Friday Ephemera

Just Don’t Call It a Hustle

Arts Council luminary and devout Guardianista Dame Liz Forgan, of whom we’ve spoken previously, has had a rather grand leaving do costing just north of £8,000. A mere bagatelle compared to the £50,000 spent on two Arts Council Christmas parties. However, the Telegraph’s Stephen Pollard isn’t overly impressed:

There could be no clearer demonstration of the contempt that Dame Liz, who exudes the haughty sense of self-worth and entitlement that typifies the arts establishment, has for the rest of us that she chose a drinks party funded by the taxpayer to attack the Government for cutting the arts budget.

A budget that’s been slashed by a hair-tearing 2.6%. Yes, our insufficiently leftwing and therefore evil government is, we’re warned, practically “robbing a generation of its birthright.” 

It’s fair to say Mr Pollard is none too keen on the Arts Council, and not entirely without cause: 

The Arts Council is a body set up specifically to ignore the public’s wishes and provide an income to organisations that they would not receive through the free choices made by consumers… Arts Council England makes sure that “street artists” (buskers is, it seems, a derogatory term) are well looked after: in the recent past, Zap street art in Brighton has received £25,000 a year; Circus Space (a leading provider of “circus education”) has been given £70,000 a year, and Circomedia has been handed £80,000 to train street artists. One might have thought that buskers got their money from passers-by, depending on whether or not they were any good. Apparently, it is much more sensible to take money from taxpayers and simply hand it over.

Those familiar with the assumptions of our official taste-correcting caste will not be altogether surprised, and the readiness with which the Arts Council sets fire to public money is hard to overstate. In 2006 – to take a year at random - the following artistic projects were beckoned to the taxpayer’s teat. £20, 470 was handed to a “participatory photography and self-advocacy project” for East London’s “female sex workers,” while £15,000 found its way into the hands of those hosting “Malian mudcloth and DJ workshops.” A more modest amount, a mere £4,950, was felt necessary for “research and development to explore the writing of a poetry and music show examining issues of cultural identity and sexuality.” Despite the funding, no poetry or music need actually be produced and no show need materialise. The five grand was merely to facilitate the exploration of such things. 

Joshua Sofaer’s artistic project Meeting the Public is described thusly: “A range of initiatives which combine production, research and professional development. They are brought together as a body of work in a collaborative relationship with a producer and a particular kind of active engagement.” All very cryptic and no further explanation is offered, but evidently the project served some pressing cultural need, thereby receiving £31,889. Also funded was the “research” of “live art practitioner” Helena Bryant, whose mission was to “establish the performance persona of Sally Bangs, through an inquiry into intimacy and engagement in performance encounters thematically based on love-sickness and exploring the pathology of erotic love.” When not funding “research” trips to Mongolia, Cuba and the frozen poles, the Arts Council uses your money to bankroll Greenpeace, whose no doubt unbiased “programme of educational activities” coined the handsome sum of £66,795. I could, of course, go on. But such are the mighty talents deemed deserving of your money – which is to say, obviously, more deserving than you

My local publicly-funded galleries of contemporary work, one of which is a glorified coffee shop for two dozen middle-class lefties, can be relied on to disappoint - and to go on disappointing precisely because there’s no obvious mechanism for correction. No box office takings to fret about, no bums on seats, no ghastly commercial metrics need be considered. And so the featured artists, or pseudo-artists, can expect taxpayers to serve as patrons, whether they wish to or not, while being immune to the patron’s customary discrimination between promising art and opportunist flim-flam. The expectation that one must be exempt from base commerce, and by extension the preferences of one’s supposed audience and customers, is an arrangement that rewards and encourages the peddling of drek. Yet Liz Forgan and her associates would have us believe that an interest in visual culture, music, etc., should coincide with an urge to make others pay for whatever it is that tickles you, or for whatever is deemed to improve the species by Liz Forgan and her colleagues, i.e., People Loftier Than Us. Though one might still wonder how the coercive public subsidy of fatuous posturing and god-awful tat became a permanent function of the welfare state. One might also ponder this. The unspoken ethos of the Arts Council is, and always has been, We Have Your Wallet And We Know What’s Best™. And yet somehow they’re the victims.


