Thursday, September 02, 2004

get a real job

Lately I've been reading stuff about "national standards" for artists fees, and I even got an email (from my boss! hah!) about "an artists protest" - some sort of sit in at the MCA to demand worthy payment for our creative efforts on non commerical exhibitions and projects. what do they mean by artists protest? Every frigging day is a bloody protest if you are an artist!

Anyway the fees for artists is a great idea and obviously necessary and worthy etc. but I suspect it shares a problem fundamental to all arts funding ..... which is big.

During my time in the garret I became increasingly fed up with the refractory nature of "managed" arts funding structures. Community arts in particular really started to get up my nose.

Essentially community based and community managed arts projects are usually funded through an organization, which ostensibly acts to assemble and promote artists. Actually what they are doing is replicating the gallery representative structure, whereby a professional (or non professional) acts to select and filter (and sometimes appropriate) new undiscovered artists. So really most "new arts" projects are usually just new curatorial projects; alternative spaces designed to select, exhibitor promote artists but not actually help produce the work itself.

Ultimately this means that most arts funding is directed towards umbrella organisations, or curatorial projects and the nature of applying for funding itself is administratively heavy and favours creative efforts that replicate and reinforce the administrative and managerial cultures rather than actually assist or promote artists or the making of new art work.

given this administrative bias of arts funding, I am fearful that any "fee for artists" protocol would inevitably ensconce itself in labyrinthic merit based criteria, which would once again favour those artists with extensive administrative skills, or those supported by galleries or organisations with those skills and networks. (a bit like Oz Council fellowship grants) this would rally make the scheme redundant, because it would really only assist those practitioners and exhibitors who are already established or partly established or at least reasonably successful in negotiating some sort of institutional support.

Essentially if funding practitioners is tied in with a type of merit base selection, then it will inevitably be problematic. the exciting thing about art, and new art is its unregulated nature, and its link to a type of productive and reactive use of leisure time. What differs hobbyists form serious practitioners is really only a fairly shallow margin of self perception and luck (plus a fair amount of gender politics) , and I don't think that maintaining that distinction necessarily leads to either interesting art or better conditions for emerging practitioners.

What I would suggest is that we should look at the contracting levels of leisure time and increasing surveillance for welfare recipients. Producing art would be a hell of a lot easier if more people had access to affordable housing and studio rental, decent public transport, reasonable commercial rental (for exhibition spaces and performance venues) decent conditions for casual and part time employment and a guarantee of minimum revenue assistance (i.e. a dole) without being coerced or being forced to dissimulate insertion into full time work in other industries.

Even then I have a problem with aligning issues of artists with welfare issues, because my experience is that community arts projects are largely structured according to welfare 'management' models. Within such models, Artists are treated as "clients" that need to be managed and regulated and indulged, instead of the skilled and dedicated un(der)paid cultural workers that we are. Has anyone read "the good friend" by Oscar Wilde? I idenitified with the flower picking field mouse, and I'll let you guess who the other characters were. As a result I am intensely suspcious of ANYONE who says they want to "help" artists. How many people are in really well paid jobs as mangers, lobbyists curators etc, compred to the amount of artists, slumming it in part time work, or centrelink?

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