14 September 2014

Oversmoked Internet Link Sausages

Lots of travel-related distractions in the last week or so have kept these internet link sausages getting all hot and smoky in the smokehouse. Of course, some of the smoke is coming out of my ears...

  • Dame Judi Dench touches on an issue extending all the way across the arts in the Grauniad with her lament that the current system of developing acting talent in the UK preventably, and unreasonably, inhibits those from lower- and lower-middle-class backgrounds (fake paragraphing removed for clarity, typography corrected, and presumably declaimed in M's slightly exasperated tones).

    [Dench], who won an Academy award for her performance as Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love, believes it is vital for young actors to watch professionals on stage. "I always say to young students, 'Go and see as much as you possibly can', which is what we used to do. But then we paid a pittance for sitting in the gods," she said. Ideally, she said, she would reinstate rep[ertory theatre]s all over the country, but knows this is impractical, though she does not believe that government has to choose between hospitals and theatre: "In a civilised country, there's money for both." She accepts that talented aspiring actors can make it without going to drama school. "But it's a hard and rocky road," she added.

    And at that, actors have it better than do authors, artists, and musicians. Ignore, for the moment, that the skill set and feedback obtained from drama school is much, much more closely related to the actual demands of being a working actor than what is obtained from any form of training offered for authors, artists, or musicians. Completing that Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts program is simply a much bigger foot in the door toward a career as either a working actor or in the drama-support areas than is a writing degree from even a top-notch program (Over Here or Over There), or time in one of the few artist-apprentice programs or non-architectural art programs that does not funnel artists into the commercial horrors of "graphic design" (which I will excoriate another time; for the moment, just try using any of the "wonderful graphic design" smart phones out there wearing bifocals), or even a full degree from any of the leading undergraduate-level music programs.

    Then, too, there's the problem of how those from the must-work-as-a-teen-for-personal/family-support/survival cohort can even come to the interest of the prawn-sandwich-munching "patrons" of performance arts. The only potential solution to the problem is one that blends patronage, market incentives, and basic human decency... in a way that nobody has tried, let alone made work administratively.

  • Which leads directly to the question of exploitation of publicly purchased and displayed works and who benefits from them. Mr Rushton is, to put it bluntly, full of manure on this one. His position depends upon two critical assumptions, both of which are blatantly false (or at least are blatantly false if you're not East of the Hudson... or an economist like Mr Rushton). First, it assumes that all of the proceeds and other benefits must necessarily flow to either the patron or the artist — that there's no way to share those benefits. Just because Michelangelo never benefited further from the Sistine Chapel once he put down his brush does not make that either "right" or "the proper default"... and neither does the converse case in which the municipal context of, say, that Picasso in front of the Daley Center does not become part of the work itself and therefore subject to overruling by the artist. Second, it assumes that any negotiation between artist and patron is one between equally informed and empowered parties; I have yet to see one in all the time I've been dealing with commercial exploitation of the arts.

    Instead, Mr Rushton is seeking to apply that fifth fair-use factor — administrative convenience — in yet another aspect of the ownership of copyright/ownership of copy struggle.

  • Congratulations to Ursula K. Le Guin, who will be receiving long-overdue recognition from the National Book Foundation for her Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. The Foundation's Executive Director notes that "She has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art" — that is, that the literary judgment of the people who haven't read her works but nonetheless persist in categorizing them for commercial and administrative convenience isn't worth very much.