Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sue, sue, sue, and if that doesn't work, hang 'em all, and not in a gallery ...

What a great way to start the weekend, and you can cop, in the usual way, more excellent art by Pope by heading off here.

Of course the pond has no trouble calling the work of cartoonists art.

Come to think of it, the pond has no problem calling comedians artists - whether they be slapstick clowns, vaudevillians or contemporary satirists trying to keep the spirit of Juvenal's satires and Alexander Pope's poems alive.

The pond has always been a devotee of y'artz, in whatever form they come, though it's not the sort of topic you'd care to raise in certain parts of Tamworth on any day of the week.

But at least there's something to be said for the recent fracas about the arts.

Some attention has been paid, even if, in the process, the notion that artists have anything meaningful or useful to say in any discourse about society has once again been usefully scotched.

Conformity and conformism is what's needed in these troubled times, and enough talk of gulags.

Suddenly, it seems that every neocon in town is a believer in y'artz, provided it's understood that there's a place for everything, and y'artizts should be put in their place.

Now could we have something even more surreal than David Pope this weekend?

Of course, so glad you asked:

That's right, the man who's currently suing the ABC and assorted artists for going about the business of making a living as comedians has decided to talk about y'artz.

Now you might quibble.

The Chaser lads as artists?

Yep, as surely as Mo McCackie and Graham Kennedy were artists in their own way. Sure, at times it might be a low form of comedy, and a form of comedy and satire that's offensive to some, but they're just artists going about their business, as surely as Grahame Bond went about it conjuring up Aunty Jack and Gary McDonald did it conjuring up Norman Gunston, long before Borat was a gleam in Sacha Baron Cohen's eye.

Given all this - and Kenny's shameful and savage attack on free expression and artists, in a process which involved a request for money as well as an apology - does he have anything useful to say about y'artz in his piece?

Is it a plea for freedom of expression, for artists to be allowed to say and do what they want, to express themselves right or wrong?

You really must stop living in a dream world.

It's just more bitterness and bile, as you can discover if you can be fucked stepping around the paywall to read Biennale boycott is no more than commercial bullying in the name of the arts:

The romantic notion of the starving artist may be losing some of its appeal, replaced by the state-funded activist grandstander. Instead of bohemians burning Rodolfo's manuscript to keep warm, today's artists can burn the dollars of private sponsors to make party political points. Artists happy to take government grants or exhibit at events funded by government then can use them as platforms to target a private sponsor.

Oh indeed. It's shocking and shameful.

How dare sub-human artists have a political point of view?

Why artists happy to work for government bodies and private sponsors might even use them to target raving ratbag neocon loons.

What's genuinely bizarre is the notion Kenny seems to be proposing, that government and private sponsors haven't been involved in a tussle with artists for centuries.

Yet government and private sponsors have always had an interest in y'artz, if only for the reflected glory it can offer, while at the same time often eager to apply the bit, bring the wayward artist to heel, hobble and constrict them, for offending whatever passing bit of conservative constriction was the flavour of the day, be it sexual, religious or political in taste.

And here the pond must pause to commend Charles Hope's The King's Pictures: The Formation and Dispersal of the Collection of Charles I and His Courtiers in The New York Review of Books, currently unhappily lurking inside the paywall.

Charles I indulged in a collector frenzy at the very moment that Puritanism began to flourish, and never mind that the splendour and liberality saw the majority of the court hopelessly in debt. What was remarkable was the tolerance shown towards the subject matter of some of the paintings:

The king's pictures attracted hardly any comment of any kind. This was true even though they included many whose subject matter was specifically Catholic. After the king's execution, a few puritans in Parliament called for the destruction of the pictures that they found most objectionable, but in the event nothing of the kind seems to have happened to them.
Nor, so far as we know, were people much troubled by the display of female nudity in some of the king's paintings, such as those by Correggio. The highly sophisticated Cardinal Barberini had advised in 1640 against sending from Rome a picture of Bacchus Finding Ariadne by Guido Reni for Charles I's wife, Henrietta Maria, on the grounds that "the picture appears to me to be lascivious. I hesitate to send it for fear of further scandalizing these Heretics, especially since the subject of the work was chosen here in Rome." The queen, however, was unperturbed, and Haskell aptly comments:
Was she being merely insouciant, frivolous and obstinate, unaware of - or indifferent to - the challenge that was already threatening her position? Or was she being perfectly sensible in grasping the fact that whatever else might be arousing the hostility of parliament, works of art were not of the slightest concern?


Oh dear, we've quite drifted away from Kenny.

Now what was the point?

That Charles I and his queen and his courtiers were more liberal than Chris Kenny?

Well that should go without saying. Historians have long argued that Genghis Khan is more liberal than Chris Kenny ...

Now remember this is a man who has launched a legal action against comedians plying their trade.

So now what do we cop?

