Friends and Neighbours.

Dear friends.  I will make this brief.  Two days ago, the front page of the Sun, once again chose to let us grace their cover.  And by us, I mean. the daughter of a 9/11 victim … (?)  The cover headline reads: “Play Hits Home”, insinuating that Homegrown, due to its content sparking the memory of this woman’s father and his 9/11 death, is an argument against … arts funding?

I won’t, or rather, don’t feel the need to say too much on this, as reading this article has made it clear that even The Sun agrees there is no longer a story here.  Using the child of a 9/11 victim to make a statement about arts funding is so far of a stretch, that I do believe The Sun has managed to sabotage their own journey.  I’m not sure even the rightest of wings could  look upon this with much seriousness–and if so, then I can’t imagine them posing any more of a threat than say, Sarah Palin.

oh wait. she’s still around, isn’t she.  hm.

okay, so … do we have a problem here?

The recent response from the PMO seems to confirm that facts are not a requisite towards opinion — so where does that leave us?

For those who don’t know what I’m speaking about.  The Harper government issues a response to the Sun’s Homegrown crusade.

“We are extremely disappointed that public money is being used to fund plays that glorify terrorism. Had the plot hatched by the Toronto 18 succeeded, thousands of innocent Canadians would have died,”

We were very surprised by this because Homegrown does not glorify terrorism.  At all.   The Harper Governement has absolutely no grounds to make such a statement as they have not seen the play, nor had anyone else reporting on this issue at the time of this statement. I know that much of the press has picked up on this, and made that clear, but how is it possible that the federal government did not so much as sit back and ask themselves whether their opinion should or should not be informed?

I’ll admit that I did sit in the audience on opening wondering if a copy of the script was leaked and, somehow, in my initial read of the script, I completely missed the parts where it glorifies terrorism.  By the end, I found myself feeling almost dissapointment–wishing that somehow, the government making decision in my country–the country that I love–would have an interest in fact-base leadership.

If facts are just obstacles towards more power, what is to stop us from the road to fascism?

These are just some of the questions that have come up for me over the last few days.  That, and a wave of relief that I’ve chosen to live my life as an artist.  This has been a beautiful reminder.

Michael.

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2 thoughts on “Friends and Neighbours.

  1. As someone working in the arts in Canada, I am very grateful for Summer Works spirited defence for both the need and the value of arts funding. You were “drafted” into the front lines of the so-called Culture War, and ventured fearlessly where others fear to tread. But after reading this particular post, in this instance I wish your aim was better.

    I’m really bothered by your dismissal of the Sun’s article “9/11 victim’s daughter slams terror play” by Erica Basnicki, and your characterization of it as just another attack on arts funding.

    For me, that article raised thoughtful and fair questions about “Homegrown”, shifting the discussion away from a hypothetical play that never really existed, into a far more reasonable and legitimate debate about the actual play, and Summer Works choice to program it.

    The article made me think about the responsibilities of artists who choose to explore these kinds of stories. It made me wonder about who has a valid voice as an artist and as a critic, and why we tend to want to give weight to certain voices. And it made me question about the emotional power of art to overcome grief and prejudice.

    Whether or not Summer Works want to engage on those questions is ultimately up to you. Personally, I am disappointed by an attitude that seems to dismiss them entirely.

    Public funding for the arts is based on certain fundamental beliefs about the value of art, and based on trust in those who practice it. We may be exhausted from having to defend those beliefs over and over again, but I think that comes with the territory. I think it’s about being an accountable and responsible member of society, of being a citizen. I think it makes our arguments better. We should all be constantly looking inward, fearlessly self-examining what we do and how we do it and whether it’s in a collective best interest.

    I demand that of journalists, which is why I was disappointed in the Toronto Sun. I demand that of politicians, which is why I was disappointed in our Prime Minister. But I also demand that of artists, which is why—in this instance—I am disappointed in Summer Works.

    But, it’s to your credit that the only reason I posted this comment, is because you’re the ones I have faith can do better.

    • Its not that I dismiss this opinion. It is that I do not think it is a fair or responsible argument against whether this work should or not be on stage. It seems that the only argument is that because it stirs up this woman’s emotions, is should not on stage. It is the same thing as saying a play about the holocaust should not be on stage, because images of Hitler makes a holocaust survivor upset. Homegrown does not aim to upset victims of terrorist attacks, rather creates a dialogue around why and how these things happen. I feel that the Sun has stretched its argument very thin with this piece of journalism.

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