Few Days

Update on the Creation of the LA STAGE Space

20130412232851-2013-4-12-PhotosmallerWe wanted to give you an update here at the end of our second week of the LA STAGE Space campaign! Thanks to the over 130 of you who’ve stepped up to make this happen, we are 95% of the way to our initial $25,000 goal!

We’re pushing over the next few days to hit the $25,000 mark, and then the campaign will continue to accomplish our stretch goal to build out some other aspects of the space and to have a STRIKE TRUCK that can make transporting the shared materials easier between theatres and the Warehouse.

Please continue to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the campaign. The most valuable thing you can do at this point is to think of one other person who you know would love this idea and who could make a donation, and email or call them directly to encourage them to join you. That direct request helps tell them that you really mean it and really care about this, and that makes all the difference!

As a fun other note – here’s a photo from the warehouse today, showing some scenic racks we had built this week, and some of the items that are already in, just waiting for shelves to be inventoried!

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Copenhagen and radical cycle culture

At Culture|Futures  listening to the architect Jan Gehl talking about how bicycles have humanised Copenhagen, and how crucial they will be to the new urbanism.

Interesting how many hits this YouTube video has been getting in the last few days.

The boggling incredulity with which the video’s American viewers seem to greet the vision of bicyclists (“LOL socialism in action.Europe will soon be going back to the stone age. The sooner, the better”) is a great reminder of a how wide the cultural gulf is, sometimes.

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Trafigura, reputation management and the arts

Last week the much-tweeted Trafigura affair collided with the world of art –  with ungainly results. It’s not just Trafigura and Carter Ruck’s reputation that have taken a pasting over the last few days on Twitter.

On Friday, Twitterers claimed victory in a freedom of speech issue surrounding the oil trading company Trafigura. At the heart was a report, commissioned by Trafigura themselves into thedumping of slops in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, which Trafigura did not want the public to see. The toxic chemicals are alleged to have caused the deah of up to 18 people and injury to at least 30,0oo more.

When the existence of the report was raised under the privilege of a parliamentary question, the solicitors Carter-Ruck effectively imposed an injunction on The Guardian reporting what was now parliamentary business. At which point the Twitterverse scented a rat and began publicising not only the injunction and its history, but disclosing the full contents of the damning report. Bingo.  The company’s efforts to keep the report quiet resulted in it being transmitted around the world to millions of internet users. The result was that a whole swathe of those who had been perhaps a little sceptical about the use of Twitter became converts.

While old media were impotent in the face of the injunction, new media simply swept all this  aside. Hurrah for new media.

Well, not quite. It was a little more complicated than that. The Guardian had very cleverly dropped a hint of the injunction on its front page knowing that the unfettered world of new media was likely to pick up and run with it. For all its self-congratulation, it’s not likely that the Twitterverse would have picked up the story on their own. What it should be seen as is an exemplary act of collaboration between old and new.

Anyway, to THE ART BIT.

During Tuesday’s Twitterstorm, an artist called Ivan Pope was amongst those who, googling for stick-like facts to beat Trafigura with, noticed that the company were sponsoring The Trafigura Art art prize as part of the Young Masters exhibition.

As an artist he was quite reasonably shocked to see an arts event associated with a company who were the subject of a damning UN report into the dumping incident. As Pope and others spread news of the prize, the Cynthia Corbett Gallery and exhibition curator Constance Slaughter became the target of the widespread rage against Trafigura. Pope blogged:

OK, so bringing Trafigura and artists together seemed like a good idea.
Except that it is damaging to the artists, the judges, the gallery and the art world generally.
But it is great news for Trafigura, who paid £4,000 for the privilege.
Yes, that’s right. It cost them £4,000 to attach their name to an art world prize.
The prize is run by suckers who think Trafigura are really ‘the good guys’, and that it’s all media lies.
Yes, the organisers of the prize are giving out great PR for Trafigura. If you know how much Pottinger-Bell type PR costs, you’ll see the value in this prize to them.

On Friday, after  four days flak, the Cynthia Corbett Gallery finally announced that they were withdrawing the Trafigura Prize.

OK. Kudos should be given to anyone seeking sponsorship for artists. But.

Sponsorship, as Pope points out, is an exchange. It’s bizarre that no one from the gallery,  nor any the judges who had agreed to take part in the prize, nor or any of the artists in the Young Masters exhibition, had bothered to consider whether it was a Good Idea to be involved with Trafigura until Tuesday’s Twitterstorm.

Though some, like the artist Tom Hunter who was one of the prize’s intended judges, publicly disassociated themselves from the prize following the ruckus, it took until Friday for the gallery itself to pull out. That leaves the impression that they only did so when the PR negatives of the association outweighed the positives, not because of any concern with the wider issues.

As public funding decreases in coming years, sponsorship is going to become increasingly central to the long-term health of the arts. But any sponsorship is an act of partnership – a joining of reputations.

There’s no excuse for not knowing about the controversy surrounding Trafigura. Despite the injunctions, the allegations have been in the public domain since 2006. The Ivory Coast dumping was the subject of a major Newsnight investigation in May this year.

Talk about reputation management. This sort of thing leaves the arts looking unengaged, aloof and frankly a bit dim.

Photo of flash mob protest outside the Carter Ruck offices by lewishamdreamer.

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Monday: Global climate wake up call

The Avaaz.org/tcktcktck flash mob campaign mentioned below takes place on Monday between 12:15PM – 12:30PM. It’s not too late to add your own events to the list. Within two weeks since the idea first surfaced, there are now over 350 events taking place in 52 countries – though taking a look at the ones in London, some groups seem to have interpreted the brief pretty loosely. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out. Can social media demonstrate their effectiveness with this issue? I’m going to try and make it along to the one at Westminster if I can escape the desk…

Take a look at the site and find an action near you.

Meanwhile, we’ve created a site called Arts for COP15 which will be going live in the next few days. This site is still being worked on, and please note, the url you’re redirected to isn’t the one the site will have when it officially goes live, but you can still join the site, log in and upload information about any COP15 arts related events.

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