Monday, November 1, 2010

Work-Slash-Life


Late capitalist society is engaged in a long-term historical process of destroying job security, while the virtues of work are ironically and even more insistently being glorified.

(David Aronowitz and Jonathan Cutler)




If you can say of an unemployed person that they are between jobs, then you could also say of the North-facing office on the third floor of the commercial property at 50 Manners Street, Wellington, that it is currently between tenants. At times of economic strife, you need upbeat euphemisms. But is the empty space comforted? Is it ever lonely? Does it look forward to becoming again a place of work, or would it rather be left alone, to mind its own lack of business?

A vacant commercial space is a site of anxiety, more so than a vacant dwelling. If it happens to include a shop front, its emptiness becomes a concrete representation of crisis. An empty shop on the corner can bring down the whole neighbourhood. We use phrases like that: to bring down, to depress. Things take on mood.

Image by SomeDriftwood

Sophie Jerram and Mark Amery have been exploiting this mood for some time in their Letting Space series, in which empty commercial premises are repurposed as temporary art spaces. I wrote some time ago about Dugal McKinnon’s Popular Archaeology, but of more interest to today’s proceedings is the Free Shop set up last May by artist Kim Paton at a former nut store in Ghuznee Street. ‘A social exercise in interrogating the false economics of production in capitalism and in particular the murky terrain of wastage,’ is how David Cross summed it up. I recall asking myself at the time if those premises, which had accommodated a picture framer before becoming a nut store, and before that who knows what else, had ever been as crowded as they were on the day of my visit. But then of course at that point it had really become the opposite of itself, an anti-shop, existing solely by virtue of temporary arrangements with regular shops and their suppliers.

And so too The Beneficiary’s Office which has installed itself at 50 Manners Street is the product of careful mediation: with the property owners, with funding bodies, with the welfare provisions that allow Tao Wells to call himself an artist and not charge an admission for it, all on the taxpayers’ dime. Another murky terrain, another interrogation – of the nature of labour, of what are the products of art, and of who should pay for them.


The work itself is an exercise in misdirection. It is called The Beneficiary’s Office, but if you visit the premises the sign on the door says The Wells Group. (No, not that Wells Group.) Inside, you’ll find the artist, the receptionist, a couple of desks. Go on, you can talk to them. Or you can visit the website. It won’t tell you much. The home page is all sidebar, no content. The Media section is where all the meat is, in the form of the responses that the project has garnered. All it took was for Jerram and Amery to send out a press release in which Wells was quoted saying things like
[t]he average carbon footprint of the unemployed person is about half of that of those earning over $100,000 […] Surely, an advanced society would see us work less, and enjoy the benefits of unemployed time. We need to work less, so we consume less.
The mainstream press became aware that this very timid and relatively uncontroversial critique of our economic system received public funding from Creative New Zealand, and that Wells himself was on a benefit pursuant to the artists-on-the-dole scheme. Lane Nichols of The Dominion Post duly proceeded to prepackage the news so that it could be gnawed at by the predictably outraged.

The first to bite was blogger Inventory2 over at Keeping Stock, immediately followed by David Farrar. Regular readers know that I don’t make a habit of linking to that particular forum, but the first post at Kiwiblog on the topic is a remarkable case study of the downright irrepressible anger of the over-entitled and over-employed. Writes Farrar:
It’s unfair that I have to work 60 hour weeks to fund your fucking life style, you bludging wanker…
Not just a greedy selfish bludger, but a stupid one also…
He refuses to work, but is happy to apply for grants so he can preach about why people should bludge like him…
Listen Mr Fuckwit, you are not forced to take a job. So long as you don’t want those of us who do work to pay you a benefit, you do not need to ever work again…
Having a layabout wanker who is illegally claiming the dole, promote dole bludging as a lifestyle choice is not innovative. Would Creative NZ give money for a tax felon to set up an office and advise people not to pay their taxes?…
This makes my blood boil…

As the righteous indignation spread, Work and Income swiftly responded by suspending Wells’ benefit. Except, contrary to Farrar’s claim, the benefit wasn’t ‘illegally claimed’ at all, and the artist managed to have it reinstated in short order. In a second, less expletive-filled post, Farrar shifted his focus and intimated he would put his influence to good use and lobby for the funding of Creative New Zealand to be cut. And while ACT MP Heather Roy, whose unit of measure of public spending are glue ear operations, managed to sound like the moderate, composed voice of reason, the time came for a new issue of The Listener – formerly our weekly magazine of ideas, now the bastion of the sagging, propertied middle class – to hit the stands.

