Friday, May 9, 2014

You Can't Fund Art and You Can't Fund Artists

OK. Lets consider the idea of the subsidised arts for a moment, and lets consider the implications of the use of the words "art" and "artist".

Funding Art - that is committing money up front in the belief that the eventual product will be Art is perhaps the highest risk use of public money you can think of. Why? Because there is no guarantee that what will be created with that public money will be Art. Further, before a piece of work can be designated Art , a whole bunch of people have to agree that it is Art - and they can't agree if it doesn't already exist.  You can't decide on Art in advance. So really, you can't actually fund art, because art only - hopefully - exists at the end of a process. Yes, you can invest in art (ask Saatchi), but again the art has to exist before you can do that. 

The same logic applies to artists. For a person to be designated an artist they must have a body of work behind them,  and a whole bunch of people have to agree that that persons work contains sufficient Art for them to be considered an Artist.

So you see the problem? If you talk about Arts and Artists as the object of funding, then logic immediately dictates that you allocate the lions share of your resources to established work and individuals with an existing reputation. Development, the life blood of any organisation or industry, becomes less important because new work and new people - by definition - cannot be considered art or artists and are therefore not suitable objects for arts funding.  

Yes, you can argue that the "arts" is different to "Art" and an "artist" is different to an "Artist" but the words are the same, and confusion will, and does, ensue.  Of course the other real problem is that the status of art and artist are both entirely matters of opinion.  One person, or activity or organisation gets funded because another person or group of people like it - or worse, thinks that they should like it. 

I would suggest that we need to move out of this logical and semantical dilemma by admitting to ourselves that art is not a process its a product and we don't start as artists we become artists (perhaps more accurate to say that we move in and out of an Artistic state), and that Art is never, ever a guaranteed outcome. 

So, what is it that we want as a result of this funding? And if we can't fund art, what is it that we want to fund?  Creativity? But creativity in what and for who? 

Maybe, if we stop using the words art and artist when we talk about funding we might discover a better way of using that funding. A way to support a sustainable environment that can devlop creativity and maybe produce some new art along the way.

So, what do we all think?










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