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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Australian Culcha (or Art wherefor art though art?)

  As an artist, I have always been intrigued by how Australians require international guidance on our own art. Australian actors, directors, musicians, writers and artists are often only recognised locally once they have "made it" overseas (with maybe a few exceptions). This is so great that our list of ex-pat artists grows faster than our local list of artists. I totally understand the rationale for these artists leaving our shores as, if you stay locally, you are restricted to either government endorsed funded projects (which tend to have strict "cultural" requirements that only endorse special interest groups or recycle cultural norms), rehashes of overseas plays or poorly attended independent showcases/films/plays/etc.
   Now this is not a case to excuse my own art not finding an audience. I believe that I have not driven the networking required to build that sort of thing. Rather, this is a case of the first barrier to any artist in this country achieving some form of success.
   The difference between Australia and other western countries in the treatment of art is illuminated when considering sport and art. In most other western countries sport and art have their places and are, in fact, given an equal measure of respect and exposure. Whereas, in Australia, sport reigns supreme. It is bizarre to think that we have one of the greatest modern architectural buildings devoted to the arts in the world (the Opera House) yet very few Australians attend. While, the misbehavior of sports people, their lack of form or successes are given almost weekly attention. In fact, there are whole channels devoted to sport and only one television channel partially devoted to Australian content in prime time ("your ABC").
  The Arts, in a general sense, help develop and identify culture. The architecture of Ancient Rome, The paintings of the Renaissance, Russian 19th century literature, the Pointillism artwork of Indigenous Australians, Japanese Anime/Manga, the list goes on... What identifies modern Australia in art? Have we stopped developing a culture and started to be culture-less yet multicultural at the same time? Is the influence of America one that has bulldozed our developing culture out of the way and steered it away from our sense of place? Think Banjo Patterson, Frederick McCubbin, Yothu Yindi, etc. Do we as a nation revere them above people such as Steven Spielberg? How many of our artists work for another culture (aka America)?
  I do believe we need a cultural revolution (not of the communist variety) that helps bind us and develop a stronger voice and perspective that comes from our experience living on this massive continent with relatively very few people that has such a short modern history mixed with an ancient one.


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