Frank Johnson goes to the ballet at Covent Garden and is amused at the buzz generated by a pair of celebrities in the audience. “It is not easy for people from popular culture to impress, amuse or interest people gathered for purposes of high culture. They must make us pleased that they share our pleasures or are taking the trouble to try them. Celebrity is not the same as fame. Posh and Becks are celebrities. So is — to choose just another example from popular culture — Sir Elton John. Miss Hurley, say, is just famous. Her presence at Covent Garden would interest, but not fascinate or delight, us.”
“When art changes because of elemental forces, becoming what some would call an ‘eyesore,’ is it no longer art? Should it be removed? When the land on which a work sits, and for which it was designed, is needed for other purposes and the art is moved, is it the same work of art?” A dispute between a Florida temple that wants to remove a piece of art and the the artist who created it is forcing some answers to these questions.
Falling attendance, a downturn in funding, program cutbacks and layoffs. Last year marked a downturn in the financial fortunes of Denver arts groups.
“Although arts groups openly discussed their multimillion-dollar drives at this time last year, now fund-raisers are guarding their plans like children hoarding Halloween candy. Others are either scaling back their plans or holding off altogether.”
Ah, television had such promise when it first came on. But years later, that promise is largely unfulfilled. “The main problem with television is its continual belief that what’s next is better, not what’s happening now. Look at any programming on any network and the number of trailers, promotions and other self-justifying shreds and patches dominate the shows they surround. It’s rather like watching nothing but opening and closing credits.”
“In effect, the Supreme Court’s decision makes it likely that we are seeing the beginning of the end of public domain and the birth of copyright perpetuity. Public domain has been a grand experiment, one that should not be allowed to die. The ability to draw freely on the entire creative output of humanity is one of the reasons we live in a time of such fruitful creative ferment.”
“There is a big academic debate on social class as opposed to income. There are sociologists who argue that social class is in decline in regard to lifestyle, consumption factors and politics as coherent, meaningful groups.” One study finds that “lumping people into big groups like the ‘working’ or ‘middle’ class on the basis of their incomes ultimately had little to do with what they bought, what they watched or whom they voted for. Rather, cultural and political similarities are more likely to be found among people who are in the same profession or do the same type of work, reinforced first by educational training and then by work experiences.”
People are lining up to go to Scottish arts events. But there’s a funding crisis. “What explains this bizarre paradox? Money is cascading into arts events, yet nothing is more wearisomely familiar at this time of year than ferocious in-fighting among arts organisations and angry rhetoric about ‘mean’ and ‘philistine’ politicians starving theatres, opera houses and galleries of vitally needed funds. Yet, all around, more money than ever is going into the arts. So what is going wrong?”
Lawrence Lessig, who argued to overturn the extension of US copyright before the US Supreme Court, writes about the Court’s rejection of his arguement. “Missing from the opinion was any justification for perhaps the most damaging part of Congress’s decision to extend existing copyrights for 20 years: the extension unnecessarily stifles freedom of expression by preventing the artistic and educational use even of content that no longer has any commercial value.”
“After 20 or more years of consolidation and commercialization, the book publishing industry and most of its components — authors, agents, publishers, marketers and retailers — have resigned themselves to the businesslike, margin-driven culture of the industry today. Even if some still pine for the gentlemanly days of gentlemen editors, most are too busy trying to get the attention of Oprah Winfrey or NBC’s ‘Today’ show to waste time on nostalgia.”