Philistines, Pharisees & Art in English Culture
Harry Hillman Chartrand
Some Canadians look out to the world: hearing two official languages; living under two distinct 'codes' of civil law; perched on an ever-widening multicultural and regional mosaic; underpinned by a deepening Amerindian new world oneness of people and biosphere; and, working in a welfare state market economy in which all persons and property are subject to the Crown; what Robertson Davies calls a socialist monarchy like Sweden.
Canadian Robert MacNeil's The Story of English records the linguistic root of English-speaking culture including Australia, Canada, the Indian sub-continent, New Zealand; the United Kingdom, the United States; the West Indies and much of Africa. It is the British Commonwealth plus the United States and South Africa. As McNeil shows, English has become the lingua franca of world business, science, technology and tourism.
As a Canadian cultural economist, I am concerned with another English cultural commonality - one not shared with other societies: continuing debate concerning the role of publicly-funded arts councils operating at arm's length from political interference. The arm's length arts council is a unique English cultural artifact. Over the last decade, it has also become increasingly controversial.
The Arts Council of Great Britain, the oldest national arts council, was created in 1945. It has been recently regionalized. The Australia Council has been displaced by direct government grants to the Sydney Opera. The Canada Council is financially frozen in a 15 year battle with government over political and administrative differences. The National Endowment for the Arts, born in controversy, continually hovers on the eve of destruction.
At the provincial or state level, the Saskatchewan Arts Board barely survived premature public announcement of its demise. Lucrative lottery funding for the Manitoba and Ontario Arts Councils have effectively been capped. The Massachusetts Arts Council has been slashed and savaged. The California Arts Council survives in spite of years of controversy. At the local level, the story is similar, with some notable exceptions.
But Canada is also a member of Francophonie, the French equivalent of the British Commonwealth. In French culture conflict between Art and the State appears resolved. The State pays very well. Culture (including language and Art) is part of an integrated national defence. There is no arm's length between Art and the State. Cultural life of a nation is too important to be left to artists.
It should not be surprising, therefore, that Quebec has given English Canada a new policy lexicon including terms such as "cultural sovereignty", "cultural industries" and "the language police". It is also not surprising that the best cultural statistics come from France and Quebec. This "dirigist" attitude, however, has eroded artistic support for a separatist government in Quebec. Another factor has been the Canada Council's refusal to enforce a federal government `blacklist' of Quebec separatists during the 1970s.
Multicultural experience does not help. In Japan, for example, department stores and insurance companies define the relationship of Art and the State as a private yet national honour. In Balinese tradition, there is no word for Art. Judaic and Islamic tradition prohibits graven images. Communism requires public ownership of all artistic means of production.
Amerindian culture also offers limited insight. Concepts like native copyright have not been embodied in statutes and they are based on an alien collectivist understanding of creation. To tribal peoples, a song, story or icon does not belong to an individual but to the collective. Rights may be exercised by one individual in each generation often through matrilineal descent. There is, however, a proposal before the American Congress to convert Amerindian Art into `inalienable communal property'.
To understand the English debate about Art and the State, consider:
To some, Art is the secular church of creativity. Within, the Mysteries are still performed: creativity flowers into expression. Given this contemporary backdrop, it is not surprising that traditional English debate about the proper relationship between Art and the State is contested by Philistines and Pharisees, each claiming to be `Realists'. It is also not surprising the debate transcends traditional categories of Left and Right.
It is the religious fundamentalist who has traditionally been typecast as the Philistine Protestant, charismatic Catholic or Orthodox. Religious Realists object to Art demeaning deeply felt religious values. Thus at the beginning of the Piss Christ and Maplethorpe controversy, Pat Buchanan on CNN's Crossfire asked: "What would be the response if a Star of David, not a Crucifix, was in that urine jar? As a Catholic, should I expect less?" The Rushdie Affair has demonstrated, however, that Christianity has no monopoly on self-righteous indignation. Further, Religious Realists are only one Philistine clan.
A second is the Capitalist Realists who preach: If it don't pay, kill it! They believe alleged psycho-socio-spiritual benefits of public support to money-losing Art is welfare for the elite, something deficit-ridden government and tax-burdened citizens cannot afford.
