Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Comedian Rod Quantock's climate change obsession

Comedians have a reputation for being skeptical "nobody's fool" types. That's why so many of them are atheists. But there's one kind of quasi-religious credulity that many of them are prone to, and that's an unquestioning belief in human-caused climate change.

Take Rod Quantock. He clearly sincerely believes that we're all gonna die horribly unless the whole human race changes its ways radically, and soon. He's been doing comedy shows on the subject for years now.

In this interview about an upcoming performance he compares the 2007 IPCC report to a holy book: "It's a bit like the Bible: everybody talks about it and nobody's read it."

A good line. And there are other similarities. Many of those "enlightened" by it are promoting the apocalyptic theories it contains with the kind of zeal you'd usually associate with religious fundamentalists.

He thinks that climate change is "the most depressing thing in the whole wide world". Being an atheist, and a climate change skeptic, I don't share his gloom. But I do find his lack of skepticism a bit alarming. And I'm pretty sure that if I were to get up and do jokes making fun of his kind of catastrophism, then pretty much every other comedian in Australia, being so much like Quantock himself, would think of me as the gullible, credulous one. That's what I find depressing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Artist Mark Sinckler, 7/7, Islam and the West

In Western democracies like Britain, artists are overwhelmingly expected to condemn Christianity but remain completely uncritical of Islam. Artists should also demonstrate that even if they are appalled by the actions of Islamist terrorists, they still acknowledge that they have "legitimate grievances".

It usually doesn't go much further than that. But here's a case in which it does: A Muslim artist from Bristol called Mark Sinckler has unveiled an artwork that exploits the 7/7 bombings in London. It seems to celebrate these acts of violence, and appears to represent the terrorists as angels.

The unveiling has been timed to coincide with the Coroner's Inquest into the bombings, which has brought the issue into the media spotlight once again. Needless to say the artwork has caused much outrage and condemnation.

A lot of people think the work should be banned. But I don't. It reveals not only Sinckler's craven, malignant mindset but also the cowardice and hypocrisy that pervade the arts world. While some surely think of him as a hero bravely championing freedom of speech, it just reveals him to be a cynical opportunist.

I mean, if an artist were to draw or paint a kind of anti-Muslim mirror image of Sinckler's work then not only would his career be toast, he'd probably be prosecuted for hate speech by the state - not to mention marked for death by crazed Islamists. Now, why aren't the so-called freedom of speech advocates in the arts world even grumbling about that?

Because of his attitude and allegiances, Sinckler can exploit Britain's pervasive cynicism - not to mention evil capitalism - to flog product and fill his bank account. He's also taking advantage of that nation's great tradition of protecting free expression (at least selectively), as well as the rule of law. He can't lose.

A lot of pretentious arty types are surely rolling their eyes at the outraged reaction to his work, saying: "But can't these philistines see, he's being ironic. He's just trying to make people think."

But the irony it truly reveals (and that he seems oblivious to) is a much bigger one. It's the irony of Islam in the West. He clearly sympathizes with al-Qaeda's agenda (or at least doesn't seem to have any problem with it). But what if their ultimate aim of establishing a very severe form of Islam in countries including Britain were to become a reality? His freedom to offend - along with a whole lot of other freedoms - would simply disappear. (Actually, he'd probably disappear too, after being tortured for a few days!)

It always amazes me that people like Sinckler don't actually realize this. Even if they do, they don't seem to be worried by it.

I suppose that's the reaction you have if you really don't believe in anything much - aside from the right to annoy and offend, of course. But what a sad place to be, particularly for an artist. Aren't they supposed to have integrity, and be passionate, engaged, and courageous?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Portia De Rossi's Aussie man ban is sexist, cynical and childish

The left-liberal film and TV stars of Hollywood are a pretty overrated bunch. Convinced that they are political heavy hitters on the world stage they are widely seen as colossal bores by their own countrymen, and nothing more than useful idiots by the ugly regimes they so often support. And they're usually not the brilliant actors they think they are, since it's often their political posturing as much as their talent as performers that attracts the spotlight and feeds their celebrity. But they are certainly world class when it comes to narcissistic hypocrisy, and capable of consistently surreal levels of politically correct sanctimony.

Take Portia De Rossi's recent requirement that she only be interviewed by women journalists in Australia. As Sunrise co-host Kochie, one of the unfortunate blokes to fall foul of this imperious diktat (or should that be no-diktat?) so accurately pointed out, if a male had done something similar there'd be outrage. But there's little condemnation from his fellow journos, male or female. That's the supine, right-on Australian media for you. (Actually, I suspect it might be more likely that it's Kochie who cops a shellacking - for his homophobia!)

Remember the almighty ruckus that occurred when Gordon Ramsay joked that Tracy Grimshaw was a pig. There were howls of outrage from all quarters, and the boorish Brit was forced to make a full apology.

But De Rossi's demands were arguably worse since she was being serious and was discriminating against an entire gender.

The stance is not only sexist but childish as well. She seems to have the emotional maturity of a kindergarten brat, revolted by the possibility she might catch "boy germs". At a time when gay rights activists are demanding all the rights of heterosexual grownups (like marriage for example) this is probably not such a great thing to have done.

There seems to be a geo-specific element in her posturing, too. Some Googling reveals no evidence of her making a similar demand back in America. The likely reason: Doing so might be deleterious career-wise. But it's worth the risk Down Under, since any offense caused will not be felt directly back in Hollywood.

Considering the pervasive anti-Americanism in Aussie journalism, maybe this implication that we are of no consequence when compared to the USA might be the thing to rile Aussie hacks? It will be interesting to see ...

In any case her behavior shows other inconsistencies: Being the poster girl for gay marriage, and a self-described champion of gay rights, you'd think that she might lift her man ban in the case of gay male journos, wouldn't you? They suffer enough discrimination already, surely!

And if she finds talking to blokes so abhorrent, then why does she continue to act opposite them? Well again, that would be career suicide ... She may be a misandrist, but she's still mighty fond of money! (Actually, I can imagine some of her fellow lesbian activists, even more zealous than she is, being more than a little miffed at this particular double standard. They probably consider her a traitor to the cause for not working exclusively on projects written, produced, performed and ultimately only watched by, er, wimmin.)

It's all pretty silly, and about par for the course when it comes to celebrity activism these days. But De Rossi's man ban reveals where she and her liberal fellow travellers are coming from most of the time. Their behavior is routinely childish, cynical and opportunistic; almost never principled and consistent. This is ironic, since they invariably claim their political statements and actions come from deeply held convictions, not mere ego.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oleg Mavromati truly suffers for his art

There are several cliches about what makes an artist great. One of the main ones is that he must have suffered deeply somehow.