peter horne

heh! great stuff. have a look at Evan Sayet's book here, on why modern liberal art is crap art and why 'progressives' are always wrong about everything:
Based on a speech here:

Horace Dunn

Forgan was on BBC Radio 4 the other day. Even on Radio 4 where, of course, smugness and condescension are pretty much the house style, Forgan's self-satisfied patrician voice and her holier-than-though pronoucements (all backed up by earnest little chirrups from the lick-spittle presenter) really shone out. I was unable to listen for more than a minute or two. What an utterly ghastly woman she is. And how depressing that we live in a society that lauds and promotes such discusting people, and then cheerfully tolerates them when they sneer and upbraid that society for not valuing them enough.


It does take a certain chutzpah to denounce (and wildly exaggerate) fairly minimal budget cuts while sipping champagne in the British Museum, being congratulated as fabulous by other gravy trainers, and racking up another bill for the taxpayer of over £8,000. “Don’t cut the arts budget,” indeed.


Have you seen the painting she was given?

So now she's done the Guardian, the BBC and the Arts Council. Which taxpayer-screwing racket will she pop up in next and how much will it cost us?


Have you seen the painting she was given?

Oh dear. Well, never mind. I suppose it’s the thought that counts.

That, and the £8,000 of booze, canapés and taxpayer-funded ego-stroking.

Horace Dunn

"Have you seen the painting she was given?"

"Oh dear. Well, never mind. I suppose it’s the thought that counts."

At least it will help boost Liz's confidence as she goes about looking for a new job. I'm sure she needs a bit more self esteem, poor love.

carbon based lifeform

Despite the funding, no poetry or music need actually be produced and no show need materialise. The five grand was merely to facilitate the exploration of such things.

I wish to explore the relationship of beer to drunkenness while examining my cultural identity and sexuality. That'll be £5000 please.


That’ll be £5000 please.

The thing to bear in mind is that these examples – and the dozens of others noted here over the years – they aren’t anomalies. Every year, these things are among the staples of Arts Council funding. It’s an entrenched culture. Which is why the local gallery mentioned above, which allegedly focuses on “contemporary debates” and “new audiences,” is still around despite an almost total lack of interest. We’re told the place “plays a major role in the city’s cultural life” and yet it reeks of clique. It’s funded by the Arts Council to the tune of £200,000 a year, and of course by the local Council, but it serves no audience to speak of – other than a handful of staff, it’s typically empty. At most, it attracts the same fifty or so middle-class lefty hipsters.

[ Added: ]

What’s almost funny is Forgan’s claim that the Arts Council’s new chairman should “patrol the ramparts like a panther to protect the arm’s-length principle and freedom of artists from the considerations of party politics.” Which is a bit rich, given that Arts Council funding and employment often depends more on meeting political than aesthetic criteria, and the Arts Council is the country’s primary source of overtly politicised piss-poor flummery. See, for instance, this.


Have you ever noticed that the people who call others greedy are usually demanding that those others give them money?

Karen M

Yes, our insufficiently leftwing and therefore evil government is, we’re warned, practically “robbing a generation of its birthright.”

Barges full of dirt and 'self-advocacy' by East London prostitutes aren't my birthright.


Barges full of dirt and ‘self-advocacy’ by East London prostitutes aren’t my birthright.

Ah, but a key function of the Arts Council is to disregard – or thwart – whatever the public might actually want. And so, for example, the good people of Sheffield got one of the least festive arts festivals of recent years. That it was unappealing and unpopular was immaterial, at least to the participants and organisers. After all, they’d already got their hands on taxpayers’ money. So why should they care?

