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We should value the Biennale protest, not threaten arts funding

Today it was reported that the Federal Minister for the Arts George Brandis has requested that the Australia Council draft a new policy to deal with grant applicants who refuse funding offered by corporate…

The Federal Minister for the Arts George Brandis has proposed a way to to deal with grant applicants who refuse corporate funding. Alan Porritt/AAP Image

Today it was reported that the Federal Minister for the Arts George Brandis has requested that the Australia Council draft a new policy to deal with grant applicants who refuse funding offered by corporate sponsors. This follows the recent protest by Biennale artists against Australia’s policy of mandatory detention.

Society owes a lot to artists who have had the gumption to protest.

German painter George Grosz gave us images of a Weimar Republic in turmoil. Photomontage artist John Heartfield, who anglicised his name in antipathy to the National Socialist regime, had the courage to take on the Party with images that continue to cast unlikely connections across the social and political fabric.

In Australia, during the initial phase of the national disgrace that is the Australian government policy on refugees, the Australian artists Juan Davila and Mike Parr found ways to imagine the suffering of asylum-seekers protesting at the Woomera detention centre.

In 2002, Parr had his lips and face literally sewn up in a gruelling performance. Davila painted a set of powerful canvases in the early 2000s in which the victims were Australians themselves.

The Biennale protest took a different form: that of boycotting the exhibition.

The boycott reminds us, in these days of seamless co-operation between artists, institutions, and their funding sources, that the old term “military-industrial complex” describes something worth worrying about. It came as a shock to learn, through the protest, that a branch of Transfield, the venerable corporate supporter of the Biennale of Sydney since its inception, makes money by running Australia’s detention centres.

The group of artists, in carefully considered letters such as this one from Turkish artist Ahmet Öğüt, wrote that they could not participate in a venture that relies upon “wealth generated from the mandatory detention policies”.

George Brandis' comments today in The Australian (suggesting future funding agreements through the Australia Council could demand the recipient does “not unreasonably terminate an existing agreement with a private partner”) form an ill-considered response to a fairly ordinary situation. It looks like a government meting out fiscal punishment to those who do not want the patronage of certain businesses, in this case those executing unconscionable government policies.

It also interferes with the precious arms-length administrative status of the tax-payer funded Australia Council. Corporate sponsorship is a two-way symbiosis that cannot thrive with a governmental sword of Damocles hanging over each party.

Forty years ago protesting corporate involvement in the arts was both common and done with panache.

It became the focus of the German-American conceptual artist Hans Haacke, who saw the cancellation of his 1971 exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum when he documented the relationship between a slum-tenement landlord and members of the museum board. Artists protested the funding of the Art & Technology exhibitions in California because of corporate sponsorship by weapon manufacturers for the Vietnam War.

In Australia, the role of the tobacco giant Philip Morris in funding acquisitions at the National Gallery Of Australia in Canberra were the subject of demonstrations by artists and the concerned public.

By and large Phillip Morris has won, despite occasional actions like the 1996 cancellation of their sponsorship of a San Diego Museum of Art exhibit. Their sponsorship has been seen as gilding the public image of a nefarious business, but it has gradually seeped into the arts ecology through the company’s persistence.

Transfield and the arts

The image of Transfield is quite different: visionary sponsorship of the startup Biennale by the Italian migrant and builder Franco Belgiorno-Nettis seemed a win-win for decades.

The Transfield Foundation does superb work funding, for example, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and many Indigenous programs. But big companies diversify, with Transfield entering a service industry that has been mired in opprobrium since the Howard years: running refugee detention centres.

American writer Clement Greenberg pointed out 75 years ago that artists rely upon on a bourgeois elite to which they have remained “attached by an umbilical chain of gold”.

This fact does not make the artist’s moral life any easier. Contesting the forms of that link, rubbing up against the ruling social dynamics and making disputatious artworks, continues to power art that is significant. The Biennale protesters have put some life back into an institution that, like much in Australia these days, had become too comfortable.

