Showing posts with label arts policy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label arts policy. Show all posts

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?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Limerick: ask the question.

The recent controversy emerging from Limerick City of Culture stems from that unresolved debate on the function and purpose of culture and the arts industry: who is it all for?

There would be no controversy if the answer to the question "who is this for" was made and given clearly and unambiguously at the start of the process.

Is the City of Culture for the people of Limerick? A year long initiative to improve the quality of life.

Is it for the artists of Limerick? An opportunity to develop and create work.

Is it a commercial opportunity? A chance to use culture and the creative arts to rebrand the city internationally, attract some tourists and some FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) and boost the local economy.

These objectives are not mutually exclusive but thier prioritisation needs to be clear from the outset and all the stakeholders need to understand and AGREE  on it.

Shared vision. Clear objectives. Agreed outcomes.

I suspect that this open and frank conversation did not happen in the first phase of the project. Which is why the stakeholders are now viewing each other with suspicion and pulling the project in opposing directions.

(What's most shocking is that you would expect a city council to be up to speed on best practice in project management. Clearly they're not.)

If this assessment is correct, that the important conversation did not take place at the outset, this begs the question, "why not?"

There are numerous reasons we don't have frank and open conversations at the start of any relationship - business, personal or otherwise. The reasons are nearly always a mixture of fear and contempt. Harsh words, but reflect on them for a moment, and consider the words that have been used by all sides over the last few days.

What the City of Culture controversy has highlighted is a national, systemic and cultural problem: we have no shared vision of our society that can incorporate the needs, skills and aspirations of all stakeholders. We have no common language nor mutual respect and the default mode of engagement is how we can exploit the other. 

With regards to the Limerick situation no amount of resignations, reappointments or apologies will mend the situation. It needs an intervention: everyone, EVERYONE, needs to talk about Art.