Capitalist Realists do, however, appreciate the potential of Art as investment. They know Art provided the highest rate of return of any capital asset in the USA between 1969 and 1989. They have faith in capital cost allowances and special tax treatment for the entertainment industry which is, after defence, the largest US exporter.
The third Philistine clan is the Socialist Realists who believe: Artistic excellence is code for oppression. For Socialist Realists, public support should counter sexual, racial, ethnic and other stereotyping propagated by capitalist, white, Western European, heterosexual males through their control of the commercial media
Two examples illustrate the power of Socialist Realism. First, the largest free trade agreement in history, that between Canada and the United States, almost collapsed due to the efforts of ultra-nationalists within the Canadian arts community. They cast passage of the agreement into an issue of survival for Canadian cultural sovereignty.
Second, Actors Equity insisted an Asian American play the Eurasian leading role in the Broadway production of the West End London smash hit, Miss Saigon. Under pressure from its membership and threatened with cancellation of the most expensive Broadway musical production in history, Equity recanted its arbitrary affirmative action.
Collectively Philistines share a common belief: Art is to be subsumed in pursuit of other values such as profit, godliness and affirmative action. Art-for-art's-sake becomes either a liberal-left plot to promote sin, or right-wing code for exploitation of the underclass.
Opposing the Philistine is the Pharisee who believes: Truth is beauty, that is all you need to know, give us the money and go away! With the best of intentions, Pharisees have adopted attitudes and taken actions that now threaten public support for Art in English culture.
There are three clans of Pharisees. The first is the Hermetic Realists who create the nearly perfect worlds of artistic experience. They are the artists and their artificers. Many belong to craft guilds deeply rooted in English cultural history. While only some are admitted to the Inner Sanctum, all know of the Green Room and its rituals. Generally speaking, Hermetics just want to get on with Art.
The second clan is the Egalitarian Realists. For more than 100 years, the imago of the alienated artist has engaged and enraged the populist mind. But the 'Garrett and Gulag' theory that economic and political oppression fuels production of great Art is a romantic myth of our time, Michelangelo did not starve nor was he tortured. Some cynics have gone so far, however, as to suggest that the modern middle class wants its artists poor as paupers and mad as bedbugs.
In the process of alienation, a new aesthetic was born; an aesthetic of political protest - Art as social comment. In keeping with this aesthetic, Art does not want corporate patronage because it corrupts. Big `P' political interference is rejected as fascist. Since the Vietnam War, cum George Gilder's Wealth and Poverty, another set of sympathizers joined the chorus: middle-class, university-trained arts administrators, culturcrats and lobbyists.
Egalitarian Realists accept as natural, the expression of `protest art'. To the extreme Left, this becomes the aesthetic version of urban terrorism of the 1960s. Acts of terrorism, e.g. Piss Christ, are intended to force the police to crack down demonstrating that the system is fascist, followed by revolution. In Australia, paintings have in fact been stolen and held for political ransom. Egalitarian Realism is, nonetheless, an authentic aesthetic. It articulates principles of good taste and beauty: Egalitarian is Beautiful!
Unfortunately, Egalitarians (including most officers of arts councils) seldom if ever, appear on popular media like Canada AM or Good Morning America. No effort is made to educate the ignorant, to enlighten the lumpen proletariat or to inform citizens about the full spectrum of contemporary aesthetics - from concrete and free form poetry to minimalist and impressionist painting to all the myriad schools, styles and forms of contemporary art.
No effort is made to explain that `bent metal sculpture' is an aesthetic statement: We live in a construction site society. The public is not informed that conceptual painting has become, in the words of Tom Wolfe, The Painted Word. Without education or information, it is not surprising that the general public views much contemporary Art as shameful, shocking or trash.
The third Pharisee clan is the Illuminated Realists, the true patrons and ultimate consumers of High Art. They are privileged to serve Art including pressing for more public support. Through cultivated sensitivity, they appreciate the subtle sophistication of Art. They know; they become cognoscenti.
On arts boards, they exercise temporary suspension of disbelief about tasks such as budgeting, evaluation and planning that, in daily, business life, would consume their attention. They go `gag-gag' for Art and quickly develop turfitis. Even hard-nosed political appointees to arts councils quickly place Art before past. political obligation: We don't take orders from government, we are the arts council!
