It’s all about the money, money, money

Circus as an art form tends to fall through the gaps when it comes to applying for funding. Is it often lumped in with either theatre or dance, and whilst it can certainly contain aspects of either or both of these genres, it is not characteristic of either. As such, it often doesn’t meet specific criteria when circus companies or independent artists apply for funding for their projects, and as a result they miss out on receiving grants. There has been recent campaigning from circus artists throughout the country to have the main arts funding body in this country, the Australia Council, include a category for circus in their grant offers.

10981695_907388125948755_9018090494632504905_nHowever, in the recent federal budget, the funding for the Australia Council itself was slashed in half, instead having these funds redirected towards a fund overseen and administered by the minister for the arts, Sen. George Brandis, for “excellence”.

The Australia Council was set up by the Whitlam Government as an independent, peer reviewed body which has made possible all manner of artistic projects. Redirecting this money to a fund awarded by a singular politician has the country’s artists horrified for a number of reasons.

Firstly, one of the most appealing aspects about any kind of art is that is can be used to offer a critical viewpoint on society, including politics. The thought of having artists have to shmoose up to a politician in order to receive funding to make their art feels incredibly sleazy to me. Even worse is the ability of that politician to silence any artist who is presenting a critique or a viewpoint that disagrees with that of their party or indeed, them personally, by denying them financial support.

And what then happens when the governing party inevitably changes? Do those artists who were Coles Gig 2013 3personal favourites of the former Minister of the arts lose their favoured status because they were too close to the opposing political position?

Secondly, the minister for the arts may not actually have a very good grasp of what is good art. Playing favourites because of an individual’s personal taste is not a valid way to determine what projects are worthy of receiving funding.

And what is “excellence”, anyway? To me, “excellence” could easily be interpreted as “elitist”. This week, senator Brandis confirmed this suspicion by awarding $1.something million to the Australian Ballet and The Bell Shakespeare company. This is fine for these companies, and I am not by any means disparaging the work that they do. However dance is so much more than just Ballet. Theatre is so much more than just Shakespeare. Music is so much more than just Opera, ect. By limiting financial support to one narrow, and dare I say, safe, conservative aspect of each respective artistic genre, you are strangling innovation and without innovation and creativity, the arts will slowly die. Innovation and creativity and the fundamental principles on which any art form rests. And new works can’t happen overnight. Arts practitioners need time, space, and money to experiment, create, fail and rework and refine their ideas.

A Guide to the Journey of One's Mind 4In addition to this, in the Arts, just like in every other industry, no one starts at the top. A young actor or dancer may start with a small company, or creating independent work. They learn from their peers, refine their technique, gain experience in the industry. They then gain a reputation amongst their peers in the industry and are eventually invited to audition for one of the above mentioned major companies or similar. With the loss of funding, a lot of small to medium companies will have to downsize their operations and may cease to exist altogether. Independent work will become a lot more difficult to create without financial support. And thus less talented people will persist with their creative endeavours to the point where they would be employed by those companies favoured by Senator Brandis. This will effectively kill the “excellence” that he is intending to foster.

Another aspect of this is that there are a wide range of projects that have been funded by the Australia Council that are precluded from “excellence” by the nature of the people that they are working with, such as projects for Indigenous people or those with a disability. One could argue that artistic expression is one of very few avenues that these and other marginalised groups get for expressing themselves , and now this is potentially under threat.

The arts in Australia matter. They should be innovative. They should be inclusive. They should be accessible. And they should be funded.

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A Triple Treat that is Super Sweet!

Today I have three link that I would like to share with you.

Firstly, a link to some articles from a British satire site, covering the topic of working for exposure. The articles explore exposure as now being  legal tender for a variety of artists, thus shedding light on just how ridiculous it is to ask artists to work for such, in the delightfully passive-aggressive snarkiness that the British do so well.

Theres four articles, one for magicians, models, musicians and photographers. Check it out!

http://beezlystreet.com/tag/exposure/

Secondly, I did an interview recently for fellow blogger, Adelaide artist and Extremely Nice Person, Tangerine Meg. Check it out, and while you’re there check out some of her art work. Its gorgeous!

http://tangerinemeg.com/2015/05/15/bold-interview-6-kate-lawrence/#.VVtTt7nz7IX

Thirdly,

I wanted to share a video of a performance I did last week. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRd0lWGohHE

Oh, and another thing…

After my post a fortnight ago on the breakdown of why a performance for a corporate event costs what it does, I sat and had a think and realised that I had more to say on the matter:

Hire a professional to do a professional jobA Guide to the Journey of One's Mind 3

With the number of circus schools around these days, the number of students wanting to enter the world of performing professionally has soared dramatically. Whilst students should absolutely be given the opportunity to perform in public, as everyone has to start somewhere, debuting at a professional corporate gig isn’t appropriate or fair for a student.

Corporate gigs are stressful. They are often booked at short notice and require a great deal of preparedness and adaptability on the part of the performer.  Can you put together an act and accommodate the clients request in as little as 3 weeks? What about less time? Two weeks? One week? Are you familiar with how to rig your apparatus in a variety of settings, or do you have contact details for a professional rigger who can? Do you have a variety of costumes to fit themes or colour schemes? Can you alter you routine in length (longer or shorter) and adapt it to fit a specified music track?

Corporate clients and the event organisers who plan them are also harsh critics and are unforgiving of both mistakes of stage and disorganisation on the part of the performer. These are understandable expectations if booking a professional performer. However many students dive headlong into corporate bookings without being prepared, and as a result of their keenness to book such gigs, not only do they end up undercutting the market, they can damage their reputation for future work and reflect poorly upon their school, teacher and the circus industry in their locale in general.

