I need to apologize to our readers, to artists and to all who support the inclusion of arts funding in the economic stimulus package. Like you, I’ve been reading about how the “batshit crazy” rightwing anti-culturalists have been maligning arts funding as non-stimulative pork. I was just as disappointed as you to learn that Senators Wyden and Merkley voted for a stimulus bill that included this egregious amendment from Senator Coburn:
None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas.
I was dismayed to learn that a recent editorial in the National Review sarcastically opined that increased funding for the NEA would mean that "the unemployed can fill their days attending abstract-film festivals and sitar concerts."
Then it all started to sound vaguely familiar. I got a sinking feeling that I may have inadvertently contributed to the problem. A quick scan of my files brought the memory back and verified my complicity: Just last year I wrote a grant proposal to the NEA on behalf of a regional arts organization. (Professional ethics and common decency bar me from revealing the client's name). The proposal must have been leaked to the Republicans by a disgruntled grant panelist! Since the project is unlikely to be funded, I will share a synopsis of the proposal:
Describe the Project: [NAME REDACTED], Oregon’s leading collective of multidisciplinary dance, theater and abstract film artists, seeks NEA funding for a project through which it will engage the community in dialogue that will inform a co-creative process of examining, exploring and explicating the multidimensional intersections and interstices between consumer culture, Wall Street fraud and organized religion. The site-specific, time-based performative project will draw upon influences as diverse as Andres Serrano, Karen Finley and Robert Mapplethorpe. Seminal materials will be used. We mean urine.
The project’s artistic collaborators will construct a temporary public art installation on the eighteenth hole of the Bandon Springs Golf Resort. This site was selected to provide opportunities for broad-based cultural access to underserved rural communities. The installation will consist of two vitrines to be fabricated, in situ, by 48 glass artists using recycled wine bottles melted in massive anagama kilns. Each vitrine will measure 20’ x 20’ x 20’ (8,000 cubic feet) and will be filled with liquid.
The first vitrine will represent the primeval ocean from which all life evolved. It will be filled with sweat collected from 800 dance artists commissioned to perform an extended choreographic masterwork in a giant dry heat sauna to be constructed in the abandoned warehouses of Laika Studios. At risk youth from inner-city neighborhoods will be employed to scrape the sweat from the dancer’s bodies over the course of the 18-month dance performance.
Once the vitrine is filled with the salty fluid, hundreds of chinook salmon will be released into it. Their futile attempts to migrate and spawn will be accompanied by a techno-industrial score performed by a 32 piece sitar orchestra and four dozen unemployed construction workers with jackhammers. The salmon will then be slaughtered by marauding sea lions in a bloody orgy of classist oppression.
A live video feed will be sent by fiber optic cable to a state-of-the art Imax theater to be constructed at a remodeled Oregon Aquarium (
The second vitrine will be filled with urine. Members of
Once this vitrine is filled, a figure of Jesus Christ suspended in a zero-gravity chair will be smeared with dung and chocolate and submerged. The vitrine will be lit by more rotating pastel lights (or perhaps primary colors this time). The artistic co-creators will initiate intra-, extra- and inter-community dialoguing sessions to find, create and shape meaning.