Notable painters in particular seem to have lived pain-filled lives more often than not. Take Van Gogh. While he was definitely hugely talented and his art spoke for itself, I doubt very much that he would now be held in such high esteem had he not been such a tortured and miserable bastard.

It's a weird phenomenon. But I think it's basically because the idea of someone doggedly honing his craft for decades on end and at great pains to himself (and those around him) is widely seen as romantic and exciting. People (often mistakenly) believe that all the blood, sweat and tears that went into the artist's work necessarily gives it substantially more gravitas and depth.

I think that's part of the reason so many artists and performers are addicts of some sort. It's not just that they have little self restraint or need to self medicate. Some of them indulge so heavily in drugs or alcohol (or both) almost as a career decision. They are consciously (or rather, semi-consciously) tapping into that image of danger, risk, and ultimately suffering that is so often associated with great artists.

That said, in most cases the suffering they put themselves and others through is not central to the art they produce. It tends to occur in their personal lives and while it's part of the emotional stew they draw from in producing their work, it's not an overt part of it.

But here's a case which bucks that trend. Suffering is a big part of the artwork itself. A Russian by the name of Oleg Mavromati has set up a strange and disturbing living art installation featuring himself. He's hooked himself up to the internet and whenever 100 online viewers vote for him to be given an electric shock, he actually receives one. It's his way of making a statement against religious oppression.

I don't doubt his sincerity. And he certainly seems much more courageous than most artists in the west, who rarely suffer any negative consequences for their art no matter how provocative it is. (Mavromati has so angered the Russian Orthodox church in the past that he had to flee to Bulgaria.)

But I have to ask, where's the art? Call me old fashioned, but Mavromati hasn't really created anything. He's just performing a masochistic public stunt. It's something anyone could do if they were committed (or crazy!) enough.

Still, it's garnered him a lot of publicity, and will certainly add to his reputation as a cutting edge artist. It's got suffering in spades, after all. It also employs shock value. That's clearly another crucial requirement for art nowadays - even if the person the art shocks the most is the artist himself.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Offensive gay joke removed from The Dilemma trailer

Many on the liberal left say that they are not actually censorious; that it's the people on the other side you've really got to worry about. But the examples of liberal bullying and intimidation are far more numerous than any other kind in the west. And the pettiness of their complaints often reaches a surreal degree.

Take this recent furore about a gay joke in the trailer of the movie The Dilemma starring Vince Vaughn. Gay rights activists managed to have the gag taken out of the film's trailer. Director Ron Howard, who is hardly a conservative, is not backing down any further, and insists on keeping the gag in the film itself.

I suspect even many liberals are shaking their heads in disbelief at the sheer intensity of the outrage over just one line of dialogue - in a comedy. You'd think the zealots at GLAAD would have much more important things to complain about.

Jim Davidson and political correctness in comedy

It's interesting that even in these right-on times, comics such as the Brit Jim Davidson still do a lot of politically incorrect material. The reason: people find it funny.

Laughter is not something you can fake. And no matter how hard you try you can't attitudinally reconstruct your sense of humour to make it more culturally sensitive. That's why so many right-on, leftie comics are so painful to watch. They are self-important and deluded. They think their gags have the power to change society. What a joke!

Also, I suspect that even a lot of their most avid supporters are actually faking their response to some degree; guffawing loudly to make it known just how concerned and compassionate they are.

That's why it's good to know that old troopers like Jim Davidson are still going strong, even if the TV gigs have pretty well dried up.

This interview with him in the lead-up to a couple of recent live shows is interesting. The writer of the article confesses to loving Davidson's TV shows as a kid, but feels compelled to repeatedly ring the leper's bell about how offensive his live act is.

Here's some of his comedy. It's probably one of his routines deemed comparatively benign by the perpetually offended, since it's about that oft-covered comedic subject, farting.

Still, this could change one day. If the climate change zealots have their way, such routines might be deemed anti-green, since they trivialize the issue of methane producing flatulence. (And that's not as ridiculous as it sounds. There are plans afoot in New Zealand to tax farmers for cow farts, after all.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tao Wells, Creative NZ, and art as a welfare scam

One criticism often made about artists is that they are glorified welfare recipients; that their claims of being sensitive, creative souls enriching society with their heartfelt contributions are merely part of a ruse to get some easy money from long suffering taxpayers.

Much of the time I don't think this is true. Many artists may be wrongheaded and not very talented. But a lot of them do work hard, and sincerely believe that they are contributing something of value (even if most of the people footing the bill don't see it that way).

However, there's a case in which the welfare scam accusation seems justified. An "artist" in New Zealand called Tao Wells (who was on benefits, not surprisingly) received more government funding in the form of a grant from Creative NZ. As part of their Letting Space public art series, Wells set up the Beneficiaries Office. This "office" claims that work is slavery, and urges people to give up their jobs.

The obvious point to make about this is that without people working to create an income, which is then taxed, Wells simply wouldn't have the money to fund his "public art project" in the first place.

Also, notice how nothing has actually been created specifically for the project. Wells hasn't bothered to paint, draw or perform anything. That's not surprising, since he seems to have little talent in this regard. The "art" that he's received the grant for is merely the daffy, pretentious concept that he's "created".

(To be fair, the official site does mention that there will be a performance of a theatre show which has "actors and a script but no rehearsals". However this show - almost guaranteed to be excruciatingly bad - is separate from the main project, and has been performed before.)

That such lazy, pointless and parasitic projects are being given money says much about the culture of Creative NZ - none of it good. You'd think they'd want to deconstruct the image of artists as dole bludgers by refusing to give grants to people like Wells. But they've gone and done the opposite. Really, it would be hard to make up anything quite so ridiculous.

(Which begs the question: Maybe that's the intention? If it is, they've managed to turn the whole department into a satirical, self-parodic masterwork - which would of course be brilliant! Hmmm ... Maybe I should suspend my criticism?)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Artist Gil Vicente and his list of enemies

Artists in democracies the world over are forever trying to shock and offend their audiences. But they are usually pretty careful to provoke only those who won't really nail them for it. Sure, they might cop some bad press, a torrent of angry letters and the odd demo outside the gallery showing their work. And very occasionally their art is censored. But these reactions only serve to lift their profiles and give them an aura of rebellion and danger - and at no real cost to them.

Here's another example of this. Artist Gil Vicente has depicted himself assassinating nine world leaders including the Queen, George Dubya Bush and even the president of his own country, Brazil.

Vicente's motivation for the work is that since these leaders have killed so many people directly and indirectly, he wanted to show them marked for death.

The list certainly does seem varied. And he's sure to offend a whole range of people. Maybe he saw an episode of The Chaser's War on Everything on YouTube, and was inspired by the title? Who knows.

