You can’t make an arts policy without breaking eggs
Ian Martin formulates guidelines for the arts community
MONDAY In the morning, go about things in a traditional and non-innovative way. Get absolutely epiphanied at lunchtime. In the afternoon, adopt a much more contemporary approach.
TUESDAY The secretary of state for entertainment, Tia Murrier, has emailed, asking me to help formulate guidelines for the arts community. I think.
‘Ian - the days of putting all our arts eggs in one basket? They are SO over. We must cut our cloth to suit our eggs. And tighten our egg belt. Too many omelettes of failure have occurred in the past. Broken eggs. Broken dreams. THIS is the egg legacy bequeathed to us by a soft-boiled Labour party!
‘The times in which we find ourselves demand austerity egg management. The question we need to ask ourselves is not whether these eggs are nutritious, but whether we can afford eggs in the first place.
‘Why should eggs even BE eggs? This is the age of toast, after all. Isn’t it? Yes, the arts community needs to wake up and smell the toast. And then ask themselves how the toaster might add value to bread, or something.
‘Forget the eggs for now, they’re just confusing things. Listen, the car’s waiting. Could you get something to me by close of business tomorrow? I’m giving a TED talk on Friday and to be honest I’m not sure these eggs have legs LOL. Best, Tia x.’
WEDNESDAY Tia worries too much. The creative professions are so foetally defensive at the moment, they’ll say whatever the government wants to hear EVEN WHEN THE GOVERNMENT ISN’T LISTENING TO THEM.
These days artists are so scared of making eye contact with potential patrons and possibly upsetting them that they’ve stopped going to parties and mostly just stay at home digitising themselves.
It’s the same with architects. They’re terrified of being bullied by the bigger, Tory kids. Being called ‘gay’ for revering beauty and harmony. So they lie. They lie through their teeth about how architecture’s greatest gift is to push up equity yields.
Or they quack impenetrable guff about ‘meaning-making’, or ‘place-being’ or whatever the fuck it is this week.
Every conversation that takes place within a creative profession - and I include ‘writing’ in this sorry cabal of pretension - is about money. It is predictable and profoundly depressing. Thank God my fixer, Rock Steady Eddie, takes care of all that stuff.
THURSDAY Dedicate the whole day (total eight hours excluding lunch but including comfort breaks and triangulated thinking) to helping Tia.
Firstly I send her an email telling her she’s doing a great job in very challenging circumstances. People love being told that, especially those who are paying you a fee. I also tell her she’s right to let go of the art/eggs analogy, it’s run its course. People who are paying you a fee love being told they’re right, too.
By mid-afternoon I’ve formulated a three-point plan. To make myself appear cleverer, I pretend it was a five-point plan that I’ve ‘frugalised’ down.
1) All arts - whether visual, plastic, performative or cross-platformed - must demonstrate how their deliverable artistic products will contribute to the economy. The geese of yesteryear, laying golden eggs of art everywhere, have been cooked. The days of ring-fenced funding for cultural development are over.
2) As a matter of urgency all remaining artistic ring-fences must be located and properly audited in a national initiative, perhaps with the help of Radio 4 listeners.
3) Following the audit, all artistic ring-fences to be broken up and used as cultural kinding, to fire the cultural boiler of our economic steam engine.
FRIDAY Watch a livestream of Tia presenting my three-point plan. It seems to go quite well, apart from her confusing ring-fencing with ornamental screens. And bringing up the eggs again.
Surprised to hear her say that this is a farewell address. She’s standing down as secretary of state for entertainment to take up a new challenge in the private sector as lobbyist to the Arts Marketing Board.
Apparently she’ll be representing arts providers and their shareholders, so let’s hope for a prosperous arts community in the future, one that builds on exisiting consultant contacts.
SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Art As Economic Passenger 0, Art As Economic Driver 1.
SUNDAY Audit my artistic boundaries in the recliner. Summary: flexible, with huge scope for significant reshaping.