Dear Arts Community of South Africa
So there are 11 days and counting down until the deadline for VATT (Visual Arts Task Team) nominations to be submitted to the DAC.
PM is officially so bored, by the passage of play that has brought us to this point, that if this was a rugby game, PM would have changed channels and watched golf. For the record PM believes that watching golf causes cancer.
So lets recap; there is this report, commissioned by the DAC (Death of Arts and Culture) to check the pulse of the Visual Arts Sector , compiled maybe 2 years ago. Who is the main peep working on this report- Joseph Gaylard (Director of VANSA Gauteng). All sound good on paper so far (kinda).
PM remembers the questions asked in the research process for this report, and to be frank PM laughed so hard that Earl Grey came out PM’s nose (not a pretty sight by all accounts). They had clearly been written by somebody or bodies, with little in-depth experience working within any aspect of the sector. I suppose you would call these persons well-meaning outsiders doing their best, fair enough somebody had to do it, might as well be VANSA.
FACT – The content of a report, especially of this nature, is only as sophisticated as the questions asked during the research process.
If it was not for Aunty Panga’s pep talks which go a bit like this “if you don’t participate and take a position you are apathetic, and apathy makes you fat “PM would have ignored these questionnaires cause they take up a shit load of time, and Jeez there have been a crap load of them over the last few years. NLB, something-or-other research council, are the ones that come to mind. They have all been so vague and similar, totally interchangeable really.
Okay back to the point. We have this report the DAC commissioned and sat on for two years. A week before they announce the new Venice Biennale “PM slaps PM’s forehead in frustration” procedures, and after weeks, and weeks, and years, of the parliamentary monitoring committee trying to get answers about all the (let’s be frank) stolen DAC money. There is this Indum(a)ba.
So poorly communicated to the national “stakeholders” you would think the DAC was a vampire , terrified of being in a room with anyone holding a stake. So the indumba can only be viewed as an attempt to deflect from the real issue of mismanagement on every level.
So Dominic Thorburn writes a concerned letter. South Africa Art Times gives itself a wedgie calling for a boycott – the irony – call for a boycott when the problem with the Indumba is that nobody was going to attend anyway. Kirsty Cockerill writes a letter – Curtly. Putting. Foot. Down. Artthrob does, what Artthrob does, what Arttrob does. The indumba happens. Louise Van Der Bijls writes a letter requesting, with painful sincerity, that everyone hold hands and participate. The deadline for VATT nominations is extended. VANSA writes a statement saying lets all play nice and work together – the DAC are our friendsssss.
What channel is the golf on again?
For the record PM wants to congratulate Dominic, Kirsty and Louise, cause fuck-in-a-bucket, there is little PM loves more than a letter writer- no matter their shape, size or position. It takes metaphorical balls to take a position publicly and make a note when something is unacceptable or fabulous. PM writes letters all the time. PM wrote a letter to Nestle complaining about their ridiculous decision to remove artificial colorants from Smarties. If you think PM is joking, you would be wrong. Does letter writing change anything? Generally not, but that is no reason not to do it.
So we come back to the beginning, 11 days and counting down and PM has some questions. Yes, it’s fabulous let’s nominate up a storm, but who will be selecting from these nominations? Who will be selecting the individuals who will make up VATT?
The minister of the DAC – Crises! Let’s drink the tears of underprivileged children ! What does VANSA say about this? Nothing. Should VANSA not be selecting the VATT members from the nominations? No. Why?
Can VANSA which has developed a reputation for complicity on certain (lobbying) issues be trusted to select people who it might find obstructionist to its vision? Don’t get PM wrong, PM has supported VANSA publicly on many occasions even when they were understandably being called gatkruipers over their handling of the Venice Biennale situation. Why did PM support them then? Because without DAC policy regarding international exhibitions, VANSA was quite correct to say that what DAC did was problematic (PM prefers the term bullshit) but the DAC had not undermined any DAC policy or procedures.
What VANSA did not say, was that , the DAC had acted corruptly .Under SA law any contract for any job, VB included, over a certain amount has to be “put out to tender” AKA made public for people to bid on the job. So VANSA focusing on getting policy made decided to keep the DAC a friend and let the Parliamentary monitor committee, and in this case the DA shadow minister for DAC, and Matthew Blackman, fight the good “you cheating- stealing- bastards fight”. PM understood the VANSA strategy.
PM acknowledges that the art sector needs a VANSA, but can VANSA be trusted to choose people who might make alternative recommendations? Because lets face it, with policy, we get procedures, and with procedures we get positions, and when there are positions, there is power, and when there is power, there is money and with that, everyone including VANSA wants a slice.
In an ideal world should VANSA not be the VATT already?
But hey what does it matter, the DAC minister (that would be you Paul – in case you have forgotten) is going to select the VATT. Maybe PM is just being picky and should swallow the kak being shovelled into PM’s cake hole and embrace any potential chance to move forward, AKA do a Louise on the house.
So what would be the best way to select the VATT members?
A Lottery, pick the nominations out of a hat? A lottery does seem the most ethical, if absolutely counter productive in terms of quality control. Anyway everyone should nominate up a storm cause the more you play the higher your chances of winning, right? Right! Tata Ma Chance, Tata Ma Millions.
Let’s fast forward to after VATT is “elected/selected “. Louise -dear , do you for one blessed naïve moment really believe that VATT will be able to hold the DAC to task over mismanagement, theft and corruption, and at the same time make policy that will make it harder for the DAC to act in a corrupt way? and while VATT is at it, make policy that will benefit the arts community ?
Do you really think VATT will succeed in doing what VANSA has failed to do? What the parliamentary monitoring committee has failed to do? What opposition politicians have failed to do? What the media has failed to do? Jeez-Louise PM loves the letter but PM is with Oscar Wilde on this one, “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”
So Panga People this situation is all messed up, and there is no clear ethical way out of it. What PM is suggesting is that everyone writes letters and nominates. Cause if you believe the person you are nominating has the savvy, experience and humility to serve on VATT. Put them forward – fuck it! -there is nothing to lose.
If you don’t , you know who will be the VATT? Cut the list of speakers/panelists at the DAC Indumba and paste them under the heading VATT. You know that list of speakers and panelists? The ones that mostly come from Gauteng, the ones that don’t represent the national arts community, which are not the best of the bunch ? Them. Nominate and hold fingers something good comes from this cluster-fuck-up , it will make Aunty Panga happy that you have taken a position and particpated.
But nominate realising that the track record suggests nothing will change, let alone happen, and regardless of your nominations, PM will be very very surprised if the VATT turns out to be made up of anyone not on the list of speakers/panelists anyway.
And seriously what channel is the golf on?
Aunty P says PM is being very grumpy, and has just presented PM with a happy making cheesecake. If this is what grumpy gets, PM intends to be grumpy more often.