Too much networking at the expensive of art? (polemic)

Bob Baker Fish has done an excellent interview with Melbourne artist/composer (now resident in Europe), Anthony Pateras in Cyclic Defrost.  The article covers many interesting topics, but this provocative quote from Pateras (below) on one of the reasons he moved to Europe might be a good starting point for some polemic discussion here:

"In Melbourne, I increasingly found myself put into this position of being an administrator before being an artist, and I think, for everyone, that has a very negative effect on the work,” he offers forcefully. “As a result, I think the way musicians interact with each other becomes very influenced by that – we all become horrible little products, fucking each other over, cultivating friendships simply to bleed our colleagues for contacts. It has become more about the network and less about the work. We have become administrators, not artists. This is further fuelled by social media, which seems to occupy a lot of the time that artists could be using to make their own work stronger. When you’re forced to adapt to a circumscribed mode of existence, you distort yourself and start prioritising what other people want or expect, rather than what you desire as an artist.”

Does this ring true to you?  Do we spend too much time on networking rather than working on our art?  I've not lived/worked anywhere but Melbourne, but certainly in Melbourne I believe that networking is a massively important skill to attain if you want to get anywhere in the various art worlds.  Please post your comments here.


melaleuca said…
I would agree that this has become the case in many places, not just Melbourne. I feel in a constant fight to tear myself away from showing people what I've created so that I can get back to the task at hand of actually creating something. Though, perhaps it could be that once networks are built and maintained then it other aspects of art/music/sound-making becomes a bit less of a headache. It would be far more difficult to work within a network-free environment (perhaps this goes without saying, but sometimes this is forgotten).
William said…
I think these questions about 'networking', administration and the impact these things have on one's community of fellow artists really depends on what you're trying to achieve. I know many Melbourne-based artists who don't behave in this way, and who lead happy artistic and personal lives full of creative endeavour. The trade-off is that they're not chasing some of the opportunities that networking delivers (arts council funding, festivals, etc.) - and that's a conscious choice.

So, it depends on where you're heading with your work. The trouble with Pateras's comment, true though it is, is that through its particular critical lens, it eds up reinforcing that there is one predominant mode of 'being an artist' in the experimental music community.
Andrew McIntosh said…
I don't know and have never met Panteras but I can't help smell a whiff of sour grapes in that particular quote. Who you know has always been a factor in getting your own material across, right or wrong, and it's not always a negative thing any more than it's always a good thing. Networking is a lot easier at the moment, I think, and you can pick and choose how you do it and who you connect with.

And in the end, no one forces you to put your work across to other people. It's not always essential.
James Annesley said…
Very interesting article. I certainly feel that way at times, just a matter of maintaining a balance I guess. And keeping the art as the primary focus, and the other stuff secondary.
Jamie Oehlers said…
So you don't need to network in Europe? You instantaneously get work if you're good at your craft?
jim knox said…
I think Anthony is specifically addressing the absence of the kinds of cultural infrastructure that might support this kind of activity on an ongoing basis. And he (often in collaboration w/ Rob Fox) organised a wealth of activities in the years he was living in Melbourne: concert seasons, festivals, residencies etc. Much of this was recorded & broadcast (and partly financed)through some astute partnerships with ABC-FM. All that activity is difficult to sustain: it demands time & energy, and the financial rewards are non-existent.

Hence, he went to Europe. There's a healthy (& heavily-subsidised) circuit of performance venues & festivals, commissions & all the rest. I'll expect he'll enjoy a great success.

The problem of a creative cultural infrastructure remains. Government funding paradoxically favours european anachronisms like opera & ballet, and invests in architectural edifice much more than programming. Maybe the results of Crean's cultural review will begin to address this - but I doubt it.
Clinton said…
Jim, I think your clarification is really useful. I have partnered with the ABC for some concerts/events myself, and they are basically full time occupations, as you say, for very little financial return. It's important, too, to realise that Pateras is speaking as a professional composer/performer: this is his job, he needs to pay the rent.

Yet I think networking is important for professionals, semi, and non-professionals alike. Jim's point about the lack of cultural infrastructure is really important, and affects all of us who are trying to get our work presented. There have been some programmes in recent years that seem aimed at addressing these problems, like Sound Travellers, although I did not work with this programme specifically. There are individuals in the ABC who provide wonderful opportunities, but having to adapt to the buerarcratic requirements of this organisation can be exhausting.

Generally when our 'stars' like Pateras relocate to Europe or the US, it is sad for us but I think generally reflects well on our scene as a culture that can produce world class talent, but the lack of cultural infrastructure is a big concern.
Only 312 said…
I agree with Bob. True art is always about the work and the work alone. Then again to make true art one must live in a community and work with others.
jim knox said…
(after reflection on this topic while showering)

... the flip side of the coin might be somebody like Lucas Abela. He's partnered with (off the top) the Big Day Out, Falls Festival in Tasmania, Artspace in Sydney. The man loves the whole gamut of performing, touring, staging etc.

Because his work is more conceptual and performative, than strictly music per-se, he's been able to enjoy consistent support from visual arts & inter-arts funding programs. And the admin side of things is really just another aspect of his practice (he finds his roots in vaudeville, rather than the concert hall). Maybe its just a question of temperament?

But because the infrastructure to support these activities doesn't exist, when someone like Ant (I think also of Oren & Robbie with the WIM?, Mark from Synaesthesia - there are plenty more) steps away from the plate, the level of activity & the audience that supports it goes into a decline.


Yes, ABC radio has been great in this respect. Brendan Walls did some good things with SBS & ABC TV, as well. But again it comes down to a handful of individuals - its not particularly sustained or dedicated.
Brian O'Dwyer said…
Anthony's attitude is a very true one of many musicians and promoters. However William is more correct in saying that this is not the only way people operate.
It's pretty easy to tell who's genuine and who's not especially within such a small circle.
Rod Cooper said…
Every time someone buys a coffee, alcoholic drink a meal, there's a
bit of Clinton Green in it, a bit of Pateras, a bit of Baxter, a bit
of Knox, a bit of Hand Made Music. The problem is that those
ingredients come for free. At the point of sale the last person in the creative capitol to get paid is the artist. The location could be ACMI, Brunswick Street or an ARI event. When the creative community realises it’s worth and value and starts to demand it or else: then perhaps things may change. The artists have helped to bring the white table cloth to the cappuccino pavement but they still need to have a second and third job to pay for it. We haven't worked out how to work economically as a community to prosper in the culture we have created. Individualism mixed with survival and self-preservation cancels out the power of the creative group. The community is composed of individuals with similar creative ambitions, which is always going to be hard to capitalise on.

Firstly I don't support any Governments any more; I am an informal voter because the arts have received little money in modern and postmodern times. I’m one of the very lucky artists to have received any grants from Oz Co.

Australia has not had a cultural policy for years or a dedicated arts minister that doesn't share a portfolio luggage on some other marginal wheel barrow being pushed through political back water.

Governments love to sprout about having culturally strong cities
where people are wanting to live, yet many artists struggle and many
skip meals to save money.

Crean's report will only fuel more unfortunate funding decisions,
artists are on the nose financially, we are not trusted with money, and recent history confirms this.

Even more money will be redirected away from artist's personal reach.

In the creative cities where all the artists live, we are controlled
by the land lords and media, until we own real estate nothing will

Art gets written off as a rip off every day in the media, that’s why
the internet is populated by art, for now.

A collective economic approach is the only way, because as individuals very few artists own much and those who do are few and often made it in other industries.

It’s either join the grey tidal wave of poverty as you become a
forgotten 'established' impoverished artist or shut up and keep your job so you can do art on the weekends.