I do not doubt the Biennale will continue on without Transfield’s 6.1% fiscal contribution. I hope that the company will consider severing its ties with the detention industry to re-establish its moral standing. Most money supporting the arts may be “tainted” (as James Arvanitakis argued on The Conversation earlier this week), but the taint of being involved with the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres is too extreme to be tolerated.

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, in stepping down, allowed the Board of the Biennale to make the right choice: excision to allow a process of healing.

The process won’t be smooth running, and one grimly awaits works dealing with the crisis of Manus Island by certain protesting artists who have chosen to remain within the Biennale. But those artists who withdrew should be saluted for raising their voices against a grotesque government policy, one that makes old-fashioned citizens like me ashamed to call myself Australian.


Further reading:
Luca Belgiorno-Nettis should just buy a yacht
The art of being awkward: Brandis is wrong about the Biennale
Is there any clean money left to fund the arts?
Artists' victory over Transfield misses the bigger picture
The Biennale, Transfield, and the value of boycott
Should artists boycott the Sydney Biennale over Transfield links?

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97 Comments sorted by

  1. David Stein

    Businessman

    Nicely written post, although I disagree with the central premise that government should fund in cases where private funding has been refused.
    The central role of government is responding to market failure. That is to say, where free market forces cannot create an environment to fund what society determines is an essential good or service, it's the government role to step in and try to correct that market failure.
    Tax deductible philanthropy is one way governments correct for market failure to…

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    1. Pat Moore

      gardener

      In reply to David Stein

      Understandable argument David but Australia does not have a strong tradition of privately funded philanthropy but of gladly-given public funds for the encouragement and benefits of cultural enrichment that comes from the arts. This model destroys that "umbilical cord of gold" via which the ruling class deigns to feed or starve the "avant garde" because we know that money has certain requirements and vested interests. Until very recently governments here traditionally did not have these certain requirements and vested interests.

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    2. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Pat, my understanding is philanthropic funding to the bienalle was not subject to any sort of creative control.
      Those who reject Transfield's money but want replacement government funding are causing other artists to have their funding cut. After all, there's only a fixed pie of government arts funding. It may not be those protesting, but their decision has consequences for other artists receiving government funding.

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    3. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to David Stein

      David, that is not the "central premise" of the article. The closest it comes is "It also interferes with the precious arms-length administrative status of the tax-payer funded Australia Council." The Australia Council being a supposedly independent body. The artists who protested by withdrawal did not ask for government grants to substitute the Transfield money. The Arts Minister, in a petty-minded, and frankly pathetic, display of tribal petulism is threatening retribution by directing the Australia Council not to provide a grant for any purpose to an artist who has refused private funding for whatever work (related or not) for whatever reason, moral or not. Perhaps you should take a look at: https://theconversation.com/grattan-on-friday-woe-betide-those-who-fail-the-abbott-governments-tribal-test-24353

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    4. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to David Stein

      I think funding at "arms length" should always remain government policy, otherwise we only get arts based on political power of the time. I also believe a lot of art is about challenging ourselves and perceptions (as well as comforting and reinforcing our beliefs). It is a shame the LNP cannot seem to stomach dissent.

      Accepting a donation would nearly always be taken if it does not compromise principles. This is a really important display of democracy - the right to choose or say what is important to you. Some would like to show there are other things in life apart from money (once you have the basics) and in a first world country we can do that.

      I believe LNP still accepts donations from tobacco.

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    5. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to David Stein

      Business people should not interfere with the production of art David.

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    6. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Ideas like mine don't appear tolerable according to you, so I have purposely desisted from responding to your assertions. When you want to have a conversation, just let me know.
      In any event, the funds flow only one direction, from business to artists - the only interference is whether the tap is turned off or on. The message to philanthropists from the protest is - don't contribute on grounds of philanthropy or love of the arts alone, be morally pure otherwise face the consequences.

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    7. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to David Stein

      David, have you read the other posts to this article or just your own?
      If you will give me the respect that I gave you i.e., I read you posts, then I will converse with you. I ask you to read my lengthy post (above) which asserts that private sponsorship for the arts is not a welcome or viable activity.

