Sat, Dec 03, 2011 - Page 3 News List

2012 ELECTIONS: INTERVIEW: Petition leader discusses changes needed in arts sector

The musical ‘Dreamers,’ which ran for two nights at a cost of about NT$215 million (US$7.1 million), has drawn the wrath of the artistic community. A petition has since been launched for a campaign titled ‘End the Centennial Fireworks and Begin the Cultural Age.’ Yan Hung-ya, one of the campaign’s initiators and director of the ‘Dark Eyes Performance Lab,’ talked to Jennifer Huang, a reporter at the ‘Liberty Times’ (the sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) about the state of the arts

Yan Hung-ya, director of the “Dark Eyes Performance Lab” gestures during an interview on Nov. 25 with a reporter from the Liberty Times, the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): The Dreamers (夢想家) rock musical provoked a rarely seen collective outburst from the artistic community. What discontent and doubts did this aim to draw attention to?

Yan Hung-ya (閰鴻亞): The inadequacy and inequality of arts and humanities funding has been going on for some time, and especially in light of the Flora Expo last year and the Deaflympics in 2009, there is a feeling that a lot of resources have been moved to fund government events.

A lot of the usual funding or locations usually available to arts and humanities groups became hard to come by.

During the Flora Expo, funds from the Council of Cultural Affairs [CCA] and the Taipei City Government’s cultural expenditure all went to the expo. Nearly NT$200 million alone was spent on the expo’s opening ceremony, meaning many other routine cultural events couldn’t be held that year, such as the Taipei Poetry Festival, which had been staged annually for the past 10 years.

The irony lies in the fact that in order to survive, artists had to work at events related to the flower expo because it was spending a lot of money and was asking for performances and manpower. Most of the performances were short-term — one to two-days events — that had to be performed in tents.

Most of the bands and performance teams were not satisfied with the quality [of their productions] and many components, including things such as sets, used during the performances couldn’t be used for other productions.

The centennial celebrations are even more outrageous, with the two-night Dreamers musical costing NT$215 million, and the CCA handing out at least NT$1.7 billion in subsidies for celebrations.

Any performance group would have been very happy to receive NT$10,000 or more in subsidies and would never have dreamed about receiving millions of NT dollars for just one event.

The difference in treatment [between independent performances by arts groups and those related to events organized by the government] finally led to the arts circle jumping up and speaking out on the issue, and we very quickly reached a consensus to demand that cultural policies be reformed.

What really makes us angry is that the upper echelons of the government do not understand culture, and they do not think about how to nurture the arts and culture sector and help it take root. They continually take a short-term and carnival-like approach to the distribution of cultural funding and subsidies, asking for cultural and humanities groups to work for the government, effectively making the groups operate as policy advertisements.

The mindset of the government toward cultural policies is wrong and ludicrous.

LT: The arts circle has also raised issues relating to the government’s arts and culture policies, what does it think about these policies?

Yan: The NT$26.2 billion funding for arts and culture groups over four years is yet another ludicrous idea that the arts circle has long been against. It’s not that we don’t want arts and culture to become an industry [in its own right] or more valuable, but the reason the government is making such a big deal out of it is primarily because it is a useful way to control the arts and humanities.

The government is proud of the way it has used corporations to help market artists, resulting in about 10 companies working with artists to help them with various projects and getting subsidies for them.

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