I’m a dancer, choreographer and teacher and I tend to be surrounded by people who openly value this kind of work. That said, I don’t have to work too hard to find people who don’t. Here’s right-wing political commentator Tim Blair writing about how artists have responded to Federal Arts Minister George Brandis’s funding cuts in Australia:
So many ouchies, so little funding. “As with other arts sectors,” the report continued, “low remuneration levels for artists is a feature.” They got that right. Probably its best feature, too.
One of the things I like about reading writing by people who openly disregard the arts is that it forces me to question my own assumptions about the value of what I do. How does dance matter and to whom? Why should I receive public funds in order to make work? Does dance function outside of its own bubble, aesthetics, fashions and questions, and if so, how?
The last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot about internet privacy and freedom (in part due to Susan Kozel’s keynote at C-DaRE’s Dance and Somatic Practices conference in July). It’s gripping to read and watch the work of people like Aaron Swartz and Ed Snowden. In various ways, through their actions they have made the point that without privacy human beings have no freedom: no freedom to act, to protest, to create, to criticise, or even to simply assume that when we communicate it is only to the people we wish to communicate with.
It’s easy enough to understand why we should value the work of those who are committed to internet privacy (and therefore freedom). But where might this leave me — and my peers — who value something as fringe or niche as choreography and dance? Sure I could make an issue-based work about freedom and privacy [cringe] but I understand part of dance’s value to be in how it calls into question the assumptions our culture makes about value and values.
Regardless, I want to make artistic work in a society that cares about freedom and privacy, and I want to make the conditions under which I might create this work as untainted as is possible by our culture’s obsession with (economic) value.