      In consideration of the fact that philanthropy is tax deductible I am not deluded enough to believe that philanthropists love art. It is more likely that they love the socialising and the peripheral events such as drinking champagne and chatting to their 'equals' while dressed in gowns and tuxedos.

      Turning off the tap as you put it will not effect art production. It never has in the past and it won't now. Furthermore your trope places control of the arts in the hands of the sponsors - power to stop artists/silence artists. This is outrageous in a democratic nation.

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    8. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to David Stein

      It's great arriving late to such a thread as this. It gives you time to reflect. I'm conviced tht David Stein is a neoliberal (Friedmanite) cyborg. Maybe that is gilding the lilly. A computer program that cites ... err ... data... without reference or evidence.

      There has been a system failure:

      "Tax deductible philanthropy is one way governments correct for market failure to forgo tax revenue for a larger contribution from private interests."

      What on earth could this mean?

      It's like listening to a mechanic on the Gutenberg Press explain the negative concept of freedom.

      "

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    9. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to David Stein

      A very smart cyborg, though, the friday version, although it presents a crude understanding of how power works. The argument that power can only be exercised through control, direct and admonitory, ignores Gramsci, hegemony and counter-hegemony, which ideas have far more explanatory authority than your three dimensional view of power.

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    10. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Edwina, now that, right there, is an idea worth following up:

      "It is a shame the LNP cannot seem to stomach dissent."

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    11. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to David Stein

      Nice try David, but Australia has a miserable history of private philanthropy compared to the US, for example, which is not an unfavourable comparator. This is a (capitals required) Well Known Fact for determining which, from reliable sources, google is yr fren.

      As to your definition of the issue as being one of whether the taps is turned on or off, have you been programmed to recall a time in the 20th C. when the taps were turned off for certain categories of people?

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    12. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      "Turning off the tap as you put it will not effect art production. It never has in the past and it won't now." Yes, well, yeehaa to that!

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    13. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Jena, the production of art IS business.

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    14. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      No Andy it is not. There's much to be said about the flaws in your premise but that will have to wait until morning.

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    15. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Andy, you commented that "the production of art IS business" [your emphasis].

      I am sure that most artists do not feel that way unless they are in advertising where deadlines are prevalent and campaigns are the game.

      As an artist trained in painting, drawing, electronic arts and visual communication (graphic design), I am the producer and as such I should have control over how my work is shown and potentially sold BUT I do not make artworks for the primary purpose of selling, i.e., as a business…

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    16. Pat Moore

      gardener

      In reply to David Stein

      This is a hot skirmish in the culture wars rippling down to Sydney Harbour and beyond from that real and bloody one in PNG, caused by both sides of Australian party policy avoiding UN agreement responsibilities in responding to the expectations of the majority of the electorate. But ultimately a result of the wars/invasions by the US against its enemies, become our enemies as 'junior partner', after 9/11. The tragedies of history reverberate down. And the spectre of Dick Cheyney's Halliburton's…

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    17. Pat Moore

      gardener

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony I refer you to my comment to David S above. Based on my readings of David's comments over the past year upon which I elaborated in the above post I think you're badly mistaken in these judgements and it's strange you don't consider his lucidly argued and always polite commentary as a regular reader.

      In these dark days for this country many of us are getting burnt out/overwrought/incredibly angry and need some therapeutic outlets...like Nature and a weekly 'Mad as Hell' medication laugh for instance? SM (unfortunate initials) is my doctor! Don't mention the coming funding cuts....

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    18. Pat Moore

      gardener

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Great exposition Jena from the artist's pov...the spirit inspiring/inspiriting true creativity is indeed a long way from thoughts of money unless, like the difference between a "sex worker" and a lover, they decide to do tricks for money/market demand rather than answering the urge of a genuine, particular passion in this hard world. Writers always had their spicy, populist "pot boilers" aka food on the table. Maybe someone should make a movie about a Dead Visual Artists Society....so cruel to starve in the garret while alive or else forsaking your art doing meaningless servile work, then rarely but possibly become an enriching currency of exchange for wealthy others when death closes the possibility of any new product.

