Wednesday 20th of June 2018

art in australia...

art in australia...

The purpose of art is complex... Some people think it's to put pretty pictures on walls... or to glorify Stalin or the Duke of Wellington in oil...  Being an artist is a job using representative skills and value judgement of interpretation. Many skills are often needed to be good. Some of the value judgements may be right or wrong, deliberate or accidental. But a lot of art is designed to challenge long established perceived ideas, including the self-worth of itself.

New worthwhile ideas can be hard to come by. Fighting old established prejudices is slightly easier — this is why I "do cartoons" as well as being an "artist". Art often carries a message, that can be uncomfortable for all of us and for the artists themselves.

Here, we have to come to terms with the petulance of artistic expression while rejecting the arrogant petulance of a George Brandis. I am prepared to believe that Brandis never understood "art". Who does anyway? What is art? Everyone has a view on it. But there is a strange status quo about the illusion of integrity and purpose in the social value of art.

Like sports athletes at the Canberra sporting training facilities need governmental money for a victory at the end of a 100 metres, art is the same and also needs government help, but where it differs from sports, art does not win anything but a value judgement, sometimes with a prize attached to it. Let's say that in many art competitions it's the same old heads who get a gong, because the establishment people who judge the contest are often unprepared for the new and rising languages of art and those who get the accolade are often a notch above.

And to say the least, there is a lot of artistic crap out there. BUT THERE IS A LOT OF GREAT UNRECOGNISED ART  as well.

In the same breath, one could ask the other question: has Senator Brandis ever understood science beyond making bad smells in a school lab? I believe not. I could be wrong... But in many more ways than not, ART AND SCIENCES are intertwined with philosophy. The Abbott Regime having disbanded the government "philosophy unit" and the "climate council", one can see a governmental finger twitching on a trigger to kill off the last intellectual target: the arts... 

be prepared...


Gus Leonisky

your art expert...


of integrity, bread and water...

George Brandis has threatened the withdrawal of commonwealth funding for the Sydney Biennale festival for “blackballing” Transfield Holdings after it severed ties with the company because of an artist protest over its contract work on an offshore detention centre.

The arts minister has written to the Australia Council, which distributes arts funding on behalf of the federal government, and asked them to develop a policy to penalise arts organisations that refuse funding from corporate sponsors on “unreasonable grounds”.

If he is not satisfied with a new policy developed by the council Brandis said he would direct the council himself to force them to adopt a policy to his liking.

“At a time when government funding for the arts is, like all demands upon the budget, under pressure, it is difficult to justify funding for an arts festival which has announced to its principal private partner that it would prefer not to receive its financial support,” he wrote to the chairman of the Australia Council, Rupert Myer.

“You will readily understand that taxpayers will say to themselves: ‘If the Sydney Biennale doesn’t need Transfield’s money, why should they be asking for ours?




David Sefton, artistic director, Adelaide festival

The idea that no arts organisation would be able to say no to any sponsor is clearly nonsense. An arts event starts with the artist, and if they’re refusing to come because of some connection to something the artists deeply disapprove of, the organisation has to have the freedom to make the choice [to sever its connections] without the risk of being penalised. If you’re in a situation where the [funding] relationships you’ve made to make it happen means you can’t actually program what you want, you’re starting from the wrong end of the process. If you’re trying to fund a biennial or a festival or whatever it is you want to do, you start with funding what you want to do – you don’t start with the money and then see who will come because of who you’ve made the relationship with.

I have a fundamental problem with the idea that the funding source is going to go, “We don’t like that, don’t do it.” Last year in Sydney, Vivid festival was heavily funded by the tourism board rather than any arts entity, and they had this show projected outside on two screens. [The show included images of warzones and the aftermath of natural disasters.] The tourism board [Destination NSW] decided it didn’t reflect positively on Australian tourism and basically censored the show. I just feel that the relationship between the arts entity and the funding body is supposed to facilitate the work. Transfield have been involved with the Sydney Biennale for a very long time, and I’m sure they must be terribly upset, but on the other hand, if the Biennale is completely restricted as to who will come, that’s not a positive funding relationship.