Once again, don’t get used to my linking to such disreputable sources, but the editorial of the October 30 issue of the magazine must be read in its entirety to be fully appreciated or, indeed, believed. Wells’ installation is nothing less than A Blow to the Art, shrieks the heading, going on to rhetorically inquire: ‘When an artist bites the hand that feeds it, does he deserve that public funding?’ The analysis of the merits of the project runs as follows:
To further bedevil our sense of the balance between free speech and public decency, Wells has accepted public money to create an art installation in which he disparages working people, and exhorts them to ditch their jobs, live off the state and become minimalist consumers. Officials deemed it art for the 37-year-old long-term beneficiary to glorify the notion of slacking and bludging off one’s fellow citizens.
The conclusion, in equal parts veiled threat and stern warning, is just a smidgen more oblique than Farrar's avowal to deal with the blaspheming funding agency directly:
The risk for [Creative New Zealand] if it continues to make similar funding choices is that soon taxpayers may not be asking the question of the artworks, but of CNZ itself.

So this is it: a $3,500 grant ($2,000 to Wells, plus expenses), and the ongoing support of a scheme that puts artists on the same footing as the regular unemployed, are enough to buy off your freedom to make statements that are minimally provocative. It should be pointed out that Wells never called for a universal living wage, nor for an actual policy of degrowth. Nor did he at any point advocate or postulate the end of work. He simply set up shop, and used the word ‘beneficiary’ to mean something other than ‘welfare recipient who ought to be bloody grateful’. It’s literally all it took.

In another breach of my usually high standards, Wells’ op-ed in the print edition of The Dominion Post made me buy a physical copy of the paper. By that stage the controversy had died down somewhat, as reactionary and liberal pundits alike became more interested in the industrial dispute surrounding The Hobbit. Now I'll confess that I didn’t think that Wells' piece was particularly incisive, certainly not very radical: it emphasised the consequence of ever-increasing production and consumption on the environment, and the consequences of being forced to take work, any work, on the sense of self of job-seekers. Its conclusion petered out somewhat into a vague series of statements:
What we have been advocating for, is to do those things that we love, not because we are told that we love them, but because we have found real love there, enough to share.
We need to explore the idea, intellectually, of embracing our collective welfare - by taking a break.

But then I closed the paper, and my eyes fell on the main headline.

You can read the full article here.

Twenty-two (more) years of dumping, a simple statement that contains all of our dogged determination to run down the clock on the capacity of our environment to sustain us, in the name of the Economy. The value, the force of Wells' work is to be found in these juxtapositions, just like his rhetorical and artistic masterpiece isn't the opinion piece that he wrote himself, but rather the one he had The Listener write for him: a brilliantly succinct formulation of capitalist realism, with its coolly enraged curtailing of the slightest departure from the script that says that growth equals work equals wealth equals equity – a belief as entrenched on the Right as it is on the Left.

As for Mr Farrar we might wish to ask: what is it that makes him work 60 hour weeks. Is it fear? Greed? Or is he just another inmate, a prisoner of society, bereft of options? (In which case, is work going to set him free?)

He’d likely respond that it is the dissenters, the bludgers, who are forcing him to always be working, so that he can support them as well as himself. But two years ago and then again this year his taxes were cut. Is he working any less? I doubt it somehow, and he doesn't appear capable to even entertain the question without exploding into a fit of rage. But somebody should, it is perhaps the single most important question of our time: how to revolutionise society and the very concept of labour, no longer in the name of equity and justice, but the survival of the species. David Aronowitz and Jonathan Cutler wrote this over ten years ago: 'What has been called utopian in the past is now a practical necessity.' To work less, so that we all can work. To discriminate between the work that makes us richer, and the work that makes us poorer. To imagine a post-work society and create the material conditions for its existence.

In the meantime, The Wells Group will close its doors this Tuesday; Tao Wells will go back on the dole while he works on his next project; the North-facing office on the third floor of the commercial building at 50 Manners Street will be emptied again; and on Wednesday, all over the country that has chosen a currency trader as its Prime Minister and where questions cannot be asked, thousands of beneficiaries will wake up wishing for work, (almost) any work, as without a doubt in their place would I.