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    19. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Thank you Pat! I hope we can disagree without being disagreeable, as the saying goes. I certainly appreciate your thoughts, as I always enjoy reading your thoughts.
      I do have to confess Anthony Nolan's wit and humor is of an exceptional calibre - one of those rare few who can elicit a smile while twisting the knife. I don't discount the value of eloquent banter in and of itself, and certainly listen to whatever message its wrapped in.
      As I said to Ben, it is a rather different experience being on the other side of an issue - and I can confess, but don't tell anyone Pat, that my views perhaps have been swayed somewhat by some of the excellent contributions.

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    20. In reply to John Crest

      Comment removed by moderator.

  2. Natasha turnbull

    Student

    What a hypocrisy.

    The artists rejected the private sponsor Transfield because of its link to Manus detention center. But the government is the one who opened the center and is running the center as its policy, and the same artists and their council want the government's fundings against their " moral principle".

    These people haven't done the reputation of art any good.

    This also reminds me about the preference deal swap between the environmental warrior Greens and the mining billionaires Palmar in the last election to get Sarah Henson-Young re-elected.

    The leftists should get off their high horses.

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    1. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      You forget that government money is our money, the people's, not some corporate entity. I certainly support using my taxes to fund arts, education, social services, no matter which political party/ideology is in government. There is a distinction between ruling party policy, ideology and decisions and public funding allocations.
      One can disagree with LNP ideology, policies and decisions yet continue to receive benefits, use roads, schools or services funded with all of our public funds - because these are not LNP funds!

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    2. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      That's a rubbish argument I'm afraid Natasha. There is a fundamental difference between interacting with a private company (which is basically voluntary for both parties) and interacting with government (which isn't). You don't get to opt out of government - you and I *are* the government in one important and fairly fundamental sense - so the idea that you lose a claim on public money by disagreeing with policies of the government of the day.

      And you know the good thing about being on a high horse? You can see a lot more from up there.

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    3. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      The government does not own taxes Natasha. The government merely administers and influences the economy through their budget priorities.

      The current executive of government are just employees of the citizens of this country just as any public servant is and they have not been given a mandate to destroy organisations that require independence and autonomy.

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    4. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      This is an outrageous impersonation of a young female human. Did someone spill some Fanta on the cyborg unit? It's so pissweak that it is almost worthy of being described as trans-gender abuse.

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    5. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      "..."

      No Suzy, it didn't forget, it was rebooted by someone who doesn't do DOS commands.

      This is how a brave new world is created. The facts are re-imagined. Run.

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    6. Robert Davidson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      Poorly said Natasha. The government are servants administering taxpayer's money. It's Brandis and his cronies who are on the high horse, and the artists who can hold their heads high - they have behaved morally, while Brandis has disgraced himself again.

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    7. Pythinia Preston

      writer

      In reply to Robert Davidson

      All they have done is shot themselves in the foot and are now very 'poorly' because of it.
      Absolutely nothing is going to change on Manus Island thru their actions just publicity for themselves....

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    8. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Sam Hemphill

      And note Sam that Abbott has just announced that the policy prohibiting logging in some areas of Tasmania will be revised because we have "enough" national parks.

      So the Abbott government is seeking to damage/threaten the independence and autonomy of teachers, the ABC, the Australia Council and National Parks.

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    9. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Pythinia Preston

      Change comes slowly but change will surely happen as a result of this protest: a protest which demonstrates that passivity, cynicism and denial cannot always be relied upon in citizens of this country.

      Artists will always find ways of showing their work, just take a look at art history.

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    10. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Pythinia Preston

      In writing Brecht always emphasised that plot was not important i.e., it is the story, the narrative that should be foregrounded.

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    11. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Yes, Patrick. And you know what? If you walk BEHIND that horse, you'll see the Abbott government :)

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    12. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      This government has an internal mandate to destroy anything that goes against its ideology.

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  3. Brad Farrant

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Now this government is trying to gag artists as well. So much for their claim that they value free speech! It seems that only those people that agree with them should have free speech in their book.

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  4. Jules Gutierrez

    Fine Wine/Retail Manager

    I can't help but think that the artists could have protested more effectively WITH their art, rather than without it.