Emma Webb, creative producer, Vital Statistix theatre company

This is a scary signal of the federal government’s intention to end the tradition of arms length between the Australia Council and funded arts organisations. It’s very concerning to consider where this might lead, if organisations will no longer be permitted to make governance and resourcing decisions based on their own values and their own relationships with artists and audiences.

Invariably, if arts organisations have no agency to genuinely negotiate the terms of sponsorship, for fear of losing government funding, this will have a chilling effect on the important role of autonomous institutions within a cultural democracy. Arts organisations will potentially be placed in a position of being bought by the highest bidder.

Craig Hassall, chief executive, Opera Australia

Craig Hassall says debate ‘should take place onstage, through our artists’ performances’. Photograph: Opera AustraliaThe arts is often a place for debate, politics and passion. This should take place onstage, through our artists’ performances. Opera Australia enjoys a healthy mixed economy of funding from government, corporate and private sources. We happily work with our stakeholders to present the highest quality productions of opera that excite, enthral and challenge our audiences. I would be concerned if the debate moved offstage and made the arts a political football. We have a lot to say and we say it through our performances.

Lyndon Terracini, artistic director, Opera Australia

As an artist I find it very disappointing that a small number of artists would jeopardise the livelihood of many others and undermine the future of an event that’s meant so much to so many over the years. The minister is expressing the views that many in the arts community have already expressed privately.

Ben Eltham, industry columnist at ArtsHub

George Brandis has made a dramatic intervention into the Sydney Biennale-Transfield controversy. In doing so, he has openly attacked the philosophy of arms-length funding that underpins the Australia Council.

The Australia Council Act of 2013 explicitly states that the minister of the day can’t issue a direction on funding decisions. “The Minister must not give a direction in relation to the making of a decision by the Council, in a particular case, relating to the provision of support (including by the provision of financial assistance or a guarantee),” it states.

Brandis, who is also the attorney general, seems to be arguing that he get around such niceties by telling the council to work up a broadbrush policy on the matter, striking out any cultural funding recipients who dare to deny the corporate coin. The act is “plainly wide enough to include matters of policy and funding criteria”, he wrote in a letter to the Australia Council.

That’s an ambit claim that is yet to be tested in court. But whatever the black letter details, Brandis’ intervention is an attack on the general philosophy of arms-length funding.

From a public policy perspective, that’s a real concern, because ministerial meddling is inimical to cultural innovation. When funding bodies have to look over their shoulders to consider what politicians and the media will say about the funding decisions they make, the interesting, the innovative and the risky are likely to be abandoned in favour of the safe and the staid.

The arts minister may find that injecting himself into the Biennale debate is not necessarily to his long-term advantage. One of the happy side effects of arms-length funding is that it also protects ministers from charges of political and ideological bias. The next time the Australia Council makes a controversial decision – as happened during the Howard government, when the agency defunded its entire New Media Arts Board after that board supported a game called Escape from Woomera that commented on immigration policy – Brandis will quickly be drawn in to the controversy.

Troy-Anthony Baylis, artist and curator, Tandanya arts

On the upside, at least we live in a country where we have funding from the state to support our cultural development, and sponsorship obviously is an important part of that equation. You can’t separate sponsorship from political interest. For example a lot of the Aboriginal arts industry is supported by mining. The Aborginal Cultural Institute where I work doesn’t receive money from mining companies but we wouldn’t rule it out, because that’s actually where the most philanthropy for the arts is available. We would want the mining companies to demonstrate real and meaningful consultation with Aboriginal communities and evidence that they’re providing jobs and land maintenance and a whole lot of good environmental measures.

More recently, BHP Billiton, a major mining company, put $4m towards an Indigenous arts festival here in South Australia, but of course that has strings associated with it too – they’re expanding their mining in South Australia. But it’s a good opportunity to support artists to create new work and to pay them professionally, and results in [arts] acquisitions [for galleries], but of course they always have that tag associated with it.

Brandis’s intervention is a strong reminder that politics is embedded into everything. I don’t agree that there should be legislation preventing artists or institutions from accepting or declining private sponsorship – it should be on a case-by-case basis depending on their values. A piece of legislation to force those relationships is a really dangerous one. Artists should be able to express themselves in every which way possible, and to have this other barrier that creates a framework for you to be able to express yourself in a particular way is very, very dangerous.

