Saturday, September 24, 2011
The Gory Underside of the Arts Communities' Oppression Fantasies
As various individuals purporting to represent Canada's arts community attempt to monopolize more and more media time with staged scandals and contrived outrage, it's becoming more and more clear that many Canadian artists seem to be both prone and eager to imagine themselves as an oppressed community in Canada.
The most public examples have been self-appointed "martyrs" Margie Gillis and Franke James. The former averaged more than $90,000 a year in arts grants over a 13-year period between 1998 and 2011. The latter is apparently outraged that the federal government chose not to fit the bill for her to take her mediocre anti-oilsands art on a self-lionizing tour of Europe.
But as it pertains to the tendency of some Canadian artists to imagine themselves as an oppressed minority, James and Gillis are but the tip of the iceberg.
An interesting case study is that of a band calling itself Trike. Originating from Vancouver, Trike now mostly plays in Europe.
In 2009, Trike announced they were going to stay in Europe. They haven't been missed.
They also apparently didn't lose interest in Canada. In July 2010, they uploaded a music video to YouTube entitled "Get Out, Get Out".
It's amazing that something like this could fester, largely unnoticed, on YouTube for more than 14 months.
The first thing that stands out about the video is the song. The first thing that stands out about the song is that, frankly, it's shit. God-awful shit. Irredeemable shit. Anyone who makes it past the 0:55 mark of the video should be applauded for their endurance.
After that, the next thing that stands out is the deranged nature of the video. While the two members of Trike drone on about murdering someone, someone wearing a hastily-constructed Stephen Harper mask smashes their keyboard and murders the band, stabbing them multiple times with multiple knives.
It's hard to escape the conclusion that the video is meant to suggest that Stephen Harper is killing Canada's arts community. Frankly, it's a comical notion.
In 2009, when the band announced its "exile" to Germany, they declared that Canada had become "anti-art".
“Canada is our home, but it’s going through a bit of a right-wing, bureaucratic, anti-art phase right now, which would make it next to impossible to live as artists.”
Those lacking the sense of entitlement that has come to afflict the Canadian arts know differently. Canada isn't going through an "anti-art phase", and no anti-art phase would be necessary to make it impossible for Trike to live off their art.
The banality and mediocrity of Trike's art is what does that. Trike can't live off their music not because Canada has become "anti-art", but because their music is just so goddamned awful.
The trinity figures of Margie Gillis, Franke James and Trike seem to bring an unsurprising reality to light: bad artists rely on government grants to keep them out of having to seek work in industries more appropriate for their talents... like fast food.
Bad artists also seem to rely on a shared sense of ideological vanity to make their art more marketable to those who share their political beliefs. In a video posted after the 2011 election, band member Xania Keane declares that she was considering moving back to Canada, but can't live in a country with a conservative government.
(She apparently hasn't taken note of Angela Merkel.)
Keane says she isn't coming back to Canada, and apparently expects people to care. It doesn't seem like many do. It all works out pretty well for Canadian music fans, who are now spared from having to be subjected to Trike's tripe.