Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Friday, May 27, 2011


A minstrel-y exaggeration for purposes of instruction:

Or come around to the back door if you want some.

In the bad old US plantation days there were two distinct classes of indentured folk - those who by dint of melanin and manners were considered as either house or field ‘nigras’. Both classes had better always know their place, or know the reason why. But, the two classes of slaves had differing sets of rules.

House ‘nigras’ sewed bibs and bows, cooked, and raised the massa’s chillun – among other tasks. Field ‘nigras’ labored to put food on massa’s table and to produce cash crops.

Field ‘nigras’ were rarely allowed in the massa’s house nor were they able to enjoy the left-overs from the table and the cast-offs from the closet that house ‘nigras’ could. House ‘nigras’, by proximity to massa (et al) learned to ape the manners of their ‘betters’. And, if they were skilled at this mummery, to be considered a provisional (disposable like all slaves in times of financial stress) part of the household.

Forbearers, on my mother’s immediate side, were raggedy-ass share-croppers – Native-Americans fallen on post-colonial hard times - all-but-indentured workers on border-state cotton-farms in which they were (meanly compensated) tenants. So, in case you were wondering, yes, I’m comfortable using the broad Rabelaisian exaggerations of the previous paragraphs, as an illustration of my point - about artists and their relationship to the burgeoning managerial classes in the arts.

I would forward the notion that artists (although, like the indentured, we outnumber our overlords) fall into the two ‘indentured’ classes. Divided into two groups by their levels of manageability. Both classes of the bondsmen are, of course, required to provide content (i.e. art) for the plantation managers (and their houses) but only one class allowed into the house or near the groaning table……for the scraps. Act up and you’ll find yourself back in the fields.

May I bring to your attention the demographic make-up of Arts Voice Christchurch – an organization that claims to represent the Canterbury Arts Community. How many Maori, Pacific Islanders, Asians, working class or working artists sit the board? By my count NONE. That is unless someone on the committee has failed (for reasons of their own) to claim some qualifying ethnic/cultural/economic heritage or occupation. How many Maori, Pacific Islanders, Asians and working artists number in the Christchurch Arts Community? A community the AVC purports to represent.

I do applaud the committee for having a reasonable amount of women among its members.

Another reminder that although – emblazoned on Arts Voice’s home page is the claim that they were ‘elected by the Christchurch Art Community’ – I reckon a non-notified election (no artist or arts professional I personally know was aware of, or present for, the ‘election) is hardly a legitimate democratic exercise by any stretch of imagination. If the email lists of the CAG, Physics Room, High Street Project, SoFA, etc. had been sensibly employed by the germinal AVC to call for a REAL gathering of the CCH art community how many of those currently seated on its committee do you speculate would be there if the committee had been selected by a community of peers rather than dictated by some sort of hereditary Canterbury arts/culture -peerage?

CNZ Chief Executive, Stephen Wainwright, suggested that I raise any concern I might have about Arts Voice Christchurch’s legitimacy (as an ‘elected’ representative body for the Christchurch Art Community) with the group itself. Not being a house-boy … I must decline. In fact, to show up at all for AVC meetings and discuss what we (the arts community) might or might not need (provided) from the 10s of millions of dollars available through quake relief monies (charitable or otherwise) would serve to de facto legitimize a self-designated claque who’ve formed (whatever their good intent) a tight ring around the public trough…. and now to propose to hand out cups ‘o’ the stuff to those they reckon might behave ‘theyselves.’

No thanks.

On my drive home from work the other day I happened to catch a street recording of a British labourite decrying the Tory’s latest run at the British civil service. In a marvelously uncultured and raucous shout the woman was heard to uncouthly opine – “There’s few of them and many of us…we don’t have to stand for this.”