This blog does not normally contain anything political, but an exception is granted in light of the 2015 Australian Federal Budget; specifically the cuts to the Australia Council, which is a government funded peak body operating upon an ‘arms-length’ funding model.
RE: the devastating cuts to the Australia Council. Long post. I must admit it took about an hour for this announcement to sink in last night – blame it on currently being on holiday: oceanside, cloaked in solitary reveries, drinking a reasonable quantity of wine and making an effort to stay away from social media; which is sure to build up your resistance to what is otherwise very, very bad news. The implications of this sank in last night as panic and outrage started filling up my news feed.
Let’s get to the point (and I realise I’m essentially echoing the sentiment and observations of others here): this is a strategic move by the Arts Minister George Brandis to: 1) redistribute *more* funds into what are essentially government slush funds to prop up large scale projects which adhere to principles of ‘excellence’ and are of worth – in strictly rhetorical terms – to the broader Australian community; whilst 2) seriously undermining the notion of government ‘arms length’ funding, effectively defunding and devaluing the worth of small to medium arts enterprises and organisations. The effects of this will by massive: arts organisations, collectives, galleries and festivals will cease to continue – no amount of ‘new economy’ crowd funding will keep certain ventures going (for a variety of reasons). The trickle down effect of this will result in the evaporation of funding and opportunities for artists and subsequently their work will cease or get steered into a position of compromise.
I don’t claim to know how conservatives think sometimes, but I understand their philosophies and agendas when aspects of culture arise. This announcement further underpins the anxieties which I’ve harboured since this government came to power in 2013; that is, Australian culture and the collective psyche would be radically affected by a shift to a conservative mindset that alters everything we identify with and is writ large, both here and overseas. The collateral damage is everywhere.
From a personal point of view, I feel battered and broken by the situation we’re living in at the moment – the culture wars which have been going on for a few years in the UK, parts of Europe and Canada under the guise of fiscal accountability are ever present here and I tangibly understand how friends and colleagues of mine must have felt as the waves kept crashing in. On this basis, will Australian artists cease to make work? There are historical precedents (and personal anecdotes) to indicate this. The heart and imagination can only withstand so much damage before the act of expressing oneself becomes unbearable or doesn’t find a home in the hearts and minds of others.
I’ve been a practicing artist for about ten years and in spite of the inevitable doubts and concerns I have regarding my work, I feel confident that I will continue making work according to the interests and rationale I have set for myself. However, I feel for younger artists who are just starting to establish themselves and absorb the world into their imaginations and creative endeavours.
Sadly the future isn’t what we imagined it to be (for the time being.)