Kelly Pendergrast - vagrant, San Diego

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

As the leaders of my abandoned homeland stumble towards some kind of governmental formation, I hear a whispery sigh of relief from antipodean artists, musicians, bums, and Oliver Driver. Because, whether or not spending $500 000 to send et al's installation to Venice was A Good Idea, I am still glad that having Labour back at (or near) the helm will mean some of The Arts will continue to receive some kind of funding.

However imperfect and occasionally ridiculous New Zealand politics and policies may be, the American version is infinitely more ridiculous. I mean, really, who's the governor of California? How much do teachers get paid? How much does rent cost around here? How does the federal government handle a massive crisis?


Ok, ok, I know you know all this.

Funny thing is, though, so many of the Americans I meet (even the smart ones) tell me that, despite the badness, they still know how lucky they are to be living in America.

I mean, sure, it's definitely better, or at least easier, than living in Iraq at the moment. But I don't know if I'd consider myself lucky. There's certainly not much in the way of arts funding, that's for sure.
I tell people here that the government gave me money last year to help make my film, and they don't believe me.

Last week I attended a function at the house of an exceedingly rich patron of the arts. This woman has a garage which is actually a gallery full of esteemed contemporary Japanese photograph, and a projector in her guest bathroom that screens Metropolis while you pee. She invites art students from the university to mingle with visiting academics, listen to artist talks, and eat Mexican food and drink liquor served my innumerable waiters. She also has been known to buy artworks off the students. It all made me feel EXCEEDINGLY UNCOMFORTABLE.

Is this how things work in lieu of a government handout? Sucking up to the monied, hoping they'll take a shine to you or your work and fork out some dollars so you can pay rent? I suppose so.

Once again: while the PACE scheme and the workings of Creative New Zealand will always be contentious, at least they don't involve nodding and smiling and eating free enchiladas and drinking free imported beer.
It's a hard life in the US of Aaaaye.