    Just think of the examples the article lists, George Grosz and John Heartfield. They got their message across with their work, not by not working.

    I also think the target of their protests, Transfield Holdings, is the wrong target.

    As is well known, Transfield Holdings, former sponser of the Biennale, is NOT the one "executing unconscionable government policies". That is Transfield Services, a company in which Transfield Holdings is a shareholder (approx 15%).

    I'm not suggesting Transfield Holdings has clean hands in a moral sense.

    But the real culprits here are A) weak politicians taking political advantage of the B) ill-informed public that voted them in.

    Who among either of those groups will remember a message from the artists who simply didn't show up?

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    1. Katherine Thegreat

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jules Gutierrez

      Well, we are replying to articles online about the Biennale, so I would argue it was an effective boycott to get us to talk about the effect of underlying and complex government and corporate systems on humans.
      I also think that in the case of Mike Parr and Juan Davila's wonderful pieces, they were striking, powerful and also didn't result in a change of policy. Awareness is a step in a longer, bigger picture protest against human rights trangressions, and there are many effective ways and angles from which to protest, all of which should be employed at dark hours for refugee and human rights such as these.

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    2. Robert Davidson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jules Gutierrez

      It's not that they didn't show up, it's that they wouldn't do so with blood money. Transfield Services and Transfield Holdings are much closer than you're suggesting (despite the whitewash of The Australian)

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    3. Harley Stumm

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jules Gutierrez

      And precisely what gives you the right to lecture them on what strategy they should undertake to achieve their goals, goals you don't share?

      From the brilliant Ghassan Hage:

      "It is always interesting how those who are willing to courageously act in the name of a moral principle are always well aware of the practical contradictions and imperfections associated with whatever moral stand they take. It is those who want to remain passive, and who directly or indirectly support the status quo, who…

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    4. Harley Stumm

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jules Gutierrez

      Who will remember the artists who didn't show up? We're still talking about this issue. Their strategy worked.

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    5. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Jules Gutierrez

      Jules, as has been stated many times in response to your argument, there is no reason why artists cannot do both i.e., protest and make art.

      And actually George Grosz was not working when he was an enlisted man at the front where he experienced that from which he both protested and made art. Indeed many young artists and poets had their lives cut short by war and through protesting totalitarianism. Maybe you should go back to Grosz's work and take a look at his comments on soldiers suffering…

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    1. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Dude, love the passion. But... it sure is interesting being on the other side of an issue and looking at the comments in a new light.
      I want artists to have as much 'no strings attached' funding as possible whether public or private. Of course I care about human rights, but where, on the piece of string, does the protest against the uncleanliness of private money stop? How clean does money have to be?

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    2. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to David Stein

      I hear you. A lot of this is pure emotion and simple reaction. In the end the protest might not have even been the 'best' or most rational way to protest. It might be based on faulty assumptions or incomplete reasoning. It's also correct to point to the hypocrisy of protesting the private funding quotient and not the governmental quotient - both of which are, arguably, 'dirty' money.

      But, bottom line, people saw unfairness and said 'no, not in our name'. I'm still okay with that.

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    3. Pythinia Preston

      writer

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      It appears that only on conversation.com are pros for the biennale artists's actions, comments from the rest of society are anti them...have you all come to roost here?

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    4. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Pythinia Preston

      I assume in the same way that the "bourgeoisie" used to go to coffee shops to discuss all sorts of political, philosophical or ethical topics - chew the fat and challenge the mind, many "left-wing, latte-sipping, cheese nibbling and wine-sampling" types come to the conversation to state their current beliefs, learn other things from experts or the erudite, have their arguments challenged, put ethics (and such) on top of bald statements and generally "think". This is not what happens in the rest of society at the moment.

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    5. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to David Stein

      "where, on the piece of string, does the protest against the uncleanliness of private money stop? How clean does money have to be?" - That's a fair question, but we don't need to answer that question ahead of time in order to say that at least some things are clearly out.