Charlie Suet

I always think that the phrase "avant-garde" is utterly question begging. It confers upon the artist the flattering sense that he or she is always ahead of his (or her) time. But there's never really any process of assessing whether the beneficiaries of grants have actually blazed a trail, or enhanced humanity's understanding of itself.

Instead you rather get the feeling that what really drives the Forgans of this world is thralldom to novelty and the belief that anything deliberately obscure or different (except politically) must be objectively worthwhile.


Stephen Fry, as ever, is on hand to tell us what's good for us (isn't he grand)...

Fry said: “Whatever your politics, you can’t believe that art has to take a stand in the marketplace like potatoes or knives and forks or any other industrial thing.”

Here's a lecture he gave on public service broadcasting, bemoaning the notion that the public ought to have choice. Choice? What an appalling thought, to leave such important decisions to the ill-informed common people. These things ought to be left to your betters. Choice, indeed.

Scroll to about 25 minutes in...

The sketch he mentions...

This kind of attitude is normally referred to as plain snobbery, but it would seem that if you're the right kind of person you can get away with what amounts to sneering at the plebs and their coarse lack of sophistication.

Richard Powell

There was an interesting and self-interested piece in the Guardian a month ago:

I was particularly struck by what Michael Craig-Martin had to tell us:

"In my experience those who are most vociferous in their condemnation of new art, art they do not "get", are those who see themselves as we'll-educated. For many this is the first time in their lives they have come across against something that does not find a comfortable place in their picture of things, something that resists their understanding. It is a very unnerving feeling, and they often dismiss the work as rubbish or the artist as fraudulent. Could it be the consequence of a failure in their education?"

Actually, no. The problem with this "new art", much of which is actually rather stale, is not that it is too challenging, but that it is not challenging enough. Intellectually, it is not as difficult as getting to grips with the paradoxes of quantum physics, the Finnish language, or econometrics - other readers can draw on analogous challenges. And as for causing emotional discomfort, which is a questionable artistic motive, it really doesn't compare with most of what goes on in the non-artistic world. At its best it is a diversion, rather than something one feels should be central to one's life. Perhaps it is only people who feel themselves to be reasonably "well-educated", whatever that means, who have the confidence to stand up to the immense and unwarranted condescension of people like Forgan, Craig-Martin and the rest.


Reed & Richard,

For many this is the first time in their lives they have come across against something that does not find a comfortable place in their picture of things, something that resists their understanding.

Heh. It’s a standard manoeuvre, a dishonest one, and baldly patronising. And note how the claim flatters the proponent. Those who aren’t impressed, or who don’t pretend to be impressed, by things like this are somehow unsophisticated, you see. No other critical criteria – even when stated plainly - are to be considered. It’s rather like the efforts to portray public ridicule and tedium as a kind of mental agoraphobia and moral alarm. As illustrated here.

Noting the presumption in play, and the evident lack of talent, is now regularly defined as “outrage,” regardless of how outraged anyone actually is. Those who found Rita Marcalo’s attempt to induce a seizure onstage fatuous and narcissistic must have been “outraged” by how transgressive it all is. By not approving wholeheartedly we must of course be prudish, stuffy and scandalised. After all, what other explanation could there possibly be? And those of us who mock the vacuity on display, along with the sense of entitlement and political lockstep, are denounced as “haters of culture,” which is a tad ironic.


"The sketch he mentions..."

Oh my.

If posh restaurants (and their silver cutlery) existed solely because of 'the unique way they receive their funding', then this would be a fitting argument. Since they exist because people are willing to pay to eat in them of their own free choice, Fry & Laurie have completely refuted their own argument before they've even made their punchline.

Also; an angry, sanctimonious luvvie forcing a man to look at a pile of plastic forks whether he wants to or not. As a metaphor for the effects of the free markets on the arts? If you didn't laugh at the irony of this foot shootingly awful piece of self refutation, then you haven't seen many of the 'installation pieces' that the Arts Council makes you pay for.


