Letter to the Editor: Jennifer Bott

March 24

While noting the Australia Council has ‘done much to acknowledge and nurture new media and hybrid arts’, Keith Gallasch’s editorial (‘Australia Council unplugged’, RealTime, Feb-Mar 2005) implies that the Council’s planned organisational changes will leave this vibrant and growing sector out on a limb. Our intention and our belief is quite the opposite.

Rather than seeing new media and hybrid arts ‘erased or relegated to the small print’, they will be placed on a much stronger financial footing which will, in turn, boost their standing and influence in the arts sector. We have stated categorically that not one cent less will be spent on new media and hybrid arts under the new model, which we have designed to enhance funding opportunities.

Keith raises the issue of ‘loss of status’ by dissolving the NMAB. I would make two points here: that the status of any group depends on the art they create, not on the taxpayer organisations that fund them; and the (harsh) reality is that artists–including those in new media and hybrid arts-need money to keep going. As I said at the Paddington RSL, Sydney meeting on January 24, there has been a significant reduction in value of grants over recent years, a fact not lost on applicants, successful or otherwise. In the name of ‘status’, are we to sustain a system and structure that will diminish their funding?

It’s important to note that the planned organisational changes to the Council are not solely about new media and hybrid arts. We support artists and arts organisations working across the spectrum, and the challenge has been to shape a new organisation that meets a complex range of needs, many of them increasingly interconnected ‘out there’ but still ‘siloed’ operationally under the existing Council model.

New media is an integral and rapidly growing expression of contemporary arts practice. The underlying need is to move away from a 30-year-old, rigid model of grants and services towards one that generates ideas and partnerships. Our role needs to be increasingly about building bridges between various arts sectors, with wider society, business, government and other statutory authorities at all levels. Nobody has suggested this would be easy, but if we don’t address the issues now, the problems will multiply.

Since Keith’s editorial appeared, the Council has conducted numerous forums and workshops on the reorganisation, with robust debate, and we have employed substantial input from all arts sectors in refining the new operational models. As a direct result of these discussions, the Council intends to:

• -support a new media practice conference in September, in association with RMIT and the Australian Film Commission

• -conduct a scoping study of new media/hybrid art following the September conference, with terms of reference agreed by a reference group of new media arts leaders and Council staff

• -offer the normal closing dates for new media art on 1 November 2005 (New Work, New Work (R&D) and Residencies). This is to help the field with the transition to the new structure, and will be assessed in the same way as proposed for the 1 May 2005 closing date.

The Council has applied itself rigorously to what was always going to be a difficult task, and has outlined what it regards as the best model for supporting new media and hybrid arts. After the Council considers that model at its meeting in early April, we look forward to briefing interested parties at meetings around the country from May–a schedule will be available at www.ozco.gov.au/future_planning.

Yours sincerely

Jennifer Bott
CEO, Australia Council

RealTime issue #66 April-May 2005 pg. 4

© Jennifer Bott; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2005