      There seems to be this idea that only those who are completely uncompromised are entitled to protest. In a world in which we're all compromised on some level I don't accept that. We shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

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    6. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Pythinia Preston

      Yes, of course. Did you not fill out the form to join TC stating you were a Marxist, bilby-hugging, shark-saving, rainbow beanie-wearing Greens-voting Leftie like the rest of us?

      No?

      Moderator - I think some Coalition voters are getting through the firewall. You may want to tweak the anti-Right wing filter again to eliminate dissenting views.

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    7. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to David Stein

      David you still have not read my post about funding for the arts in Germany. It answers some of your questions and is an alternative view which needs consideration.

      Or would you rather stay in the cycle of your current thinking?

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    8. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Ben,
      There must be a moderator conspiracy - I got the commie pinko leftie professional protester hairy legs dreadlocks and mung bean box that demanded ticking.
      And I don't even like Mung beans...

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    9. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick - quick note to say thanks for the excellent discussion. I can now tell my utilitarian logic from my deontic, no dental chair needed. And perhaps the ghost of Gertrude is whispering a little in my ear - I have a much better perspective on this issue based on the persuasive arguments presented, with a little philosophy class thrown in for good measure. This is exactly why TC is such a fascinating place - even for an antediluvian such as myself!

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    10. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick, why is it that alternatives to the funding arrangements here in Australia are not being discussed?

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  5. Pat Moore

    gardener

    Pater ultor ultrix, father of vengeful retribution, swift and swooping executed through the arm of captured government. What better proof that the corporate sector is the governing sector? Are the LNP shareholders and company boffins once, twice or thrice removed from the executive branch of government? Australia Council....pfsst. Recalcitrant artist children will receive their punitive desserts. This corporate mother monstrous controls "the umbilical cord of gold" AND government and determines…

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    1. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Yes indeed. So much of the media, in control of evil hands, spends so much time and energy proscribing what we ought to desire. There is a developing counter-hegemony. It has roots in 'How To Read Donald Duck' and prior to that...

      da da

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  6. Craig Read

    logged in via Twitter

    "I hope that the company will consider severing its ties with the detention industry to re-establish its moral standing."

    I wouldn't hold your breath. I had a good read of the new Victorian "move on" laws the other night. I suspect they're just as much about criminalizing being homeless as they are about stopping protests. There appears to be lots of money to be made in incarceration these days.

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    1. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Craig Read

      Mate, the share price of the relevant Trans-co went up 24.5% within a day of the announcement of its successful bid to run Manus as well as Nauru. Money talks and bullshit walks, as the Reserve Bank guvn'rs are wont to mutter.

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    2. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Craig Read

      It used to be that one was considered a vagrant if the police found less than $2 on your person. And this was enough to lock you up - in effect poverty and homelessness made you a criminal.

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  7. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    My thinking on this issue is, it's the role of Artists to bite the hand that feeds them as and when they see fit - whether this involves performances critical of their patrons, or withdrawal from performance altogether is irrelevant. Freedom of speech, talking truth to power, continuing the tradition of the jester and all that, right?

    I'd just make the comment that, if an artist has the view that they cannot accept sponsorship from a sponsor due to its accepting a government contract, then it's a bit hypocritical for them to accept that same government's money as an alternative.

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    1. Ray Hughes

      IT Worker

      In reply to David Arthur

      No. Once again - "government money" is taxpayer's money. In accepting it from the Australia Council artists are not receiving a donation from George Brandis, or Scott Morrison or Tony Abbot. They are being funded by taxpayers. Me and possibly you. The same way that our roads and bridges are (or used to be, back when governments took responsibility for building things).

      Brandis's dummy-spit is infantile and reminiscent of the tactics used by (other) extremist governments. The artists making the…

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Ray Hughes

      Thanks for that clarification, Mr Hughes (also Ms Gneist).

      As taxpayers, we delegate responsibility for decisions about our money to our elected representatives. What we don't do is cede any rights to those representatives. In my initial remark, I neglected this principle.

