|Type of post:||Association news item|
|Posted By:||Chris Hay|
|Date Posted:||Mon, 21 Feb 2022|
Throughout the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, artists around the world have imagined new, better futures for subsidy: in America, Jeremy O. Harris invoked the Federal Theatre Project; the third edition of the UNESCO report Reshaping Policies for Creativity in 2022 recommended minimum wages and labour protections; and in Aotearoa New Zealand, artist Nisha Madhan wondered “what the long-term game plan is. Is it just to survive a few weeks? Or to take a moment to think about what might be possible that hasn’t already happened? Is this the moment, when physical access to live performance is cut off to the privileged, that we finally figure out how to open the arts up to everyone?”. As parts of the world begin to adjust to Covid-normal, how might we keep hold of this spirit of reimagination and possibility? This issue seeks to examine both the impact of Covid 19 on funding for the arts and what this ‘break’ in status quo reveals about the nature of the relationship between artists and not just governments but also other funding mechanisms.
Our starting point here follows Julian Meyrick, who declares “it is the fact of funding that demands attention” (139). Certainly, economic subsidy is one of the core points of imbrication between artists and the state. As Jen Harvie points out, in the United Kingdom and current and former Commonwealth nations, this link historically “marks an economic relationship, but it also articulates state and social attitudes to the importance of the arts, to social responsibility for the arts, to social relations and to society itself” (150). In this issue, we hope to curate a documentation of subsidy’s effects and operations, the specific challenges that come from funding live performance, and subsidy’s hermeneutic relationship with arts policy and cultural capital, recognising
what is missing is a study not of institutional change . . . or of culture’s social and economic entanglements (which are endless, culture being simultaneously everywhere and infused into particular forms), but an analysis of the bureaucratic regulation of artistic practice: of the logic of culture as it applies in a time of democratic provision. (Meyrick, 142)
We ask how value and benefit are defined in this context, and what government responses to crisis in the performing arts sector tells us about this. While artists have always been attuned to the shifting sands of government arts funding – even small changes can have a seismic impact on career progression and work development –the wholesale suspension of live performance due to public health orders magnified these industrial concerns to existential threats. In the Anglosphere, the motley collection of ad hoc initiatives to support arts companies and arts workers throughout the Covid-crisis has to some extent exposed the priorities of the neoliberal state, within which the creative industries remain radically under-funded. Indeed, as Miriam Haughton wrote of the Irish context, “Covid-19 is not only a sectoral emergency, it’s the latest sectoral emergency” (2021, 51). This is a particularly apposite moment to consider both government subsidy and broader funding mechanisms; as Haughton remarks, “Covid-19 has brought the economic livelihood of the state and the arts sector to the cliff edge at the same time, forcing a conversation regarding survival and sustainability” (50).
In this issue of Performance Paradigm, then, we seek to capitalise on this moment to reflect on the art of subsidy, and on the subsidy of art. We invite contributions that expand the frame of reference beyond the Anglosphere to other national models of live performance subsidy. Across academic pieces, artist responses, interviews, and other performance documentation, we envisage potential contributions might address: