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A curse on art, a curse on society: Government contempt for the ABC, the arts, and the academy

August 2020, no. 423

A curse on art, a curse on society: Government contempt for the ABC, the arts, and the academy

August 2020, no. 423

It is curious the way certain books can insinuate themselves into your consciousness. I am not necessarily talking about favourite books, or formative ones that evoke a particular time and place, but those stray books that seem to have been acquired almost inadvertently (all bibliophiles possess such volumes, I’m sure), and taken up without any particular expectations, books that have something intriguing about them that keeps drawing you back.

Sometime in the mid-1990s, I rescued a heavily discounted copy of Georges Bataille’s The Accursed Share, Volumes II & III from an outdoor bargain table. Volume I was nowhere to be seen. I had no real idea who Bataille was, though I was a literature student, so I had probably heard his name mentioned in connection with the abstruse French theorising that was in vogue at the time. At some later date – I have no idea where or when – I acquired the first volume to complete the set. I have been returning to The Accursed Share ever since, not constantly or obsessively, but on a semi-regular basis, lured by its odd combination of audacity, insight, and obliqueness.

From the New Issue

Comments (6)

  • Thank you, James Ley - as clear and concise as only the truth can be. If the pen truly is mightier than the sword, let us all recommit our artistry to driving the Philistines out of the temple.
    Posted by Graham Connors
    07 October 2020
  • Thank you, thank you, thank you, James Ley. I was beginning to think that nobody else could see the doom ahead with the changes that are escalating under the current government. I am in my late seventies and my heart cries for this country as I watch it being decimated socially, culturally and, it must be added, physically with fires and the absence of action on global warming. The ignorance of those poor souls who believe their right to bare their faces in a pandemic is greater than the need to have compassion for others is surely an early sign of what things will look like in the long term with the disintegration of critique and creativity in our society.
    Posted by Lindy Warrell
    08 September 2020
  • Elsewhere, Baudrillard locates excess, which Ley stresses is a product of neo-con political and economic 'theory', in excrement. Baudrillard does this metaphorically, but also literally. We cannot escape from it. What matters is how we deal with it and conduct the rest of our lives. The government's response to the 'problem' of performers in the Covid era is to grab a stash of money and offer it to a foreign entity (Hollywood studios basically) - to shoot offshore here - in the same way as it has, though to a lesser extent than its Labor rivals, been happy to sit by and let foreign money (mainly Chinese) prop up cash-starved universities. The mess, the government pretends, can be cleaned up in film, as the medium itself does always with its editing. Not so in unmanageable, excessive, real live, gut-churning, look-me-in-the-eyes theatre, which the government dare not approach with any conviction. My hope is that as La Mama now embarks on its 'job-ready' theatre rebuild, it leaves undisturbed the outside toilet in the courtyard as a reminder that in the spirit of lockdown 'were are all in the shit together' always.
    Posted by James Oliver Daly -
    18 August 2020
  • One of The New Yorker’s greatest writers, Dorothy Parker, once related a story (hope this is right) about giving classroom children a word to contemplate, and come back to explain to the rest of the class in a single sentence. The particular word in question was ‘horticulture’; and the student chirped-up the following morning with this response: ‘You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her learn.’
    Posted by Peter Burch
    07 August 2020
  • Eloquently written, and somewhat depressing, but the mere fact that you are able to articulate what we can see happening so that others can notice too gives me hope for change.
    Posted by Rosalind Burns
    04 August 2020
  • James Ley's writing never fails me.
    Posted by Moya Costello
    02 August 2020

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