged-the-economy-says-accc-chief-20160726-gqe2c2.html
The Class War and the Culture War are the same War and the rich bastards are winning both. Rich bastards are so good at cooking the books, working the angles and buying monopolies, you’ve got to stay really sober to see the con. Rich bastards agree that the government should wind back the public funding of culture so their private philanthropy can fill our holes. Rich dudes love us needing them. They love being modern day Medici’s. They love converting our art museums into elite invitation only country clubs. Rich dudes love acting like the life guards of culture, jumping in the surf like on the hot lifeguards on Bondi Rescue to save we artists before we drown. Rich bastards love power and dominating the discourse, they love being the only ones who have a say. Rich bastards are disproportionately represented on the Boards of every arts organisation in the country. If the rich dudes are saving culture they’re doing a very average job of it. One might conclude that the rich dudes on arts boards aren’t saving culture, they’re seeking to control our culture.
Here’s an example: Murdoch attacks the ABC because the national broadcaster is his competition. Rupert’s dad Keith began the family war on the ABC before they’d even gone to air. Keith had gotten rich and powerful selling us the news and he and his pals didn’t want any publically owned, independent competition. Ever. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/this-is-the-news-how-the-newspapers-tried-to-kill-an-independen/8579498
Rupert knows artists have power, if we’re any good, to communicate, to ‘change the heart and soul’ and he wants to be one of the few dudes with that influence. Rupert loves gossip, drama, scandal, insecurity, climate denial and page three girls. He loves Trump, he loved us invading Iraq, he loves victim blaming and being cruel and he loves the idea of the meritocracy, even though he inherited a newspaper from his Daddy. Selling us his ideological bullshit has made him rich because too many of us have bought it. That’s the war these dudes are waging on us and the bad guys are winning. Luckily for us, the success of Corbyn and Sanders has the old guard suffering in their jocks, they know the youth are being woke, not Kendall Jenner for Pepsi woke, that was an authenticity prank. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73P9STckPLw 2.40mins
More Kate Tempest woke. Woke, young, raging and articulate woke. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogXfKCzoFqw 1.45mins
The government is hell bent on wrecking Australian culture. First they undermine our confidence. They have us second-guessing our futures like a contestant on Australia’s Next Top Model. Think to when Brandis did his Joseph Goebbels snatch and grab on the Australia Council, one of the most brazen moments of contemporary neo-fascism within an Australian cultural context. His Catalyst slush fund enabled Brandis to throw cash at some mates in marginal seats right before an election. All these mates happened to demonstrate excellence in various creative endeavours. John Kaldor was amongst recipients meaning his philanthropic largesse is now government funded, which totally defeats the purpose of being friggin’ loaded.
The heightened competition for funding that resulted has seen the arts sector turn in and itself. Like the defunded small and medium arts organisations having a go at the heavily subsidised Opera and Ballet set. I was a part of that crowd, (it being a natural fit and all what with my engorged working class chip and their tendency to love the old British Empire). But then Geoffrey took me to the Australian Ballet and I looked around and I thought to myself: ‘this is still better than subsidising coal. This is still better than the government spending half a billion bucks a year flying the Australian Military round the world shopping for ammo and planning our next fight’.
Arts funding is and has always been small fry, that’s the real problem. The government wants artists and art workers to hate each other, we’re easier to fight when we’re not together. Let’s stop fighting each other like it’s a World Wide Wrestling bout and at least identify our common enemy: the Government. It’s time to call it: the Australian Government hates art. If they loved us nearly as much as they love coal we’d be laughing.
The Government is attacking artists copyright too. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/australias-greatest-author-went-berserk-over-copyright-changes-saying-malcolm-turnbull-wants-to-destroy-the-book-industry-2016-5
As Richard Flanagan says: ‘This is a Government that despises books and views with hostility the civilisation they represent. Perhaps it hopes in a growing silence that it might prosper. Certainly, it cares only about one thing: power.’
In the introduction to the book Kiffy Rubbo, Curating the 1970’s, Janine Burke reflects on the art scene of the 70’s compared to now. She writes:
‘Money was tight but it wasn’t the horrific situation many smaller museums find themselves in these days, where donors and sponsors are the life- blood of the organisation and where being really smart about raising dollars is often the requisite characteristic for a director. I know of directors from major museums who sort of stagger from one social event to another, trying to bag a donor for their gallery or raise money for acquisitions of a particular artwork. Boards expect their directors to have all those skills: trip the light fantastic with the top end of town while having an excellent knowledge of art and a presence in the contemporary scene. It’s lead to an ‘executivisation’ of the arts in general, where curators sometimes speak in corporate jargon, just to get the attention and win the respect of the CEOs they’re putting the squeeze on. I think Kiffy would find today’s art world pretty loathsome. She was such an idealist.