But it's the very variety of the list that makes it seem contrived. Does he really detest each of these people equally? I doubt it. He seems to be going out of his way to not seem one sided or prejudiced, thereby covering his artistic arse, so to speak. It doesn't seem honest to me, since we all tend to see things through a political or cultural prism, and are more likely to focus our rage in one or two key directions.

It's also odd that he's chosen the former leaders Kofi Annan, George Dubya Bush and Ariel Sharon. They are all quite passe. Surely President Obama would have been a more provocative choice for the obligatory American representative. He's still in power, and carried on Bush's wars, after all.

Maybe Vicente figured that he'd offend too many influential arty types if he included The One in his hit list. Or perhaps it is because now that Obama is so on the nose with those who so deeply admired him before, including him wouldn't have been provocative enough?

Then there's the absence of Osama bin Laden. If anyone was directly responsible for mass murder it was him. But I suspect Vicente figured that portraying the terrorist leader being executed might put Al-Qaeda on his tail. So, too big a risk there. (He did include President Ahmadinejad, though. So he deserves some cool points for that.)

He also deserves respect for his real skill as a representational artist. A realistic drawing is something you almost never see nowadays from so many of his ilk. I suspect most of them are just simply not capable of it. When you can find not only artistic inspiration but the actual artworks themselves in your own toilet, then learning how to painstakingly create accurate likenesses of people and things must seem too much like hard work.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The 10:10 mini-movie, satirical comedy and Monty Python

Regarding this grotesque and revealing 10:10 mini-movie No Pressure, in which carbon sinners are so spectacularly offed: No doubt many greenies and lefties are saying of the disgust and outrage it has provoked: "Oh, those conservatives are so literal minded. It was all just meant to be a bit of a laff."

No, it wasn't. And it didn't get many laffs - certainly not from the growing number of climate sceptics. I suspect that many of those who are sympathetic to the group's aims weren't exactly rolling on the floor laughing, either. It was just witless, nasty and disturbing.

See, it's not just a bit of light entertainment that's meant to have some pithy social commentary thrown in for good measure. (And even if it were, the detonators instead of the detonatees would have been the butt of the joke, surely?)

No, in this film the satirical targets are the literal targets: those who won't get with the program. But look at who gets blown up in other comedy sketches. Take the Mr Creosote segment in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

The butt of the joke - the target - is a big fat rich bastard dining in a French restaurant. He's a farrago of many widely reviled characteristics including extreme rudeness, greed, and gluttony. And he brings his spectacular intestine-splattering fate entirely upon himself. That's what makes it okay and we can laugh at it. Also, it's not asking us to change our entire lifestyle after we've seen it.

But the 10:10 mini-film is. Its primary aim is to promote a campaign that is, er, deadly serious. The very clear subtext is this:

We are determined to get you to change your behaviour to our requirements immediately. If you won't go along with this then we believe you deserve to be blown to bits. Of course we won't actually do that. But we fantasize about it, and we know that others do as well. If we can get enough people sharing our committed, vengeful attitude on this then the rest of you will feel so intimidated that you'll just have do what we demand whether you like it or not.

That's totalitarianism, pure and simple. And there's nothing remotely funny about that.

And if you think that it's a bit of stretch to say that greenies do actually fantasize about killing people who don't share their crazy views, then read this blog by Hollywood socialite and greenie Siel Ju. She clearly concurs with the ad's malignant sentiment, but sensibly advises that blowing up people should be "kept an imaginary fantasy".

Many lefties no doubt think that the ad was justified, since they believe that those on the other side are far more mean-spirited. But has there ever been a conservative ad which included scenes of greenies being slaughtered like this? Obviously not.

This is because conservatives, while no fans of the left, just aren't that full of loathing as a rule. And in the unlikely event of anyone on the right actually managing to put together something like this, well it just wouldn't see the light of day.

The ugly truth is that not only are deep green zealots more likely to create something this vicious, their sick visions are also much more likely to be (slickly) produced and shown to the world (even if they're ultimately pulled from view because of complaints, which occurred in this case). This is because the media establishment is dominated by politically correct types who support their cause. Therefore it's no surprise that 10:10 got the required cash (some of it from government, apparently) and film industry heavyweights such as Richard Curtis and Gillian Anderson were happy to be involved in the ad's creation.

But isn't it sad that green totalitarians have such heft in the so-called "creative" industries (such as film and TV) in the West? Wasn't art about imaginatively celebrating the human spirit and its astonishing ability to keep rising above primitive and destructive instincts, not vividly portraying the gory culling of those deemed guilty of anti-planet thought and lifestyle crimes?

As any thinking person in the arts world knows only too well, there's something truly sinister about this dominant culture. And it's been this way for a very, very long time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Camille Paglia's strange silence on Islam and women

Many years ago I read Camille Paglia's massive tome Sexual Personae. It was probably the most thought provoking and insightful book I've ever read. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say it changed my life.

It's truly massive in scope and looks at many different artistic genres over the centuries. It also has a lot to say about culture and really distilled what was so wrong with the creepily anodyne victim feminism that was so dominant then (and still is today, in many places).

Being a comedian and actor in Melbourne - easily the most left-wing and "right on" city in Australia - I was surrounded by women like this, as well as their tragically sappy "significant others". This was driving me crazy, so Camille Paglia's book was a real lifeline.

Being so provocative and feisty and such an advocate of the power of female sexuality, it's really strange that Paglia hasn't said much at all about Islam's appalling treatment of women and the alarming lack of feminist condemnation of it.

Maybe she fears being marked for death, or has succumbed to the politically correct view that criticizing Islam is a big no no for public intellectuals? Or perhaps she's just become detached from the big debates? There's also the possibility that she's planning to burst back onto the stage with another paradigm busting book that will deal with this and many other issues - though that seems unlikely.

Whatever the reason for her conspicuous absence from this particular debate it's very strange - as well as disappointing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Edward Burtynsky shows pollution can be beautiful

I think it's fair to say that most artists are pretty green in their worldview, and this attitude often informs their art. Photographers, for example, are certainly very fond of showing the spectacular beauty of nature with loving landscapes, seascapes and the like. There aren't that many who would portray human caused pollution in a similar way.

But there's at least one I know of. He's a Canadian called Edward Burtynsky and he's got an exhibition running that has many strangely beautiful photos of the BP oil spill. When asked about what he was trying to achieve with them he said:

All my photos try to carry the same ingredients. First, it's an interesting image to look at, what people call aesthetics or visually compelling composition. But once the viewer is in there and looking around, the subject itself should be more challenging. What is going on? In all my work I toggle between attraction and repulsion, working towards irreconcilable emotions. The photographs become more interesting then and enters the realm of art in a more compelling way.