The artists weren’t wrong to boycott the Biennale, and also the Biennale could have just accepted that and got different artists, so they made a choice as well. But artists are entities unto their own and they have every right to stand up and align themselves with institutions that support their values.

Chris Drummond, artistic director, Brink Productions

What happened with the Biennale is a unique set of circumstances with a long-term partner. They already had a relationship, they had all those things in place, so to draw any kind of general conclusion from what’s happened there is a mistake straight away.

Every arts company is constantly thinking about the relationship they have with potential sponsors. It’s not just about the money, you’re looking for a like-minded ethos. A children’s festival is not going to take sponsorship from a soft drink company. I think everybody would accept that. So already there are subjective decisions that come into funding. But also I suspect the Biennale have got lots of relationships with corporates whose politics are to the right, so it’s not an example of something that happens very regularly.

Brand is paradoxically politicising something that’s a very rare event. That’s why the Australia Council was set up, to depoliticise and to separate arts funding. Ironically for a government that defines itself as deregulating things, Brandis would have to then have a means of arbitrating what is reasonable in terms of a rejection of opportunities for funding. You’d have to have panels, and so he’s bringing in a whole bureaucratic process that I think would just be impossible to navigate.

There are deep structures in place in terms of the Australia Council to stop ministers having a direct say in the delegation of funding, and Brandis’s proposal would go to the core of the structure of the Australia Council. If it were to have an effect that would be extremely concerning, but I think it has to be seen in terms of a conversation between the arts community and the minister.

You have to ask the minister to look at the broader context. I’m sure the Biennale situation is painful for everyone involved. It’s complex and nuanced and I don’t think that Brandis’s response is complex and nuanced. The Australia Council is a vital bridge between industry and government. Brandis is a minister early in his term trying to make a statement about what he claims is a depoliticisation of arts funding but which I think is exactly the opposite.

Eugene Ughetti, artistic director, Speak Percussion

It’s always disappointing when creative and commercial relationships break down.Artists have a responsibility to respect funding agreements and government policy, however I think it’s absolutely impossible for an artist to ignore their political convictions. Engaging with one’s humanity and one’s ethical beliefs are at the very core of what it means to be an artist.Artists need to be able to make commercial decisions that have creative implications and a connection to one’s moral and ethical beliefs, and I think if we start to limit that we’re in an impoverished position.Whether the art has a political message or not should be totally irrelevant to whether that artwork is supported. Government funding should be about supporting excellence in the arts, not encouraging art that is politically aligned with the government of the day.If an artist or arts organisation is willing to take money from a corporate sponsor there needs to be a clear agreement and this agreement can be completely unique to the context. The sponsor could say “We like you and trust you, here’s half a million dollars, do whatever you want.” Any kind of commercial private sponsor should be entitled to have any level of involvement that they and the artist deems appropriate, however restrictive or liberating this may be.

self-absorbed about an "australian national identity"...

Hannah Gadsby's OZ

Series 1 Episode 1


Hannah Gadsby is a closet art scholar. Armed with her rapier wit and a desire to pick beneath the paint, she will travel across the continent on a mission to debunk the myths of the Australian identity as defined by our art.


This art series is a must to understand Australian "culcha" — a culture caught between navel gazing, right wing ignorance or decided gloss with the cleaned idealisation of what really is a past with sordid moments... Hannah hits the nail on the head with a sharp razor (did I mix my similes and metaphors? I think I did... Who cares. This series is a far more important art exploration than the pedestrian look at Aussie art via the eyes of Edmund capon who was curator of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, for far too long in my book... Capon is a Pom while Hannah was born in Tassie... Her vision of "what happened" is very different or to say the least more heart-felt than that of Capon — as the imprint of Hannah's childhood shows with vigour the conflicts of history and that of the system that tries to whitewash its past... 

I must say I have been on this case for a long time, since I landed on these shores in the early 1970s. Soon I was immersed in the various conflicts of the land — from geography, science, history and various cultural landscapes... 

Still pushing the barrow...

ah... the art of being an artist playing the arse trumpet...