I suppose what’s wearying is the attitude of the participants - the belief that this will do - and the presumption that their narcissistic flim-flam is somehow good for us and/or will induce fits of bourgeois pearl-clutching. In the last ten years I’ve seen machines that make shit being presented as art; I’ve seen a woman pretending to have repeated miscarriages and calling it art; I’ve seen another woman pretending to excrete a 26-foot long turd as if it were art. It’s quite hard to be scandalised by any of this, or by anything remotely like it. In an age when just about anyone can watch Two Girls One Cup on their phone while at work, what’s a “transgressive” artist to do?

And as none of these ‘works’ have any aesthetic content to speak of, it gets boring very quickly – usually before you’ve finished reading the absurdly inflated press release. If there’s no attempt to create beauty, no aesthetic discrimination, what’s left? Just whiny little egos desperate to be noticed one way or another. I’m not easily offended but being forced to give money (and thus encouragement) to such tossers is mildly aggravating.


I suspect pupils often choose art subjects because they suck at everything else.
But they suck at art too.


Those who aren’t impressed, or who don’t pretend to be impressed, by things like this are somehow unsophisticated, you see.

I can't help noticing none of these 'artists' wanted to make anything you'd want to look at twice.

Stephen Fox

So at least the ridiculous woman is leaving, which might in fact be worth £8000.
I bet someone like Patten, say, would require a lot more than that to see him on his way. Any offers?


I wandered into a storefront art gallery in downtown Ann Arbor a few months ago (in a moment of misplaced optimism) and found myself in the middle of an exhibit on "engagement with the creative process."

It consisted of people's (I refuse to call them artists) notes about "artworks" they hadn't created yet.

One poor slob had simply photocopied the cover of a book and blathered on about how it was in the process of inspiring him. Another display consisted of crinkled candy wrappers in a jar. Someone else had framed and mounted their notes for a grant application (I actually liked this one; definitely ballsy, and possible evidence of a sense of humor).

By the time I'd gone through the whole thing I was laughing out loud; the student worker sitting at the desk in front looked like she wanted to kill me with death rays from her eyes for not displaying proper reverence for The Artistic Process (perhaps I should have genuflected).

Vinny Burgoo

Have you heard the one about the former Arts Council apparatchik who was paid by the Arts Council to fly to Bulawayo and daub hundreds of pictures of prostitutes on the walls of Zimbabwe's National Gallery?

Sue Williams said that gallery officials told her that her daubings had been so swiftly painted over because Zim's National Gallery doesn't allow the public display of depictions of female buttocks. Alas, she took this obvious kindness at face value. When she got home, she announced 'global concerns' about buttock 'fetishes', got herself a new Arts Council grant (£20k) and took plaster casts of the buttocks of herself and her friends so that she could send them to Bulawayo to 'challenge the perception of contemporary women and the complexities of communication between gender and different cultures'.


@Bart - nicely done.
They had their metaphor lined up, but hadn't really thought it through.
Intelligent people...just not that smart.


In the last ten years I’ve seen machines that make shit being presented as art

I think I've mentioned this before here, but this goes as far back as 1961. From Wiki:

Artist's Shit (Italian: "Merda d'artista") is a 1961 artwork by the Italian artist Piero Manzoni. The work consists of 90 tin cans, each 30 grams and measuring 4.8x6.5cm, with a label in Italian, English, French, and German stating:

Artist's Shit
Contents 30 gr net
Freshly preserved
Produced and tinned
in May 1961

At the time the piece was created Manzoni was producing works that explored the relationship between art production and human production, Artist's Breath ("Fiato d'artista"), a series of balloons filled with Manzoni's breath, being an example.