10414441_907388072615427_3659080253263701629_nQuality Vs Price

Just as you wouldn’t book a mechanic or an electrician or any other professional who quoted significantly lower than their competition, for fear that they’d do a dodgy job, you may want to apply the same discretion to performers. An experienced professional will charge as such.

If a performer quotes you something that is significantly lower than other such performers doing a comparable act, it may be an indication that this person is either a) not a professional performer or b) is new to  the performing scene and has no idea what the market value of their act is or c) both.

Due to the incredibly involved nature of preparing an act for performance, if the individual that you are booking to perform at your event isn’t a professional performer, but someone with a day job, then they simply won’t have time to hone skills, prepare, and polish a performance to the standard of someone who does just that for a living. Thus the overall quality of the performance will be diminished compared to that of a career performer.

With live performances, as with all things, be aware that you get what you pay for.

Don’t assume performers have “day” jobsColes gig 2013 2

In fact, having a day job is a good indication that the person you are hiring isn’t a professional. Some performers, such as me, teach circus to supplement their income, as gigs can be few and far between and we’ve got to eat somehow, however others don’t.

Therefore, the income from a single gig may have to sustain someone for weeks, even months until the next gig comes along. Don’t forget, performers are people too, and have rent and bills to pay, petrol tanks to fill and themselves and often families to feed on this often inconsistent income.

If you have the option of supporting a professional performer vs hiring a hobbyist with a day job, please take this into consideration.

This is also why trying to talk a performer down in price using the line “you do it for the love of it” of any variation thereof of not only ignorant and inaccurate, but it many performers will find that incredibly insulting. As is offering “Exposure” as a substitute for payment. No one has ever satisfactorily managed to explain to me what exactly exposure is in this context, and until it becomes legal tender, I’ll not be accepting it as adequate reimbursement for my professional services.

Net Ginnett 2011 3And another thing to the other thing….

Recently in old’ Adelaide town, there has been an unscrupulous individual using students that may or may not be ready not only mentally, but physically for performing at professional gigs. Not only is he compromising the safety of these students in this manner (although this is nothing new to him, he doesn’t even use crash mats in his classes. Stay tuned for a post of why this is a huge red flag.), but he is paying them a pittance for it, on the basis that they’re students. He is exploiting his students, taking advantage of his clients by selling them a mediocre and often ill prepared student show as a professional one and devaluing the market in Adelaide. Do your research people!

As always, comments are welcome.

Sincerest form of flattery….

I recently had an acquaintance (whose creative work I’ve always admired) pose the following question on Facebook:

Hey circus world: What’s your vote? Do we have an exclusive right to the tricks we invent? Or is it open to all who learn them to perform them? Is there a grace period? Whaddyareckon? All heated opinions welcome. aaaaaand GO!

What followed was an epic and heated debate, with opinions expressed by people from a variety of performance disciplines.

Here’s my take on the issue:

zigzag circus showcase 2014With the advent of online video services such as YouTube and Instagram, It’s become easy for a person to copy a trick from a stranger almost anonymously (the safety aspects of this are the subject of a rant for another time, I promise). However, copying entire acts is not only a dick move and a sad indication of that individuals (lack of) creativity, it is also illegal, as circus acts are classified as intellectual property, and as such have legal protection from being copied.

More common is copying individual tricks. This is where the issue tends to turn a bit grey. Whilst this is not such an issue in circus acts where an act can consist of 10 or more individual tricks, replicating any one trick may not be such an issue. Much more important is that the style and presentation of the performance is individual to that performer, and this is usually something that is developed over time, training and experimenting with moves and transitions.

The exception to this would be if that trick is so unique that that individual performer hangs their entire reputation of it. This is especially the case for acts such as sideshow or magic performances, where a single trick tends to BE the act. In this case, using the trick is tantamount to stealing the act, which as I’ve already discussed, is definitely not on.

An alternate point of view is that people copying from and learning from one another helps the art BAE 2013 (2)form evolve. As one trick becomes replicated, it goes from being unique to that performer to something standard. In order to keep being fresh and unique, performers are then forced to be creative and keep pushing the envelope in terms of technical tricks and/or creative presentation of said tricks in order to keep being seen as unique. And thus the art form grows.

A great example of this would be the Cyr wheel. The creation of an individual, Daniel Cyr, he spent time training and developing the technique and then taught it to others. Those people then further trained and developed and built upon what they had learned, before passing their skills to others. In this way the apparatus goes from being something unique to an individual, to something that is commonplace (some would argue far too common).

So how do we deal with this?

In the circus world, we all learn from each other. None of us exist in a vacuum. Whilst there are those who will happily share anything and everything that they know, such as me, others can understandably feel a sense of entitlement over a trick, sequence or even apparatus if it’s something that they have spent blood, sweat and tears creating.

BAE 2013So here are some rules of thumb to live by:

-If you have been taught a trick by someone and they specifically ask you not to teach it to anyone else for whatever reason (perhaps it’s the finale trick of an act that they are currently performing, or perhaps they invented it and feel a great deal of ownership over it), its only respectful to them as artists to abide by this request.

-If you see a trick that you haven’t seen before, whether it be on YouTube or in a show or in your training space, and you like it and want to try it, ask permission. It may be “public domain” and the artist doesn’t mind you using it, or they may tell you that they’d rather you didn’t. If this be the case, thank them and respect their wishes. Don’t act offended or try the move behind their back.

-Physical ability is far more common and easier to develop than physical creativity. Just because you CAN do a unique move that you’ve seen, it doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to do it.

-If you invent something in my class, it doesn’t automatically entitle me to use it for teaching to other students or to use in my acts. (Ok I’ll admit I’ve been bad at this one in the past. I promise I’ll lift my game in the future.)

As always, I value feedback. Hopefully it’s not as epic as the similar discussion on Facebook