Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Is this what our Taxes are spent on.

People keep going on about how little we spend on the arts. Then I watch the view and watch people dance in front of a post office. Which is supposed to be symbolic of "How Irish people dance". Maybe I am missing the point but I have never seen anyone dance or do anything remotely like dancing outside a post office in my life. This short film ~5 minutes That involved about 2 camera angles. Had 4 Assistant directors. Four. The Godfather had 3. I wouldn't even try to describe the utter crap that followed it. Sufficed to say it "had a non-linear narrative" Fine Gael are going on about the Government wasting money in the health service. Maybe they should be saying the government is wasting money on the Arts council. Why are the tax payers subsidizing the Arts to facilitate dinner conversation clap trap in pseudo-intellectual upper-class.

Then people have the gall to criticise the government for partial funding of Croke Park which is a place where more people will want to go to. And then say it is great that the Government is funding the Abbey where few outside the wealthy elite will go. Now I have no problem with the wealthy elite. But why should I and the majority of the nation with no interest in people dancing in front of post offices pay for what they can well afford themselves? Are am I just a heathen?


Auds said...

Yes you is a heathen.
But a sensible one.

Declan said...

Well said. There is art for arts sake, but "art" for moneys sake is even worse. If the GAA or FAI announced they wanted a few million to do an interpretive reinvention of the concept of men chasing a ball around a field in a post modern dance style they would be, sensibly, told to piss off, but the arts council says "would you like that in small bills?"

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the programme but just because you don't get it or like it doesn't mean it's crap or a waste of money. It's like people who say that contemporary art is shite and should only be paid for if the public understand it. The same people then say that a night out with Brendan O'Carroll is shite because it's not high brow enough.

There's a set of standards applied to the arts, and public art in particular, which wouldn't stand up to rigorous scrutiny if it were applied to any other area of public spending.

The reality of the situation is that the arts sector repays over 50% of all funding received to the exchequer via VAT and income tax. The film industry generates extraordinary economic investment in Ireland in terms of employment, VAT, income tax, spending on food, accommodation etc. The average wage of an artist in Ireland is less than €10,000 which places them further down the poverty chain than a lot of people who the same begrudgers would support in terms of tax breaks, social welfare reform and inner city development.

The government, tourist boards, local authorities etc are only too happy to appropriate the work of artists to suit their economic investment, social inclusion, feel good agendas when it suits them. Everyone is a friend of Beckett, Joyce, when they travel but can’t relate that back to what it takes to get to that level of genius (not that the Irish tax payer had anything at all to do with it because we ran them out of the country)

Just because we don't get it isn't a good enough argument for not funding a sector that offers one of the last places to critically assess who we are as a nation. The anti intellectualism of this country never fails to amaze me.

Simon said...

Just because we don't get it isn't a good enough argument for not funding a sector that offers one of the last places to critically assess who we are as a nation

Art is far from the last place to say who we are. Take Sean Og Hurling for Cork. A fluent Irish speaker, part-philopino. Who give his all mearly for the pride of his county . Who treats a amatuer activity as a professional activity. In the most tradional of all Irish activities. That says more about Ireland then the vast majority of things. Yet does he recieve tax breaks, does he recieve funding?

The scale of snobbery in this country which elevates art to some higher form of the rest of human activity never fails to amaze me.

The reality of the situation is that the arts sector repays over 50% of all funding received to the exchequer via VAT and income tax.
Ya and the GAA saves the government 100's of millions. Imagine if the GAA was not in every parish. The amount of money the government would have to invest in youth outreach programs and the like. Yet the arts sector is considered superior.

Declan said...

Dont get me wrong, I'm not against art. But sometimes I think the money spent on certain art projects is not always justified and could have provided better results if some of it had been spread around to other artists. You have to admit the idea of 4 assistant directors on a 5 minute movie is a little funny.

Anonymous said...

the GAA is a voluntary organisation so you're simply not comparing like with like. Would you deny any kind of investment in the traditional arts? largely run out of amateur clubs and associations for years but which in the last twelve months has secured nearly €3million in state funding (which I support). Your assessment of the Abbey is off the mark too. It has had an amazing outreach and education department for years doing great work in community settings but because tons of money isn't "wasted" advertising it, it's hidden then people come along and evaluate the work of the organisation on the basis of how many fur coats and gin and tonics they think they see (all nonesense of course). I'm all for critically evaluating how public money is spent - I just dont' believe that personal taste is the best way of doing it.

Simon said...

I just dont' believe that personal taste is the best way of doing it.

But that is exactly the way the tax payers money is been distrubuted by the personnel taste of the arts council members. If it was truly democratic to reflect the taste of the enitire country it would be supported by voluntary contributions. (Either donations or ticket sales)

Anonymous said...

