Wednesday, 9 July 2008

A Brief Diatribe About Art

I am at my most human when it’s late at night and I begin to feel sorry for myself. Which is why I have to beg your forgiveness for my last pitiful excuse for a post. As somebody recently told me, I simply have to try harder. Even a year into this blogging exercise, my fingers still haven’t found the pulse of you, my deeply intelligent and selective audience. I’ve failed to understand what makes any of you come back. Clearly, Hughie Green is far from the top of that list.

Judy often tells me that I should abandon my light-hearted attempts at biography. In her opinion, I should join in with the greater fraternity of bloggers dealing with the important issues of the day.

Gordon Brown arrived at the G8 summit with some hard words for world leaders. Robert Mugabe remains in power in Zimbabwe and it’s clear that South African president Thabo Mbeki is not providing the kind of leadership that Africa needs at this present moment. Clearly Brown is... is...

Nope. Sorry. Can’t keep that going. It’s a ‘will to live’ thing. I keep losing it.

But that’s exactly what’s wrong with me. I can be horrendously temperamental when I’m writing and my mood was made doubly bad last night because I had spent a couple of hours browsing the web to research a book I’m trying to finish.

As you know, I’m a man of many talents. There may be books coming out from the Richard&Judy stable written by real writers, but I like to keep plodding along doing my own unprofitable thing. My autobiography is coming along well and I also have a novel which is very slowly amassing chapters. A theme of that novel is contemporary art and my recent browsing habits have been restricted to sites dedicated to promoting the arts in the UK.

It was while I was going through an Arts Council website last night, that I found footage of some nameless old colleagues of mine who happen to work in a field tangential to my own. Neither of them are particularly creative but they are both fanatical about commentating on the work of others. You might describe them as ‘critics’. Different national bodies seem to always send funds their way from for projects they initiate. They are both themselves in charge of some additional funds, or know the people who control those funds, which they can also ‘tap into’ to help promote their cockeyed schemes, meant to promote the arts but only really functioning as a rather squalid form of social work.

The footage was part of a current scheme they are running and was advertised as a celebration of the work of a well known artist. Basically, it was a five minute video of my friends enjoying themselves on a recent holiday in Spain. They looked out over the Med, made a few comments about the artist, and then shared a bottle of wine. While I’m pretty sure that the holiday would have been paid for out of their own pockets, those pockets are filled by their work promoting the arts.

I couldn’t help but feel a little piqued.

Maybe it was always so but we seem to be living at a point in our cultural development when we have some very fundamental problems with art. Government policy is generally to throw money at projects that are either sickeningly contemporary or involve the regeneration of our inner cities. Money goes into youth projects in urban settings. Graffiti is encouraged while the fine arts are diminished.

Naturally, I have a vested interest as I know friends who are comic novelists on the breadline while ‘socially aware’ poets get funds to travel around to schools and talk to children about ‘issues’. A recent visitor to a local school charged £500 for the day. I don’t begrudge any writer money, from whatever the source, but I do find it frustrating that the only people to really succeed in the current climate seem to be social workers and critics. And I suppose that’s why I was feeling so utterly dispirited last night and this morning. My two friends, the critics, sit enjoying their sangria on the beach while I’m still facing another long day at the keyboard.

I’m off to write something more uplifting to cheer us all up.

Back soon.


Anonymous said...

You're not being unfair on these swine - the nonsense they produce is somewhere between worthless and pernicious. Recent example: a pamphlet distributed to schools arguing that Elvis Presley, Charlie Chaplin, and about a dozen other greats, were gypsies. The evidence was generally of the "Elvis' mother was born within 10 miles of a gypsy settlement" variety.

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