The Beneficiary's Office closed on November 2nd. It would be remiss of me not to link to the thoughtful reviews of the exhibition by David Cross at EyeContact  and Lew at Kiwipolitico

The Aronowitz  and Cutler quotations are from Post Work: The Wages of Cybernation (New York: Routledge, 1998), pages 40 (the epigraph) and 69 (the quotation in the post).

31 comments:

J. Macbeth Dann said...

Thanks for the post - really enjoyed it, and grateful that I've found your blog. The whole 'saga' has been really interesting, and the media fell for it hook, line and sinker - which in turn, totally justified the minimal outlay that Creative NZ put into it. If one had the time, there would probably be a great study in the current state of our media that centred around their response to Wells. I was surprised - though I really shouldn't have been - that all forms of the media were happy to beat him with the 40K cost, amongst other facts that they hadn't bothered to actually check. If anyone had bothered to do any research, they would have found that Wells has actually been exploring ideas around benefits and the welfare state for some years. He had a show at the High Street Project in Christchurch in 2008 I think in which he riffed on the idea that he was the Ministry of Social Development. I remember interviewing him then and he laid the foundations for this whole performance back then (unfortunately, due to the current curators at HSP, the site archives are not available, so I can't track down a link.)

It's disappointing that no-one in the media has really picked up on the central theme (we should work less, not not at all) but at the same time, the response from the media has both shown how narrow minded, conservative and self serving they can be - whilst making Tao Wells the rockstar of the NZ contemporary art scene.

Robyn said...

Wells' project got me thinking about work hours. I'd like to work less than 40 hours a week, but "part-time" work is scarce and is usually never as interesting or pays as well (per hour) as "full-time" work. (Though my current job gives me one unpaid month off over summer, so I suppose things aren't too bad there).

And then there's the hallowed "work-life balance", which cleverly manages to imply that "work" and "life" are two separate things.

merc said...

Stonking post Giovanni, it was my brilliant Italian friend who would say in his accented gravelly beautiful voice...Peda, when you work for the money you will never earn enough.

Giovanni Tiso said...

@Robyn

Wells' project got me thinking about work hours. I'd like to work less than 40 hours a week, but "part-time" work is scarce and is usually never as interesting or pays as well (per hour) as "full-time" work

There are also a lot of part-time jobs in which you end up working full-time hours, but for half the money.

And then there's the hallowed "work-life balance", which cleverly manages to imply that "work" and "life" are two separate things.

There's a statement in the Projects section of the Wells Group website about "promoting the dissolution of the distinction between work and play" that I planned to talk about before being mesmerised by the works of Farrar and the Listener editorialist (house renovations enthusiast Joanne Black?). As I've argued pretty much ad nauseam, I think that distinction has already been utterly dissolved - in that play is now an extension of work. Doing art may just be a way of reversing that particular relationship, and making work more like play.

Giovanni Tiso said...

J. Macbeth Dann

I remember interviewing him then and he laid the foundations for this whole performance back then (unfortunately, due to the current curators at HSP, the site archives are not available, so I can't track down a link.)

That's a shame. I really wanted to make an appointment with Wells at the show and interview him, but quite fittingly I had too much work on to be able to do it.

we should work less, not not at all

This is what Aronowitz and Cutler have to say in the Post-Work Manifesto:

"[W]e would still produce the goods and services that society needs but we would spend less time doing it. There's plenty to produce: we need millions of homes at rents people can afford. Our environment needs to be cleaned, improved and maintained; depleted drinking water supplies need to be restored and pollution levels reduced. There's also plenty to do: kids need childcare and recreation activities. Ordinary people might run television channels and, together with independent film and video makers, become more genuinely involved with contemporary media. Neighborhoods would have their theatres, concert halls, sports facilities, and collective meeting spaces. Libraries would become full-time again. And people would have time to use them." (p. 33 of the book cited in the post).

Giovanni Tiso said...