      It follows, then, that my remark about grant recipients and hypocrisy was ill-founded; I stand corrected

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    3. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to David Arthur

      Just some further thoughts on the role of government in relation to the arts (from an article written about funding in Germany(

      "Political interference in the arts is a firmly established taboo in German government, similar to the way the American government takes a hands off approach to regulatory work of the Federal Reserve. It is almost never done, and when it is a scandal invariably ensues and the perpetrators generally have to back down. They know that over the long term, entering that labyrinth can only have catastrophic results. "

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    4. Robert Davidson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      Not at all - it's our money, not theirs. They are servants. Brandis seems to think he's not a servant - he should know his station.

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    5. Pythinia Preston

      writer

      In reply to Ray Hughes

      It's going to take a lot more than a few artists turning their backs on a large sum of money to get innocent children out of prison camps - what do you intend to do about it?

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  8. Pat Moore

    gardener

    I don't understand this commonly made and mistaken conflation of "government money". It is not government money but public money, the massive amount of taxes we pay as citizens over our life time. The current government in power is responsible for the socially equitable distribution of these, OUR collective funds.

    Arts funding has a long and productive history in Australia which does not have a large philanthropic tradition and which initially flowered and thrived under the progressive Whitlam…

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    1. Hilary McPhee

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Roger Benjamin' has given us a timely reminder of the seamless cooperation we've come to expect of artists, institutions and their funding sources. This works if the public funding bodies are scrupulously at arm's length from government and the decisions about what to fund are made predominantly by peers.

      George Brandis makes no bones about where this government is heading, and it seems certain that the Australia Council will be weakened accordingly.

      The decisions of the Transfield Foundation have underpinned much superb work over many years. Let's hope that the Foundation's board, claiming its funding decisions to be at arm's length from the policy of offshore incarceration of asylum seekers, now finds a way to influence government policy that does not further weaken what we already have. The courage of artists choosing to stand against an inhumane policy is to be applauded and emulated.

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  9. Jena Zelezny

    research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

    According to a recent article written about how the arts are funded in Germany,

    "Private sponsorship of the arts is rarely encouraged and is viewed with extreme mistrust. They feel this will lead to less funding based on the sporadic whims of patrons who often have superficial tastes. Embarrassingly, it is often referred to as the American model." (btw New York City has an arts budget of US$750 million - Australia cannot hope to rival both the quality and quantity of art produced in that city…

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  10. Thierry Geoffroy

    logged in via Facebook

    THE ARTIST OF TODAY AWARRE OF THE EMERGENCIES
    SHOULD NOT QUESTION THE CANVAS ANYMORE
    BUT THE BIENNALES AND OTHER FONDATIONS OF THE ART WORLD

    "THE EMERGENCY WILL REPLACE THE CONTEMPORARY"
    http://www.emergencyrooms.org/biennalist.html

    -----------------------------

    If artists start to boycott Biennales (like Sydney Binennale ) connected to breaking human rights,
    soon it wont be any Biennales left !!!
    http://biennalist.blogspot.dk/2014/03/if-artists-start-to-boycott-biennales.html

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  11. Shauna Murray

    Associate Professor; ARC Future Fellow, Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster at University of Technology, Sydney

    “I myself don’t think arts company should reject bona fide arts sponsorship from commercially sound prospective partners on political grounds."

    were George Brandis' words as reported on ABC.

    Surely key principles of democracy are freedom of speech and freedom of association. Why should artists in particular forgoe their right to freedom of association?

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    1. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to Shauna Murray

      You are confusing freedom of speech and freedom of association with public funding.

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    2. Shauna Murray

      Associate Professor; ARC Future Fellow, Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to David Stein

      Everyone in Australia receives public funding - it funds our roads, schools, hospitals, governance, environmental protection, defense, pensions, research and infrastructure, police, sports, the arts, etc etc and in many cases corporations as well.

      Are you saying that people who have a different opinion to those of current political leaders should be denied rights that every other Australian has? In what way would that be compatible with a democracy?

