Monday, October 16, 2006


I read this over at

"Help the poor socialitesMost of the candidates seemed to think art subsidies are necessary, because otherwise the Eastern media would look down their noses at us uncultured hicks. Morton was the only exception, saying something to the effect of "when goverment subsidizes art, it ultimately hurts our arts scene, because the artists spend their time sucking up to the government instead of working on their art." He then indicated that he would increase the tax write-off for donations to art groups."

It got me rehashing the same old fire....

Near the end of the nineteenth century, when the rest of the western world’s academics first began seeking ways to trade in the responsibility of individual freedom for bigger governments and existential despair, art was desperately struggling to resist the bureaucratic reach. Painter Edouard Manet and the poet Baudelaire resented the arbitrary and oppressive standards of official Paris Salon and started the Salon Des Refusal in protest. The uncensored Salon Des Refusal left the production of art up to the artists, and therefore open to greater innovations and competition. Napoleon III admitted that he could see “little difference between those pieces rejected, and those accepted” for the official Salon.

Through out history artists, thinkers, and creators have fought for their right to expression regardless of cultural norms. The Salon arbitrary standards were viewed as oppressive and were not acceptable. Today the artistic community no longer views the oppressive Salon as bad for art. In fact, like everyone else living in a mixed economy they coo for its affection, believing it to be the only viable path in achieving their aims.

Why is it the duty of society ti support the Artist?

The artistic community continually links a lack of taxpayer support to the “inevitable demise of art”. This is ridiculous-- men have always created. it goes much deeper than monetary reward. man creates to understand. men create out of compulsion. It is how we survive.

The mistake a politically motivated subculture has made:

They’ve deluded themselves into believing that the right to freely express, or more specifically the right to freedom of speech, entitles the means of that expression to be provided for. The artists right to public funding negate other citizens’ right to freedom of choice. Isn’t the negation of one group’s rights for the privilege of another group is immoral? The right to freedom of speech entails one only to the right of that expression without the threat of coercion. It doesn’t guarantee the means of developing that expression or providing the soap box on which to stand. The type of guarantee, and this is important, which provides the means to produce can only come at the expense of someone else’s natural right to exist as a free individual.

The irony is that artists throughout history have always defended individualism. They were the first to know that only individuals could create, and the Salon’s approval or disapproval was inconsequential to the process. Instead the Salon was a repressive regime that only stifled art’s advancement. Artists had to be allowed to create unconditionally, but unconditional freedom can only come at the expense of unconditional responsibility. But now artists, once again, have rejected the responsibility of being individuals, in favor of collectivist propaganda, believing that creation and production can only be achieved at the expense of someone else.

It’s a creed that further erodes individual freedoms in all spheres of society. A mixed economy philosophy alienates art from the people that are forced to support it.Locally, the new Salon is the Alberta Arts Foundation. On its website it brags that “Albertans enjoy an enhanced quality of life through their opportunities to participate in the arts”, largely due to the 19 million dollars of support it receives annually from the provincial government. It is a claim typical of all bureaucratic institutions, implying that art would not exist without their altruistic support. Whose quality of life is enhanced by the Alberta Arts Foundation? Has the life of the rejected artist that must sell more shoes, fix more engines, or wait more tables to support the government-supported artist been enhanced? Does his having to work longer hours for the purpose of supporting some arbitrarily chosen artist allow him to create unconditionally, or even enhance his chances of becoming a successful artist? Or does his coerced support rob him of the valuable time, energy and financial stability required to develop his own purposeful art? The enhancement of certain artists’ careers comes at the expense of other struggling artists, other working citizens, and art itself.

The government forcing citizens to allot some per cent of their earned income towards artists that they haven’t chosen to support is intellectual tyranny. Intellectual tyranny, or forced artistic support fosters the lethargy, ambivalence, and distrust that dominate the contemporary artistic scene and the general public’s approach to art as a whole. When support for a movie, book or painting is forced, resentment and distrust are far more likely to be the response than appreciation and excitement. Just ask any Soviet playwright.

And I know right now there are many clinging to collectivist cliches crying "it’s society’s duty to expand the intellectual capacities of its citizens." In response to the immorality of altruism I’ll argue with a specific instance. Historically, the arts have mostly been the pursuits of the affluent upper classes. So why should the lower classes who have more immediate concerns, such as food, shelter, and education be required to designate any portion of their income to supporting productions enjoyed primarily by the wealthy? Is the lower earner's consciousness expanded by his forced support of books he doesn't read or by art he doesn't appreciate? What type of morality is this?

The Alberta Arts Foundation is comprised of a four member executive branch and an eight member board that is essentially in charge of determining which artists, art institutions, and film productions are worthy of the province’s support, and which are not. Armed with 19 million dollars, this 12 person committee is responsible for determining the cultural path of over 3.5 million people. Is this type of prediction possible? What criteria is used to determine the worthiness of each artist? Is this subjective criteria dependable enough to forgo the rights of the rejected artists, and the province’s other citizens? Is it possible that art, and culture are beyond the abilities of a 12 person board?


At 12:33 AM, Anonymous sylv said...

great article! I had no idea we were wasting money so furiously! Thanks for the info--I always knew there was something wrong with the idea of public support just couldn't put my finger on the clear argument (beyond the usual unworthiness of the product and the absolute contempt the "artist" holds for the general public)

At 2:26 AM, Blogger Raging Ranter said...

In my opinion, as soon as taxpayers are forced to subsidize "art", it isn't art anymore. It is merely something the artist produces, as opposed to creates, because he is receiving a subsidy for it.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger mean old driller said...

dictating enjoyment perspective or emotion is dangerous. if "art" creates value it should do so independently of govt, faculty, nor media. the need to create is indeed a drive of man that does not run congruant with monetary gain. as for appreciation, does the low level earner in the trailer park rockin out to metallica derive just as much or not more pleasure than the black tie millionaire at the symphony? beuaty is the eye of the beholder and in this instance the beholder should be the independent public not the govt sponsored bleeding heart artist.


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