The EvilImp™ 'Clark and the Fawns'

It is the signature song of the arts that self abusing - former or otherwise - screw-ups are looked upon with pitty, admiration and pride by a largely sycophantic, incestuous group of artists, media types and patrons who can barely bring themselves to question just exactly what it is that they are supporting.

Michael Clark is one such person who inspires this unrelenting fawning from an art form that long ago should have asked 'just exactly what is it that you do again?'

Back in the 90's Mr Clark was the darling of the dance world, a very small world indeed, before flaming out spectacularly, largely due to drug addiction, and lost everything. He retreated back to Scotland to pull himself together and returned to dance some years ago as if nothing had happened.

It is especially ironic that one of his new company's patrons is Kate Moss.

Last Sunday Mr Clark's friends from the art world, including Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst, sold some of their work to raise money for this poor soul who's company is struggling to get by on the £200,000 in funding received from Arts Council England.

The sale raised over £900,000 so Mr Clark can continue his important work with a little help from his friends.

Having seen his work as recently as British Dance Edition in February of this year it is safe to say that his company is not offering anything new, far from it. In fact the stiff, pedantic, formulaic nature of his work would be more at home in a black and white dance book from 1975.

This correspondent is not suggesting that people are not deserving of a second chance, especially when it comes to drug addiction because the alternatives are too destructive to contemplate. It is not entirely clear however why this second chance involves substantial support from ACE when there are many talented new dance makers that struggle to get any funding support at all.

Ismene Brown, a Telegraph journalist, describes Mr Clark's ACE funding of £200k as 'ungenerous' and opines wistfully that his poor dancers are paid just £400 per week. I would helpfully suggest Ms Brown avails herself of some facts concerning the dance profession because £400 per week is the high end of the pay scale as far as contemporary dance is concerned.

Mr Clark's friends are free to do as they will with their artwork and their patronage but ACE should put its foot down and say if you have such generous friends then you don't need our help anymore.

There are too many young/new dance makers who could do very well with an 'ungenerous' £200,000 in funding and they don't have the benefit of being on the inside track of Sycophantic Patron™ Plc. Michael Clark had his chance back in the 90's and he blew it.

Some dance makers we know of, working on short projects, manage to pay their dancers more than £400 per week as they struggle to make ends meet with what little funding and support they can muster. All to often however their reward is to be pushed to one side because they don't fit the profile and they don't know the right people to get the levels of support that would enable them to really explore their creative ideas.

Michael Clark is not a 'Bad Boy' nor was he ever such a thing. He was a drug addict with a penchant for outrageous, self aggrandising behaviour and, now recovered, he has friends in all the right places but offers little to the dance world not already provided by numerous other dance makers 20 years ago..

In some ways at least, dance has moved on to a new generation of dance makers who have talent, determination and potential if not the resources to realise that potential. It is scandalous that those in charge of arts funding ignore the new whilst throwing good money after bad in the direction of the old.

The arts in the UK has a history of rewarding incompetence, belligerence and failure with more and more support to such a degree that this nonsense is barely surprising anymore.

  • pip

    Thanks, great reading as ever!

    Further proof that the dance world, haughty as it never fails to be is certainly not immune from celebrity culture.

    We are always more willing to celebrate and support the uber-visible, those that we think we can "know", especially those who make themselves living spectacles (our dear Kate, Emin etc.), than take a chance on earnest newcomers.

    There's also the old slowing-down-to-get-a-good-view-of-the-car-crash mentality embedded in our humanity.

    Perhaps in the confusion we face in taking a decisive stance on what is valuable, it is only human nature to scramble towards the old trope of the 'troubled genius', reminding ourselves that these people's talent is implicitly tied to their personal problems; that they are 'special people' both different from and more worthy than us.

    Choreographers of the future take note, learn your technique good, then f**k up royally, in front of as many influentials as you can, if you can still look good after years of abuse, kid you've got it made.


  • kema

    Ismene Brown was a musician and political journalist before becoming the Daily Telegraph's dance critic in 1994. She is a frequent BBC broadcaster.

    Knows what she's talking about then!

    I met Clement Crisp in Manchester at a performance of Mmmmmmmm or Ooooo can't remember which in 92 or 93. The performance started half an hour late, I spoke to Clement Crisp afterwards he said, "The music was rather loud but his technique was impeccable."

    The speakers were facing the audience from the stalls; ear bleedingly loud; in the section after the interval a roll of harlequin floor was on the stage.

    A friend of mine was dancing with him. He told me they started 30 minutes late because Michael was still rehearsing on stage, and the dance lino had been left on stage by accident"

    £930,000 is more than enough to buy a studio space a whole building even (up North anyway :) )I'd suggest he goes back to Scotland and buys a studio up there.

    I just hope he doesn't go and spend it all on rubbish artwork for his new works. (or drugs)



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