In politics, when Illuminated Realists win public office, they develop an Edifice Complex and a passion for good sightlines, acoustics and all the amenities that make great Art. This fixation often fails, however, to account for increased operating costs of new venues.
While much public attention has focused on the intolerance and insensitivity of Philistines, Pharisees are also guilty of sin. Beyond failure to educate the public, two problems make arm's length arts councils easy targets for Philistine attack: internal warfare and refusal to admit empirical evidence.
Anyone who has suffered through the budget process of an arts council knows: They eat their own. Declining budgets have fostered increasing inter-disciplinary warfare. In the performing arts, music has suffered near collapse because of a subscription audience which is aging and dying off: Audience growth for dance, soaring in the early 80s, has faltered. Theatre maintains box office and audience growth, while the literary, media and visual arts grow dramatically in form and venue. But they all must fight for a larger slice of an arts council pie that is not growing. In a sector in which the expression of raw emotion is encouraged, battle is passionate, and too often self-serving
An outcome of inter-disciplinary war is fear of facts. Former NEA Chairperson, Nancy Hanks selected computer systems that would not work to ensure Congress would learn no facts about NEA grants and ask no embarrassing questions. The Arts Council of Great Britain refused for years to release statistical breakdowns of support to Art in London versus the provinces. In Canada, a minister of the Trudeau government said to the press that it was easier to find out national defence secrets than how many Canada Council grants were awarded in his riding.
Before Piss Christ and homoerotica caught the attention of Capitol Hill, former Chairmen of the NEA, Frank Hodsoll was savaged by an arts community trying to avoid public accountability. Mr Hodsoll, to his credit, implemented an information system (partially in response to Congressional demand for an annual State of the Arts report) permitting empirical testing of the relationship between peer-assessed excellence and NEA funding.
The Pharisees believed Hodsoll was trying to replace peer review by formula funding. He was not. In effect, he argued: We agree the NEA supports excellence. We agree financial support, as a percent of client expenditure, should reflect assessed excellence. But the numbers contradict our principles. Why? Is there an explanation? Should something be done?
Nonetheless, Congress, at the behest of the Pharisees, ordered Hodsoll to cease and desist. He subsequently left office. Since that time, Congress has learned that it had been hoodwinked. The credibility of an arts community that cries wolf too often has accordingly suffered.
During my term at the Canada Council, the grant application for government funding was an exhaustive collection, compilation and analysis of empirical evidence concerning Art in Canada. It served as an initial model for American efforts to develop an effective annual State of the Arts report.
On only one occasion in eight years was this budget document submitted to the Board. When it was, all hell broke loose. Data wars exploded between disciplines. The intensity of battle partially reflected the traditional revolving door between arts councils and disciplinary communities.
Within an arts council, the loyalty of disciplinary heads or directors (nick-named Member of Parliament for Dance, Theatre, etc. at the Canada Council) is generally to the disciplinary communities from which they come, and to which they return. The English test of Throneworthiness operates: deliver the spoils to one's own tribe. To my knowledge, arts councils are the only publicly-funded institution which still actively encourages unimpeded rotation of senior personnel between public and private practice.
In such an environment, data permitting inter-disciplinary comparison are often ruled inadmissible, irrelevant or false. In fact, the Canada Council has publicly stated that statistical evidence is not helpful in assessment, budget or evaluation activities. After conducting a 'comprehensive' or ualue-for-money audit in 1985, the Auditor General of Canada (equivalent to the US General Accounting Office) responded by saying: "This statement does not reflect reality."
Empirical evidence is necessary but not sufficient for arts council accountability and decision-making. For example, more spectators are supported - dollar-for-dollar through grants to classical than to modern electronic music. This is necessary and essential information. It is not, however, sufficient. Given the need to invest in modern forms if future generations are to benefit, a judgment about the present and the future must be made. However, it should be made in light of the facts - informed intuition, not seat-of-the-pants logic.
Art is not, of course, the only sector fearing facts. What we don't know, won't hurt us is firmly entrenched in all bureaucracies - private and public. No one wants to admit that every bureaucracy, from time to time, buys a $500 toilet seat.
