Last night at the Tutto Ku lounge before the show, I was invited to join a group of arts people who were indulging in their eleventh round of drinks. The place was empty but for us and a dysfunctional couple dining out on the terrace. It turned out that they were all involved with the Festival Theatre in someway (to which Tutto Ku is part of), more specifically the upcoming Caberet Festival. I thought this would be a good opportunity to sell myself in someway - a vain hope that they might employ me somehow (as the thought of finding another coffee making job depresses me.) The outcome was quick: possible voluteer work in adminstration and events programming...it's something.
Alan, Chris and Kathryn (the arts people) were kind enough to stay for both the sets, though by my final song they had all finished their communal 30th round and were practically falling asleep between the sofa cushions. Amidst the stupor, I managed a coherent conversation about the state of the arts with Kathryn. As a freelance arts designer, over the past decade (or so) she had seen the marginalisation of arts budgets and prioritising of funds towards more product oriontated results and 'big ticket' events. Tied in with the lack of exposure for local artists at events and the lack of participation and interest from the general public (due to exposure and misunderstanding), our discussion concluded with sobering silence.
There was something that Kathryn touched on though, that I have heard mentioned frequently of late. Before this conversation, I was reading an article in The Australian about the actor Vanessa Redgrave, an outspoken leftie and advocate for the arts. In this article she talked about the importance of the arts as a means to human survival.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been particularly morbid about the future of the human race and the planet in general. Perhaps I have been exposed to too much news press and soapbox philosophy...or maybe I just am realising how endangered and doomed we have all become by the stupity and myopic actions of our elected officials.
However, our very survival and future is not only threatened by the recklessness of our leaders on a global scale, but government's dissolution of public resources, community and family, and the proliferation of individual interest and private enterprise the Western world over. In this individualistic captial driven environment, the motivations of the public intellectual and artist (or creative body for that matter) are called into question...even if their conclusions and outcomes might adhere to the set ideal. This is happening everywhere in academic institutions, where vocational objectives and the infiltration private companies are threatening creativity whilst in turn providing production lines of graduates for prospective employers.
Creative thought and the arts should not be viewed as a commodity item for the marketplace. True, the arts has (for the past 1000 years or so) been funded and supported by the cultural elite, but that doesn't reflect the primary reason the arts is of such importance to a community and culture.
It is a form of expression, it provokes imagination, provides points of reflection, comfort, a counterpoint, a statement a declaration, a dedication. It is the means of our very existence, it keeps us stimulated, it's spiritual even to the athiest, it gives us reason to keep plowing forward and remain optimistic in these times of great uncertainty.
The following text is from Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without A Country
If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts is not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You have created something. (1)
And the funny thing is, even this blog posting is a form of expression - and it might just keep me going a little while longer.
1. Vonnegut, Kurt. A Man Without A Country, Seven Stories Press: New York, 2005. 24.