Curious George, art and the pruning of hope

Mathew Mackie might be starving due to his art, and rightfully so, but after the cuts to the Australia Council, he fears that George Brandis might have caused a famine.


By the time the Budget had passed through social media, when the smoke cleared from Joe’s pen and we realised that his manic, pompous grin was not directed at us, we felt relief. Those who mattered had slipped the noose. That night, we whispered among ourselves, fearing a second budget, like the dog who’d been promised the park, but ended up at the V-E-T. Steeled by the mantra telling us all to “have a go”, we slept easy. Good onya Joe. Taxidermy, that sound bite. Masterful work.

Except, for us, those who lay prostrate on our backs, as your main cow poke, George Brandis forced his knee tighter on our necks, as you, Joe, re-doubled the rubber-band, tighter on the dangly bits of the art community, You’ve already pruned the hair off the SBS/ABC with your abacus branding cronies, now you sit, waiting for the rot to set in.

With the Australian Council neutered, what now? Personally, I may give up the art life, and go back to pretending. It’s cheaper, and I can get further. For the rest of us, I don’t know. The middling pond from which we all draw is growing arid, so we may need to bank on unrealistic options, cross the social savannah to find an rich elderly reservoir to drown in, a la James Joyce. But we’re people too, George. We only fuck people we love.

When the question of what art “is” lays solely at the feet of those who have the beans, as Hollywood has taught us, it’s rarely art and party art certainly doesn’t work. Art is only good when it rattles cages, kicks beehives or ruthlessly satirises those who make it possible. Picturesque vistas of the ‘straylian bush will no longer do, we’re adults now, our tastes are more cynical. Would George Brandis approve funds for an Archibald entry of a loving pastiche of him as Slobodan Milosevic? Probably not. But that’s entirely the point, it needs to be said, whatever the artist’s point.

George’s final solution to create a Ministry of Art, or whatever wiz-bang buzz-phrasery he dreams up, is fundamentally not good. His argument, being that this route could manufacture better artists, consigning surplus to the glue factory, he’d be saving muy dinero in the process, as well as dropping megatons of truth bombs on the hacks. It makes sense on paper. However, if he’s banking on a wave of unheralded genius, a sub-species of artist, springing from the sewers to batter his doors, heaving masterpiece-after masterpiece through the window, before cutting a hasty escape, barely needing their one and done, fiscal hit from the dispensary, it’s not going to work.

He’s missing a basic truth.

Artists aren’t manufactured, they’re broken.

Artists need the opportunity to fuck up. Repeatedly. To use the continual earthquakes of disappointment, clearing vast plains of the soul to plant the seed, to learn who we are, and who we aren’t. I’ve squandered my twenties trying to figure out where I fit, and I’m still unsure if I’m any good.

Georgie, bubbie, You can’t streamline the process by thinning the heard, because the end result will be no art community, just a trail of lost refugees wondering “what if”. We’re a nation of great originals, risking sterilisation from Farmer Hoggett. We don’t do it for money, but we still need it. I could bang on about misused funds from the budget and how it could be used for this instead, but you had your reasons, and I’m no economist. You know what your job is, so I won’t stick my beak into things where I have no station, but how do you expect us to bridge the chasm from nothing to everything? Where’s our first steps George?

We don’t ask for preferential treatment, just opportunity.

Brass-tacks now, George if this was you, and someone you’ve never met or wronged went and  removed YOUR chance to become a Minister, regardless of your talent or the long nights you’ve spent, you’d fight too or at least scribe a ranty, love letter attached to a brick. Reducing the mathematical chance of that orange day we hold onto is anything but a fair go.

But I suppose its not happening to you, you’re safe from yourself.

I’m pretending you’re in this room, across from me. I’ve gone delirious from $3 wine and $2 tofu, but I feel like I know a bit about you, and if you think you have us beat, by shifting art into the realms of those who can afford it, you haven’t. Because we’re all hopelessly devoted to the only thing we can do, so, in the end, the only victim, sadly, will be the art. Voices you’ll never hear splattered onto mediums you’ll never see. Next time you’re at a black-tie mixer, balls deep in free Verve and you look at the scribbles of Matisse, or a life-sized-pain-dingers by Oldenburg, or to that enigmatic broad who has your grin, just know this could be us. We’re starving, and rightfully so, but just dial it back from “famine”.

There’s paint on your hands, George.


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