But we live in a society in which "If you aren't counted, you don't count". Controversy concerning the 1990 US Census highlights how being counted can be directly related to dollars. Failure, for political or other reasons, to develop statistical and other empirical evidence means Art is seen as a "frill".
public funds are to be distributed at arm's
length from political influence (as I believe they
should), then the price must be
public scrutiny. This requires, however, a new
corporate culture for arts councils including
exhaustive, publicly available financial
management profiles of the jury system
documenting: who, how often, how much, where
and when; cost per jury and juror by sex, region
and language; and correlations between serving
as a juror and receiving grants. Peer evaluation
shield of credibility
for arts councils.
Justice must not
only be done, it must be seen to be done, by
everyone. But, as William Safire suggests, the
arts community seems to prefer fiery Viking
funerals to the compromises necessary for
Two deep-rooted biases in English-speaking culture contribute to the heated debate about the proper relationship between Art and the State. The first concerns politics; the second, education.
From the beginning of Western civilization, the relationship between Art and the State has occupied the minds of philosophers, statesmen and dictators. Plato and Aristotle were convinced that Art, unguided by censorship and control, would destroy the State. Fear of the potential of art-for-art's sake continued through the Middle Ages. In Umberto Eco's medieval tale, The Name of the Rose, it was Brother Jorge's fear of the power of comedy to endanger the authority of the Church that feeds a tale of murder and causes the destruction of a great library - the collected enlightenment of an age - by the fires of censorship.
Through to the modern age, the State has generally exercised careful, considered control over Art. Louis XIV used Art to glorify himself and his alter ego, the French State. In Nazi Germany, all modern means of artistic expression - from radio and television to the motion picture - were harnessed in the service of a cause so evil that colour film of the Nuremburg Rallies has never been released to the public by the American Government, which holds negatives and positives in protective custody. What in scratchy black and white is ancient history is, to the modern eye, a symbol of the power of Art to serve evil in living colour. Art is not summum bonum, any more than physics.
In Western Europe today, the State is still the architect of cultural life, treating art like other social responsibilities of government such as health, education and welfare. In Eastern Europe and the Communist Bloc, until recently Socialist Realism defined the relationship between Art and the State socialist in content and realist in form - all else was counter-revolutionary and offending artists were class criminals. In fact, only English-speaking countries separate Art from the influence of the State. Why?
It was because of Cromwell and the Puritans who excised art and music, laughter and gaiety during the English Civil War of the mid-1600s. Black and white was all that God would tolerate in His Commonwealth - this land England. With restoration of the Monarchy, however,. Art took savage revenge with a hedonism and pleasure-seeking unparalleled in the history of English Art Tom Jones, Fanny Hill and Restoration plays are but examples.
The scar left by the power of Art, first controlled and then unleashed, helps explain English ambivalence towards Art. Furthermore, until the Republican Revolutions of the late 18th century, English-speaking countries were the only ones in which the Commons controlled public spending. And the Commons were simply unwilling to support `aristocratic indulgences such as Art.
The only exception was art lotteries. The first collections of the British Museum were funded through a lottery approved by Parliament in 1753. Modern use of lotteries to support Art, beginning in the 1970s, is not therefore without precedent.
Thus between the 1640s and the Second World War, the official policy of public support to Art in all English countries, including the United States, was no support. At the end of World War II, the English world was faced with clear evidence of the power of Art in the hands of Hitler and Stalin. This led to modification of the traditional hands-off policy by creating a unique English compromise: the arm's length arts council - funded by, but independent of, the State.
The United States exercised this compromise in two ways. First, in response to cultural penetration of Latin America by the Nazi propaganda machine, the United States Information Agency was created during World War II to propagate American culture abroad, but not at home. Second, in 1965 the NEA was created. Nonetheless, public funding of Art at arm's length from political influence is a very fragile flower with unique and very recent English cultural roots.
With the exception of music and literature, Art was never part of the ancient or medieval liberal arts curriculum. It was only in the Renaissance that the Fine Arts Academy emerged as a centre for visual arts education. In theatre and dance, there was no formal university training in the English-speaking world until the 20th century. The independent status of the music conservatory also serves as evidence of the separate institutional pattern of learning pursued by Art. Unlike Science, the role of the university in Art is historically recent and small.