It is clearly silly that complex policy challenges of border protection are somehow distilled into simple, morally black-and-white choices devoid of any necessity to find a resolution. 
Yet the real point here is not the issue itself. It is about the idea of tolerating one another's views, political positions, commercial freedom and obligations.

Yep, the man who's launched a legal action against a bunch of rag tag comedians is now lecturing the world about tolerating one another's views and political positions ...

It's just too funny for words. It's the Brandis clause all over again:

Brandis said: ''In a free country, people should have the right to say things that other people find insulting or offensive or wounding'' (here)

It's at moments like this that the pond reverts to Liam Kenny scribbling furiously for Junkee:

Like clockwork, and in the unlikely company of the ABC’s Media Watch, the Murdoch newspapers have taken up the question of just how this image could possibly have been allowed to go to air. In what is perhaps the most idiotic contribution, The Australian’s ‘Cut And Paste’ section has asked whether prominent feminist Anne Summers is as offended by this joke as she was by the sexual vilification of former PM Julia Gillard. To equate the two things is a ridiculous move, typical of the desperate, flat-earth refusal in some corners of liberalism to acknowledge the existence of gender politics. Involving Summers in this episode for no sound reason is transparent ideological sniping. 
 In the Daily Telegraph, the always yawn-inducing Tim Blair suggested that Kenny would be treated much more kindly by the public broadcaster if he were an Islamic terrorist — flogging an excruciatingly worn out, tired slur. In the Herald Sun, populist torch-bearer Bolt has demanded to know why ABC managing director Mark Scott has allowed this deterioration of standards to occur on his watch. Standards in media and cultural sensitivity, of course, being Bolt’s twin areas of expertise. 
 ‘The Left’ is often characterised by those who appoint themselves as its opponents as lacking a sense of humour, too ‘politically correct’ and too self-righteous to lighten up and take a joke. No doubt Kenny, Bolt and Blair would argue that the difference in this case is that tax-payers fund the ABC, and should not have to hand over their hard-earned cash for this type of trash. 
 And I tend to agree. Let’s see the ABC give back every cent of what it cost them to use Photoshop for thirty seconds. Maybe I’ll spend the spare change on a bus to go see the Great Barrier Reef before it, like the Chaser’s dog, is completely fucked in the arse. (the rest here)

Oh dear, we've quite drifted away from Kenny to son of Kenny.

Now what was the point?

That the son sounds way more sensible and tolerant than the father?

Well that should go without saying. It's arguable that anyone anywhere in the world under thirty is more sensible and tolerant than Chris Kenny, except perhaps for Adolf Hitler's grandchildren, who might or might not be growing up in Brazil.

But back to Kenny for more about freedom of expression!

The pond can never get enough comedy, even when the comedian doesn't have a clue he's being funny.

Federal Arts Minister George Brandis is right to take this up with the Australia Council to try to enforce a simple principle: organisations with a handout for taxpayer funding ought not unreasonably to turn their back on private funding. 

It is a matter of freedom of expression, the sort of freedom artists would normally demand for themselves.

Yep, George Brandis is a freedom fighter, enforcing freedom. With legalisms like "not unreasonably", whatever that might mean after a few decades in court paying lawyers to argue the point (artists the lot of 'em, Sarah Bernhardts in court, and Prousts in their scribbles).

Brandis must - it is right and proper - enforce freedom of expression, by explaining how wrong and recalcitrant and useless artists can be, and with a firm hand - where's the harm in a smack on the bottom? - show how they must fall into line, into lock step with the government, and with private sponsors, and understand that they've sold their souls to the devil and now must pay their dues ...

Or he'll teach them and their funding bodies a real lesson.

Now that's knockdown freedom for you ...

Can a freedom fighter get any clearer about the price of freedom?

Talk about bloody whale huggers. Can Kenny help us here?

None of this will assist a solitary asylum-seeker. Whether it is Japanese whaling, coal-fired electricity generation, live sheep exports or coal-seam gas exploration, we can expect to see more of this commercial bullying in the name of the arts, which is another reason Brandis is wise to act. 

 It is one of the more insidious aspects of social media that a radical minority can make disproportionate noise and intimidate public and commercial enterprises. 

Who'd have thunk, those hapless Japanese whalers intimidated by bloody artists. And who cares about the planet going to hell in a handbasket thanks to fossil fuels. Sheesh, they can do apocalyptic paintings, and Hollywood will make out like a bandit ...

Why it's all about commercial and public enterprises. We must draw up mission statements, and devise accountability standards, and ... yep, the answer is government and bureaucracy ...

The Arts Minister will meet resistance and he is bound to find a paucity of courage in many organisations. But he must persist. 
Crucially, the arts organisations themselves must develop the fortitude to withstand the posturing — the events need to be bigger than the hijackers. In the social media age the sensible majority is often denied a voice while real-time protests and frenetic media drive organisations to make reflexive decisions before common sense has had a chance to have its say. 

