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Note: This column represents the opinions of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact
State of The Art or Art of The State? 1 October 2002 Edition
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Since Helen Clark, was elected to office, huge sums of taxpayer funding have gone into the promotion and funding of the Arts in New Zealand.

From memory, one of the very first things she did after her election to the job was to hand out around $100m of unbudgeted money to the Arts community.

While it's tempting to poke a bit of borax and say that it's nice to see the hard-earned cash of low-income NZers being used to subsidise the entertainment and enjoyment of the upper classes I won't (oh dear -- I just did).

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Of course there are many undeniable benefits to a well supported Arts community and we only have to look at how well our film industry has done in recent years to see that.

As well as the direct advantage that comes in the form of export receipts for popular film titles, there are the indirect effects such the increased global awareness of NZ and the hike in foreign tourist traffic that results.

I'm sure there are some in the IT industry however, who despair that the current government, and Helen Clark in particular, seem to be far more inclined to hand over $25,000 in funding to the "Curve Dance Collective" so they can work on a new dance "based on the Treaty of Waitangi" than they are to help some innovative piece of Kiwi technology see the light of day.

Readers Say
(updated irregularly)
  • creative nz funding... - Paul
  • The Arts = "Culture"... - Allister
  • Have Your Say

    Okay, so maybe I'm being a bit harsh -- after all, the design and development of technology is a business and it's not government's job to subsidise one business over another -- right?

    On the other hand, the Arts are generally far less mercenary in their objectives. Their intention is to provide objects or performances for all to enjoy and without the over-riding pressure for profit -- right?

    While there may be some truth to the above, one can't help but wonder whether we can afford to spend so much of taxpayer's money on "luxuries" such as funding a long list of novel writers to the tune of up to $36,000 a pop -- while someone else writing a computer game is left to pretty much go it alone.

    After all -- if a novelist is any good, their books sell well and they make money, right? When an esoteric or lacklustre novel doesn't sell enough to make money then we have to ask why taxpayers are being asked to effectively subsidise a work with such limited audience or of such poor quality -- especially when we still have long hospital waiting lists and other social injustices.

    If you're curious as to who's getting large wads of taxpayer cash to assist in their artistic endeavours, check out this page on the CreativeNZ website -- you might find it rather surprising.

    And did you notice something else?

    In my quick parse of the page, I didn't see a single dollar of funding for 21st-century "digital" art. I'm talking about things like rendering, computer-generated/aided audio and/or visual works, etc.

    Perhaps there simply aren't any digital artists applying for funding -- although I'd be rather surprised if this was the case. Could it be that anything involving hi-tech is simply not considered "artsy" enough?

    We should remember also that the funding listed on this page is over and above that provided by NZ On Air -- who, as of the last time I asked, didn't consider the Net to be a "broadcast medium" so wouldn't consider funding programme material for it.

    Given the difficulties associated with developing hi-tech products in NZ and our very lacklustre "knowledge economy" performance when compared to the likes of Ireland, Israel, etc, would we be better off treating small software developers and innovators as kindly as we treat our struggling artists when it comes to government funding?

    If you want to have your say on the contents of today's column then please do so. Only comments marked "For Publication" will (if I have time) be published in the readers' comments section.

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