This just came to hand: an interview with Guido Rossi on "Impossible Growth and the End of Progress". It's in Italian, I'm afraid, but I'm posting it as an indication of how mainstream these ideas are becoming: Rossi is one of our foremost economists, and was until not long ago an executive of ABN Amro and the president of Italian Telecom. Yet he goes exactly where Aronowitz et al. and our anti-growth loony Greens go, further if anything.

And at the end of the interview he states: people will say it's a utopia, but I'd rather have a utopia than an apocalypse.

Lyndon said...

I'm just being struck again by the phrase the Dom has been using: 'out-of-work artist'.

It's fairly clear what they're trying to put across, but the more you think about it the less it means anything.

Quite apart from the way the if he's doing something he got a grant for - surely that's work.

Keir said...

Farrar really went off the deep end on this one, didn't he? It's quite striking how deeply authoritarian his instincts on this are.

In fact, a lot of the liberal democratic consensus on the arts fell over; the Listener would never seriously defend the idea that art ought be subject to standards of political correctness, nor that they were somehow competent to judge who should get CNZ cash, but Wells got them to sound just like every dumb right-winger you could imagine.

(``it became known'' that CNZ spent so much etc. -How- did it become known? There's one obvious candidate, but I'd love to know how that one came about, especially the fact it was the -wrong- figure.)

Giovanni Tiso said...

Agreed, Keir, there are interesting issues regarding disclosure there, especially since in the reports following the reinstatement of Wells' benefit it was specified that there were details that couldn't be made public because he had refused to sign a release indemnifying WINZ.

Giovanni Tiso said...

It's fairly clear what they're trying to put across, but the more you think about it the less it means anything.

I just don't think they understand how the artists' benefit works. As always with the Dom Post, it's hard to be sure where malice ends and lack of basic journalistic competence begins.

rob said...

It's a very different world since the neo-lib reforms alright. Back when I was seriously on the dole- in the reign of Komptroller and Chief of Petty Cash Muldoonicans- it was almost respectable.
Being on the dole was to be poorish, though it's likely worse now. As a student, you learnt to be poor. We got a bursary, which you could live on, though it was somewhat less than the dole- and casual work or work-schemes during the holidays.
Being on the dole was a good step further, a way of entering- or at least hovering on the doorstep- of an underclass. The 'outsider' perspective could be as refreshing as the poverty could be crushing. (We were a gang, we were single, it was fine).
Wells is offering up this change of perspective as a potential moment of insight. Good on 'im!

mark amery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophie Jerram said...

Thanks for your analysis, Giovanni, and for illiciting these intelligent and humorous responses. It is all a pleasure to read (no gut-wrenching lines in sight).
See you Thursday I hope - Film Archive at 1pm for a discussion on the project. All welcome.
Sophie Jerram

At the discussion I'd be happy to set the record straight about the weird mis-reporting that occurred on the money.

ps - this is the deleted comment above - I was using our shared email address but realised it looked like it came only from Mark

Giovanni Tiso said...

Yes, I hope to be able to be there for the first 45 minutes or so.

Richard said...

This is a good and interesting post Tiso. I like what Tao is doing. (The beneficiaries thing and some of his other "art"..) It is serious, provocative, but also often very funny.

The reaction by the Listener (the only "intellectual" journal I can afford as I am a beneficiary!) seemed to be something written by ... well, an idiot! Or a computer programmed to write in cliches?

I don't think we need to think about "carbon footprints" or even the environment. [Sure that can be an issue but we don't need to feel guilty of any of that or indeed of whether we work or not.] I think we simply need to or could think about our attitudes to work.

In any society, especially the later 'developed' civilisations of which we are a a part (if we can claim to be civilised...hmm... Tim Shadbolt in the 70s talked of us being "syphilised" (re to the Vietnam War etc), there is always a huge excess created (or those societies would not continue)), and they do and will (for some time).

Well I maybe contradicted as quite wrong but that is my view...

But, whatever I think, that all starts to drift away. The point is there are always people who are, in many capacities (for better or worse), not really 'working'. Productively in a strict sense...

The other main point (for me) is to think about work, whether we should want to, or need to, and so on.

One issue. The man (or woman) works so hard and with such ferocity of 60+ hours dedication that he or she never talks with or plays with his own children (or interacts properly with others of her of his family - similar personal social effects of long hours working). There are many other aspects.

Also, why cant we simply propose that work is (or may mot be) for everyone, that some people might choose not to work and should perhaps be able to NOT work?