A tin was sold for €124,000 at Sotheby's on May 23 2007;[1] in October 2008 tin 083 was offered for sale at Sotheby's with an estimate of £50-70,000. It sold for £97,250. The cans were originally to be valued according to their equivalent weight in gold — $37 each in 1961 — with the price fluctuating according to the market.[2]

One of Manzoni's collaborators, Agostino Bonalumi, claimed that the tins are full not of faeces but plaster;[3] in contrast Manzoni's girlfriend Nanda Vigo, who helped him produce the cans, claimed the contents really were faeces.[citation needed] Vigo's assertion is disputed by Manzoni's brother and sister.[citation needed] An art dealer from the Gallery Blu in Milan claims to have detected a fecal odour emanating from a can.[4]

The piece received media coverage due to a lawsuit in the mid-1990's, when an art museum in Randers, Denmark was accused by art collector John Hunov of causing leakage of a can which had been on display at the museum in 1994. Allegedly, the museum had stored the can at irresponsibly warm temperatures. The lawsuit ended with the museum paying a DKK 250,000 settlement to the collector. [5]


I wonder if paradoxically the predominance of public arts funding hasn't made the market much less accessible for talented artists, ie, ones who are likely to be able to connect with an audience or at least have something interesting to say or do through the practice of their art. People have come to rely on public funding of arts so much, and successful artists often have to be most successful in tailoring their grant applications and learning the appropriate ideological gestures and phrases to appeal to the public funding culture, that interest in broader audiences and the public at large must have dropped substantially. Why fund the arts when it's been the government's responsibility for so long? Why take any part in a practice that has become so institutionalised that it now, in so many respects, more closely represents other bureaucratic organisations than a part of the life of the wider public?


Anyone remember this little circus of nonsense?...

K Foundation Burn a Million Quid:

Initially, Drummond was unrepentant, telling The Observer in 2000 that he couldn't imagine ever feeling regret unless his child was ill and only "an expensive clinic" could cure him. By 2004, however, he had admitted to the BBC the difficulty of justifying his decision. "It's a hard one to explain to your kids and it doesn't get any easier. I wish I could explain why I did it so people would understand."

Drummond's former protege Julian Cope was unimpressed, claiming that Drummond still owed him money. "He burned a million pounds which was not all his, and some of it was mine. People should pay off their creditors before they pull intellectual dry-wank stunts like that."

"Intellectual dry-wank". Fantastic!

An interview with these two titans of artistic creativity...

Pretentious, attention seeking, late eighties crusties. Listen to the gasps from the audience (about 3 minutes in), after the suggestion that they could perhaps have put the money into worthwhile charitable causes, when they say that they wanted to "find something more interesting to do with the money".

They also claim that they did actually help people by burning the money, because "it helped bring something into people's heads".

They're not wrong there.

There's a lot of vacuity on display here. Do we believe them? Personally, I think they're a couple of first degree bullshitters, but they appear to be so wrapped up in their own ridiculous grandiosity that I wouldn't put it past them to have actually done it.

...but at least it wasn't public money they burned, we'll have to leave that to the next Grande Dame at the Arts Council.


Here in Aus the question of public funding of the arts has taken a different turn. Left-inclined arty types will criticise the Council of the Arts, not for being too large or for the lazy assumption of taxpayer money, but for distributing those funds to arts they don't like. The common argument is basically, why spend it on big stuff (orchestras) when you could be spending it on much smaller stuff (like, I dunno, ME!) In many cases it really does seem to boil down to 'the Council of the Arts is flawed because they don't endorse me and my friends' glowing opinion of myself and my friends.'

I'm an arty sort myself but I'm pleased to say that I participate in a scene (pub poetry) that has effectively no public funding. Lefty's spend so much time agonising over government funding of the arts that they don't realise, the concept of art is so simple - you can make it any time you like with your friends. Why bring a government department into it?


"Why bring a government department into it?"

It's what they do. The left would like a government department to administer every facet of our lives.


"Intelligent people...just not that smart."

Not that smart, no good at logic. Humility's not their strong suit either.

Let the masses spend their own money as they wish? Why that'll make the cultural landscape degenerate into the equivalent of a pile of plastic forks. When me and my artiste buddies are free to spend the proles' money without having to pander to their base philistinism, we inevitably produce the artistic equivalent of the finest silver tableware.

