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panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Michelle Lefevre

The recent announcement by Sky Television for their "Ignition" arts funding program has the PR flacks salivating and the press release stenographers running out updates on their websites at record speed.

£1.3Million over three years, £200,000 per project, chance to be featured on a national broadcaster, albeit one with a very small viewership compared to terrestrial broadcast channels. It's all good, especially when the arts are being cut by central and local government.

In fact the official announcement for this project came just one week after the NPO results were released by ACE, so good timing huh? Suspiciously good timing, if you're a cynical press hack that is.

Problem Partners

Several years ago Article19 discovered that the, now defunct, White Oak Dance Project was being sponsored, in part, by a big tobacco company. After we asked them some questions the logo was swiftly removed from their website and some frantic protestations were delivered that the money came from the tobacco company's charitable foundation, so that was ok, right?

At the time it raised some questions about just how far arts organisations would go to secure funding for their projects and day to day operations. Was any major corporation off limits no matter the products they made and sold or their ethical practices whilst plying their trade?

How Far Would You Go?

There is nothing wrong or unethical about drilling for oil, refining that oil and turning it into thousands of products that we all use everyday. But, many would argue, there is something fundamentally wrong if, in order to increase profits, you bypass safety controls, get a lot of people killed and spill 200 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. So would you take money from BP? (the Royal Opera House already does)

What about being caught up in bribery and corruption scandals in North West Africa as Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) has been for many years now. Wide spread pollution across Nigeria for almost 40 years has gone un-punished with Shell being exonerated by a UN investigation paid for by Shell.

You buy fuel from their petrol stations, but would you want their logo on your promotional material? Would you want to spend their money?

British Aerospace (BAE), they seem seem like a nice bunch. Lot's of smiley faces on their website, talk of engineering brilliance, apprentice schemes and corporate responsibility. Ultimately though they are a weapons manufacturer, they sell sophisticated weapons technology to countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others that actively and brutally suppress the rights of their own civilians.

If you think the arts are living it large on government money then you'll love BAE because they receive billions from the government to build things we don't really need, like nuclear submarines (at £1Billion each) that get stuck on sandbanks. If you want to know why there is no money for anything, ask BAE.

As for Sky? Well they are of course owned by Rupert Murdoch the American/Australian who owns News International, Newscorp, Fox and a whole lot more in the media world. One of Mr Murdoch's newspapers in the UK (The News of the World) has just admitted to wide spread phone hacking in order to illegally obtain personal information about the rich and famous. Two of their employees are currently under arrest facing criminal charges and possible jail sentences.

Others have already been sent to jail.

Fox News in the United States, also owned by Murdoch, is well know for fabricating information, fear mongering, racism and being little more than a right wing shill for the Republican party.

Do you really want to associate yourselves with these people?

The Ethics of Money

Arts funding is facing more of a squeeze than usual in these, so-called, "difficult times" so the next couple of years may well throw up some serious ethical dilemmas for arts administrators looking to pay the bills.

Finding clean money might be totally impossible so will it come down to degrees of morality when a mid-scale dance company is faced with accepting or rejecting a donation from a particular donor or corporation?

Are the arts facing the slightly ridiculous situation of meetings being held with the board where an Executive Director is arguing that "Company A has caused massive pollution but at least they're not as bad as Company B because Company B killed a whole bunch of people!" Pollution versus corporate manslaughter, the new debate for the arts in the 21st century.

And what of the work being created and sponsored?

Sky's "Ignition" project promises to "invest in the creation of new groundbreaking art works, projects, events and performances". Doesn't that sound exciting!

How much would you like to wager that none of those works will be a stinging portrayal of corporate greed, media ownership regulations, phone hacking, right wing news commentators or tabloid excess?

If you're in any doubt they say as much at the end of the application form;

"Sky Arts may refuse to consider an application if the applicant acts in a way towards the Sky staff which Sky Arts reasonably considers to be inappropriate, unlawful or offensive."

Big Bad Government

Say what you want about government funding of the arts but at least the money is relatively clean. You're not being funded by the Conservative Party or the Labour Party, you're being funded by the public via their taxes.

Governments are also accountable (if we don't like them we can get rid of them), we can mount arguments to defend arts funding and we can slap their wrists if they try to interfere in the work being made.

If you want government funding to make work criticising the government then no problem! Well, you can apply for it, getting it is another matter.