It seems the very question is frightening to many...including the 60 hour a week man! (If he was doing so well earning cash he wouldn't worry about others not earning - in fact he would or perhaps should - be glad!)

Richard said...

Sorry, that should have been:


"Also, why cant we simply propose that work is not (or may not be) for everyone, that some people might choose not to work and should perhaps be able to NOT work?

Regards, RT

PS - Also, this debate on The Wells Group etc shows that Art is working!

Daleaway said...

For more than thirty years I have known New Zealand writers who subsist on benefits with occasional scholarships, writers' grants, or project grants from one or another state funding body (including university fellowships), to provide them with time and space in which to write.

One well-known writer specifically told me, many years ago, that she regarded the dole as a writing fellowship by another name.

This has met with the tacit approval of the community, and no fuss has ever been publicly made about it.

Given the size of the New Zealand market for art and literature, and the paucity of available grants, it's a practical solution.

Now that other creative artists have seen fit to fund their employment by the same means, however, we make value judgements about the work they produce and see fit to call them bludgers.

Perhaps it is just we who are poor art critics?

Giovanni Tiso said...

It seems to me that in this case no effort was made to evaluate Tao Wells' work for its artistic merits. The critics simply took the position that he shouldn't be allowed to say what he said because he received income support. So the system of financing that you've described would seem to apply only to people who dare not criticise it nor our political-economic system as a whole.

What The Listener is very plainly saying in its editorial is that we should only support subservient intellectuals.

Richard said...

Giovanni - I got confused and used your second name - my apologies.

Richard said...

"What The Listener is very plainly saying in its editorial is that we should only support subservient intellectuals."

Yes! Exactly.

Keri Hulme said...

I was once on the dole - for 6 weeks waay back in 1976. It had nothing to do with supporting my writing, but everything to do with actually having a basic living
while looking for work (I found some, back on the West Coast.)

Since 1983, I have supported some family and self as a writer - I could do that because of great good luck for many years, but lately it's been a matter of living on the OD and the credit card, and support for family has been - urm, quite limited.

I'm one of those weirdos who doesnt fit into a university setting (I've tried twice, with partial fellowships at 2 ANZ 'varsities) nor is able to travel overseas anymore. Or, in any comfort travel outside of the south-and, I'm neither a teacher nor an entertainer, so those are not options.

The remaining choices are - apply for a CNZ grant (tried that, 20 years after the last one - failed miserably) or giving up the game.*

Entering competitions you say? Well, after winning the Booker I made a promise to myself- never enter any other public writing contest, not because you have a hope of winning, but every experienced writer-entrant reduces the chances for some newbie...

foolish? Heck yeah! But, it is part of my pride.

*Oh, there's always winning Lotto I guess...lessee, do I need eggs this week?

The point of this rambling communication is simple: if people who are artists find they can live on the dole AND produce art, there is every benefit to them & our society that they do so - that was the whole point of a former government allowing the 'dole for artists.'

However, some of us cannot apply for that, and have very few other choices.

What's that you're saying? "Write another book!"
Yeah, well, I have, 5 of them actually, and am working on 4 more. 2 will be ready quite soon - but they are poetry & essays, and the income will be slight.

"Write faster then!" And, "Write what sells!"
I've never claimed to be a speedy writer. Or to write populist genre fiction (I lurrrve popular genre fiction!
Just look at my collection of fantasy & scific books!)

'Tis a bind...but I thoroughly support artists like Wells - and detest commentary like that from "The Listener" (which I ceased buying several years ago.

Giovanni Tiso said...

Thank you Keri. I participated in the first hour of the post-show discussion with the curators, the Wells Group and members of the public today and your comment would have been cherished there too I'm sure. The general consensus was along the lines of what I've tried to express here - that the reactions to the show are indicative of establishment attitudes towards both artists and the unemployed, therefore crucially towards what people are good for, and that culture is good for. The emerging picture is rather discomfiting.

The Listener editorial made an interesting claim - that the arts are well funded in New Zealand. I think it would be interesting to test this claim by doing a serious comparison with other countries, but also in absolute terms to judge the extent in which we see this expenditure as an investment towards improving actual living conditions in the country.