It's refreshing to know that an artist is trying to provoke a more ambivalent response to his nature-themed work, particularly when the dominant attitude in the arts world is so simplistically deep green and preachy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rodney Pople worships at the Altarpiece of political correctness

Australia's trendy "artists" are nothing if not predictable. Here's the latest example of their tragically yawn-inducing tactics: Rodney Pople has taken a portrait of the Madonna and child and superimposed hardcore porn onto it.

The lazy act of provocation is typical of the talentless weasels of Artsville. Firstly, he didn't even create his own images, as the article describes:

Pople photographed the altar piece last year, then used digital technology to add pornography taken from magazines found by his wife, curator Felicity Fenner.

Secondly, it's clearly meant to shock and offend. But it's only aimed at one group: Christians. The elephant in the, er, gallery is the absence of treasured symbols from another religion whose followers are easily offended. Like so many arty types before him, he's avoided using his searing and courageous creativity to offend Islam.

But of course he wouldn't be foolish enough to do that. If he did, not only would he be persona non grata in the arts world and never be able to sell another one of his, er, "creations"; he'd quite probably be marked for death and need round the clock protection as well! Instead, he chooses to provoke the people least likely to act violently against him because of their anger. That's the sign of a true coward.

I will give him one thing, though. At least he does admit that it's designed to shock. Many artists even weasel out of that one, feigning surprise that their work has caused outrage, adding that it was actually intended as a "celebration" of Christianity, or some other such nonsense.

What's truly funny is this description of his intentions:

"My paintings challenge the facade of our politically correct society by hinting, with an unabashed use of fiction and exaggeration, what might lie beneath the surface."

Er, no. They're not even paintings, just visual mashups. And they clearly don't challenge anything much, least of all political correctness. On the contrary, they hide behind it.

If he sincerely believes what he says then he's a fool as well as a coward. But he's not nearly as tragic as the poor dupes who are there to buy. What kind of an idiot would fork out $65000 dollars for such lazily concocted, skill-free crap?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Perth International Arts Festival presents David Suzuki

We all know that human-hating, doomsaying environmentalists have had more than their fair share of publicity lately. But it's amazing just where you'll still find them peddling their nihilistic views on life, the universe and everything.

I just did a search for "Perth arts" and found the website of the Perth International Arts Festival. Guess whose serious visage is taking pride of place on the site's main page?

You'd be forgiven for thinking it's an intense Polish conductor, or some hard living, hard drinking young playwright from Ireland. No, it's the celebrated Canadian doomsayer David Suzuki. While his appearance is later this year, before the festival proper, it does seem very strange.

This guy hates humanity, and thinks humans are no better than maggots. Certainly, he's entitled to his views, however toxic and wrong they may be. And if he can draw a crowd of tragic, gullible acolytes then good luck to him!

But to appear in association with an arts festival? Firstly, he's neither an artist nor an art critic - he's an environmental activist. Unless he's managed to master the cello in recent years then art ain't what he's going to be doing, or even discussing here.

And call me old fashioned, but isn't art one of the things that separates man from animals? When was the last time you saw a bilby with a paintbrush, eh? The practice of art - as well as its analysis - is inherently speciesist, isn't it? While it's pretty obvious that the bureaucrats who organize these shindigs aren't exactly the sharpest pencils in the box, you'd think that they might at least find his poisonously misanthropic views - not to mention his chosen area of expertise - inappropriate here. But no, they think the guy's a star. And a star for art, as well!

And what is this special event featuring Suzuki? From what I can tell it's just a lecture, followed by a book signing. Well, I do hope he is at least mindful of the context of his appearance and livens up his "intimate storytelling" with a bit of mime or juggling.

His featured presence shows just how pervasive the religion of deep green environmentalism is in our institutions now. If you are famous and green enough, you'll be asked to show up pretty much everywhere - regardless of context.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Well I'll be! Greens mocked on ABC

Here's something you don't see often: An ABC comedy sketch (which I think is from Yes We Canberra!) in which the Greens are actually the butt of the joke. I really can't recall seeing or hearing anything similar on the national broadcaster over the years (although there must have been the odd occasion when it occurred).

As we all know the ABC leans to the left - even though its broadcasters continue to deny the obvious. That's why it's heartening to see a sketch like this.

Several times I've had arguments with my arty, lefty friends about how biased the ABC is. Their stock response is that I'm wrong; it's fair and balanced. They invariably cite as evidence the fact that the ABC mocks the Labor Party as well as the Coalition. But then I point out that it's always from the left. The Greens, for example, are almost never mocked. That's when they accuse me of being reactionary and right-wing.

I say, yeah, fair point, I'm biased so why can't you admit that the ABC is too! That's usually when the conversation ends. If they did actually concede - or even consider - that point they might actually start to engage in some independent thought, rather than the mindless repetition of their ideological mantras. Of course that's just too scary for them, which is why they tend to just shake their heads and walk away.

Anyway, if the above mentioned sketch is evidence of a growing trend it seems this default position might actually be shifting a little. (Still, I don't think the disdain shown was sincere. Even though they mocked the Greens I doubt very much any of the Chaser boys actually voted for the LNP. That would still be a bridge too far!)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Andrew Frost vents on RN's Artworks

If you want an illustration of the sneering nihilism that's de rigueur in Australia's arts world, then you can't go past a recent, hilarious gargle by trendy presenter Andrew Frost. It's on their ABC, natch.

Apparently this guy (who sounds just as pompous and smug as he looks on the ABC website photo) is supposed to be some sort of expert - a young, hip version of Robert Hughes. But after you've listened to Frost's piece, try to imagine the highly intelligent and articulate Hughes coming up with anything as infantile, incoherent and smug. The fact that this buffoon has any credibility at all shows there's something deeply and seriously awry in Australia's critical establishment (but hey, we knew that already!).

I suspect you'll find it hard to work out exactly what he's getting at, but then I don't think he really knows either. No matter - expressing silly, half-baked ideas badly is an obligatory task for arty intellectuals these days.

But from what I can tell he seems really upset about democracy and its multiplicity of voices, and thinks there's a better alternative out there somewhere. We just have to dare to imagine it ... or something. He fails to be much more specific than that. But it does sound a lot like he's hoping for a totalitarian state in which he and his ilk call the shots. Why is that not surprising?

Being broadcast on the ABC, Frost's vent ticks several politically correct boxes. Among other things he alludes to the impending catastrophe of climate change, and sneers at populism and commercial art galleries. The piece even has some vaguely indigenous-sounding background music, mercifully serving to break up the verbal sludge. (Actually it's probably the best thing about it. There was certainly some skill involved here. That's pretty much outlawed in Artsville now, so we should be thankful when it is present.)

It's unintentionally hilarious (and strangely, also a tad disturbing) because Frost is cynical to the point of nihilism, then upset about all the cynicism he sees around him. The funniest part is when he exhorts us to demand that politicians treat us as adults. That's the exact point at which he sounds more petulant and childish than ever!

