[-empyre-] Art Funding and Politics

Rachel O'Reilly rachel.a.oreilly at gmail.com
Fri Nov 18 21:35:49 EST 2011

Hi all,

I am so busy finishing up my research on this topic that I haven't had time
to post - I am enjoying the unfolding nevertheless and wish that I could
ask more questions. Especially ones that relate to the regional/locational
and 'art philosophical' imaginaries of each and all - I wasn't
straightforward enough I don't think in contextualizing my own first post
and emphasizing (as someone else did for me) that a lot of it applied to my
experience of artist-invested cultural work in visual arts, the commodity
culture but also "criticism industry" of which is not so comparable to many
of the other art forms. But I also have experience working alongside media
art and lit and theatre colleagues and friends and do think the funding
conversation requires different vocabularies and systemic thinking in each
I think... which is not to say that broad brushstrokes the size of the cuts
cant be made from the side of "production". But its very hard to do in a
month, without diagrams and enough images and poems, I agree. :) Thanks for
the poetry! Sheesh.

 I love the >> "pragmatic memories of institutions. Theatre workshops and
wardrobes capable of holding materials which unlike in a museum are
available for redeployment. Actual archives.

I know that my theatre colleagues would always be the first that I would
hope to go through any crisis with because of this dynamical, magically
ordinary respect they have for their own archives...it is of course the
tragedy that their resilience comes from being a part of such an
investment-heavy cultural practice, but rather logical too in that sense.

 Following, I also love the test of the inclusiveness of the household as a
way of thinking always-beyond the given i.e. 'sector' is a loss imbued
rationalization that can't help but be temporally impoverished in terms of
what policy-unintelligible things might be presently in development. There
is a very important (ir)responsibility (or ur-responsibility?), a kind of
constant refrain in performing only partial interpolation by sector-think.
i.e. Some of the most important policy provocateurs are artists or
"artist-centered-supporters" whose engagements with funders goes something
like: "hey, also, you do realise how much more is out there, yes? And that
for my own project, these were all the things of value that technically
weren't computed by your interest in my work (etc etc.) Just checking."....
(That sounds totally passive aggressive and is not the language, obviously.
I'm being fast and crass).

But meaning, continually educating the other (including ourselves) to read
rationalizations as scoops and losses that should be acknowledged as
intelligible and comparable (which is what we are trying to do here),
precisely, ordinary. While artists shouldn't need to speak the language of
funding I think quite a number do a great job reminding econometricians and
some of the most progressive cultural policy provocateurs of the risky
poverty of their language in this way. There is always space in this sense
for the "strange cultural worker" for want of a better term (often these
are artists, but not always) who can articulate what is historically
specific about operative gaps between poetics and policy, or poetics and
governmentality, or more complexly, culture and "zoning", at any one time.
I don't mean that to sound overly academic, instead critical and crucial.

While the thinking of art outside of cultural politics is impossible, the
thinking of "the political as such" in an unfixed-in-advance imbrication
with more organized activist or normative political processes (inc. state
funding) is what the funding cuts make apparent as something that
modernist/welfare modelled and supported "artisthood" persistently refrains
from, tactically, and sensibility-wise. That baulk is also layered as it is
meaningful. (Simons question about referenda relevant here.). I can't help
but think of the legacy of institutional critique on 'art in general' in
the visual arts... or indeed brecht's influence on just about
everything...;)  and think that we are all doing a sort of wild and
unwieldy, generative multi-institutional critique during times like this...
in ways that are rather unpredictable for funding and practices...

No conclusion as ever... thanks for your posts.