It's difficult for detractors to make "guilt by association" arguments when your core funding comes from public money.

When money is coming from corporate benefactors you can mount no such defence. They can give it and take it away as they please with no accountability and no discussion, it is their money after all.

Arts Council England and their brethren in Scotland, Wales and Ireland are, often times, intractable organisations pushing ridiculous policies onto an unwilling arts world. Compared to the opportunistic sharks swimming in the corporate ocean however they are little clown-fish nibbling at your toes.

ACE can be fixed, Sky, not so much.

[ Art at Any Cost ]
[ Dirty money at the ROH ]

  • @Article19 There's no such thing as clean money. You can't blame ROH for accepting money from BP. We're all weapon manufacturers in our own way.
    @PohPih Honey, do us all a favour and shut up. You really don't have a clue about what you're talking about. I can't find a single argument of yours that isn't completely absurd. Unless you're just trying to express the idea that you believe that the arts can sustain themselves through private funding, in which case you're not going about it in the right way.

  • "relatively clean" and we can hold the ROH accountable for taking money from BP because it's their choice to accept the money. It's no different from White Oak taking money from big tobacco, if you take it then you wear the consequences. They can say no. I think there are many millions of people who would disagree you with on the weapons point, us included.

  • I do not need to provide evidence of someone being convicted of tax evasion due to not approving dance funding. The law itself is proof enough. You stop paying tax entirely and you go to jail. The law's intention works perfectly.

    There are certainly groups of libertarian leaning individuals around the world who've been sent to jail through tax evasion - famously Irwin Schiff for example - but in general it's just silly to ask for evidence for someone sent to jail for objecting to dance funding because the laws stops it. But if the public were asked if they'd like a tax rebate of the amount spent on arts I am confident millions would happily accept it.

    Arts funding, as a percentage, is quite small compared to the funding the NHS gets. But that's because the NHS is one of the world's biggest institutions. £500m is still a vast amount of money and the arts world simply doesn't have any real justification for having it. And no doubt their are people in the NHS who would rather have it too.

    I believe in the freedom of the individual to allocate their hard-earned wealth and resources in their own way. It's truly frightening the recognise the opportunity cost of this specific taxation for art. Thousands of ideas, philanthropic donations, businesses, & sustainable jobs that could have been created from a genuine demand have instead been re-allocated to some London dance companies & others.

    The question is this - Should certain chosen dance & arts companies enjoy funding that's provided through an act of violence be justified? I am proud as a loving human to say no. You appear to agree with 'violence to fund dance'. That's the actual reality.

    Culture is something that can't be measured or dictated onto the people from above. It comes from within, free from subsidy or control.

  • We feel sure the £5-£10 each person would get back for the year would come in very useful until everybody noticed what was missing sans arts funding.

    Libertarian views are all well and good, until you actually want to get anything done in a complex, developed country full of people with opposing views, needs and aspirations.

  • What about the immeasurable opportunity cost? What about the lost investments, jobs, donations, and businesses that £500m could have created if it stayed in the hands of those who actually went out and earned it through hard work.

    I don't think many would notice or even care about cuts in arts funding. A lot of it's London centric, thus making it nothing more than a subsidy for the wealthy who can live or visit there. Dance needs a bit of a wake up call. For people in dance it's their entire world, but in the real world where people are trying to feed their kids, arts funding is of little or no importance. There's probably a few hundred people that'd mourn the loss of a contemporary dance performance at some random theatre in London but for everyone else it really isn't important..

    I'm interested in dance, but certainly wouldn't expect someone on a minimum wage to fund it. I fund my own interest, I am not selfish enough to ask others to pay for it, even if they have no interest in it. If someone enjoys art let them pay for it, let them invest their own time and resources.

    From a personal point of view funded arts often comes across as very ordinary and riskless anyway. People will continue to dance and be creative without funding. History is full of creative booms and revolutions without the need to government control.

  • There is no lost investment and it's not £500Million. The current central arts budget is now less than £400Million.

    Somebody working full time for minimum wage is contributing so little to the arts via their taxes (if they have to pay any taxes at all) it would be irrelevant if the money was returned to them. However, small contributions by the many can help to pay for things that would otherwise not exist because of the cost. Things like arts centres, classes, arts in schools, etc.