Arts Minister George Brandis has promoted moves to block government funding for organisations that refuse corporate sponsorship following the ''preposterously unreasonable'' termination of Transfield's sponsorship of the Sydney Biennale.

And Senator Brandis appeared to include tobacco companies among sponsors that arts companies should not refuse. He said when pressed about tobacco sponsorship on ABC Radio National: ''I don't think that arts companies should reject bona fide sponsorship from commercially sound, prospective partners on political grounds - I don't.''

Senator Brandis has written to the Australia Council asking it to develop a policy that would deny funding to events or artists that refuse private sponsorship after the Biennale board severed ties with Transfield over its involvement in processing asylum seekers offshore.


Senior members of the arts community have reacted strongly to Senator Brandis' view, with many divided on the merits and the decision to sever Transfield's sponsorship.

Sydney Festival director Lieven Bertels said artists were entitled to ''decide if they will accept someone's money''. ''The Arts Minister should remind himself of the freedom that political parties keep for themselves to refuse donors based on moral principles.''

However, Mr Bertels also noted that while artists had protested about funding from a business that had ties to offshore detention centres, they had not raised concerns about funding from the government.

"How arts organisations find the money to pay for events is really not the artists' business...Transfield has done wonderful things for the arts in Australia.": Leo Schofield. Photo: Marco Del Grande

''The government is ultimately the body that has put in place the policies that the artists are criticising,'' he said.

Arts entrepreneur and director of the Hobart Baroque Festival Leo Schofield said it was ''ridiculous'' the Biennale would cut their 40-year tie with Transfield, arguing it would ''send the wrong signals'' to any businesses contemplating sponsoring the arts.

Read more:
From Mike Carlton

Like so many of my fellow artistes, I have been agonising all week about whether to withdraw my contribution to this year's Sydney Biennale.

The angst amongst us has been palpable as we contemplate collective action to protest at the capitalist oppression of the multimillionaire Belgiorno-Nettis family. My partner and muse, the mime and performance sculptor Alphonse Nguyen, has been so traumatised he has been unable to swallow so much as a mung bean or glass of absinthe since Monday, poor dear.

But after much thought, we have decided to go ahead. Alphonse and I agree it would be selfish to deprive the Sydney cognoscenti of our talents. As planned, he will be at the Wynyard bus terminal, clad from neck to knee in plastic shopping bags and miming Sylvia Plath's haunting poem, Thalidomide, while erecting his tableaux vivant of decapitated chickens and blood-stained Woolworths supermarket trolleys. A must-see.

My own oeuvre is a little more commedia dell'arte, perhaps. I will be strolling masked but otherwise naked through Martin Place at lunchtime, with a trumpet up my arse playing Joseph Haydn's very challenging Concerto per il Clarino in E flat Major.

But with a difference. In solidarity with the downtrodden masses, I shall pause at the Pitt Street intersection to slowly cut off my nose to spite my face. It is the artiste's duty to teach the Belgiorno-Nettis lot what they can do with their filthy lucre.

Read more:
the art of becoming mad....

There is a rawness and an immediacy to this account because it is so recent. Originally slated for publication next month, the book - available from Monday - has been rushed out by publisher Hardie Grant Books after the chaotic events at the Manus Island detention centre last month which left one man dead, and scores injured.

Isaacs' book constitutes a warning that, no matter how much physical facilities on Manus and Nauru might improve, it may be impossible to avoid violent periodic eruptions inside the camps in the future.

It is because the men have no hope, he argues, and therefore little to lose.

Two men on a hunger strike. Photo: Supplied

''Criminals were given a sentence to serve: these men were not even given that,'' Isaacs writes. ''They feared they would die in Nauru, that they would be forgotten, that they would become non-people.''

Isaacs has heard all the arguments about why imprisoning men in their hundreds on small Pacific islands and leaving them in limbo is the only way to ''solve'' the asylum seeker problem.

But nothing convinced him the cruelty inflicted in the process was worth it. There were moments of heartbreak for the young, untrained Australian, facing the anguish of these men.

Reza, an internee to whom he'd been giving private English lessons, nearly succeeded in taking his own life with a toxic cocktail of cleaning fluids, mosquito repellent, antidepressants and sleeping tablets.