Huh? That's simply not the case Simon. There's a policy, a strategy, expert advisers etc. I know because I designed and managed the Arts Council's national consultation process in 2004 which involved over 1200 people in a strategy formation process. The Arts Council is only one mechanism by which my taxes are invested in the arts. Local authorities are another together with Health Boards, Partnership Companies - all of these have policies by which funding is distributed. There's also a difference between personal preference and informed opinion.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that last one got away from me before I had finished. Why should public funding to the arts be distributed in a different way than monies going into defense? or education? Why not dispense with the democratically elected system and throw the entire thing open to public taste? There's a minister for the arts, sports and tourism in the same way as other public policy areas. It amazes me that we think the arts should be treated so differently and asked to defend itself in a way that other public policy areas arent. The cultural identity of the nation is something I want my tax money spent on. I don't particularly agree with my taxes going on an army but as I live in a democracy I'm willing to put up with that in return for other things I am passionate about. I also don't speak or understand German but that doesn't make it "shite" and I dont' think I should have a say in whether German is taught in schools or subsidised because I can't understand it. But weirdly enough that argument seems to be the one reached for by uninformed public opinion on the arts all the time.

Simon said...

I'll stop now because we are not going to agree on this and I didn't realise you worked with the arts council so I am sorry for any offence I caused you.

Anonymous said...

I don't work with the Arts Council Simon, they were a client of mine last year (one of many) but I've worked in and with the arts and cultural sector over the past 20 years and the points you are raising are important to debate. The thing is, they are debated and taken very seriously by both national and local policy makers. but somehow people don't think that these issues are taken seriously. The arts is a sophisticated arena - not only the making and presentation of work (physical and process based) but the care that goes into how public funding (which partly funds the making of art, not totally) is spent and accounted for.

Simon said...

The thing is with defence and education benifits the entire nation. Whether it is the arts councils intention or not the produce of the funding is marjoritivaly for the benefit of the better off. The majority of who are only interested in art for the status symbolism that it is. Now with all things there are exceptions to the rule but to the majority of people that is what they see the arts as.

Also when the arts council give preferencial status to interpied dance in front of a post office that is seen by only a few insomnics on late night RTE to the likes of Bredan O'Caroll that gives people enjoyment. Not only makes people annoyed but also makes them feel inferior as they see the "elite" saying that what they like is stupid.

Anonymous said...

"Whether it is the arts councils intention or not the produce of the funding is marjoritivaly for the benefit of the better off. "

Show me the evidence for that statement? It is factually untrue and I challenge you to back that assertion. The Arts Council (and other agencies) fund all kinds of work in all kinds of communities throughout the country. Have a look at how the arts are integrated into the regeneration of Ballymun as well as the Fatima Manasions development - amazing work with extraordinary communities. The Bealtaine Festival - for older people, throughout the country in May - again, really interesting work. I can point you in the direction of myriad examples of extraordinary participatory arts practice throughout the country.

If you follow your logic then the state should cut all funding to sports organisations on the basis that only a handful of sports people (the priveliged few) will ever be good enough to go to the Olympics because the nation has no relationship with the individuals involved, takes no pride in who they are or what they achieve?

Simon said...

So are you telling me that if I go to an art gallery opening in Dublin that the majority of the people are going to not be from D4?

The 2006 Local Authorities Offers. Have DunLoaire Rathdown County Council down for 100,000 and Dublin City council which includes Ballymun got 38,000

Anonymous said...

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council spends nearly €1,000,000 on the arts. 10% of their spend comes from the Arts Council. Dublin City Council itself spends way in excess of what the Arts Council gives it - I don't have the exact figure to hand. If you’re going to try and baffle me with the basic figures from the Arts Council’s website then you’re going to have to do a bit more homework on the broader context. Ballymun’s arts programme wasn’t funded by Dublin City Council or the Arts Council exclusively….have you factored in the per cent for arts scheme yet?

Galleries are one place where art is shown and sure, some of them will be stuffed with the middle classes - but there are many other places where art is made and shown that are not exclusively "middle class". Are you aware of IMMA’s education and outreach programmes which result in great art made in socially engaged contexts? So what though?

With respect Simon, you are arguing from a position of personal prejudice. Now the thing about starting from that position is that there's nothing that a rational and informed perspective can bring that's going to change your mind. You think what you think, regardless of the fact that it's based on nothing only your personal opinion.
On one hand you blame the Arts Council for making decisions based on personal prejudice yet here you are doing exactly the same thing. I'm trying to offer you some perspective based on real experience but it's falling on deaf ears.

So what's the discussion really about? I don't get the sense that you're interested in moving from a fixed position in relation to this; the arguments you are putting forward are based on nothing that resembles real information…I don’t work for any arts agency – I’m a citizen of the country with a passion for all things cultural. It’s certainly not my job to convince you of the value of culture or the state’s role in that.

But to accept your view for one moment – I’ll gladly go the distance of suggesting that we “democratise” the state’s spend on arts and culture if the same principle is applied to every other area of state spending…I don’t want the education system of this country run by text message polls. I haven’t met anyone, artist, policy maker or participant in artistic processes (which, are more than mere objects exhibited in galleries) who want’s that either.

Over and out..

Simon said...

It’s certainly not my job to convince you of the value of culture or the state’s role in that.
See that is precissly the disscussion. What is the states roll in culture.

Anonymous said...

The questions you are asking aren't answerable in this forum so I'll write something on my own blog over the next few days.

Copernicus said...

Jesus Christ, Simon, stop talking shite, in fairness.