So, have a listen. I suggest you do it in two sessions with at least an hour apart. If you inflict it upon yourself all in one go, it'll probably make your ears bleed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Grant Hobson and the Basil Sellers Art Prize

A photographer with a very pro-green artwork has been shortlisted for it in a prestigious art competition. The piece is highly critical of a surf competition in Streaky Bay, South Australia, saying that it was a violation of the idyllic natural environment.

"Be surrounded by wildlife and feel as though you're part of nature rather than just having guys crawling all over you and having jet-skis tearing around and it just being another version of the Gold Coast - I mean it's a different experience and i think it's worth considering what the implications are of just having major companies come in and use it as a backdrop to shoot commercials and flog product," he explained.

If he's so appalled by commercialism, why did he enter his artwork into one of Australia's richest competitions? Surely he was trying to flog product, too.

Sounds like he was using green to, er, get some green. If so he wasn't the first artist to try this. And he definitely won't be the last.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spencer Tunick's Opera House nudes finally unveiled

Several months ago famed photographer Spencer Tunick took shots thousands of naked people at Sydney's Opera House. These photos have now finally been released.

It's mystifying they took this long. They're just photos of a bunch of naked people. And Tunick has done exactly the same thing many times in cities all over the world.

The writer of the Sydney Morning Herald article doesn't seem too impressed by them, and makes this slightly snarky observation:

But what we would really like to see is the giant piles of clothes and shoes presumably somewhere off camera.

That sounds like a good idea. It's certainly original. And a change is as good as a rest, after all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wandjina Watchers spat reveals censorious, anti-art culture

Here is a perfect illustration of the depressingly censorious attitude that dominates the Australian arts world:

A Katoomba businesswoman called Vesna Tenodi commissioned an artist, Ben Osvath, to carve a sculpture called Wandjina Watchers in the Whispering Stone. Its intention was to affirm and celebrate the deep spirituality of Aboriginal culture. However, local Aborigines were outraged because they believed that no permission was given for the sculpture to be made. They have vandalized the sculpture and made death threats to Ms Tenodi.

The story was covered on the ABC's Law Report, hosted by Damien Carrick.

Damien Carrick: Now I understand that some people from the Kimberley region of WA, from where the Wandjina knowledge comes from, they've been very, very critical of this sculpture. What do you make of those criticisms?

Vesna Tenodi: I wouldn't know about that because they haven't approached me or told me or put it in writing, any objections that they might have. All that we experienced is violence and vandalism by a few local angry Aborigines. And so I wouldn't know what people think because once they start screaming profanities in our face and making death threats, I stop listening.

So it appears those in Kimberley who condemned the work didn't do her the courtesy of telling her why they were upset. Also, those angry about the sculpture claim they weren't asked permission to use the imagery. Yet Ms Tenodi says:

And I did make numerous attempts to reach them and to obtain their co-operation and I kept advising them as a matter of courtesy and hoping for their participation. So if they're unhappy, I don't know why, because in my mind this is a non-issue.

And anyway, as she rightly points out, all artists should have the right to utilize whatever images they like, from whatever culture. This is a key to our free, open society. We started going backwards very quickly if we start making exceptions to this rule.

Damian Carrick then speaks to Donny Woolagoodja, a traditional elder from the Kimberley. (And you should listen to the podcast because Carrick immediately adopts a different tone, almost as if he is speaking to a child.)

Revealingly, Woolagoodja says he didn't speak to Ms Tenodi, even though he was there in Katoomba, presumably because of the sculpture!

Damien Carrick: When you visited Katoomba, did you try to speak with Vesna?

Donny Woolagoodja: No, I didn't, because I just looked at her and I could see right through her, because she's not the right woman to talk to.

What a ridiculous position. Those who are upset claim they weren't contacted or consulted when attempts were actually made to do this. And when one of them does have an opportunity for dialogue, he does nothing! Who is being unreasonable here?

Later in the interview Carrick talks to Jenny Wright of the Mowanjum Arts and Cultural Centre in Derby. She lays out a highly censorious and politically correct position. And in a shameless display of PC bullying she attempts to shame Ms Tenodi by insinuating that creating a sculpture is akin to stealing people's land. Again, it's worth listening to the podcast because she says it in a most vindictive and sanctimonious manner.

Jenny Wright: It's interesting, isn't it? I think one part of me would say, Vesna we've taken everything from these people, we've taken their land, we've taken their language, we've destroyed their culture. Are we going to take their religion too? It just seems to me, and I know I'm making a very strong statement here, but I do feel this in my heart, that it just seems to me that that's so grossly unfair, and as an Australian I think you should feel ashamed of yourself, seriously. Appropriation of absolutely everything. Is there nothing left of these people that we won't take? Really, I'm sorry Vesna, if you see yourself as a spiritual person, I'm sorry I can't have that point of view of this behaviour, I really can't. It's insensitive to the extreme.

No, shame on you Jenny Wright for being so mean-spirited and censorious.

With smug anti-art ideologues like Jenny Wright in positions of power and influence, no wonder Australian artistic culture is generally so mediocre and anodyne. Rather than going along with this PC claptrap, Aussie artists should be rebelling against it. (But predictably they hardly ever do. Shame on them, too.)

Ironic that artists are forever celebrating themselves for their "diversity". Well, let's see some then!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Edinburgh Art Festival to feature work of blind photographer

The Edinburgh Art Festival will be showcasing photographs taken by a blind woman.

Stunts like this are typical of the arts world now. It's so dominated by identity and victim politics that other factors (like merit, for instance) hardly get a look in.

The woman is certainly gutsy for doing what she does. The fact that she hasn't let blindness blight her life, and she gets out and takes photos is admirable. But where's the skill?

Not only can she not see what she's photographing; she can't see the photos she's taken. So how can she alter, control and refine these photos in an artistic way?

She is certainly making a political point and good on her for that. But there's nothing artistic in this and an arts festival is the wrong place to promote what she does.

Then there's the issue of criticism: No one would dare pass harsh judgement on her work. Imagine the outrage if they did! Given the sanctimonious and ultra-politically correct culture of the arts world, I suspect only other blind people would be considered qualified to venture a critical opinion on her creations. And of course they couldn't do this since they wouldn't be able to see the photos either.

The whole thing is utterly ridiculous.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Congress hears typical pleas for more arts funding

One thing that arty types do better, and more often, than just about anything else is ask for more money from government. The latest prominent person of this kind is Kyle McLachlan, who says that greater funding of the arts is a matter of great urgency.

His own high self regard is revealed by the fact that he said he wouldn't have got a start in his career if it were not for publicly funded theatres employing him in their productions. The inference seems to be that the world would be poorer without his work in Desperate Housewives and the like.

