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, 2016watch now
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.
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.