Which is a tad arrogant, I think you'll agree.

The physical assault at the end was a good touch too. People who stand between artistes and their unending streams of free money clearly deserve nothing else.


The physical assault is doubly justified. Not only is the 'offender' clearly a philistine, he's driven to such ghastly shallows by the base instincts of the Conservative, free-market approach. This marks him out as a 'price of everything, value of nothing' style cultural know-nothing.

...and Mr. Fry and his kind are all too aware of their immeasurable value to society.

They've produced worse. This one just drips with venom and insufferable sanctimony...

The sneer at 'choice' is replayed. If Rupert weren't born, we'd all be revelling in the quality of the glorious BBC, rather than the trash of Sky TV.

Apparently, Mr. Murdoch would single-handedly be responsible for :
- doing away with the BBC (still here - $145 a year compulsory poll tax)
- teaching everyone to hate their minority neighbours (racism!)
- debasing society (those common oiks, with their ghastly working class tastes)
- making people more insular and discordant (save us, Stephen, with your cosmopolitan sophistication)
...and best of all - with no hint of self-awareness...wait for it...
- sneering at people because they're left-wing! Oh the irony!

Let that one sink in for a while! As you say, Bart - humility is not one of their strong points!

Fast forward 20 years, and Stephen is now happily making TV programmes for the once wretched satellite broadcaster, along with many of those other eighties right-on lefties.

Again, this one ends with justifiable violence, and terrible accents throughout.


Which is a tad arrogant, I think you'll agree.

But arrogance is like air to the Arts Council and its protégées. And so we’re told that, “the sole genuine reason for [arts budget] cuts is censorship of some form.” And that, “the only governments to systematically attack the arts have been the ones that also attacked democracy.” You see, by suggesting that artists might try earning a living – say, by creating things the public might wish to see, perhaps even buy - we’re “suppressing” artistic “dissent.”

Yes, by not wishing to be cheated into bankrolling tat, we’re censoring the arts and suppressing dissent. The delusion is grandiose and hugely self-flattering. (And reluctant taxpayers please take note: Despite all the years of providing handouts, you’re now on the side of the oppressor. That’s gratitude for you.) By questioning the Arts Council’s unaccountable freeloading, in which the public is fleeced but has no say, we’re apparently “attacking democracy.” And artists must never be deprived of other people’s earnings because – wait for it – they’re “speaking truth to power.” (Do these people not hear themselves?)

Though, as I’ve said before, one has to wonder who has more power in the current funding formulation. The taxpayer, who is forced to bankroll an endless parade of hucksters, or those who take the taxpayer’s money - with the force of the state - and expect to go on doing so?


In the old days, a lot of art was financed by rich people, and much of it was kept inside their large houses where only they could look at it. Then, the progressives decided that it was more important to "Share-with-Others"(TM), so they invented income and wealth taxes that took resoures away from the rich, and gave the resources to the government, where they could be better spent by "Smart People"(TM).

And since some of those Smart PeopleTM)had arts backgrounds, they realized that it was important to allocate a share of the wealth to artists, as well as to medical professionals, defense companies, university administrators, and just plain political supporters. So they created a large bureaucratic art allocation infrastructure to decide how much artists should get, according to their five-year plans. Since we have bureaucrats doing this work, they hire professional Art Experts(TM) to help them decide what to fund, and of course the artists who support the politicians are the ones who get the funding.

Thus, the resources that used to be available to create stuff that people really liked to look at are now spent on bureaucracy, words from the chattering classes, extraneous jobs for people who cannot produce anything anyone would willingly purchase, and ultimately, shit.

Isn't western civilization wonderful?


2 girls 1 cup!

Thanks for that David, the wife's sister is coming to stay next weekend and they weren't sure what they were going to do.


In an age when just about anyone can watch Two Girls One Cup on their phone while at work, what’s a “transgressive” artist to do?