    You also make some rash and unproven arguments that people on low incomes do not engage with the arts. Not all arts engagement is via "performances in London".

    Of our 150+ video features less than 2% of them were filmed in London. Your arguments hold little water and appear to be ideologically driven as opposed to being factually driven.

  • The contributions that a low earner makes are 'irrelevant' are they? I do hope this attitude towards people who earn very little (yet who are still burdened by taxes that fund your hobby) is not echoed throughout the dance community. I'm quite frankly appalled this is how you view the people that have to fund dance.

    So much for wanting to find so-called 'clean money' Article19.

  • Hparlor

    I work in dance and I have to reply to your comments. The type of dance I am involved in does not take place in London theatres yet takes itself into the hearts of communities and works with a huge range of people from diverse backgrounds. This is more than a hobby, it's about opening peoples' minds up through art; not to make them artists but to allow them to have choices.

    I wish I could show you the proof of projects I have led which have turned peoples' lives around, from being a 'no-hoper' (in their own words) to having higher aspirations; it sounds like a cliche PohPih but this is the reality I see every day from working in dance.

    This work would be extinct without funding. Dance and art exists in our community and should be funded because it opens up opportunity, allows people to think a little differently than simply finishing school and not being driven to do...well...anything. Of course it doesn't happen to everyone but even if it helps a minority it is better than no-one at all. This is the kind of work that should be funded and be nourished.

    It's funny though, I am kind of with you regarding The Royal Ballet; but you see their audiences can afford to buy the damn tickets at £100 per ticket.

    I have just done a performance project in Tilbury town and have witnessed some amazing personal development in a group of young people, this development would not have happened without funding; the kids simply couldn't afford to do it; weren't you ever given the chance to experience something for free and it made you think differently and perhaps change your course of life?
    Go on, let your imagination go; a world without art in its many and diverse forms would be a very grey, boring, machine like place...

    I would absolutely love to continue this discussion with you and anyone else who wants to talk about it, bring it on;

  • I share the same enthusiasm for creating opportunities for those less fortunate to have access to the benefits of arts and dance. Certainly projects like yours have a greater justification for demanding public funds. What you do is certainly more valuable than just another contemporary dance company doing just another show and demanding more money.

    However, I have a moral issue with public funding going towards these projects because a violent transaction is involved in obtaining the funds to support them - tax. Isn't being freed from the prison of state interference/control something to aspire to?

    Away from that, the actual situation of Britain's financial state is appalling. Even for those that do support public funding of the arts, have to recognise that as a country we simply do not have the money. We never had, and the expansion of funds over the last several years has been somewhat cruel and unfortunate as a lot of people have been led up the garden path and obtained false hope. Borrowing even more money (in effect 'taxation without representation' - taxing the unborn future generations which is hardly democratic and fair) to fund such projects will only deepen the crisis.

    I also would object to the concept that these projects are impossible without funding. I wouldn't be so negative. Where there is a will, there is always a way. If you have faith in what you do, you will find those who will want to help.

    I think a level of dependence on the state in those that rely upon such funds has helped suppress entrepreneurial spirit. If this can be re-ignited then there is no reason why such activities can not survive, even flourish. However, there are no plans to drop taxes in the near future so philanthropy will not increase like the government hopes it will.

    Free from the hand of the state, art is always a more colourful and vibrant activity in my opinion anyway.

  • There is a broader issue here that the arts needs to move past the "making do" phase and become genuinely integrated into social infrastructure (for want of a better description). Simply making things happen through sheer force of will happens all the time, but it never lasts because from a purely practical point of view it can't.

    This country is one of the wealthiest in the world but historically we spend money on stupid things that we don't need, as mentioned in this piece, like £1Billion submarines, or £30Billion on fighter planes, £9Billion on the Olympics, £5Billion aircraft carriers, etc, etc.

    Resources are not the issue, how we use those resources is the issue.

  • The arts aren't a single entity that needs to be integrated into any 'social infrastructure'. Art is an infinitely dynamic and vibrant conciousness that is inside everyone on an individual or collaborative level. Art can never be promoted or suppressed, it's inside everyone at birth.

    For sure, there are plenty of individual artists or companies who demand that resources are spent in their direction. But in reality a grand ballet or well crafted film is no more, or no less artistically valid conceptuality than a child's sketches with crayons.