English culture has in fact never been comfortable with art education. The importance of Art was only recognized in the United Kingdom in 1836 with establishment of the first school of design at South Kensington. Until 1814, the Statute of Artificers regulated training and employment in the craft guild tradition. In that year, responding to the deregulatory or laissez-faire temper of the time, Parliament abolished the Statute. In short order, the guild system collapsed; the labour market became flooded with unskilled workers. By 1835 the quality of British production, particularly textiles, had declined to the point that the British Board of Trade appointed a Select Committee to investigate. The Committee called for the marriage of Art and Industry to maintain British competitiveness with European rivals.
Similarly, in 1870, Massachusetts became the first American state to make art education a requirement in the public schools through passage of the Drawing Act. The Act resulted from pressure from Boston manufacturers who argued that European students were trained in design and drawing and therefore American manufacturers suffered a competitive disadvantage. Within two decades, the same argument served to introduce art education in Canadian schools.
During this period, the most eminent economist, Alfred Lord Marshall, explicitly recognized the importance of Art to economic life when he wrote: "it is every day more true that it is the pattern which sells the thing". But even Marshall questioned the moral effects of art education. In the next generation, economist Lord Keynes was instrumental in founding the first arm's length national arts council - the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1945. To Keynes, however, it was aesthetic, not utilitarian value that made Art important.
Since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the contribution of art education to national income has, in effect, been forgotten in English culture. Amnesia resulted partially from the triumph of the Pestolozzian tradition in arts education - creativity and expression - which displaced the economic rationale. Success of this upper class concept also reflected the impact of the arts for art's sake movement which in the mid-19th century began to withdraw Art from the de-humanizing impact of the Industrial Revolution.
Internal warfare so characteristic of arts councils is also visible in arts education. There is a legitimacy hierarchy in which the arts community looks down on the universities which look down on high schools which look down on public schools. There does exists, however, a gap between graduation from university fine arts programs and professionalism in Art. University programs are high in theory but low in practical experience. Art is an experiential form of learning, i.e. one learns by doing. It is for this reason that special professional schools have been erected in virtually all disciplines, even at the high school level.
Similarly, a Philistine/Pharisee debate also exists in the schools. Graphic and `applied' art programs are considered Philistine by fine art Pharisees who envy the resources of the applied programs. In turn, a conflict exists between appreciation, in the widest sense including general education or culture, and the practice of Art. It is here that the question of artists-in-the-schools also arises: Are artists the best teachers, or are professional art teachers the best educators?
Cultural tension between Philistines and Pharisees concerning the proper relationship between Art and the State also afflicts English economies. Real salaries and wages in the United States, allowing for inflation, have not increased since the early 1970s. Trade deficits have stabilized at high levels not seen in a century. This in spite of a 40% devaluation of the American dollar since 1985 and rapid de-unionization of the work force. The dollar remains low; interest rates remain high. But employment is relatively stable because consumers buy increasing quantities of better made and better-designed foreign products in preference to goods Made in America.
Whether one accepts the conspiracy or blunder theory of history, as Bob Dylan, bard of the '60s cultural revolution sang: Something is going on here, and you don't know what it is, do you Mr Jones! What is going on is partially the result of traditional segregation of Art from industry and education in English culture. Art is forgotten as a factor in national defence and competitiveness. English economies have once more slipped behind in international competition, this time with Japan and Europe.
Effective policy - private or public depends on correct definition. There are in fact four distinct parts of contemporary Art. Each functions with differing motivations, but all are intimately interrelated. Unfortunately, English cultural policy accounts for one or two forms and then treats even these as separate, unrelated sectors.
The amateur arts are motivated by self-actualization and self-realization, including one's own cultural heritage. Fine art is motivated by "art-for-art's-sake" like pure scientific research is motivated by "knowledge-for-knowledge's-sake". The commercial arts or entertainment industry are motivated by profit and live or die at the cash register.
The applied arts including advertising, architecture, the crafts, jewelry and fashion are motivated by the challenge to marry aesthetic value to utilitarian function. From buildings to urban planning; from product design to effective advertising; from corporate `imaging' to designer fashion: the applied arts have the most pervasive, important and underestimated economic implications of all forms of Art.
All four forms are intimately interrelated. The amateur arts provide initial training for future creators and audiences: Art is an acquired taste. Similarly, the fine arts provide R&D. If there is applause, the product enters the commercial arts which provide mass distribution for the best amateur and fine arts. Finally, the applied arts draw inspiration from other forms and directly affect the aesthetic quality of daily life of the citizen consumer.
