war and sport take centre stage

While having coffee with one choreographer who knows firsthand the House of Un-American Activities Commission blacklist trials that is Australian federal and state arts funding, I was told Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon, founders and artistic directors of Sydney Dance Company for 30 years, have chosen to resign rather than endure the witch-hunt of justifying art. We are witnessing the Auto de fe of Australian contemporary dance

“Having seen dance blossom in the past 30 years increases the sadness we feel at seeing it enter a less dynamic phase,” Murphy and Vernon said in a statement released yesterday. “Potential for new adventures is greatly diminished in these cash-strapped times.

“The exciting new undergrowth has never been sparser and old growth (we consider Sydney Dance Company as such) has never been more threatened.”

[…]

In their statement, Murphy and Vernon were deeply critical of the Government’s “indifference” to dance, an artform which, “could bring so much to the troubled culture of Australia’s identity.

“How can the arts flourish in a society where war and sport take centre stage?” they said.

— Sydney Morning Herald

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shock! surprise! ozco doesn’t fund me for the eleventh time!

Who’d a fucking thought? I mean the odds were seriously in my favour: 11 applications and 0, zero, zero success, that’s like a 100% hit rate. Statistically aberrant even. Far freaking out. So here is my letter to the proles at Australia Council for the (haha) Arts (sorry, I can’t take their name seriously, ‘for’ the arts?), thanking them on their unstinting commitment to my art. The letter is much more polite than I generally am in my opinion of the council, so to make sure there is absolutely no misunderstanding, I think the council is the single worst thing that has happened to the arts in Australia. The main purpose of its existence is to pad the retirement funds of a bunch of second rate, talentless, never-made it artists and parasitical arts administrators, while showing unwavering contempt to the very artists who they use to validate the existence of their jobs. Cunts.

I just found out that once again I haven’t been funded. This makes a perfect record of 11 applications since the end of 1999 which have not been funded. I’m sure there are – as always – compelling and valid reasons why this time I was unsuccessful, but really, they are all irrelevant.

If Australia Council for the Arts is at all serious about supporting a new generation of emerging choreographers Australia Council would have funded me. Obviously judging by the repeated failure of my applications it has no idea.

Just to make it clear, here is the application and success rate for every other grant and residency I have applied for since 2001:

Arts Victoria – 8 applications / 4 successful ( 50%)
Ian Potter Cultural Trust – 2 applications / 2 successful (100%)
Besen Family Foundation – 1 application / 1 successful (100%)
Asialink – 1 application / 1 successful (100%)
DanceWEB Europe – 1 application / 1 successful (100%)
Australia Council Skills and Arts Development – 1 application / 1 successful (100%)
Taipei Artist Village – 1 application / 1 successful (100%)
ANAT – 1 application / 1 successful (100%)
Australia China Council – 2 applications / 1 successful (50%)
SiWiC Zurich – 2 applications / 1 successful (50%)

In fairness, I have applied to a number of other organisations once and been unsuccessful, though also there are many other successful application I have also left unmentioned. But even by the statistics published with each ozco funding announcement, I should have had at least one after eleven consecutive rounds of applying. And by comparison to the funding body most like ozco – Arts Victoria – there is an obvious discrepancy.

As to the relevance of quoting statistics like this they are indeed pertinent to my Dance Board applications. Excluding ozco, I am doing exceedingly well as an emerging independent contemporary choreographer both in Australia and in Asia and Europe in the four and a half years since graduating, and am comparatively one of the most successful. Looking at the results from the Dance Board would lead me to conclude I am a talentless hack and should give up now, move to Shanghai and be a showgirl, anything other than try to choreograph for which I patently am a hopeless lost cause. Both conclusions cannot be correct.

The issue is fundamentally this: within Australia, I am desperately underrepresented and seriously under-funded. The primary result of this is negligible opportunity to make the large, full-evening works I apply to the Dance Board for. Of course I am aware my situation is representative of the current environment across the dance scene in Australia, as evinced by the philistine decision to axe the New Media Board to prop up the Dance Board. In reply however, there are very few emerging choreographers with as strong a body of work and international recognition as myself.

Without your support, I have presented work in Melbourne, around Australia, Guangzhou, Taipei, Christchurch, Toronto, Vienna, and Zürich, in most of these places more than once. I’m also currently preparing new works in these and other cities, which are more than happy to give me the kind of support the dance board without a doubt thinks I do not deserve.

Now is the time to support me. I am not interested in excuses. I have been accepting of the funding decisions up until now, but this is ridiculous.

If the Australia Council is unable to represent its constituents in a meaningful way and acquire the appropriate level of funding from the Federal Government then perhaps it should consider calling it a day and handing the serious business of funding contemporary arts over to the state organisations who clearly have a better idea of what is going on.

If it is not a question of funding, then I submit the Dance Board is incapable of recognising and understanding contemporary dance, incapable of acting and responding to emerging trends, is utterly irrelevant and should be replaced, again by people who have a better idea of what is going on.

I would like you to to explain why I did not receive funding in this round, and why I have not been funded on any occasion in the New Work category. I reiterate I do not wish to hear invalid excuses such as lack of funding. To start I would like you to explain in detail why my reasons for wanting to make this work are less valid than the other artists applying, and have been less valid in every round since the end of 1999.

I would also like a explanation for the rationale behind supporting artists on their first application who have never worked in Australia over myself, who has devoted considerable effort to furthering the contemporary dance and art scene in Australia, and between Australia and Asia.

It has been made abundantly clear to me that the board’s position in regard to my work is that it would be a miracle if I were to receive funding in the near future, that my work, irrespective of its artistic merit is not what the board wishes to see as being representative of Australian contemporary dance, and that the best thing I can do is leave the country and not return. In light of the funding recent funding decisions, this is evidently the case. I would like you to convince me this is not.