Where’s our “I, Claudius” when we need it?

December 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm | In arts, authenticity, justice, philanthropy, politics | 1 Comment

When I read about art events like this, I can’t help but think of I, Claudius and its relentless chronicle of Rome in decline…

…performance art legend Marina Abramović created a stir when she was accused of exploiting other artists during L.A.’s MOCA gala. Guests at the posh event paid up to $10,000 dollars so they could be seated at one of her tables decorated with centerpieces that included rotating human heads and naked bodies pseudo-copulating with skeletons. Gala guests were allowed to touch the performers and feed them, because the live tabletop pieces signed a non-disclosure agreement and were paid off with a whopping $150 bucks that allowed them to be manhandled as desired. (source)

Who are these $10K-per-plate patrons of the arts who shock and amuse themselves by feeding or otherwise stimulating human centerpieces?

(See also this article about an artist who protested.)

On the erosion of the middle class, see also Rich Shopper, Poor Shopper (PBS Newshour, Making Sen$e) – high end and low end are “doing alright,” but the middle is absent.

The poor artists are renting themselves out for $150 at events where the rich pay $10,000 to support the arts. This is one f-upped world.

Dirty Wall Project: slums and cities

September 24, 2010 at 11:59 pm | In cities, guerilla_politics, housing, ideas, innovation, land_use, local_not_global, philanthropy, street_life, urbanism, victoria | Comments Off

I saw an amazing photograph in the temporary gallery Ryan Kane of the Dirty Wall Project has set up on Fort Street.

The photo is one of many that Kane is selling to raise funds for his venture: it’s a flat, saturated, picture-edge-to-picture-edge frontal view of one small piece of a slum in Saki Naka bordering the rail line. Its complexity makes Where’s Waldo look minimalist.

Monday Magazine published an interview with Kane last month. An excerpt from the introduction:

You’ve heard of guerrilla gardening and guerrilla marketing, but what about guerilla volunteering? The concept to “see a need and fill it” without worrying about paperwork, bureaucracy or religious bias is exactly what 28-year-old Kane Ryan strives to do with his one-person, not-for-profit organization called the Dirty Wall Project. Ryan just recently returned from India where he was working in the slums of Mumbai, organizing health camps, distributing tarps for the monsoon season, funding emergency surgeries and building a school for the children living in the Saki Naka slum community, among other initiatives. All of the money he raises—75 percent of which comes from here in Victoria through fundraising events, private donors and by selling his travel photography—goes directly to the Dirty Wall Project. Ryan pays for his own travel, food and accommodation out of his own pocket by working odd jobs during the months he returns to Victoria. The Dirty Wall Project is proof that one person can indeed make a difference. (source)

If you’re in Victoria, make sure you get to 977A Fort St (formerly Luz Gallery).

I can’t find an online version of the photo that grabbed my attention this afternoon. Here’s a substitute, which hints at the complexity:

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Visit Ryan’s site, or check out his photo book, Dirty Wall Project (on Blurb). See a need and fill it, make a donation.

Could culture marketing go into overdrive?

November 18, 2007 at 6:19 pm | In arts, philanthropy, taxes | Comments Off

This could get tricky or messy or both. CEOs for Cities’ blog entry, To Tax or Not to Tax?, shines a light on the (potential?) problem of non-profit organizations having tax-exempt status. In the US, collectively over 23 cities, non-profits represent ~$1.5b in “lost” tax revenue, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

CEOs for Cities writes:

Universities, hospitals, museums and other nonprofits are generally exempt from taxes, most notably property taxes. These exemptions in 23 cities, according to a survey by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, amount to $1.5 billion.

The biggest exemptions are in NYC, Boston, LA, DC, Houston and Philadelphia. But the biggest impacts are in Denver, Baltimore, San Diego and Memphis.

Most exemptions go to universities and hospitals in exchange for the public good they are expected to provide. But the pressure on city budgets continues to grow, so pressure is increasing on nonprofits to pay something for the city services they require (or for the land they take out of circulation that could yield property tax).

Clearly, not all nonprofits are created equal. Some hospitals, for instance, serve more indigent patients than other hospitals. We may be moving to a time when cities will demand that nonprofits exempt from property taxes account for the value of the public service they actually provide, as well of the cost of public services they use.

The really far-reaching idea is that cities might eventually “demand that nonprofits exempt from property taxes account for the value of the public service they actually provide, as well of the cost of public services they use.”

Obviously, that’s possible to do — to an extent. But it will be a nasty food fight all around when it comes time to determine the dollar amounts of “intangibles” provided by cultural non-profits.

I can just imagine it… “Our art exhibit/ music performance/ theatre piece provides mental stimulation, keeps people off drugs, and saves souls, therefore it’s worth x-amount of dollars,” says the pro-culture camp. The opposition, who don’t want “their” tax money to support the “useless” arts, counters, “Your cultural product drives people crazy, and far from providing a benefit, in fact adds to social costs.”

Well, maybe that’s a bit far-fetched, but trying to pin a price on everything and anything could get absurd pretty quickly. Just look at advertising, which wants us to pay the price (buy the product) — silly claims abound.

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