Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

The trade-off.

NEAlogo.jpg

This week, I briefly jumped into the fiery online conversation about the excision of NEA funding from the economic stimulus package and I immediately regretted not only my overly simplistic, emotionally founded response but also that I bothered entering the discussion in the first place. My knowledge of the stimulus package is limited by both the amount of time I’ve not spent researching it and my incompetence in the areas of complex economics.

I’m not the person you need arguing about the importance of government arts funding, not only due to my above stated deficiencies but also due to the fact that I’m not entirely sure how vociferously I believe in it. A cause deserves a champion willing to let their temper rise through the roof of their skull, and arts funding doesn’t do that for me.

I believe that a nation that doesn’t value its artistic output is spiritually bankrupt, and I believe that the legislators snorting derisively about discomfiting art that received NEA money in the past should be forced to live a year with no exposure to music, television, film, paintings, or books of any kind, and then return to the table and tell the assembly how insignificant the arts were to their lives in that time.

I believe that when a social zeitgeist passes on into history very few people remember its most influential bankers.

I believe that everything has an audience of some kind, that there has never been a single produced work of art that everybody has agreed is unworthy of attention.

Today I spent most of my time negotiating the contract for a performance of TML being booked at a local college. The college had sent over a contract rider that stipulated our performance could be canceled and payment withheld for “content” issues. Although we have in certain instances agreed to keep foul language toned back for certain venues, the Neo-Futurists have a policy against content censorship…if the presenter tells us that we cannot perform plays critical of the war or in favor of gay marriage, that including such work would be a deal-breaker, then we consider the deal to be broken.

This is the choice we made. We hold the integrity of the art to be above our financial concerns and we accepted the consequences of living with that1. A number of people in the discussion of the NEA funding will likely consider this to be arrogant elitism, that if we really felt we deserved the money of taxpayers that we would tailor and suppress until we created a product that satisfied them.

And my question then becomes, why would you want to pay money for something that fails to challenge you, for something that fails to move you less than an inch in any direction? You can always talk to yourself for free.

This is not a cogent argument to include arts funding in an economic stimulus package. All I’m saying is that the reasons I’ve seen cited to not do so–reasons that basically state that the arts have no importance unless they are appreciated by the people holding the purse strings–are poor reasons indeed.

1 Our performance is going forward. A rider is being attached to the first rider noting that our performance falls outside of the parameters of the initial rider, but that the college accepts this state and will not refuse to pay us should anything we say or do prove offensive.

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This entry was posted on February 11, 2009 by in Neo-Futurists, Politics, Society, The Internet, Work.
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