One of the camp's most respected religious leaders, Ali, descended into three days of psychotic madness which left him rolling in the dirt and barking like a dog before he was removed by health workers.

Read more:




a perfect blast-off into ridiculousness...

From Annabel Crabb


The Sydney Biennale does not officially open until Friday, but already it has transfixed audiences with a bold, confronting series of interconnected performance works.

A loosely curated collaboration between protagonists ranging from young Melbourne artist Gabrielle de Vietri to federal Attorney-General George Brandis, Biennale Shitfight is a remorseless, disturbing and often absurdist exploration of art, politics and commercialism.

The piece was designed to unfold publicly over several weeks, tracing the escalation through social media of the ''revelation'' that the Biennale's major sponsor, Transfield Holdings, was tangentially involved through a subsidiary in the construction and maintenance of offshore mandatory detention facilities, all the way through to a full-scale battle scene with the federal government.

''It's utterly groundbreaking,'' enthused visiting critic Lydia von Cucumber-Sandwich Smyth, of the New York Institute for Performance Art. ''I've never seen an arts organisation actually engage its own bureaucracy, its sponsors, the government and the media in such a way to create a work pulsatingly real, yet also a deep caricature of art's place in the worlds of commerce and political dissent. Biennale Shitfight will redefine the way we think about the artistic experience.''

The opening work, The Physical Impossibility Of Sustained Advocacy In A Disappearing Funding Envelope, is a collaboration among nine artists, who used public statements and other ephemeral devices to protest against Transfield's business associations, its sponsorship of the Biennale, and the presence at the head of the Biennale board of Transfield director Luca Belgiorno-Nettis.

Read more:
Thanks Annabel for the report... Of course Annabel does not say which way she leans to but overall, it looks that the artists get the gong. As they should... Art and politics never mixed well. overall, Senator Brandis should stay our of the debate. All the blabber mouths should keep quiet on the radio airwaves... Tragically, the blast into ridiculousness is one into the destruction of funding for the arts. It may not matter really or it may reinforce the strength of artistic bite and worhtiness. 

smoke that...


George Brandis has not ruled out penalising arts companies and festivals for refusing funding from a tobacco company under a new policy he has asked the Australia Council to create.

Arts organisations could be penalised with a reduction or refusal of federal funding if they reject sponsorship from corporate sponsors on “unreasonable” grounds under the policy being developed.

The arts minister has asked the Australia Council, which distributed commonwealth arts funding, to develop the policy after Biennale Sydney parted ways with Transfield Holdings and its chairman, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, after artists objected to the company’s links to Transfield Services, a contractor at Australia’s Manus Island detention centre.

Brandis has called the decision, which Transfield Holdings said was mutual, “preposterously unreasonable” but could not rule out penalties applying to arts festivals and companies which refused funding from tobacco companies.

“I myself don’t think arts company should reject bona fide arts sponsorship from commercially sound prospective partners on political grounds,” he said when asked on ABC radio if refusing money from a tobacco company would be classed as unreasonable.

If the policy Australia Council develops does not satisfy Brandis he has already said he will force the council to adopt one up to his standards.

He said the definition of unreasonable was up to the Australia Council and it might appoint an arbiter which could be the council itself, the minister or another third party.


From now on, any artist accepting funding from firms involved in ethically undesirable activities, including tobacco companies, should blacklist themselves OR take the cash and exhibit something quite revolting. Obviously Brandis would not suggest such a tobacco company threat should he "understand" art. He has no f&^%$#en idea.

He's a philistine... 


when art is rubbish...

Cleaners at the city's Grand Hyatt hotel are suspected to have dumped a painting that had just sold for more than HK$28 million with rubbish that was then taken to a landfill.

The Chinese ink wash painting, Snowy Mountain, by Cui Ruzhuo went under the hammer for HK$28.75 million, the second highest price among 22 of the artist's works sold during a two-day sale in the five-star Wan Chai hotel.

A police source said officers scrutinising closed-circuit TV footage yesterday saw a security guard kick the packaged artwork over to a pile of rubbish.

Cleaners were then seen disposing of the rubbish, which is believed to have been taken to landfill in Tuen Mun...