Weekend Reading: Oct. 6

“Americana Psychobabble” by Alex Tatarfsky at the FringeArts

Move to Canada: America’s Worst Ideas Are Already There. Many Americans think of Canada as our friendly, saner neighbors to the north, with free healthcare, a super-sexy prime minister, and abundant government support for the arts. But all’s not well, according to Ira Wells in The Walrus. Comparing the recently released “Creative Canada” cultural funding plan to the 1951 Massey Commission report, which launched government support for culture, she writes:

It is […] a categorical rejection of ‘culture’ as it was conceived by the authors of the Massey Report. Where the authors of that report spoke of ‘art and letters,’ Creative Canada speaks of ‘content creators.’ Where the earlier document explicitly posits culture as bulwark against the ‘materialistic society’ Canada could one day become, Creative Canada is just as explicit that culture is an ‘engine of economic growth and a competitive advantage’ in the materialist society we already are. The Massey Report imagined culture as the vehicle of moral and intellectual education. Creative Canada imagines culture as something you stream on Netflix.

The turn from high-minded idealism to craven aping of Silicon Valley hubris should be familiar to American artists. Wells’s article put me to mind of Andy Horwitz’s piece on the NEA at 50 in The Atlantic. And for a look at the power of government arts support in a field usually outside the realm of Culturebot’s investigations, check out Pitchfork’s June feature, “How Countries Around the World Fund Music – And Why it Matters.”

Making Relevant Art In the Age of Trump. Again proving herself one of the most insightful writers at American Theatre, Diep Tran has returned from Philadelphia FringeArts with an insightful piece – part criticism, part essay – that dives into the question of political relevance and efficacy in our heightened and tense moment: “If theatre is to be a guide, it should guide audiences towards answers or actions—in the work itself, in the program, or in community engagement. And in a time when protesting is the new brunch, theatre needs to make a better case for why audiences should be in a room with it. Presenting questions and issues isn’t going to cut it. Big-budget spectacle for its own sake isn’t going to cut it.”

Blow-Back to the Blow-Back. The lightning fast controversy surrounding three of the pieces in the Guggenheim’s recently opened exhibit, “Art In China After 1989: Theater of the World” may have set a speed record. Within five days of the Times reporting on the pieces created with live animals (two in documentary form; one live), the Guggenheim had pulled the trio from the show, so quickly in fact that days after the announcement, the Change.org petition requesting they be pulled was still receiving thousands of signatures (and no shortage of racist comments) an hour. But the Guggenheim’s haste to cave to public pressure raised its own questions, and Ben Davis at ArtNet was one of the first to seriously question the situation: “[H]ere’s what I am afraid of: that the vagueness throughout the Guggenheim’s communications on this is a dodge around the central fact that the show tackles an important but intensely troubling time in Chinese art, one that raises very, very difficult issues of how values move across cultures. I am no scholar on this area, but here are some bits of context that have been lost in the chaos that are worth mentioning.” The whole thing is worth a read.

Nothing to See Here. Move Along! As Siobhan Burke notes in her Times feature rounding up all the changes in management at various New York performance venues…there’s been a lot of change in management at various New York performance venues.

From July 2016 to February 2017, directors came and went at five major contemporary dance hubs below 23rd Street: New York Live Arts in Chelsea; Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side; Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University in Greenwich Village; Gibney Dance Center, in TriBeCa and near Union Square; and the temporarily nomadic Performance Space 122 (PS122), whose East Village home, under renovation since 2013, is poised to reopen soon.

More changes are underway across the city, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center Festival and Joyce Theater, where longtime leaders have announced plans to leave, or, in the case of Lincoln Center, recently stepped down.

Burke courageously tries to sit down with all the folks involved to get their take on where they’re all headed. The answer is…well, the article is a great example of taking several hundred words to say nothing.

This Week in Culturebot: Tara Sheena writes a love letter on the work of Ash R.T. Yergens; Dan O’Neil tackles #AmericanAF Festival at the New Ohio; and I chat with British performance artist Dickie Beau; among other articles.

“Readings” is a new weekly column at Culturebot trying to collect the most relevant recent writing on art and performance. Readers who come across essays, articles, and reports they want to share are encouraged to email jeremy [at] culturebot.org with their ideas.

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