Late last year Yaron Lifschitz (above), the CEO of Brisbane’s circus company Circa, made an incendiary speech slamming the major arts companies as funded by a ‘government entrenched oligarchy of privilege’. But last night in Melbourne he was celebrating individual artists and small companies who create inspiring work. As a previous recipient of a Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award, he announced the winners of this year’s awards and made the following speech (edited for publication).
“A few years ago, standing one Friday afternoon in the photocopying room that doubles as our meeting room, I was lucky enough to get a call from Carrillo (Gantner). He told me that Circa had won the award and that we would receive a trophy whose aesthetic merits may be contested as well as a sum of money whose value and virtue absolutely cannot be. I remember thinking that if there is a deity she clearly must come from Melbourne for such bolts of pure goodness seemed to me then and indeed still seem to be miracles.
But sadly also since then the world has grown darker, hotter and less forgiving. The poet Cavafay wrote of the “dark line that gets longer” and how “the snuffed-out candles proliferate”. That line of intolerance, of ignorance, of alternate realities where everyone has an opinion and few have the facts is growing around us daily.
If there is a chance to relight those candles, to create new lines, not of darkness but rather of insight and compassion and hope, then that task falls to our artists.
From economic fundamentalism to rabid isolationism, from climate change denial to arts policies that purport to support unfunded excellence but often entrench overfunded mediocrity – there are more and more snuffed-out candles. A smoking chain we can ill afford to ignore.
If there is a chance to relight those candles, to create new lines, not of darkness but rather of insight and compassion and hope, then that task falls to our artists. It is fiercely urgent work.
Every artist knows what it’s like to be called from the security and normalcy of everyday life, compelled by the necessity to create, to make, to express, to incarnate. It is difficult work. Often mocked, mostly unrewarded. People think you are nuts. You think you are nuts. No one believes you, your friends get famous. Your bills pile up and there’s no romanticizing it. Its impact on family, on relationships, on health and finances can be telling.
This is a noble life. We here who make and who love the arts live with purpose and passion.
And its not just so for the artist. Being a supporter of the artist – whether as arts worker, spouse, patron, muse or friend is crucial. For no artist can do it alone. It is by our connections to others we survive, connect and ultimately produce. So these awards acknowledge all those who enabled it. And if there were an award for support for the arts, I’d give it (somewhat post-modernly) to the Myer Foundation and Family, for their unstinting support for the arts. This support makes so much possible.
This is a noble life. We here who make and who love the arts live with purpose and passion. We struggle but we know, despite our doubts and fears that it is worth it. These awards give us a rare moment to reflect, to thank and to celebrate…together.”
This article was originally published in the Daily Review.