    There are certain groups or individuals who like to sell art as something that part of the social fabric or social infrastructure. It's a great way to package art and then get funding and thus profit. But I often see that as using art as a way of getting the state to confiscate wealth from others on your behalf. It really has nothing to do with 'art' if you were being perfectly honest. Hparlor certainly put a well thought out and good point across, but it's so often not the case.

    Arts funding is no less a waste of (very limited) resources than the Olympics or whatever. Not sure why you think the UK is one of the wealthiest places on earth. £4,000,000,000,000 of national debt/liability is not something you'd relate to a rich country.

  • We're finding difficult to determine if this is a windup or if you are really serious or perhaps you just can't read. The return of the contribution made by low earners would be irrelevant to them as an individual because the tax contribution of someone earning less than £10K per annum is so small. Nobody on low income is "burdened" by funding the arts as has already been explained and Article19 is not funded by anybody at present.

  • OK, let's give arts companies the power to become tax collectors see how far your 'clean money' argument gets you.

    I'd like a dance company to waltz into a family that has seen their wealth massively devalue, to then demand funding for their dance project. If they don't pay they will be sent to jail for tax evasion.

    Obviously this family who probably witnesses about 50-60% of their actual wealth taken off them in taxes needs the essential public service of a few ego maniac dancers prancing about on stage.... because after all that's 'culture' and culture can't possibly exist without public funding. Though I think someone forgot to tell the originators of the biggest cultural movement of the past CENTURY - Hip-Hop - that so-called 'fact'!

    Why should the arts enjoy such protection? Why should they enjoy funding that has been created through the threat of violence (aka jail)?

    Public funding is supposed to be for essential services that the market wouldn't otherwise adequately provide (Police, Fire, NHS). It doesn't cost anything for someone to dance, so why the hell should people be threatened with violence if they are fed up with funding it?

    Certain dance companies are acting like 25 year old adults still demanding an allowance from their parents. Time to start earning your own money and be a part of the real world.

  • Putting aside your ridiculous rhetoric about violence (tax evaders are rarely put in prison and tax evasion has nothing to do with either this piece or funding the arts) where is it written that culture, which in and of itself in a lot of cases, is educational, informative, etc is not an "essential" service?

    Is the well being of a population dependant on not only practical provision but also intellectual stimulation?

    Presumably you object to public money being used to fund Streetdance 3D (which it was) and the support Zoo Nation has received from the publicly funded Sadler's Wells Theatre?

    As for Hip Hop being the biggest "cultural movement" of the last century, please provide your evidence.

  • PohPih

    Tax evasion has everything to do with public art funding. The punishment for someone who doesn't want to pay taxes because they were fed up of seeing it go to dance companies, is to place them in a jail against their wishes. This is an inherently violent act. Publicly funded dance relies upon this. Like it or not, that's the actual truth. You can justify this act if it's for Healthcare, Police, Education or for the Fire Services... but for dance? Come on, get real.

    Thing is, I don't see any dancers volunteering to become tax collectors, funny that isn't it? There's a total disconnect between a part of the dance scene that's self-righteous and actually how their money is collected.

    Culture & the well being of the nation is something that is organic. The concept that it can only exist if some bureaucrat is giving money to a few groups of dancers, who think what they do is somehow more important than cancer treatment, is ridiculous. And who decides where this money goes? Funny how a lot UK Dance is all rather London centric, isn't it?

    Culture and intellectual stimulation happens from people within. It doesn't need to rely on public funding to exist. If dancers think they are providing some essential service then I am afraid they have delusions of grandeur. You really aren't as important as you think you are.

    I guess the difference between people like me and you is that I have a faith in the inherent goodness and beauty of humanity. You don't need acts of violence to create 'art'. Some of the most stunning art I've seen in recent years has been created in 3D on open source software. All free!

  • Ok, you have officially Jumped The Shark on this. Healthcare spending in the UK tops £100Billion, central government arts funding (pre-cuts) was less than £0.5Billion per annum. Nobody is losing out on health care treatment because of arts funding.

    We would also ask that you provide evidence that someone has been convicted of tax evasion to such a degree that they were incarcerated in prison because they objected to a dance company being funded by ACE.

    Your faith "in the inherent goodness and beauty of humanity" is touching but there are practical issues with regard to culture that need to be addressed, which is why culture needs to be funded and the millions of people who participate in subsidised culture every year would agree, apparently.

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