I don't want to sound like a philistine, but I do think that when money is tight there are more deserving groups to give it to than the arts community.

One thing artists often do to justify their requests is to say that more arts funding is good for business. (But that begs the question: If they are so good at creating business then why are they asking for funding in the first place?) Of course, arts campaigners are using that argument in this call on Congress.

But surely one of the most bizarre arguments in this campaign doesn't come from an artist, but from a retired soldier called Nolan Bivens, who says that arts education will help the war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Banksy cynically pays off Exit Through the Gift Shop

A lot of anti-establishment types think that Brit grafitti artist Banksy is an idealistic hero, bravely covering buildings with his subversive art. But he's as calculating and cynical as anyone in the corporate world, if this story is anything to go by.

See, Banksy made a film with the title Exit Through the Gift Shop, which also just happens to be the name of a band. Clearly, this was a potential cause of embarrassment (not to mention a financial risk) so he managed to get them to change their name by giving them one of his alleged masterpieces worth a couple of hundred thousand pounds.

While many may think this shows how generous he is, I'd say the opposite. His actions reflected very poorly on him - and not too well on the band, either.

Firstly, it's quite possible he lifted the name. (If he didn't, then why not just say it was a coincidence and leave it at that?) If he had any respect for his fellow (musical) artists he would have respected their original moniker. After all, a band's name is a very personal thing - not to mention a powerful branding tool. Think of The Rolling Stones, Australian Crawl, Cold Chisel and a squillion others. All unique, evocative and valuable (in more ways than one).

Then, to save his own reputation as an original artist, and presumably prevent any chance of litigation, he basically tried to buy them off. Sadly, they accepted and changed their name to "Brace Yourself". (Perhaps condemning them for this is setting too high a bar. They are just a garage band doing covers, after all. Still, that is how even some of the most successful ones start.)

Artists are supposed to value their own works and words like their own beloved offspring, aren't they? But this case makes them look like baby traffickers - particularly the buyer, Banksy.

The backdrop he gave the band as compensation features the Grim Reaper. This is kind of fitting, since his cynical actions reveal the death of his artistic integrity.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spencer Tunic's homage to LS Lowry in Manchester

Spencer Tunick is doing yet another one of his nude installations. This time it's in Manchester.

This particular work is meant to "reflect" the work of artist LS Lowry. That just confirms my belief that Tunick has no new ideas at all.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Firass Dirani's glamorous role

It's quite intriguing that a lot of actors and celebrities enjoy rubbing shoulders with criminals - or at least getting close to the periphery of the criminal underworld. Of course, there might be a good professional reason for this. They might be preparing for roles as bad guys in crime dramas, and need to get a closer look at the "dark side".

But I think the main reason is that they are simply attracted to it. They find it glamorous and exciting.

And they're not the only ones. Young women do as well, if the results of this year's Cleo Bachelor of the Year competition are any guide. The winner is Firass Dirani, a young actor who became famous in the true crime series about Kings Cross called The Golden Mile playing the "colourful Sydney identity" and nightclub owner John Ibrahim.

I doubt very much he would have won had he been playing one of the cops in the show.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Banksy's grafitti removal in Melbourne not a unique event

Local art snobs are surely rolling their eyes about the painting over of renowned grafitti artist Banksy's "priceless" rat in Melbourne. It would no doubt confirm their disdain for Aussies as a bunch of uncultured know-nothing yokels. But they'd have to say that about Brits as well, because exactly the same mistake occurred there back in 2007.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

South Park, Islamist threats and Theo van Gogh

One thing I've noticed about the denizens of the arts world is how cowardly they are in relation to religious intimidation. They are more than willing to condemn and provoke Christians at every opportunity, but are very careful not to say anything critical of Islam.

They like to claim that's because Christianity is the more pervasive and oppressive religion. But clearly it's mainly because they know that Christians won't fight back. They might complain, but that's about it. And they are extremely unlikely to choose violent retribution.

If you dare to mock, condemn or criticize Islam, however, there's a real possibility you may suffer as a result! Several years ago, a Dutch doco-maker called Theo Van Gogh paid with his life for offending an Islamist. I can't recall any local, Aussie artists complaining about that. (There might have been a few lone voices, but overall the silence was deafening.)

Now, the creators of South Park have provoked the ire of Islamic revolutionaries. What the cartoonists did hardly sounded provocative. And compared to what they usually dish out it was very mild indeed.

Chillingly, the Islamists have referred to the death of Van Gogh in their online statement. It will be interesting to see how artists react. It would be heartening to see a shift in attitudes and they start to condemn the Islamists rather than the artists. But I doubt it. I suspect they will be obediently politically correct as usual - particularly if some sort of violent action does occur (which is a slim possibility).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The artist is present, as well as some perverts

Some of today's artists like to use nude models in their works. Take Spencer Tunick, who seems not to use anything else! But they don't want this to be seen as anything smutty or degrading. They are always at pains to deny that they're using it in a voyeuristic, exploitative way to draw an audience. And art lovers aren't like that anyway, are they? They are always driven by higher impulses such as a desire to be confronted somehow, or a willingness to perceive something differently.

Sadly, the audience itself often doesn't go along with these lofty goals. Take this story about an exhibit at New York's Museum of Modern Art called "The Artist is Present".

The live nude models in it have proved to be very popular indeed. And while most of those viewing them have politely kept their distance, some have not - insisting on pinching and fondling the models.

It's ironic that pornographers are so often accused of sexual exploitation, while artists and curators almost never are. But I'd say these models are suffering more, since this kind of physical treatment (which is basically quite serious sexual harassment) was never part of the deal.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Red Fragments art controversy in Melbourne

It seems that not a week goes by without at least one story about some ultra-provocative state funded art exhibition. The latest controversy of this kind is the Red Fragments artwork.

The work includes representations of blood from various sources including dead babies, decapitated neo-nazi victims and dead baby seals. While the "artist" has clearly made a big effort to shock people with the content, it doesn't look like there's much actual artistic - and dare I say it, aesthetic - skill used in creating the work.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle defends the piece with the usual cant about art having a duty to push the boundaries, etc. Bizarrely, he adds that without this kind of creative expression the city would be "joyless".

Eh? Purported baby's blood slapped on panels hardly sounds joyful to me!

Predictably, the alleged artwork also has a climate change theme.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The late Corin Redgrave, acting and left-wing politics

Corin Redgrave, a member of that famous acting family, died recently. He was in many films but the one I always remember him in was In the Name of the Father. He was brilliant, playing a ruthless British cop absolutely determined to get a conviction in a terrorism case regardless of the truth.

Like a lot of actors, he was a leftie. But he was actually even more extreme in this regard than most, since he was an active communist for much of his life.

