NEA, Time to Go?

by John Link


A friend who is very close to conservative circles of power tells me ultra-conservatives favor directing government patronage to patriotic realists. While she does not like the liberal faves supported by the NEA over the past 20 years - Pomos and post-Pomos - she is convinced they are at least possible "players" while the favorites of the Neo-Cons don't stand a chance of making any contribution at all to the continuation of serious art. But ultimately she sees little hope for anything genuinely new to emerge from its patronage.

She did not name names. Anybody know who the patriotic realists might be? Do they all live in Texas?

Ultimately this woman makes a very good case for eliminating the NEA. In an environment of evenly matched confrontational politics guiding an agency operating from a history of encouraging silly stuff like Pope L who chained himself to the Chase bank in Manhattan with an 8-foot sausage wearing only a skirt of dollar bills, what can we expect? Four years after that stunt the NEA advisory panel awarded Pope L $42,000 to do a travelling retrospective. Though the grant was later rescinded by the acting chair of the NEA, the Warhol Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and LEF Foundation together gave him $50,000 to fund the travelling retro as their response to what they considered censorship. And Pope L is now a faculty member at the University of Chicago. The NEA doesn't spend much money by US government standards, but it appears to have decayed into a harmful institution with little likelihood of making a positive difference. In short, it is amazingly effective at maintaining the status quo with very few resources, in the case of Pope L, zero resources. While they no longer fund individual artists and have become more cautious about everything else they fund, they stick with the same old same old. Why not stifle the NEA?

August 26, 2012

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