1. Stop being a "transgressive" artist.
2. Apologize for wasting everyone's time.
3. Hope that McDonalds is hiring.


2. Apologize for wasting everyone’s time.

Heh. If only.

Hell, I’d pay good money to see that. After all, personal growth is to be encouraged, yes?

Painter Or Panter?

It's a good job Art (note: with a capital A) is undefinable and ethereal, otherwise we the public might think we were being ripped off and then pissed on.


"2 girls 1 cup"

OK - I had to google that, and now wish I hadn't.

You learn something new every day.

Spiny Norman

What's the difference between "2 Girls 1 Cup" and most of the self-indulgent rubbish our host has pointed out to us over the years? An Arts Council grant.


And so we’re told that, “the sole genuine reason for [arts budget] cuts is censorship of some form.” And that, “the only governments to systematically attack the arts have been the ones that also attacked democracy.”

If anyone's attacking the arts isn't it the people throwing our money away on non-existent poetry and non-existent instructions on how to fold a bus ticket?


If anyone’s attacking the arts isn’t it the people throwing our money away on non-existent poetry and non-existent instructions on how to fold a bus ticket?

Well, quite. In terms of disrepute and learned disinterest, the subsidised arts establishment might want to look a little closer to home. The Arts Council seems to believe there’s an enormous public appetite for banal conceptual noodling, despite all evidence to the contrary. But again, if you already have the punters’ money, taken via the state, it doesn’t matter much if the punters don’t turn up. And so the hustle goes on. And despite all the blather about “creating strategies to engage the audience,” it really isn’t there for the public’s benefit. It’s much more about keeping a narrow class of inadequates in the comfort and spotlight to which they’re accustomed.


“the only governments to systematically attack the arts have been the ones that also attacked democracy.”

History has shown us that, modest cuts in the funding of women pretending to do 26 foot long poos is the first step towards herding people into gas chambers.

sackcloth and ashes

Liz Forgan was editor of the 'Graun' wimmin's pages between 1978-1982, was a commissioning editor for C4 from 1981-1990 (I'd be interested to see what she signed up to), worked for the BBC between 1993-1996, went back to the 'Graun' as a columnist between 1997-1998, and subsequently became the sixth Chair of the Scott Trust, overseeing the GMG.

She was educated at Benenden and Oxford.

Why am I not surprised by any of this?


If anyone’s attacking the arts isn’t it the people throwing our money away on non-existent poetry and non-existent instructions on how to fold a bus ticket?

That's exactly it. They left the public with no reason to be interested. But they still expect our money.


They left the public with no reason to be interested. But they still expect our money.

If you isolate makers of art from their customers, and from the consequences of their own inadequacy – which is what the Arts Council does - then this will happen. If artists and pseudo-artists get paid anyway, why should they try to be good (or give up and do something else)? Again, that’s what’s insulting - the assumption that You’ll Get What You’re Given And Like It - that any old bollocks will do. And in terms of public funding, apparently it does. But there are only so many times you can walk around a gallery laughing at the mismatch between the obligatory cerebral pretension and piles of ugly, hackneyed tat. For instance, at the Sheffield ‘art festival’ mentioned earlier, the highlights included, and I quote:

A newly commissioned piece by Haegue Yang, which embraces her interest in emotional and sensorial translation. It required her to trespass upon nationalism, patriarchal society as well as recognised human conditions, elaborated with an artistic strategy of abstraction and affect.

If you’re not sure what that means in practice, imagine an ironing board draped with light bulbs.

A previous ‘festival’ gave the public two tables covered in sand. Decorated with radical fag ends, obviously.


sackcloth and ashes

Talking of the Graun, here's a message for the editor that somehow keeps getting deleted from CIF:

'Afternoon Alan - I’m a member of Guardian staff, posting anonymously.

As you know, it’s a tough time for your journalists at the moment – especially for those of us way down the food chain: the production grunts, the desk-bound, the ones who actually produce the content.