He himself believed that he was blacklisted as a result. But I doubt it would have harmed his career all that much. In the British theatre, film and TV scene extremism might have been frowned upon, but being to the left of the political spectrum certainly wasn't a sin!

I find the fact that he was both really bolshie and also so good at what he did really interesting. Acting, like so many creative pursuits, is very personal and individualistic. Sure, you are working with others to create something bigger than your own contribution, but you really are focused on your own performance more than anything.

It's also a highly competitive profession in which some are rewarded lavishly while most get next to nothing for the same effort and level of skill. So it's very elitist, stratified - the opposite of what socialism purports to endorse.

It seems to be a real paradox, this. Or maybe it's not paradoxical at all ... Who knows?

Ultimately, I think it's got something to do with the fact that lefties generally haven't really grown up. They believe that we all have a right to live in a utopia, and that the state should be responsible for everything. It's a very immature belief system.

But it's that same childishness that enables them to exercise their imaginations so fully. And that's a crucial part of acting.

In short, even though leftist rhetoric is all about social equality, it's ultimately pretty self-indulgent. It's also highly emotional, not rational. Needless to say, being highly emotional is a definite advantage in the performing arts.

There must be other factors. But I think these are the main reasons why Corin Redgrave (and many other notable actors, for that matter - for example Sean Penn) gravitated so strongly to the political left.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Boys' club cliche used again

A favoured angle in reporting about the arts is to find evidence of sexism. Take this brief article, about the lamentable lack of women painters and subjects in the 2010 Archibald Prize.

The title says the competition is a "boy's club with brushes", implying that there is some sort of concerted effort by the blokes to exclude women. However, nothing in the actual article confirms that characterization. Basically, those interviewed cite women's lack of time due to family commitments, and male assertiveness.

The fact that such a hackneyed and misleading title has been used shows just how entrenched PC feminism is in the media. It's pretty much a default position when reporting on anything to do with women.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

O'Loughlin out of line with Bindi crack

Australian comic Fiona O'Loughlin has caused a great deal of controversy because of her off colour, offhand remarks about Bindi Irwin. Amazingly, the story has gone global.

This ruckus is not unlike the Chaser team's sketch about kids with cancer, although not as extreme.

Events like these are quite odd. Australian comedians are characteristically nasty and abrasive. They are forever saying things that are provocative and offensive to many and this is not reported by the media. But every now and then one of these comments is deemed way beyond the pale and they are widely condemned for it.

There does seem to be a common element in both these scandals, though. The targets of the alleged comedy were kids. So, in future, comics should remember to lay off the whippersnappers.

That said, I suspect that if the child in question is the offspring of a conservative politician or public figure, they'll still be able to get away with it. (Of course, they'll still cause much offence. The media just won't pick up the scent and give the outrage oxygen.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sean Penn defends Hugo Chavez, endorses totalitarianism

In the hilarious satire Team America: World Police, actor Sean Penn was mercilessly parodied as a vain, naive fool who could only see good in the reign of Saddam Hussein:

Last year I went to Iraq. Before Team America showed up, it was a happy place. They had flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles.

Many of the other liberals who were similarly mocked in the movie remained silent, or just laughed it off. But Penn didn't. Proving himself to be completely lacking in a sense of humour, he fired off a nasty letter to the film's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Here's another example of his po-faced stupidity and love of totalitarianism: Not only did he recently defend Hugo Chavez, he thinks that reporters who call him a dictator should be jailed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Corey Haim overdose the latest of many

Hollywood is not particularly arty in the purest sense of the word, since its culture is very concerned with making money. Still, it's a honey pot for actors - and they are certainly artists, even if they only appear in film and TV screens and never don tights and tread the boards in a play by the Bard!

And like many artists, they certainly do like their drugs! Abuse of both prescription and illegal drugs is rife among actors, and barely a day goes by without another one being busted for possession, committing a crime to support their habit, or dying from an overdose. The latest sad tale of this kind: the death of 80s child star Corey Haim.

He comes from a crop of young actors who were particularly troubled. They were burdened with huge fame while still very young and emotionally immature. A high proportion of them just never seemed to get over this, and have struggled to lead normal lives as are result.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Another politically correct Oscars

The Oscars have become so political now that they really don't mean much at all. Last year, for example, the Best Actor award went to Sean Penn for his portrayal of murdered gay activist Harvey Milk. But Mickey Rourke's turn in The Wrestler was vastly superior.

And this year the Best Film went to The Hurt Locker, and Best Director to Kathryn Bigelow. This was just crazy. Surely Avatar was the better film, and James Cameron the more accomplished director. Okay, the script was a bit silly, what with its dark green subtext, floating mountains, "unobtanium" and all. However, it was surely the most visually stunning movie ever made; a real "game changer". Nowadays, with all the amazing technology already routinely utilized by film-makers, this was no mean feat. It was not unlike a hundred meter sprinter breaking the nine second barrier without drugs.

But this was all ignored in favour of making a pro-feminist statement, neatly timed to coincide with International Women's Day.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Spencer Tunick needs some new ideas

Lately there's been a bit of a buzz here in Sydney about this massive congregation of naked people at the Sydney Opera House. Apparently over 5000 people were happy to get their kits off for art.

I don't want to sound like a wowser, but I really can't see the point. Tunick has done this innumerable times before in scenic locations all over the world. It was original when it started, but it's really starting to get tired now.

Tunick is just milking one idea, and trading off his reputation. Of course each city will want to have one of their landmarks covered in naked bodies. And there will never be a shortage of people who find it exciting to strip in public. So he's got a very clever, self-perpetuating method of income generation happening. It's almost a scam! I can certainly understand why he would want to keep doing it.

Still, it is disappointing for someone who calls himself an artist. They are supposed to grow and develop, and try out new things, aren't they?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Trent Hotten accuses Premier Keneally of censorship

Not surprisingly Trent Hotten's portrait of Dennis Ferguson has attracted a lot of condemnation, including from NSW Premier Kristina Keneally.

This seems fair enough. Politicians are people, too. And everyone is allowed to have an opinion in a democracy.

But the painter doesn't like the idea at all:

"But as the premier of the state, to make a comment - in a sense - that is a censorship of a piece of artwork I find is quite appalling," he told ABC News Online.

So just making a comment is censorship? Sounds like he's the one advocating censorship to me.

Another irony: The portrait is described as depicting Collins "shielding Ferguson from a media scrum". I can't see that from the photo of it here, but I presume that's because it's not showing the entire picture. So I'll take the journo's word for it.

And this characterization of their plight is completely at odds with reality. Collins has actually sought media attention for Ferguson in the past. Remember that notorious shot of him and Ferguson on Coogee Beach? Collins was the one who submitted it to the media.

