Sunday, June 12, 2016

ARS GRATIA ARTIS

Some home truths for you.

In 2016, the Government of New South Wales has allocated $1.6 billion for sporting stadium refurbishments.

'That allocation will include $350 million for a new stadium at Parramatta, $450 million for a refurbishment of Allianz Stadium and $700 million to turn ANZ Stadium into a permanent 75,000-seat rectangular stadium.'

Around the same time, the same Government announced that an additional $20 million would be set-aside for screen production in NSW. The idea, as the Government spokesperson puts it, is to ask:

"Why can't we make the next Star Wars episode here?...Why can't we bring Game of Thrones here?"

For reference, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' cost $306 million to make. 'Game of Thrones: Season 6' cost $100 million to make.

But yes, we'll secure all of that with an extra $20 million in the bank. Right.

There is a broader question at issue here, however.

The announcement of an extra $20 million in funding for the screen arts is cause for celebration, no doubt. But to have the funds instantly committed to the competitive pursuit of attracting productions we don't own the rights to; and therefore won't profit from?

A cigarette to my helium balloon.

"But these international productions will mean jobs for our film and TV industry technicians!"


(SIDE NOTE: it's always funny to hear conservative politicians justify giving public money to Hollywood studios because it will create jobs. Something about the glamour of the film business suddenly turns right-wing public servants into socialists.)

I could rejoinder this broad, economic brush-stroke of 'job creation' with a long analysis of the cost-benefit of these international film/TV production cash subsidies.

I really could.

But such a long-winded analysis is unnecessary. Throwing huge wads of taxpayer money at billionaire entertainment corporations so they (temporarily) hire our film workers, then leave and reap the rewards of owning the IP, doesn't pass a basic common sense test. It would be like China paying Apple to set-up an iPhone sweat-shop for 6 months.

So, I will leave you instead, with the simple notion that the black-box "positivity" accounting involved in these large 'one-off' international film and TV production subsidies, is dubious at best.

You may be wondering then, how does a sports stadium become prioritised in the public consciousness, over the screen arts, to the tune of 17 times more funding in this particular case?

I am too.

Is it because sports are events that generate so much revenue and public benefit?

Well, if that were the case, it would only strengthen the argument that the Arts are not receiving their fair share of the pie. Or, as one writer put it:

'More than 18 million Australians buy tickets to live shows every year. That’s more than attend all sport in this nation. By this statistic, sport is for elitists and the arts are for everyone.'


The funding deficit is not logical, then. It's idealogical. The home truth I promised you, it lives here:

Art has no right to exist.

Of course I want art to exist. We all do.

Art, unequivocally, is the glue that holds our bonds of civilisation together.

But still, be it dance, or film, or writing, or painting - whatever your cultural vice may be - art has no right to exist.

Art needs angels. It must be spoken for. Willed into being.

Either spawned through the harmonised chorus of your desire, and the skill of artist who's work moves your dial...

...or extinguished, by the collective silence, roughly the size of a crowded sports stadium.

I just have to shake my head at the state of affairs sometimes. Despite all that we know and love, what kind of society are we building here?

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