Note on a parenthetical in previous post: day 7

The notion that the sheer expense of rebranding the QEII Arts Council was the point above divesting the arts in NZ of their patron in Queen Elizabeth II requires a further note. The gesture is, on the face of it, with the glove of it, a political one: it intends to communicate that we are nationalising the arts; that, even if it was only nominally so, the arts are now no longer by appointment to Her Majesty, rather they are by appointment to a new authority, a notional one; that, while remaining within its purview, the Arts Council will now come under the power of patronage of the New Zealand government.

The Arts Council is made a tool of nation-building and, while we don’t have much idea as to what nation we’re building, we guess that ‘moving forward’ on this virtuous path (we guess it’s bicultural and postcolonial) requires a creative New Zealand; possibly because to reconcile the contradictions even between these two new civic virtues, biculturalism and postcolonialism, would seem to demand creativity; however, nation-building and national-identity-building exclude the possibility of creative identity by claiming the end in, and as, their means: the tool annexes the (creative) field.

Although a gesture of creative independence, and well-intended, however infantile, unintended consequences of removing the Royal Patron have brought both a crisis in representation – who do we now patronise? and what praise? our own creativity? (O, creative Tool!) – and increasingly successful and destructive attempts to manage that crisis through organisational intercessions, i.e. councils, Councils, bodies corporate (O, Tool of Tools, Thou art a Field Creative unto Thyself!).

No. The political gesture of renaming The Queen Elizabeth the Second Arts Council CNZ – the latter, I’m informed, and it serves my point, is called by the former name in statute – is just that, a gesture. Money had to be seen to be spent because what was at stake was precisely a ‘rebranding.’ The expense incurred in the rebranding marks, testifies to, celebrates, indeed, glorifies, the emergence inside governmental organisations of corporation envy. The costliness of the gesture not the gesture actualised a real movement of corporatisation of a government department. It, if you like, accounts for it.

The erstwhile weakness of organisations within the NZ government superstructure for accounting for themselves as (if they were) private corporations, in terms of transparency, accountability, to stake- and share-holders, but, above all, in their expense to run, signified and signifies not only private or personal or departmental greed but is and was also signal of an underlying communitarian or communal impulse, that desiring fairness among offices and social equality inside the thick walls of the department. It resembles sovietization, except that it costs more, and reminds us of the strong internal torsion and organic connection between Real Existing Socialism and Capitalism. I suspect, like many other such hierarchical social formations that choose to devolve in order to gain the advantage of speed (of flows of capital), corporatised government departments/bodies are subject to a bunker-mentality and act to preserve the various milieux on which they depend for justification by rather preserving their constitutive particles, the elementary individuals locked in proximity, and nearest, dearest.

Collateral by Laurie Lipton

I have just now at last received in the mail Herbert Blau’s The Impossible Theatre: A Manifesto and this on the front flap:

In this ringing manifesto, the co-founder of The Actor’s Workshop of San Francisco directs himself to what he declares the most evaded cause of the much-lamented sickness of the American theatre – “the timorousness and self-deceit of people in the theatre” who spend their careers blaming everything else. Surveying the scene with an augur eye, writing with an anger which is contagious, he issues a call for the re-creation of the theatre as “the Public Art of Crisis.”

– The Macmillan Company, New York, 1964

Where I’ve been arguing that CNZ tries to manage such Crisis and Public Art out of existence in the name of national identity, for the sake nation-building, with the government’s patronage of it as the end of these two conjoined projects.