And surely just posing for the Hotten's Archibald Prize entry is in itself is another cry for attention. It's a bit rich to say that Collins is Ferguson's defender. He's more like his publicity agent - and a very good one at that.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Archibald Prize entry portraying Dennis Ferguson

One thing I've always found a bit creepy about artists is their attitude to criminals. They tend to think that it's somehow insightful to sympathize and identify with them. Here's an example:

Trent Hotten has painted a picture of convicted pedophile Dennis Ferguson posing with his mate and supporter (and convicted bank robber) Brett Collins and submitted it for consideration for the Archibald Prize:

''Everybody hates it. My wife said it made her want to vomit. I've had threats made against me. Everyone told me not to put it in, but I think it was something that had to be said. I felt very moved by the way that both men have been treated.''

Hotten portrays Collins as
a heroic figure shielding a sinister-looking Ferguson from TV crews.

So Hotten is completely oblivious to the damage the pair have done to other people's lives. He's just concerned about the way they have been treated. And they are the victims as far as he's concerned.

Sure, the media have gone crazy with Dennis Ferguson. He is so despised by people generally that he's sure to beef up the ratings every time he's shown on the television. And there's certainly some cynicism in repeatedly doing stories about him. However, it's hard to have sympathy for him considering what he's done - and repeatedly.

Ultimately, I believe the painting reveals more about Hotten himself than it does about his subjects and their plight.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The same old same old from Cate Blanchett

Whenever well known artists speak about what they do, they're almost guaranteed to sound pompous, arrogant, and incoherent. Cate Blanchett is no exception. Here is an edited extract of a recent speech she gave in Adelaide.

Along with the usual vague piffle about art nourishing the human soul, Blanchett mentions that artists work for less than workers in other industries. Obviously that harsh reality doesn't apply to Blanchett herself. But it's certainly does to artists generally.

The theory is that it's because they love what they do. Well, yes, that's partially true. It's also because most of the money is always going to arts bureaucrats, not the artists themselves.

Take any arts festival in this country that showcases local performing arts. It's pretty much a given that aside from a favoured few, the people who write, produce and perform in the shows are doing it on their own dime. Also, you often have to pay a not insubstantial registration fee to be part of one of these events. Sometimes shows benefit from the general publicity that the festival generates, and the artists make a few bob. But usually they lose money. (I know this because I wrote and performed a couple of shows for such festivals back in the nineties.)

If it were in any other industry the unions would be kicking up a huge fuss about it. But it just goes under the radar all the time. And molly-coddled twits like Blanchett keep wheeling out the same old garbage about the arts enriching us spiritually, etc., then asking for still more money. What that means is, more money for the likes of Blanchett and those at the top of the administrative culture, not those primary producers at the bottom.

It's really quite a revolting case of cynical exploitation. If lefties were remotely sincere in their claims about caring about the underdog, and wanting their to be fairness in society, they would be up in arms about this perennial injustice. But of course they are silent. The fact that it just goes on and on with no-one pointing it out (least of all the long suffering artists themselves - maybe they're all masochists?) is almost unbelievable.

Still, even if artists themselves aren't complaining, I think more and more non-artists are aware of it and getting very sick of it. If you scroll down to the comments of the above-linked article, you'll see a lot of very critical, disdainful comments about Blanchett's silly speech. And remember, these are Herald readers, who are among the most left-leaning in the country.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Waiting for Mamdouh

Anyone in the arts world knows just how politically correct and leftie-dominated it is. If you point out this very obvious bias in conversation with other arty types, they generally try to change the subject because they don't want to be reminded of it. If they are doctrinaire bolshies (usually the case) they quickly get annoyed and do a lot of eye rolling and derisive snorting. Much like the journos at the ABC they deny the bias, claiming that it's a very diverse culture and that only a reactionary right winger would say otherwise - which is actually confirmation that the bias exists!

This politically correct culture is relentless and all-pervasive. Here's just another example of it (not that there aren't enough of these already!): A short play about the incarceration of Mamdouh Habib (starring Habib himself) is being performed at NIDA, and it's getting a lot of publicity.

Can you imagine a play being shown that presents the other side of the argument; one that asks us to sympathise with an Aussie or American soldier fighting against terrorism? Or one that defends anti-terrorism legislation?

Of course, you will never see such a thing in this country. It would never receive any funding in the first place (at least not from the Government). And if this were done privately, it would be hard to find a theatre in which to perform it. Also, actors, directors and backstage workers would be wary of being involved, fearful of being tarred as conservative for their involvement.

Even if such a project got up and running, it would receive very little press coverage, too - except perhaps the vicious condemnation of the people who created it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rogue's Gallery debacle

I've read a few reports saying that the recent Rogue's Gallery concert in the Sydney Opera House forecourt for the Sydney Festival was a disaster. People might wonder how so many so-called professionals could perform something so bad. But it seems to me that the very nature of this production almost guaranteed that it would fail.

Basically, the whole concept sucks. It's just a silly gimmick. It's a little bit like the annual "Talk Like a Pirate Day" - funny for a few minutes, then it just becomes tiresome. I suspect that the performers thought: "Pirate songs and sea shanties. Yeah, that sounds like it could be fun!" So they signed up for it. But they lost their enthusiasm for it before too long. They were were contracted to go through with it, however, and just got more and more bored every time they had to do it.

Debacles like this often happen in festivals. This is because the profile of the performer is considered to be so much more important than any other factor. The main motivation is to get lots of famous faces in the same place so the promoter can sell hugely overpriced tickets and make a killing.

Problem is, he's got to hang it together somehow, so he uses some loose theme or hook, such as this one. There may have been some input from the performers on this. But it was clearly a compromise, and they obviously weren't that enthusiastic about it.

Ideally, it should be the other way around. Art should come from the artists. The show that's produced should be the one they all really want to do. Then you get the quality. Doesn't happen very often, though ...

Friday, January 29, 2010

The culture of the arts world

My name's Matt Hayden, and I'm a writer and (very occasional) performer in Sydney, Australia. I have spent a lot of time in the Aussie arts world over the last couple of decades. I've been an actor, standup and character comedian, and freelance writer. I started blogging in 2002, and have since written several blogs (and have several still running). Some were rant blogs, others were parodic or character based. They were all more or less humorous in tone.

I have seen a lot of the arts world from the inside, and am fascinated by how it works. There are many unwritten laws, conventions and rituals in play. If you go along with these, success is pretty much assured. But if you flout them, you'll always be on the outer. While a lot of these strange characteristics may be unique to Australia's arts culture, a lot of them are international.

I find this subject so fascinating that I have decided to write this blog to analyze stories and happenings related the arts world. I won't limit its scope to any one category of the arts but will write about many including visual art, sculpture, film, theatre, comedy, music and television. As I do, I'll always try to be mindful of the culture at play, and how it makes artists create the work they do.