Wellington City Council has set aside five million dollars for a hideous sculpture by Weta of a rugby lineout that if the plans go ahead will permanently embarrass our waterfront. We are spending this money because there is a widely held belief concerning the benefits of such an investment, that it's a form of branding with intangible yet significant benefits. I think as we approach the rugby world cup we need to ask more questions like the ones that the Wells Group has posed, about whether we want artists or technicians and sports people to craft our national image, to produce our binding narratives.

Keir said...

The general consensus was along the lines of what I've tried to express here - that the reactions to the show are indicative of establishment attitudes towards both artists and the unemployed, therefore crucially towards what people are good for, and that culture is good for

I don't know if this is right. After all, the governmental apparatus did end up lining up behind Tao Wells, who is not exactly unestablishment himself (Gambia Castle, cf. Dan Arps and Fiona Connor). DPF and the Listener may to some extent represent an elite view, but it's one which lost, and in a very important way it isn't establishment; it isn't established.

--- and I would bet Chris Finlayson backs the funding of Wells' art work (or at least the system that lead to the funding), given he's been on the board at CNZ and must know the rules.

Interesting to compare to, say, Te Papa and the whole kerfuffle there, or et al. The Weta abomination is striking in that the traditional centres of power in the arts lost in a reverse of the usual way these things work. If you look at most public sculpture in Wellington, even the flakiest `public sculpture' shite, it's art. It's pedigree, it's people with degrees (from Auckland or Canterbury preferably), and critical respectability.

Which is good; I wouldn't like it any other way. (Er. There's a bit of self-interest in that statement.)

So I dunno. To some extent this represents the internal contradictions in the elites, and is a possible critique of the state etc. But it's more interesting, I think, to interrogate the artwork here: f'rinstance, to what extent does Wells simply reinforce stereotypes of unemployment in his performance? Isn't the appropriation of unemployment slightly problematic? The role of the group and the consultant has been underanalysed. The Don Brash Taskforce is the clear comparison to the Wells Group.

(If fashion were your trade, then when you're naked, you must be unemployed. Art's Wells' trade, and he's most definitely working when he asserts the benefits of unemployment.)

Stephanie said...

I've just been reading about Adam Smith in the New Yorker (borrowed from a friend, and something in this post and comment threads brought to mind some of that great man's thinking about economic growth and productivity. If we apply that to Tao Wells himself we can take one of Smith's great paragraphs and talk about his clothes, office furniture, the 'office' building and draw some conclusions about how productive Wells is as he is.

Where all this takes us as a nation is not clear to me, but your post was brilliant and beautifully constructed. Thank you.

Giovanni Tiso said...

@Stephanie Thank you!

@Keir
I don't know if this is right. After all, the governmental apparatus did end up lining up behind Tao Wells, who is not exactly unestablishment himself (Gambia Castle, cf. Dan Arps and Fiona Connor). DPF and the Listener may to some extent represent an elite view, but it's one which lost, and in a very important way it isn't establishment; it isn't established.

--- and I would bet Chris Finlayson backs the funding of Wells' art work (or at least the system that lead to the funding), given he's been on the board at CNZ and must know the rules.


The Dominion, The Listener, Plunkett and Farrar are pretty established. And the fact that they were able to articulate their critique to the project in the terms that they did, causing both of Wells’ fund sources to cower - WINZ by taking the extraordinary step of cutting his benefit without anything approaching just cause, CNZ by saying that they weren’t aware of the content of the work - hardly constitutes defeat in my book. CNZ in particular was warned not to dare fund a project like this again, or else. Will they, won’t they? It’s early to tell, obviously, but next time a controversy like this arises I think the critics will recall The Beneficiary’s Office and call it strike one, for sure. It'll be like the "hip hop tour".

Has there been (and I’m not asking this rhetorically) a single institutional or mainstream voice backing the Wells Group?

But it's more interesting, I think, to interrogate the artwork here: f'rinstance, to what extent does Wells simply reinforce stereotypes of unemployment in his performance? Isn't the appropriation of unemployment slightly problematic?

I didn’t feel that there was a reinforcing of the stereotype personally, and as for the appropriation - how do you mean? I think the fact that the law equates artists in between projects with the regular unemployed makes Wells singularly entitled to speak from both of those positions.

Keir said...

WINZ definitely got angry, but they had to back down within two days. That's the rest of the establishment saying: hang on, play by the rules.

