This is going to be very brief today. I was searching for writing on theatre, and theatre blogs.
Sociology achieved real traction in the US in the mid 20th century. Its the perfect discipline for bureaucracies. These studies are a sort of constant, a cottage industry for the large foundations that parse out money to whoever will agree to be obedient and artistically opaque.
The study refers to findings and concludes, “the home is a favorite location for arts activities…”
I’ve no idea what that means exactly. Another favorite location is the internet. What?
This model for the arts is predicated on the idea that quality is irrelevant. Its not even mentioned. Its about what people “like”. This study is hardly unique. Read any grants organization application, read any theatre’s quarterly report, or any government paper on the arts. The value is placed squarely on what people “like” to do. If they like to square dance in their living room, then money is funneled into that. Of course the air conditioning bill for the Pentagon exceeds the entire US federal arts budget, so it’s not exactly meaningful cash being talked about. There is an entire discussion to be had about the liberal populism, in all this. Again, sociology is the boat carrying this torpid crew.
Another quote…”Racial/ethnic differences in participation exist for reading and writing activities. For example, three quarters of whites reported reading books or poetry for pleasure, compared to 45-55% for the other three racial/ethnic group”.
What is a reading activity? For pre-schoolers? Seriously, I’ve no idea. There is a horrid taste of well meaning condescension in all this, and the grotesque threadbare activities of a city or county bureaucracy implied — and what does it have to do with culture, really?
It has nothing to do with it. And nobody cares about it. The issue that does have meaning, however, is what does the society ask of culture? What does it mean — for I think it means essentially entertainment. There is one entire layer of this society that does not think past being a fan or being a spectator in some fashion. Sporting events, concerts, beheadings….it really hardly matters. The Spectacle. So arts bureaucracies are just the after-birth of the Spectacle — the slag left after the strip mining of consciousness. The tailings of the Spectacle. Of course, one needs to examine assumptions about ‘entertainment’ as well as how the commodity form pollinates all these subjects.
I suspect that there is actually no good reason for the government to spend ANY money on the arts. Not this government. Not in this context. Either that, or give the arts the entire defense budget. What would 400 BILLION dollars a year look like if turned over to the arts? The problem is, would the people who wrote up this “study” (above) and who made all the pie charts and wrote the sadistically dull prose of this, would they allocate the funds? If so, I would think the artist would remain outside anyway. (This is the cult of genius I’m indulging in, and I’m aware of that. A bourgeois notion of artistic ownership, and that is indeed a topic). But for another entry.
I end with a quote from this article on the study (about the Inland Empire, remember)…
“The Mexican farmworker focus sample results were reported along with all other subgroups, parsed by arts activity and mode of engagement. Looked at as a single group, however, a number of surprisingly high engagement results indicate that this cohort may be ripe territory for further, more detailed study.”
The death of irony.