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  12. Thierry Geoffroy

    logged in via Facebook

    If artists start to boycott Biennales (like Sydney Binennale ) connected to breaking human rights,
    soon it wont be any Biennales left !!!
    http://biennalist.blogspot.dk/2014/03/if-artists-start-to-boycott-biennales.html

    THE ARTIST OF TODAY AWARRE OF THE EMERGENCIES
    SHOULD NOT QUESTION THE CANVAS ANYMORE
    BUT THE BIENNALES AND OTHER FONDATIONS OF THE ART WORLD

    "THE EMERGENCY WILL REPLACE THE CONTEMPORARY"

    http://www.emergencyrooms.org/biennalist.html

    check also by Biennalist art format…

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    1. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Thierry Geoffroy

      Thanks for this Thierry - I have yet to go through all of the links you provided BUT I support what you're doing.

      And I recommend these sites to anyone seeking an alternative to the Biennale and/or who as not even considered that there are alternatives to such events.

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  13. Harley Stumm

    logged in via Facebook

    Brandis is a fool. In what universe is he living, imagining that corporate sponsors are beating down the doors of arts companies, desperate to sponsor them? In every sector, from the edgy avant guard to the major companies doing heritage repertoire, the sponsors are approached, courted, begged, cajoled. Actually the likelihood of there being a prospective relationship between two parties where there isn't a social/philosophical match, is very tiny. It only arose in this case because Transfield changed…

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  14. Harley Stumm

    logged in via Facebook

    Brandis is a fool. In what universe is he living, imagining that corporate sponsors are beating down the doors of arts companies, desperate to sponsor them? In every sector, from the edgy avant guard to the major companies doing heritage repertoire, the sponsors are approached, courted, begged, cajoled. Actually the likelihood of there being a prospective relationship between two parties where there isn't a social/philosophical match, is very tiny. It only arose in this case because Transfield changed…

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  15. Adam Lippiatt
    Adam Lippiatt is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Conversation Participant

    I assume Transfield exercises the right to spend its money on what it chooses, so people can withdraw when they don't want to take the money.

    But perhaps you could take the money, do your show, and then keep the conversation going by making comment on this particular sponsor (i.e. take the money and run).

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  16. Ralph Johnson

    logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

    I disagree with the government being the backup for any arts group that has a problem with the business activities of their sponsor. As most businesses pay some tax, no matter how small, government funding in this case is just another form of money laundering. Given the current situation in Australia, I think the government should redirect arts grants to health and social services, so people get the services they desperately need.

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    1. Tony Bonner

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ralph Johnson

      Stop talking sense... this is a talk fest on who's right and who's wrong.

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    2. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Ralph Johnson

      "Given the current situation in Australia" - the thing is, you never hear people say "Ok, *now* it's a good time to increase funding for arts and culture," anymore than you ever hear employer groups saying "you know, the economy is going so well right now, this is a good time for a big increase in the minimum wage." Somehow we're always in such straightened circumstances that it's just never 'the right time.'

      Why, if I didn't know better, I'd start to think these people just didn't want to spend the money on things that don't benefit them directly.

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  17. Jena Zelezny

    research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

    There are quite a few articles on this subject now - six or so - all presenting a different aspect of the situation.

    Unfortunately the respondents to this particular article are asking some of the same questions asked before. Can I advise those who are interested to read the other articles and the comments so that this problem can be eliminated. It would be good to ask specific questions that relate to the writer's perspective.

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    1. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      I wonder too why it is that artists are not considered as the philanthropists in any funding scenario.

      In a lot of instances, artists donate their work or they receive less than it is worth (in terms of time and value, and in terms of value vs what buyers are prepared to pay unless the artist has died/and or has achieved some degree of fame or notoriety. Indeed has Van Gogh's work been appreciated by buyers at last, or has Van Gogh's life become part of the aura surrounding the work).

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  18. Ron Mackie

    Retired

    Good for Brandis! Chucking ad hominem insults at him are not going to work. The man's made of sterner stuff, which is why the majority of voters returned the LNP to power.
    The Beinnale crowd are clearly playing politics by stealth. Probably staffed by the usual bunch of greenies and lefties in their ongoing protests in favour of the illegals in detention. They tried that stunt on at the East Sydney council, attempting to boycott Israeli goods. Remember that one?
    The Govt. should just cut all the Biennalle funding immediately, and let them flounder, putting on sausage sizzles and craft stalls to fund themselves, just like all other community and arty-farty groups.

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