We’re working harder and harder (because we love the papers), coping with dwindling resources and morale, we’re badly mismanaged, and trying to cope with the life-changing threat of compulsory redundancies – all a result of the company’s long-term financial illiteracy and lavish excess at the top.

So I just want to say thanks for the series of articles – three now, isn’t it? – about learning to play your Fazioli piano. They’re brilliantly timed, and I know they’ll lift spirits. We always wondered how you filled your days, how you spent your fortune. Now we know'.


I thought it was both the International And National Socialist that thought controlling and government funding and thus directing of the arts was important (along with marching people into the gulag/camps).

Apparently now we learn that Marxists relied on people buying tickets for arts funding?!?

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

In an age when just about anyone can watch Two Girls One Cup on their phone while at work, what's a "transgressive" artist to do?

Make art that transgresses against the EU and watch the luvvies get their knickers in a twist. Funny how art is no longer "transgressive" when it transgresses against the wrong people.


A previous ‘festival’ gave the public two tables covered in sand. Decorated with radical fag ends, obviously.


Fucking hell.
Seriously, it's not funny any more. We're the ones being laughed at.

It's time to pull the plug.


We’re the ones being laughed at.

Oh, the organisers commissioned a manifesto to explain, among other things, why those tables covered in fag ends mattered so very much:

Who is we? This group is ever expanding. It is us, the creative types who have created jobs for ourselves by exploring and exploiting our talents to perform small artistic and intellectual miracles.

Yes, they’re performing miracles. Intellectual miracles.

Which is why there’s lots of painful, meandering guff about “embracing latency” and “transgressing your capacities.” And these feats, these miracles, are all being done as acts of “resistance” against… well, it’s all rather wordy and vague, naturally, and hilariously self-flattering, but I’m sure you can guess. The point of course isn’t to explain anything or impart information; it’s simply to convince you, the rube, that these people, these miracle workers, are terribly intellectual and terribly important, even if by the end of it you can’t remember why. They’ve “created their jobs for themselves,” you see. Though these self-created jobs don’t involve doing anything useful, anything other people might actually want to pay for. And so you have to subsidise them, indefinitely, because they’re that important.

But as I said, we mustn’t call it a hustle.

Horace Dunn

"They left the public with no reason to be interested. But they still expect our money."

It’s important to understand, I think, that a lack of general appeal is necessary for these so-called artists: nothing would wreck their self esteem – and the self-satisfaction of their coteries – more than if their “work” gained a wider, more general appreciation. The fact that the stuff they do leaves the vast majority of people entirely unmoved is a feature, not a bug.

If you want to kill off the enthusiasm that a Guardian reader has for a particular exhibition of artworks, you need only to arrange for a large group of working class people to show up at the gallery and make appreciative noises at the sand-tables-with-fags, or, as it might be, the gigantic long turds. All of a sudden the intellectual miracles will seem somehow invalidated.

The trick is that you need to make the lower orders pay for this stuff, while ensuring that they remain indifferent to it.

An American at the end of his patience.

Who is we? This group is ever expanding. It is us, the creative types who have created jobs for ourselves by exploring and exploiting our talents to perform small artistic and intellectual miracles.

Very small. Microscopically small. Vanishingly small. *poof* Oh look, it's gone.
This poppycock does perform a service, allbeit unintentionally. Those who produce or accept this guff self-identify as idiots. Unfortunately once identified there is no consequence. Oh for the days of dunce caps. Or, better yet, the stocks.


This reminds me of a conversation I had as an undergraduate at the dining hall with a couple of art majors. They were complaining that the Bush administration had given money to theater groups that were putting on Shakespeare. In their opinion, Shakespeare already had such strong universal support that his works would certainly survive and flourish without public funding, which should be diverted wholesale to the creation of "new art".

Perish the thought that public funds ought to support


...the consensus. [sorry. pressed enter too soon]

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