Editorial – RT41

Building: challenges, spaces, visions

Art isn’t always meant to be easy—some would say ever. Often appreciation comes with personal interrogation or contemplation over time. In current discussions of art and its reception where accessibility is sometimes confused with simple populism, it’s possible to lose sight of the pleasures of encountering difficult, unfamiliar or unexpected ideas through art. In this issue. Our RealTime writers articulate some of these pleasures. Christine Evans plots the luminous textual cadences of Sarah Kane and Mac Wellman’s “skimming the river of American speech”; listening to Radiohead, Mark Mordue likens to skating a pond in Winter; Philip Brophy relishes the hidden sonic depths of the teen flick; Rachael Swain describes the complexities of finding common ground with Indigenous artists in Crying Baby. Philipa Rothfield wrestles with the paradox of work, man and actor in Brian Lipson’s A Large Attendance in the Antechamber.

The significance of surfaces is also reflected in our coverage of some bold new buildings—Linda Marie Walker reads the subtle sense of the Aboriginal Cultures Gallery in Adelaide, Zane Trow tracks the audience trajectory at The Brisbane Powerhouse; a group of artists talk to Barbara Bolt about designing a collaborative public art work for another Brisbane innovation, the Centre of Contemporary Arts. International new media artist Jeffrey Shaw describes his VR installation destined for Cinemedia’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne’s Federation Square (opening November 2001.

RealTime 41 features interviews with artists Richard Giblett, Tos Mahoney, Brian Carbee and UK choreographer Russell Maliphant, famed for the way he uses light in dance. We continue our series The Arts? What Next, this time addressing issues of globalism and vision. Sarah Miller takes a wary look at the discussion notes from the Australia Council’s New Media Arts Vision Day and the WA Ministry for the Arts’ Building Community through the Arts. Ben Goldsmith reports on a conference on globalisation and cultural diversity staged on the edge of an extinct volcano.

As well as the interview with Jeffrey Shaw, OnScreen features Juanita Kwok’s account of the success of Columbia Tri-Stars’ Silk Screen program. Kwok talks to distributors and cinema owners about how the program worked and whether or not Silk Screen II is likely. OnScreen editor Kirsten Krauth tries to match the media fuss over Dennis O’Rourke’s Cunnamula with her rich experience of the film. Kirsten also quizzes Australian International Documentary Conference director Richard Sowada about significant directions he’s taking the conference in. Tina Kaufman investigates the fine tuning of the AFI Awards, wonders just how judging the if magazine awards worked, and why the results looked conservative. She comes up with some interesting findings.

Demolishing: the ABC

Protest seems to be having little effect on ABC Managing Director Jonathon Shier’s reshaping of the national public broadcaster. Before Xmas there was a flurry of email campaigns, including one initiated by RealTime. Responses from some politicians were almost instantaneous (the ready-to-go email missive), with Bob Brown first off the mark and a string of Liberals saying, yes, what a pity, but if the ABC wants to go in new (media) directions the money has to come from somewhere. Democrat Senators were responsive, but Labor was very quiet. However, Senator Rosemary West summed it up for the party declaring support for an independent, non-privatised, “adequately funded” ABC “so that it can meet its community service obligations and fully embrace the opportunities offered by the introduction of new technologies.”

The Australian Labor Party will set out our express financial commitment to the ABC prior to the next Federal election. While we acknowledge that some would like us to give an express commitment sooner, we simply do not know what condition the ABC will be at the time of the next election and therefore what level of funding will be appropriate.

No email from Senator Richard Alston, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, but a letter (3/1/01) in the post in response to our call for the government to cease Shier’s restructuring. His Broadcasting Liason Officer writes:
“Government provides an overall level of funding for the ABC, but has no role in deciding internal funding priorities. Accordingly, concerns relating to internal ABC decisions should be directed to the Managing Director of the ABC.”

Letters of protest continue to circulate on the net, at this stage presumably hoping to restrict the amount of damage Shier can inflict. It’s a tricky one, with a number of artists wondering what, outside of Radio National and specialist units like science, they’re defending—the wretched state of ABCTV and Classic FM? But, for the moment, there are real principles at stake that have to override our ambivalence.

Out of the building: the new head of NSW Arts

In NSW, Evan Williams, head of the NSW Ministry for the Arts has retired, to be replaced by Roger Wilkins, Director-General of the Cabinet Office. With a salary increase of a rumoured $10,000pa, Wilkins will double as Director-General of the Ministry for the Arts. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Kelly Burke (January 13) reports Premier Bob Carr as saying, “We believe in lean government.” Burke comments that “cost cutting benefits…are likely to be negated by the Government’s plan to appoint a deputy director-general to the Arts Ministry.” While the appointment was cautiously welcomed by the Opposition and the Australia Council Chair Margaret Seares (“It is interesting and probably positive to have the Cabinet Office so closely involved in the arts”), many an artist’s heart sank at the announcement, as once again bureaucracy/middle management takes the arts reins. While low key and cautious (many a NSW artist has looked enviously at developments in Victoria and Queensland in recent years), Williams, a former journalist and still a film-reviewer for The Australian, was nonetheless felt by many to be a part of the arts community. Our hopes for reform in policy and practice in NSW arts funding now rest probably not with Wilkins, but with the Deputy-Director General, hopefully someone responsive to the Ministry’s fine project staff and to the community of NSW artists. Apparently Wilkins will not be in the same building as his Ministry for the Arts (which was moved from its geographical proximity to the Premier’s Office in 2000). VB, KG

RealTime issue #41 Feb-March 2001 pg. 2-3

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

1 February 2001