to placard: letter on arts funding crisis, to demolish an idea

[-The following went to Spectre -]

State arts funding does not have the interests of the artist or of art at its centre as its reason. It is rather a symbolic – political and economic and ethological – allowance that such things might emerge as artists and arts which if they do may be managed and organised, judged and branded.

The critical economy appears to be the next major franchise, of the semantic Web, for example, as copyright on material expression ceases to stick, given digital dissolution, and ownership of opinion arises, stratifies and propagates through personalisation of services, through P2P recommendation. +, like, :> … However, arts funding provides pre-eminently for the ecology that supports managers, organisers, and critical apparati, even if the latter often give the impression of parasitism. When societies do not allow the critical threshold of economic freedom to be reached such that a stage of emergence can be insured, then what is at risk is an ecology or network.

The state in removing itself from the art/arts equation by withdrawing funding eliminates a hub from this network. This may not destroy the network but its deleterious effects will ramify throughout it.

The current system of tertiary student loans in New Zealand we know to cost more to run than the previous system of student allowances. In fact, this was known before the system was implemented. Likewise, looking only at economic indexes, cutting state funding for the arts, above an ascertainable threshold of sufficient funding, costs the state more than continuing its support.

How is it possible to ascertain the amount of funding that suffices? Where the existence of significant arts institutions is threatened, where that significance is given the larger meaning of ‘acting as a hub for the (artistic, social, civic, ethological, economic, political, critical, and so on) network,’ is where the threshold lies.

Theatres and cinemas are clearly hubs, but that the former is also an artistic hub, bringing the company responsible for the work together in the same institution as that in which it is shown. Theatre therefore displays even more hub-like characteristics when it has a resident company and is not simply the venue for visitors.

Much of this discussion seems to have recycled notions of economic lean-ness or efficiency, whereby the arts in Europe have grown fat, Brad Brace for one advocating a crash diet and the dynamic individualism of a lean mean art-making machine. [visit him here] Is an excess of funding than what suffices in sustaining significant arts institutions adequate justification to cut state funding?

I would like to live in a society in which such a problem arises. Justification is usually from the macroeconomic, with all the attendant ironies that even minor financial institutions are worthy of state bail-outs. And as they devolve on macroeconomic arguments they have recourse to the unscientific theories of fashionable economic thinking, or ideology.

It is this idea that cutting state funding somehow works or creates benefits that needs to be demolished.