Speaking of our culture rapidly being infiltrated (I mean supported) by corporations who step in to help sustain us because Governments don’t like art, I was recently introduced to the important work of Desiree Tahiri and her self-published zine: Who’s money hangs the art? Buy it. It’s seriously the best ten bucks you’ll spend this year:
The zine explores the influences money has on exhibitions; how corporations gain far more than their sponsored gallery through their purchase of prestige, authenticity, and an elite market of art-viewers, and investigates in detail the corporate sponsors of two major NSW art galleries: the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). Who is putting up these galleries’ works? This zine contributes to the growing critique of capitalist corruption within public institutions.https://www.etsy.com/au/listing/522728046/whos-money-hangs-the-art-zine?ref=shop_home_active_1
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is one of Australia’s premier art museums, and a highly visible Sydney institution attracting a million visitors each year. Sponsorship of the Gallery enables the corporate sector to connect with this vibrant and exciting organisation, to add value to your business and to inspire creative and meaningful interactions with your clients and staff. The Gallery develops relationships with each corporate partner and tailors benefits to meet their particular business objectives. Benefits might include: innovative corporate branding, unique client entertainment and networking activities, customer relationship support and development of inspiring training and incentives for staff.https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/support-us/corporate-sponsorship/
The AGNSW has as a Leading Partner EY, an accountancy firm whose motto is Building a Better Working World. They have advised major corporations like Koch Industries https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7q4j0uZ2ec (3.33mins), Walt Disney and Skype in 2014 on a complex tax avoidance strategy that involved restructuring to channel massive profits from 2009-13 to subsidiary companies in Luxembourg, where they took advantage of tax rates less than 1%. Other EY clients include mining, oil and gas companies. (‘How can purpose reveal a path through disruption? Our research yields new insight into how purposeful companies are using their purpose as a beacon to navigate turbulent times’, Jesus Christ corporate speak is surreal huh, what does this sentence even mean….) http://www.ey.com/au/en/home
AGNSW Presenting Partners include JP Morgan who assisted and profited from Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme, the theft of $64.8 billion dollars from customers, companies and charities over 20 years. http://jpmadoff.com/site-purpose/
Macquarie Bank are AGNSW Presenting Partners. A 2013 scandal exposed the bank had dealt out poor financial advice and placed clients money into high-risk investments without their consent. 190,000 clients had potentially lost money, in some cases whole life savings or millions of corporate dollars, of which the bank has compensated only 6%. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-23/compensation-denied-for-macquarie-bank-customers/6967038
UBS are AGNSW Presenting Partners. Involved in scandals concerning tax evasions for corporations, financing companies that carry out fraud, mislead clients, currency manipulation, discrimination and financing companies known to abuse human rights. A 2002 U.S. lawsuit against the bank regarding its financing of the South African government during the apartheid is still pending. http://www.corp-research.org/UBS
Over at the MCA at Circular Key, the shortfall in government funding for the arts has yielded Strategic Partners who are sponsoring the organisation to ‘align with and gain access to a dynamic creative network. To gain enviable privileged access to the Museums galleries and benefit from our entertaining spaces that have been designed to fully embrace the world famous location’ (MCA Corporate Membership pitch) https://www.mca.com.au/join-and-support/partnerships/current-mca-partners/
Audi are Strategic Partners of the MCA, owned by Volkswagen Group. From 2009-15 Volkswagen illegally programmed 11 million cars to cheat on omissions tests. Cars produced 40 times more emissions to the standard amount during laboratory tests. The company also manufactures military vehicles, and is a member of the World Economic Forum, which according to Ethical Consumer Campaign for ‘greater economic liberalisation and deregulation.’ http://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/volkswagen-audi-emissions-scandal-a-driver-speaks-out-20170312-guwnmj.html
Veolia are a multinational Corporation that provides industries –including coal and coal seam gas mining corporations with assistance safeguarding security of supply. They had a stake in constructing light rail transport between illegally occupied Palestinian territories to service Israeli settlements, strengthening the occupation. Under pressure from activists, Veolia sold off all Israeli operations in 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/alex-macdonald/veolia-palestine_b_2175248.html
Qantas are a Strategic Partner of the MCA. Remember that time Qantas grounded their fleet and no one could get home for their Sunday roast?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Qantas_industrial_disputes
Our museums and arts organisations are transitioning into country clubs for the rich elite to do their dodgy deals in over canapés. Follow the Money and you start seeing what is really going on in the arts. We’re in a Culture War with our government and their buddies are infiltrating our boards and buying us off. We’re being sold out from within, which is such a shame because all the best artists I can name remain steadfastly idealistic.