While our elusive Arts Minister, Mr Peter Garrett, spends his time propping up the pulp mill industry, it's nice to know that at least one member of the Federal Ministry is thinking about the value of the arts.
The Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, made an impassioned defence of the humanities in a speech to the Canberra Press Club last week. Announcing a raft of plans to support education and scientific research and development, he pointed to the close links between Research and Development and the humanities in creating innovation.
"They are both part of the same innovation system," he said. "It is obvious that scholars in the humanities, arts and social sciences benefit from advances in technology. Perhaps less obvious is the debt industry owes those scholars, who generate demand for new technologies by building a creative culture – a culture that is smart, curious and unafraid of risk."
Moreover, he claimed the changing nature of contemporary scientific research was making the humanities crucial to their development. And he finished with a ringing endorsement of the value of the arts in themselves.
"I believe the creative arts – and the humanities and the social sciences – make a terrible mistake when they claim support on the basis of their commercial value. Whatever they may be worth in the marketplace, it is their intrinsic value we should treasure them for.We should support these disciplines because they give us pleasure, knowledge, meaning, and inspiration. No other pay-off is required."
How long since you heard a politician say that? He is dead right, too. Science and art make each other smarter. You can read Senator Carr's speech, which makes for interesting perusal, here. And maybe Mr Carr is the one to invite to your next show. According to Nick Pickard, there is probably more chance of his turning up.
In other news today, Performance Space at CarriageWorks in Sydney has announced the appointment of its new director, Daniel Brine. Brine is returning to Australia to take up the position after a decade in the UK where, for the past seven years, he has been with the Live Art Development Agency (LADA). He is presently LADA's Associate Director, and has developed an impressive track record in performance and live art.
Brine takes over from Fiona Winning, Performance Space’s current Director since 1999. After nine years as Director, Winning — having strategically developed and relocated the organization to its new home at CarriageWorks — is returning to freelance writing and producing.
In fact, things are looking up in Sydney, where the Arts are now a Premier's Department portfolio. And the blogging community is steadily growing. The latest member is yet another colleague who has finally made the jump to cyberspace. Sydney crrritic James Waites, formerly of the National Times and the Sydney Morning Herald, has - at last - started his own blog. He promises to discuss many things, so expect shoes and ships and sealing wax as well as theatre reviews. If you haven't met before, you can make your acquaintance with James here.
Meanwhile, an odd note in Martin Ball's Age review of Vamp caught my eye. He claims that "for the first half of the show, the opening night audience sat in bemused silence, unsure where the show was going or what they should be thinking." And adds:
Meow Meow didn't take this indifference lying down. When one dramatic entrance failed to elicit any response, she pointedly remarked "I'm going to try that again", asserting control over the passive crowd. It's what we needed, really, to know our place.
Funny, I thought that was a carefully choreographed joke. And surely part of being in a Meow Meow audience is knowing your place (in the back row, for preference). Were we there on the same night? It was opening night, right? I recall enthusiastic applause and cheers after every song, right from the first number. Was I hallucinating? Was it that wibbly-wobbly time-wimey stuff? I'm curious to hear from anyone else there on that night who experienced this eerie silence...