Rachel O'Reilly |  +31(0)615217953

On Thu, Nov 17, 2011 at 9:05 PM, Ioannis Zannos <zannos at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Simon,
> (and Denise, and other <<empyreans>>),
> your argument is impressively detailed and articulate, and I confess I
> like very much the reference to Guattari and the way you "explode" the
> economic argument quasi "from the inside". It is quite an arduous task.
> Here I would like to take a sidewise strategy and ask: Do we expect of
> science or education to be sold like a commodity? (That may in fact be the
> case, if we look at private universities, technological lobbyists,
> patenting etc., but it is not such an established discourse, or discussion
> topic, as with art, I think ... ). Why do we spend time arguing about art
> in economic and commodity terms than we do of education? And yet another
> related question: Is this type of discourse and analysis may be more
> developed in the field of visual arts, coming from the market of galleries,
> museums and private collections, and are perhaps other narratives or
> discourse models possible or at work in the performing arts and in
> literature? By this I mean to join in this:
> to consider the arts a sector is already dealing in the given. We are
> talking economic sector. But not necessarily market-defined economic sector
> with values set by the market, even as speculative continua. Are we?
> I believe that the problem is that you (SImon) as well as Denise are
> trying to build an argument that is outside of economic terms, you are
> trying to say, to put it simply, money is not all that matters. That is
> what it comes down to, plain and simple. One often hears in derogatory or
> cynical and disillusioned tones such terms as "money has replaced God" in
> capitalist society. The difficulty of constructing an alternative value
> system in this our world, which we witness in the present discussion,
> confirms that this view, simple or simplistic as it may sound, possesses
> perhaps more than a grain of truth. The difficulty of this situation is
> compounded by the apparent contradiction of saying that "money is not all
> that matters", in a discussion about Funding in the Arts. One cannot escape
> this conundrum unless one develops a more differentiated and detailed
> analysis, avoiding the simple polarity of money vs art (material vs.
> spiritual wealth etc). As Yiannis Colakides wrote on November 6th: "the
> equation of art and economics is not complete without the political
> variable.". I would say that there are also other variables, some of them
> possibly difficult describe, and also that there are other fields that have
> already been facing the money vs. value polarity, such as for example the
> field of Free and Open Software, Creative Commons and others. Eben Moglen,
> professor of law and legal history at Columbia
> University, long‐time counsel for Free Software Foundation, and founder
> of Software Freedom Law Center has outlined this very well in his speech at
> the Plone/Python conference of 2006 entitled "Software and Community in the
> Early 21st Century".
> http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=323408615461416679
> Transcript here:
> http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Software_and_Community_in_the_Early_21st_Century
> Mr. Moglen talks convincingly about the feasibility, power and value of
> making intellectual work available for free, pitting his argument on a
> grand scale against some of the most down to earth hard historical economic
> realities, such as the  European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) under Jean
> Monnet and the industrial age proper. He starts with the sentences *"I
> want to talk about the piece of our common lives that Paul is pointing at,
> these rules, these methods of living together around software, and I want
> to try and explain what I think their larger moral and economic meaning is.
> *
> *It is both a moral and an economic analysis – it has to be. It began as
> a moral question, it remains a moral question, but it becomes along the way
> also a window into the economic organization of human society in
> the 21st century*." And in the context of the present discussion I can
> now understand retrospectively why this speech captivated me so much back
> in 2007: Because it set out right at the beginning by attacking the problem
> exactly at the core which I am pointing at in the present discussion. In
> Moglen's speech, software is the prototype of cultural, spiritual product
> that is of crucial value for society but is adverse to being "commoditized"
> (Moglen's term). His is an example of an argument that could serve as model
> for similar analogies in the arts and other parallel fields.
> And again in retrospect, Moglens speech back in October 27th 2006 is
> almost prophetically relevant now, in the face of a collapsing economic
> order. We need not only good analysts, we also need people with a healthy
> vision, strength and confidence, so as to pull through these times and work
> to build what comes next. And I am not just referring to Moglen here, but
> to people that are in the present discussion; I am asking us to realise
> that within this agony the collective intellectual work that we are doing
> can prove to be quite significant for the times to come.
> For today, therefore, I leave you with this a little upbeat thought.
> Ioannis Zannos
> Corfu
> On 9 Nov 2011, at 09:59, simon wrote:
> Dear <<empyreans>>,
> On 09/11/11 19:34, NeMe wrote:
> Despite rapid developments in new media and technology, the majority
> of the voting public's understanding of the arts sector still remains ...
> this is presumptuous.
> to consider the arts a sector is already dealing in the given. We are
> talking economic sector. But not necessarily market-defined economic sector
> with values set by the market, even as speculative continua. Are we?
> then the weightiness of "understanding" ... is what is at stake the
> understanding of the economic? As Guattari says, it's not just about who
> holds the purse-strings or what the household can afford but also about
> inclusion, what running a household without preconceived ideas can include.
> many people in the arts were delighted when the greens successfully gave
> numerical values to green resources. Ecological ideology proved a
> leveraging tech. The thought was, If the greens can do this with vegetable
> and animal ecologies why shouldn't it be done with cultural and artistic
> ecologies? Again, Guattari takes up on this thought, stating that other
> ecologies than those conceived as natural and non-human ought to be
> considered as having values that are normally ignored in economic
> formalisations.
> but then there is this other idea about voting. Do referenda exist whereby
> citizens vote to include arts and arts institutions in the common economy?
> What I mean is that in my experience the notion of common denominator goes
> with economic reductionism in divesting citizens of their rights to decide,
> the latter having become the former's shorthand.
> one of the ways to escape the prevalent economic discourse is to speak the
> language of the arts. And reciprocally one of the ways the arts are
> disinvested is the demand that they express themselves in the language of
> funding bodies, prey to wave upon wave of politically expedient received
> pronunciations (RPs) or pronouncements, lips-service.
>  this
> historical model of elevated expectation and positioning of culture
> still informs much political rhetoric regarding cultural policy.
> I don't think so. But to each her own. I have had longer to get used to
> market-led policies and the decomposition of the "arts sector," symptomatic
> of which in New Zealand has been the extermination of its institutions, to
> the point when now the funding bodies or body retain the memory of so many
> ghost limbs. Having become the ONLY successful titular arts institution.
> Although no longer apt, its firmly ingrained residue does obfuscate
> rational arguments
> Rational would be to co-opt the discourse alluded to above. Like the
> greens. Rationalisation of the arts sector follows from it being regarded
> (or negated) as an economic sector.
> complexities of the
> contemporary.
> reminds me of the pragmatic memories of institutions. Theatre workshops
> and wardrobes capable of holding materials which unlike in a museum are
> available for redeployment. Actual archives.
> "What kind of economy and, thus, what kind of art?" and "what kind of
> art and, thus, what kind of economy?"
> What kind of art? By what art? ... not buy art why?
>  a more appropriate action and functioning representation.
> this depresses me. Own action, risk, and act against representation!
>  is it not the State's responsibility to
> sustain it?
> collective life is in question. Where society famously, Margaret Thatcher,
> ceases to exist.
> I am writing post 1984, the year reforms swept through New Zealand's
> funding and arts advocacy practices ... there it goes, ready to make a
> clean sweep of everything of value!
> Inspired by Milton Friedman under the aegis of the Labour Party (!) - the
> genesis of which lay with the labour movement, unionism and early socialism
> - the 1984 revolution involved the sort of break that does, against what an
> early contributor to this discussion had to day, produce victims. Before
> 1984, for example, 7 state-funded community theatres; after, not a single
> one with an existing company contracted according to anything like
> industrial standards. (This last despite the efforts - misplaced - in this
> regard by Equity, the performing arts union, having 'joined' with the
> Australian union to stand united against the State? no, against Peter
> Jackson!)
> Best,
> Simon Taylor
> www.squarewhiteworld.com
> www.brazilcoffee.co.nz
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