This post is not about Casey Jenkins, a Melbourne based performance artist. I have previously written about two of her work: True Colours (2019) and Body of Work (2015). This post is about the Australia Council for the Arts reneging on an agreement with Jenkins and why this is a concern for everyone in Australia.
There are many conflicting statements made by the Australia Council and Casey Jenkins but what both agree is that the Australia Council is not funding Jenkins current artwork after previously agreeing to. See Casey Jenkins statement and the Australia Council for the Arts statement.
What everyone is also aware of is that the process is unfair because they would not accept it as fair if somebody reneged on an agreement with them. Is the unfairness in any way excusable? Australia Council is using the COVID-19 tragedy as a cover while admitting that their system was at fault. Next time will they use the person responsible “was having a bad day,” one of the recent excuses that NSW police has used for assaulting an Indigenous youth.
I asked the Australia Council about their media statement and if this means that thye take responsibility for the poor quality of the review process? And how has the process regarding variation requests been adjusted?
The Australia Council’s media statement stated that: “The Council has been in contact with the artist to advise we consider it necessary to rescind the variation to the original grant, effectively withdrawing support for this specific project.” How do you unilaterally “rescind” what is essentially a contract between the Australia Council and the artist? Casey Jenkins did not agree to rescind it and so, isn’t the correct word “reneged” and not rescind?
I also asked if artists should be concerned that something similar might happen again when they make a variation request? The Australia Council chose not to reply to my questions while sending me two emails about my enquires.
There is a lot that the Australia Council is not saying about this that should be clarified for future applicants. It could be more open about what subsequent changes to its process it has made. It could release the legal advice on Jenkins art. It could even acknowledge the history of Australian politicians interfering in arts, and admonish all attempts, rather than merely deny that any occurred in this particular case. Instead it has chosen instead to protect politicians and damage the arts in Australia by denials and increasing uncertainty.
No system or Australia Council review process can predict what Australian politicians will want to censor because censorship is an arbitrary act of power. And every few years Australian artist is attacked as immoral by a conservative politician; it is a tradition going back to Federation. It is so common that I have a category in this blog for posts about art censorship.