The reason nobody bothered to come out and back Wells is that there was no need to; this particular show was a screaming success, and when the accountability reports go back to CNZ, this will almost certainly show up as an example of high quality spending on the arts.

I mean, what actual harm has resulted to Wells? He was off the dole for two days, which will have been a pain. He got a ludicrous amount of free advertising. His show was a success way way beyond anything else he's done.

I don't see how dpf is establishment, in that what he wants is literally disestablishment. (Which is why he's so angry, of course.)

(Institutional and mainstream voices backing Wells: eyeContact. Roger Boyce. CNZ, albeit quietly. WCC & the Wgtn Independent Arts Trust & the City Gallery. The last lot, although backing Wells quite quietly, backed him in a very important way: they stumped up money.)

(Will respond to the other points later.)

Giovanni Tiso said...

That's the rest of the establishment saying: hang on, play by the rules.

Not really: those were the rules themselves saying, you can't do this. Wells had to go and complain with a beneficiary's advocate. It was hardly supportive of Winz to reinstate the benefit.

CNZ, albeit quietly.

If by "quietly" you mean "whilst essentially disavowing him", yes, but that's a hell of a strange way of supporting somebody.

And DPF is not establishment but EyeContact is? How so? DPF has got ties to the National Party; when he says he's going to be lobbying them to cut CNZ's funding, it is not in the same way you and I might be able to lobby the National Party.

I mean, what actual harm has resulted to Wells? He was off the dole for two days, which will have been a pain. He got a ludicrous amount of free advertising. His show was a success way way beyond anything else he's done.

No harm at all to Wells, that's beyond question. I don't think it comes down to free advertising as much as those responses actually defining the value of the project. From a broader standpoint, however, I wonder if we should laugh or cry. That the country's most important weekly magazine, and one that at least used to appeal principally to people interested in ideas, should call the show "indecent", is more cause for dismay than triumph.

Keir said...


If by "quietly" you mean "whilst essentially disavowing him", yes, but that's a hell of a strange way of supporting somebody.


Money talks, bullshit walks. I don't think anybody cares if CNZ backs you on anything but the essential point of signing the cheques, which, reading between the lines of that statement, they will keep doing.

Why is Farrar not establishment? Because on this he's calling for disestablishment. On this, he's going up against the way things are.

Now, sure, he's got ties to the National Party and all that. On the other hand, lots of people have ties to the National Party, and some of them will be people like Chris Finlayson who must know damn fine that this is actually pretty much what CNZ should be doing.

Giovanni Tiso said...

Money talks, bullshit walks.

But, but, but!… Isn't there a very documented connection between the talk and the walk? Finlayson may be a nice guy and all but this government is on a mission to disestablish and it will manipulate public perceptions of what taxpayer dollars are good for to this end. How much hay did they make with the hip hop tour? And when they cancelled the funding for night classes, didn't Key handpick the courses that could be ridiculed in soundbite form? So, wouldn't it be actually quite desirable (not to mention courageous, not to mention honourable) for an institutional voice to make the argument in favour of supporting shows like Wells'? That's where the battle for the continuation of these forms of funding will be fought.

This is all the more topical if you think of the history of welfare. Whenever a political movement – from Reagan onwards – has advocated slashing benefits, it has carefully prepared the ground discursively first, painting pictures of bludgers and welfare queens. Wasn't Paula Bennett's 'dream is over' speech earlier this year aimed at doing just that?

so you tell me said...

thank you all for sharing your brave lone thoughts and appreciate how they stand stark against such a backdrop of fear and fear mongering.

If we can not articulate what it is that we expect from society and our collective wealth then it will be decided for us.

The cutting of Adult education, despite an audit revealing that for every dollar that was spent it made a further twenty five, went a head.

What line must be crossed before this involves you. Our cultural institutions are soft and weak by design, toothless so they can not bite the hand that feeds. And that which does not is a pet. Art on the leash of business I will not suffer.

There is no reason to this war, it is simply the mechanization of greed. Those on the take have implemented themselves so will stay quiet. Those with nothing to lose will have bon fires ready made and lit.

Unless we, create another way... make it snappy.

so you tell me said...

just in case you think I'm a one hit wonder, now I'm a two hit wonder..

http://vimeo.com/8284068

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