Sunday 18 March 2012

Arts funding - some more info

Arts NSW publishes a spreadsheet each year showing how deep in the trough the luvvies have their snouts. Here's a few highlights:

The Sydney Writers' Festival received $417,380. I'm not sure why. The Festival boasts it attracts 80,000 people - is it that hard to charge them an extra five bucks a ticket? Strangely enough, the Festival doesn't appear to have ever published an annual report, so we can't see where all the money is coming from and going to. That really annoys me - if an organisation is taking money from the taxpayer, it should be clearly accountable and totally transparent about how it spent the money. If anyone manages to track down one of their reports, please let me know. Antony Beevor attended a few years ago - I would have paid good money to see him speak if I had known he was in town. It's not like the cost is an issue for me - I've already spent about $100 on the hard cover versions of several of his books.

The Performance Space received $667,808. Here's a snippet of what you can see there at the moment:

RRAMP: Christine Johnston, Lisa O’Neill and Peter Nelson
1- 4 Aug, Bay 20
An electronica dance metal rock set reflecting on compelling stories of collections, animal love, social commentary, childhood imaginings and human frailty.

Animal love?

If you don't mind getting your kit off, you can see a show about a naked artist.

The Performance Space is a wonderful example of how to milk the taxpayer through a variety of avenues. Consider the following snippets from their 2010 Annual Report.

income from the box office (ticket sales) was $66,676. Audience levels are noted elsewhere in the report as reaching over 27,000. That's an average of $2.47 per ticket. I guess they did an awful lot of free shows.

I'm interested in the "co-producer contribution" of $58,214. I have no idea what it means, but I doubt it has anything to do with the paying public handing over any money.

Total income was $1.84 million, of which $1.63 million was subsidies. As the paying public only chipped in $66,676, that means ticket sales covered a miserable 3.5% of costs. Clearly, this is not a profitable, going concern. Either there is a market for what they are doing, and they are comprehensively failing to tap into it, or there is no market for what they are doing, which means it is just a bunch of self indulgent mental masturbation - funded courtesy of the taxpayer.

I love this "statement of purpose". What the hell are "new contexts"? What is "art that explores the intersections between art forms, questions assumptions about the relationships between artist and audience, and engages with the concerns of the ever-evolving society in which we live"? The level of wank gets worse with every passing line.

I always have a look at annual reports for the section on the compensation of key management personnel. I hope they have more than one key manager - otherwise, the key manager is taking home a total package of $187,235. Not bad - that's nearly three times what they made in ticket sales. 

It's also worth noting that they had marketing costs of $158,042, which is 2.5 times what they took at the box office. That's pretty atrocious when you think about it. 

I did wonder where the remaining grants came from, so I had a look at the Australia Council website. It has this nifty search tool where you can dump out a list of all the grants that any individual or organisation has received since 2008.

The Performance Space Ltd has received 20 grants since 2008, ranging from $1,000 to $1.5 million (over three years). Some of these projects included:

  • Performance Space commission a new work: 'Applespiel Make A Band and Take On The Recording Industry'
  • To commission Diana Smith's The Living Room Project, a series of performances in artists' homes
  • Return to Sender: a curated program of short dance works exploring international peer exchange
  • Commission   See Saw Collective (OYEA)
  • To enable the artists of Field Theory to extend their skills as Live Art strategic leaders.
  • Present Nightshifters a commissioned site based video event involving eight Australian artists
  • Present SEXES, an exhibition of contemporary Australian art considered through sex and gender

"To enable the artists of Field Theory to extend their skills as Live Art strategic leaders." WTF???

All 20 grants from the Australia Council totalled $2,322,887.

The Performance Space annual report lists the City of Sydney as a Major Program Supporter, so they might have squeezed some funding out of them as well. if that's the case, that's not bad - they would have wallowed in taxpayer's cash from all three levels of government.

There there is $36,000 for:

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art will support the creation and presentation of major new work by Ken and Julia Yonetani, created in response to the recent nuclear tragedy in Fukushima. It will present new work, accompanied by film screenings and a significant public program that brings together Mirrar people from the Northern Territory and Japanese nuclear specialists.  The project will investigate parallels in cultural articulations of shared anxieties about nuclear experimentation and the future of the environment

Nuclear tragedy? I thought they had a FUCKING TSUNAMI that killed 20,000 people. And what's the deal with bringing in blackfellas from the Northern Territory? Do we have plutonium whisperers now?

Someone had to work global warming into their funding proposal - it must have worked, as they got $24,306:

A Return to the Trees' is a physical theatre work including aerial dance on a stark web of steel with bungee rigging systems and a spectrum of intricate multi-media motion tracking, gesture recognition music and soundscapes. The non-narrative 'story' is set in the depth of a near-futuristic society exploring the beautiful yet ultimately animalistic nature of humanity struggling to survive in a world of over population, global warming and the inexorable march of technology

Sounds about as successful as Water World, except with trees.

I had to get down to page 94 (of 96) to find this $3,000 gem:

A hybrids arts performance where the movements of musicians in a string quartet are triggered by seismic activity via electric muscle stimulation. Seismic data, collected via an online database provided by observatories around the world, is converted to an audio file and used to generate movement in performers using a midi-controlled electric muscle stimulation device so that they involuntarily 'play' their instruments. The work questions assumptions about the role of the musicians agency in musical performance and provides a reflective look at both the utility of information and the lack of agency we have with respect to global systems.

Once you've read something like that, you realise that the NSW Arts budget should be abolished, the departmental building burned to ashes and the ground upon which it stood sown thickly with salt.


Baldrick said...

Excuse me ... but the Sydney Writers Festival does not 'do' annual reports.
Such matters are simply discussed over a soy decaf latte with a twist of lemon, at the local, amongst the finance committee.
Aren't you aware doctors wives have more important matters to attend to!

DirkH said...

"Once you've read something like that, you realise that the NSW Arts budget should be abolished, the departmental building burned to ashes and the ground upon which it stood sown thickly with salt."

Greetings from Germany. I came to the same conclusion years ago through consumption of our own taxpayer-subsidized art, and think that that is the take-home message of all modern art.

I think it all started with FDR's WPA Federal Art Project...

Nilk said...

A hybrids arts performance where the movements of musicians in a string quartet are triggered by seismic activity via electric muscle stimulation.

I thought they tried that sort of thing at Abu Graibh but without the violins?

Minicapt said...

No, rather than sowing the ground with salt, it should be spread with untreated sewage effluent, plowed under, planted with crops, the harvest of which is to be force-fed to the state legislators.


Anonymous said...

BoaB, brilliant - a work of investigative art in itself except you have used facts. keep up the good work

cav said...

Hey BOAB I road 4 kilometres today and now I have a sore bum.

I love these expose

Why not try some well known charities and tell is how much they spend in administration costs and what is the value of assets they hold whilst still crying poor

Boy on a bike said...

Cav - try putting a seat on your bike. That should cure the bum ache.