In most cultures, Art or cultural policy deals with the aesthetic quality of day-to-day life as well as fine and commercial art. In English societies, however, arts policy is generally restricted to the fine arts while a separate and distinct industrial policy applies to the commercial arts. Yet other set of uncoordinated policies govern museums and heritage. Multicultural fissioning of English societies is, however, disrupting this comfortable policy profile as aboriginal and heritage language and culture of recent immigrant communities grow in electoral importance.
Artistic capital, particularly repertoire such as scripts and scores, is unlike capital in any other sector of the economy. In Science, knowledge depreciates through time, e.g. Newton knew less than Einstein. In Art, however, knowledge can appreciate. King Tut, Shakespeare and Bach still speak, still sell. Film libraries have become billion dollar assets in giant media takeovers like the recent acquisition of Columbia Pictures by the Sony Corporation. Thus maintenance of classical repertoire, art forms and works of art provides inspiration and standards against which contemporary Art can be judged.
Associated with artistic capital is copyright. After defence, entertainment programming is the largest export of the United States. Such exports, however, are possible only through enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Intellectual property rights are the legal foundation for the industrial organization of Art and Science. But legal systems are also the product of specific cultures. For example, in French-speaking and Western European countries, droits d'auteur or author's rights are the core of what in English-speaking countries is called copyright. Such rights are rooted in the Republican Revolution of the late 18th century, and the Rights of Man Movement. In the Communist Bloc, the situation is similar yet different. While moral rights of the creator are recognized through one-time awards, all subsequent rights revert to the State.
Moral rights are not, however, the root of copyright in English society. Rather, in the 15th century with introduction of the printing press, Tudor monarchs began to grant to approved printers the right to copy approved works, i.e. copyright. Thus, the root of copyright is censorship and feudal grant of commercial privilege. These residuals of feudal law did not vanish with the advent of democracy. On the contrary, they survived in attenuated form to plague democratic law and government. Obsolete in practice, they still influence the spirit of the law.
An extreme example will illustrate the role of copyright. Consider a literary work which becomes a play through the licence or sale of copyright. In turn, the play becomes a film which, in turn, is spun-off into posters, toys and a soundtrack. Both the film and soundtrack are broadcast on radio and television. Eventually a book is made concerning the making of the movie, and a sequel of the movie is then produced. Even museums and archives are related to copyright in that most artifacts and documents, contained are within the public domain, i.e. copyright has lapsed through time. However, Heritage Design Rights (HDRs) for the reproduction of moldings and vernaculars of heritage buildings and sites may in future provide a new revenue source for historical preservation and conservation.
Nonetheless, it is through exploitation of revenue streams implicit in copyright that commercialization of Art has become possible. It is upon this income that Hollywood has grown into a global force while Stanislas and His Tractor do not sell anywhere in the world, even in the Soviet Union.
There are two distinct arts-related employment populations. Together they make up 4 to 5% of the Canadian labour force, as large as primary agriculture.
The first is the arts labour force including workers who use arts-related skills in day-to-day jobs such as artists and their artificers including curators, librarians and camerapersons. Between 1981 and 1986, the arts labour force increased 14% compared to 6% for the total Canadian labour force.
The second group is the arts industry labour force made up of workers employed in industries like advertising, publishing, motion pictures, live staged events, fine arts schools, libraries, etc. Between 1971 and 1981, the arts industry labour force increased 58% compared to 39% for the total economy. The arts industry was also a larger employer than any manufacturing industry.
Only 35% of the arts labour force is employed in the arts industry. The rest work in other parts of the economy, e.g. product designers in manufacturing, illustrating artists in financial services and copywriters in retail trade. Thus applied arts occupations are similar to scientific and technical professions, i.e. arts-related skills are used throughout the economy.
In addition, Art is the most unionized sector after public service. It is not unusual for a performing artist to hold four or five union cards. Unlike other sectors, artists sign contracts with employers based on minimum payment permitting individual bargaining for those with Star status. Art is also the only sector of the English economy to maintain continuity in craftsmanship because of guild-like apprenticeship and master class training.
Historically, Art has always been at the leading edge of technological change, e.g. from calligraphy and printing to sound and video recording. Unions and guilds have always played a significant role in mitigating artistic job displacement due to technological change.