Of course, of course. You don't go looking to artists for the sublime, the different, alternative ways of understanding the world. You go looking to them for banal common sense, and you above all must find the time and the energy to censor the posturers, to repress them, to treat them as hijackers, to ostracise and exile them.

And now as any comedian knows, for even a cascade gag, you need a punchline. You've built and built the shaggy dog story, and now you need to score a big laugh:

This is a tricky area because in a robust democracy the freedom to protest is also precious. 

Oh he's a genuine artist, this Chris Kenny.

He's in a robust democracy! So robust Alice could sue Humpty Dumpty for being silly.

After all, they're just noisy posturing hijackers. Damn them all, take them to court, sue, sue, sue, the pond says ...

But acceptability must be drawn somewhere south of having overseas artists and artists in receipt of federal government grants blackballing private companies conducting legal business for that government. 

So saving Transfield some cash and its vainglorious strutting and trading off in relation to y'artz is somehow blackballing a legal business going about its legal business? Why don't they just stick to running gulags, and if they've got some spare cash, spend it on improving life in the gulag?

Now is there any way Kenny can rub more salt into the wound of his own stupidity?

The compassionistas should be imaginative enough to make their point through a sacrifice of their own rather than impose sacrifices on the broader arts community. 

Yep, that should do it. Compassionistas.

Because you know sensitivity and compassion are such useless things. So hopeless. Sheesh, that JC was a real fuckwit, always yabbering on in his compassionista way ...

And now let's not forget our sponsors:

...they adopt the faux morality of attacking the soft underbelly of a generous private patron. These actions will hurt the arts but not the artists. 

Indeed. It's going to be tough times for the tourist trade and the multiplier effect, and ... now where were we? Talking about sublime and ineffable insights into the gulag mentality?

Bugger that for a joke, it's time to mount a legal assault on these artists, who are intent on ruining the y'artz.

Because, you see, let's not have any faint-hearted, doddering, sentimental, nostalgic blather about the arts being the y'artz. They're a bloody industry!

The damage done to our arts industry and the standard of our public debate far outweighs the reputational benefits for artists seeking to add another cause to their CVs of moral superiority.

What can be said? Suddenly arts and artists have been conscripted, dragooned into an industry, and they must toil in the vineyard day and night, for the greater glory of Uncle Joe and Chairman Mao ...

Oops, sorry, too many breaches of Godwin's Law in the one Chris Kenny style rant?

Oh okay, swear jar, puh-lease.

Never mind, it's long been established that Chris Kenny is a bore.

Since at least yesterday, when Richard Ackland wrote:

Interestingly, Kenny did not plead another meaning that arose from the satire: that he's a bore. That could be readily defensible on the grounds of truth.

Oh okay it was known years ago, and Ackland was just recycling an old truth, but at least we can now add to that insight the news that Chris Kenny doesn't have the first clue about the y'artz or freedom of expression or why artists do what they do and why calling the arts an industry might work in a position paper for the Australia Council as bureaucrats shuffle papers around, but it is in reality a monstrous stupidity ... designed to promote the notion that artists should be happy little Vegemite workers canning their baked beans on the factory floor ... in a way that keeps the likes of Chris Kenny, Brandis and the Bolter happy ideologically untroubled and challenged consumers of industrial fodder ...

The pond has a vision - is it a nightmare - of Kenny roaming an art gallery, deploring all the wretched artists who dared to do something different to a pretty pastoral picture about cows in the English countryside.

How could they possibly expect to be hung at Court when they should be hung in public?

(Below: here you go, have some art on the pond and Chris Kenny)


  1. Kenny would not have a clue that some of those pretty pictures of cows in dappled meadows were political statements about the despoliation of the countryside and rural traditions by industrialization.

    Much as I love your writing and the heady seasoning of links and pics, I am feeling weak of mind today and cannot laugh, albeit grimly. I think we have become barbarians. Not you of course dear Dot.

  2. Cont:
    For all the banging on about free speech, these people in control and their urgers and followers only want people to be free to parrot the official line. We can talk all we like if we keep to the party line. Goose step. Goose step.

  3. DP - I acknowledge your superior knowledge of film music. We need minds like yours.

    But in mitigation I offer this - used by Zimmer in The Thin Red Line. Best film music ever.

    1. Now Anon this is called trading off. Just like David Bridie did in In a Savage Land. Nothing wrong with it:

      (And it explains why every second commercial for a film features Carl Orff).

      But if you can get past the ad, this is real music albeit of a quaint old fashioned kind:

    2. DP - Dave has done the hard yards. Try going to Gumine to record traditional women's songs. And he has sponsored much great Pacific music - eg. George Telek.

      See Wantok Music.

  4. And its' in Solomon's Pisin, not PBG or Vanuatu. They are distinct. (There are no Puk Puks in the Solomons).

  5. Little Gidding. TS Eliot whatis. The wasteland. Has no-one ever thought of that?

    Although its kinda sexy.

    1. Has no-one ever thought of sickening environmentalist Greg Hunt as the Fisher King?


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