Michele Fiedler

Let’s see, now, where were we? Big inauguration, American carnage, big threats, bellicose speech. Bigger protest, millions of women, pink hats, sea to shining sea. Twitter wars unabated. Health care on the skids. War on reporters. Alternative facts.

And, oh, yes, tucked away there in the corner: a vow to kill the National Endowment for the Arts. And kill the National Endowment for the Humanities. And “privatize” the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has mostly been privatized already, anyway. Cost-cutting. Getting tough on the budget. Victory for the taxpayers. (NEA 2016 budget: $148 million. NEH 2016 budget: $148 million. Percentage of total federal budget, each: 0.003. CPB 2016 funding via federal government: $445 million. Percentage of total federal budget, all three agencies: less than 0.02. Federal budget 2015 for military marching bands, $437 million. Taxpayer expense to build or renovate National Football League stadiums, past 20 years, mostly through local and regional taxes: more than $7 billion.)

A fiscal conservative or libertarian can make an honest argument for eliminating the NEA and NEH on grounds that they’re simply not an appropriate use of taxpayer funding; culture should be funded privately. Here at ArtsWatch we don’t agree with that analysis. We believe there are many valid reasons for government financial aid to culture, and that the payoffs to taxpayers are many, from economic – in healthy cities, the arts are job and money multipliers – to educational and much more. Historically, consider the continuing dividends of the WPA and other cultural projects underwritten by the federal government during the Great Depression of the 1930s: In Oregon, for instance, Timberline Lodge.

But there’s much more to this move than a courteous philosophical/economic disagreement. The move to defund the NEA has a long and embattled history, dating at least to the so-called “culture wars” of the 1980s and ’90s, when a resurgent right-wing political movement convinced that artists were mostly a pack of degenerate liberals discovered that attacking the arts was a splendid red-meat issue for its base. They didn’t succeed in killing off the national endowments, but they did weaken them. The new administration seems to think it can finally finish them off. That would weaken state agencies such as the Oregon Arts Commission, which gets funding from the NEA, and in turn weaken arts organizations across the state, which get money from the OAC and, often more importantly, a stamp of approval that helps them raise private donations. Killing the endowments would be a rash move that would save hardly anything in the national budget and cause deep mischief to the nation’s well-being. It strikes us as petty and vindictive and, frankly, foolish.

It’s also a reach that might fail. Republicans like culture, too, and understand its value, and often support it generously. Traditionally, that has included Republican politicians. Will they fall in line with the new administration, or will they quietly scuttle its gambit? Keep your eye on this thing. We will, too.

 


 

Duffy Epstein and Dana Green in the premiere of the D.B. Cooper play “db.” Photo: Owen Carey

THE FERTILE GROUND FESTIVAL, Portland’s sprawling celebration of new works in theater, dance, solo performance, circus arts, musical theater, comedy, and other things that ordinarily happen on a stage, continues through January 29. ArtsWatch writers have been out and about, writing their impressions. You can catch up with some of them below:

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Appropriation, Information, and Cyborgs: An Interview with Michele Fiedler

Curator Michele Fiedler talks about the third show in her residency at Disjecta

By MACK CARLISLE

This past Sunday, January 15, amid Portland’s latest snowpocalypse, I had the pleasure walking through the current exhibition, “Oh Time Your Gilded Pages,” with Michele Fiedler, Disjecta’s sixth Curator-in-Residence. Fiedler is a curator and writer based in Mexico City, where she is the Curator at Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros. Born in Puerto Rico, she received an MA in Curatorial Practice from California College of the Arts.

Guided by the artwork of Adriana Minoliti and Bobbi Woods in the exhibition, we discussed media representations, marketing, appropriation, posters, and porn. We also talked about the thread connecting Fiedler’s four Disjecta exhibitions, information, and what to expect from the remainder of her year in residence. Midway through our conversation, artist Adriana Minoliti walked in and topics turned toward installation, cyborgs, sex, and science fiction.

Exhibition: Oh Time Your Gilded Pages
(magazines, posters, adds, porn, interior design, perfume, jewels, movies, and cyborgs)
Disjecta: 8371 N Interstate Avenue
Artists: Adriana Minoliti and Bobbi Woods
Curator: Michele Fiedler
Showing: through February 26, 2017
Gallery Hours: Friday–Sunday, 12–5pm

The golden glow of the gilded works and the warmth of the rose-colored wall suffused our time together with a little special magic, perhaps felt most in contrast to the cold outside.

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