Even in terms of physical technology, Art is a major consumer durable asset. After buying a house and car; after paying for the children's education (assuming one has children), the most expensive purchase made by a consumer is the Home Entertainment Centre (HEC) - TV, VCR, CD, DAT (almost all made in Japan or Europe) and the increasingly ubiquitous PC and associated software.
But there is another side to technology and Art. Just as the physical sciences are the source of physical technology and the social and management sciences are the source of organizational technology, Art is the source of what can be called design technology, or in French, la technologie conceptuelle.
The contribution of design is Elegance, a term also used in mathematics, the physical sciences and economics. It expresses Occam's Razor, a guiding principle of the scientific method: fewest assumptions for the maximum explanation. Elegance also means "ingeniously simple and effective" or "more for less."
Aesthetic design is different from technical or functional design such as a more efficient automobile engine. Its impact on consumer behaviour involves what has been called "the best looking thing that works". If a consumer does not like the way a product looks, he or she may not even try it. Unfortunately, in English-language cultures, the term Design has been co-opted by the engineers
Art research does not, however, take, place in the university. It takes place in the professional nonprofit arts. This dislocation from the university has contributed to a failure to appreciate the R&D role of the nonprofit fine arts. Further, research in Science generates technology of the head while Art research generates technology of the heart. The word technology itself is derived from the Greek tekhne meaning Art and logos meaning reason, i.e. reasoned art.
Beyond product design, Art also plays a crucial role in contemporary advertising. It is generally forgotten that within the ecology of capitalist realism, advertising is the lubricant of the market economy. And advertising, to a great extent, is application of the literary, media, performing and visual arts to sell goods and services. Actors, dancers, singers, musicians, graphic artists, copywriters, and editors are employed to sell everything from fruit to nuts; from cars to computers, from beer to toilet paper. In fact, more artists are employed through corporate advertising than corporate giving to nonprofit Art.
When the design advantage of Europe and Japan is combined with the wage advantage of the Third World, then English language producers are left with a narrowing mid-range market. This combination of design and wage disadvantages partially explain de-industrialization of English-language societies. Improved productivity through robotics and new technology may lower costs of production, but only improved design will secure for English-language economies a share of the growing up-scale `Yuppie' marketplace.
English moral bias against Art combined with artistic alienation has led business and political leaders in English societies to lose sight of Art as a factor in national defence and key ingredient in competitiveness. They do not see nonprofit Art as the `research & development' sector for the commercial and applied arts. They do not see nonprofit Art as R&D because performing companies, visual and media art galleries and literati publishing houses are not generally associated with the traditional centre for research in English culture - the university. They do not see that the entertainment industry is, in fact, the only major American industry that spends nothing on R&D. It relies 100% on the nonprofit sector, supported by government, to provide new product, talent and technique. They forget that after defence products, Art as entertainment programming is the largest manufactured export of the United States.
In the motion picture biography of Edison starring Spencer Tracy, the electric lights of New York City are to be switched on for the first time. But the 2 dynamos powering the system go out-of-synch. The building nearly falls down and the great attempt almost fails. But then, with a governor, Edison links the two together and balances their output. The problem is similar with the contemporary English-language economy. The emerging information-rich, postmodern global economy is driven by twin turbines: Art and Science. But in English cultures, these engines of prosperity are wildly out-of-synch and balanced economic growth has proven unattainable for a generation.
If English economies are to revive, then this cloud of unknowing must be lifted. Unproductive debate must be tempered by true realism. But too often sympathetic openings by Philistines go unnoticed, unappreciated and unexploited by the Pharisees. Such was the case with a recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Economic Development and Prospects of Canada:
There is, then, another aspect to culture, namely good taste, good design and creative innovation, that should enable smaller industrial economies to compete effectively in the world economy... In this endeavour, higher quality implies an organic relationship between business and engineering, on the one hand, and design and craftsmanship on the other... High quality products, technologies, plants, homes, cities and locales require the long-run presence of creative artists of all kinds. To increase the long-run supply of artists... governments must support... the arts. The long-term return from investment... is real and substantial. In the absence of strong public support of this sector, Canada will not reap these benefits. Governments at all levels should increase their contribution to their respective arts councils (Royal Commission 1985, Vol. 11, pp. 115-116).
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