It has been a long time since I’ve posted… somehow between wrapping up our season, witnessing a new conservative majority come to power, and getting ready to shift into festival mode, there has been little time to put any thoughts down in print. While so much has happened in the past several weeks, I’ve chosen three things to share. From politics, to media persuasion, to glorious art, in no particular order here’s a salvo of things worth thinking about:
1) My colleague Gay always tells me to start things off with a bit of positive stuff (good advice!), but in this case, I have to get something off my chest. Perhaps like you, I support many of the issues brought to light by AVAAZ, and am proud to have helped thwart Sun Media (SM) in its bid for public funding. This of course couldn’t stop them from being on the air, but it did prevent us taxpayers from having to pay for their vile skewing of information. Case in point: the SunNews/Krista Erickson interview with Margie Gillis, aptly headlined ‘A lack of Compassion”. The attack – it can be called no less than that, certainly not objective journalism – launched by Ms. Erickson on her unsuspecting guest, is truly incredible to witness. While Ms. Gillis was certainly not prepared for the direction SM pursued, I am super impressed by her grace under fire. The whole point of SM/Erickson’s indignation centres on public funding for the arts or, as suggested in her closing remarks, for anything that isn’t “profitable”. (I wonder what Erickson drives and if she has any idea how much the auto industry has been subsidised – as Michael Franti sings: “Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury, raise the double standard!”). The big reason I am bothered by this is SM’s “reporting” on arts funding contains only bottom-line figures and zero attempt is made to create any context for those figures. Statistics are available that demonstrate a decent return on every dollar of public investment in arts and culture and high public support for government funding of the arts. Journalism is supposed to inform, and while it is naive to imagine that today’s pop-journalism isn’t biased one way or another, the distortion of information that is this “interview’s” net result is sickening. More disturbing is the connection between Quebecor, Sun TV News, Kory Teneyecke, and Stephen Harper… (If you want to have some fun, do a Google search using Sun Media/Teneyecke and AVAAZ).
2) OK, time for the good stuff… while media moguls are working their spin to influence our minds, Paul Kent and the people at the Greater Halifax Partnership have been exercising their minds to craft a new five year strategic plan. It’s got some pretty inspirational stuff in it, not the least of which is the inclusion of greater support for arts and culture funding and infrastructure development. You see Ms. Erickson, some people do know what the “creative economy” is and appreciate the important role its many parts play in the strengthening – and betterment!! – of society. I would venture an opinion that these ideas are particularly important in their application to the emergence of ever important city states. I guess the folk at GHP aren’t listening to SM…
3) Speaking of city states, in terms of culture Montreal has it going on! I am currently here checking out shows at the FTA (Festival Trans Amériques). While everything I’ve seen thus far has value (as a tax payer I am more than happy to contribute a few dollars a year to have access to this unprofitable stuff), a few of the works have really rattled my cage – in ways good and bad. While I suspect I will feel compelled to write about these in greater length in a future post, last night’s show by Japanese artist Daisuke Miura was a true punch to the throat. Yume No Shiro (Castle of Dreams) is a hyper realist slice of life that pitches the audience into the role of voyeur looking into a day in the lives of eight young adults co-habitating in a tiny Tokyo apartment. Blistering in its emotional hopelessness/indifference this Castle of Dreams proposes a bleak existence for today’s Tokyo youth. Damn if my world view didn’t get expanded by this work of art… As with some of the other shows I’ve seen here, whether or not it’s my “cup of tea” is irrelevant. The impact and end result are what matter. Do I have a new perspective? Have I been forced to confront something uncomfortable? Do I now look at my fellow humans with different (more compassionate?) eyes? Yes. Yes. And Yes! Art is grand: It raises us above the muck of ignorance and asks us to be present, to form opinions, to be open to the experience of others, and to acknowledge our humanity.