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When the federal arts ministers Richard Alston and Peter McGauran announced the film industry assistance package last week, the highly managed launch was similar to the opening of a factory or the naming of a dam the only things missing were the hard hats.

Robert Bolton, Australian Financial Review, September 11

In RT#40 (Dec 2000), we published “UK Arts: the creativity panacea” and in the editorial to RT#44 I raised the issue of the widespread retitling of ‘the arts’ as ‘creative industries’, a move heavily influenced by new arts policies from the UK. These days ideas and policy models spread with the efficiency of viruses. Bolton writes that “it’s understood a cultural policy statement is now cautiously being put together by the Department of Communications, with the intention of launching it during the coming election campaign. This will unite the separate sectors of the arts, formally label them as the “cultural industry” and announce them as a cornerstone of the information economy.” The first signs of the Federal Government taking an unusally strong interest in the arts are evident in the initiation of the Visual Arts Enquiry (successfully prompted by expert strategic moves from Tamara Winikoff and NAVA) and the injection of a much-needed $92.7m into the film and television industry. Bolton quotes Peter McGauran, the junior Federal Arts Minister, in an interview with The Australian Financial Review, as saying “‘We’re not going to peddle the myth that the creative sector is going to become the new grounding of economic innovation,’...But McGauran and Richard Alston, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, have not been immune to current thinking on culture and its impact on the economy.”

The widely promulgated thoughts of Chairman Cutler (friend and advisor to Alston) of the Australia Council have doubtless played a role in these developments. He most certainly has argued that artist innovators can do much for industry and the economy. For this reason RealTime requested an interview with Terry Cutler to ask how the artists benefit from the arts-industry equation. The ensuing discussion with Alessio Cavallaro, Sarah Miller, Linda Wallace and myself makes for fascinating reading.

The promise of improved arts funding looks more than likely. In WA a state budget increase of $7.6 million for the arts and future commitment of $26.5 million has been announced. Its theme, “Rebuilding the Arts”, acknowledged that there is still much more to be done. Arts advocacy group Arts Voice agreed. “The erosion of fiscal resourcing over the past decade has resulted in many organisations being so over-stretched that the energy needed to undertake substantial creative and productive work for the benefit of Western Australians has been sadly diminished.” The budget includes increased support for smaller organisations including the Blue Room Theatre, PICA, Multicultural Arts through Kulcha and the Community Arts Network and Indigenous arts through Yirra Yaakin Noongar Theatre. Arts Voice also welcomes increases in available funds for regional touring for performing, visual and literary arts and a focus on regional access. Sarah Miller, Artistic Director of PICA, cautioned that “these increases will only return organisations to early 1990’s
funding levels.”

Elsewhere, recent Australia Council grant results in New Media Arts, theatre and especially dance left many artists distraught. If new money comes into the Australia Council, and it is vital that it does for this country’s creativity, it should be directed through the Boards to artists and not to special initiatives and one-off programs. If the Federal Government and the Australia Council are putting such store by innovation then they must give it the support it warrants. The In Repertoire guides to exportable Australian performance that RealTime has produced for the Australia Council are proof that innovation here is alive and widespread, often touring internationally, often struggling to survive. They are also evidence that innovation needs to be understood within and without the emerging paradigms of the arts as digital content and cultural industry. While a functional approach to the arts and how they can profit Australia can help justify government expenditure, it could inhibit vision and should be handled with care.

The recent RealTime-Performance Space forum, The Place of the Space, addressing the role of contemporary art spaces and the future of PS, proved a significant event. One hundred participants joined in this 2 hour, open-ended discussion, more in the courtyard afterwards. Eloquent contributions from Nicholas Tsoutas, Sarah Miller, Zane Trow, established and emerging artists, and representatives of other arts venues, provided inspiration and material with which to move forward. The presence of Jennifer Lindsay, the new Deputy Director General of the Arts in NSW, and her participation in the sometimes confronting dialogue made the event even more worthwhile. The transcript of the forum will appear here in early October.

In this edition, we celebrate Australian innovation in new media arts with the publication of our third annual Working the Screen liftout. The artists represented in its pages have been selected by BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) for an online exhibition, Under_score, in its Next Wave Down Under program, part of Next Wave 2001, New York. We hope you enjoy Working the Screen and find it a valuable, ongoing resource. As well, in response to endless requests for the names and websites of new media artists, in October we’re opening our New Media Index (NMI) page on our newly addressed, more easily accessed website: www.realtimearts.net. As NMI grows we’ll be including images, reviews and news.

Sad to say, Philip Brophy, our OnScreen Cinesonic genius, has decided, with regret, to leave RealTime. After 5 years of contributing his bi-monthly column despite a heavy teaching load, organising the unique Cinesonic annual sound and cinema conferences (and getting them published), Philip has decided to commit himself to his art, a reminder that he has been the creator of some key Australian films and responsible for the brilliant sound design for the 2000 feature film, Mallboy. Thanks Philip for the use of your finely tuned cinema-going ears for the last 5 years, we’ll seriously miss them. RealTime readers
will seriously miss them.

KG

RealTime issue #45 Oct-Nov 2001 pg. 2

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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