31 March 2011

de-animation - Arts Council England's new Portfolio

Arts Council England’s head honcho Alan Davey was answering questions on The Guardian’s Culture Cuts blog this lunchtime, so we took the opportunity to ask why they’d decided, apparently, to exclude an entire artform - animation - from their new ‘Portfolio’ of funded organisations.

Apparently we were wrong - animation is there, Alan said. There are ‘galleries and moving image companies such as Film London (FLAMIN), Lux and Film and Video Umbrella cover animation as part of their work.’

[I think it’s worth noticing the use of the term ‘companies’. It’s what performing arts organisations call themselves.]

Alan, or whoever was feeding him the answer, is quite simply wrong on that one. Of course there is crossover with the work of arts organisations working in the moving image - but I’m sure that not one of those three organisations (and I know them very well) would lay claim to substantially supporting 'animation'. And when they do, their focus is exclusively on work by visual artists for a visual arts context.

The two ‘animation’ focused organisations that the Arts Council has supported for many years - onedotzero and Animate Projects - engage with a very different crowd and practice. onedotzero’s exporation of ‘new forms and hybrids of moving image’ has been a vital platform for creative practice beyond the boundaries of ‘visual arts’ practice, and at Animate Projects we crisscross those boundaries all the time.

We certainly work with ‘visual artists’, but usually to support them to work in new ways, for new contexts. And more commonly we work with people who work specifically within 'animation'.

It’s that support that is now missing - completely - from the new Portfolio - and therefore, from the Arts Council’s focus. Animate Projects and onedotzero have been taken out, and there's nothing that replaces them. Funds may be available through Grants for the arts, but that’s for projects - it simply won’t fund us to do much of what we do.

There is a depressing conservatism about the Arts Council’s decisions. Many digital/media organisations are being cut, and the Arts Council’s emphasis is on the ‘delivery’ potential of digital, as opposed to its creative potential. Their new initiative - Building Digital Capacity for the Arts - seems to be mainly about performing arts companies acquiring production skills to post trailers online.

We have regularly complained to the Arts Council about the lack of overview - their signal failure to develop an effective strategy for moving image, animation in particular, and digital work more generally. So that, consequently, the development of animation and its talent base has no context, no strategy, no critical mass and no nurturing.

And their response is to agree that they don’t have a specific strategy on moving image, animation and/or digital work. 'Just as there are no specific strategies for other visual arts sub art forms such as photography, publishing or live art.'

‘Sub art form’ feels a bit loaded to me. But anyway, unlike those other ‘sub forms', animation is not simply theirs not to have a strategy for. UK Film Council had been lax too - but one would have thought the two organisations might have had a conversation about animation. At some point.

They tell us that ‘the work [we] do is valued and well respected across the sector.’ That will be the ‘visual arts’ sector. We work with artists, but much of the animation we’re talking about is made by a different kind of talent - people who call themselves animators or filmmakers or graphic designers or ceramicists.. people who have a range of different histories, traditions, contexts, and practice, and who reach different audiences.

We’re pleased that Animate Projects has funding to enable us to deliver a programme of online exhibition for the coming year, and we hope to use that time to advocate more strongly - with others - for recognition of the importance and value of animation, and for a bit more respect for its audience.

Arts Council Head Honcho doesn't answer our question

From The Guardian blog:

Animate Projects:
I appreciate the difficult decisions, but the process doesn't seem completely 'transparent' to me, and nor does the 'intellectual framework'. I wonder how 'the best mix of organisations in terms of..artform' can exclude animation - the artform that my (hitherto ace funded) organisation specialises in.

Animation is interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral, something the UK is internationally respected for, award winning, digital, and has a predominantly young audience. But I can't see any animation organisation on your list, and I'd like to ask at which stage of the process, and what part of the intellectual framework, was the decision to exclude an entire artform from the Portfolio?

Alan Davey:
Animation is included in the funding decisions we announced yesterday. Yes, it's right that there is no single body dedicated to this work but galleries we fund, and moving image companies such as Film London, Lux and Film and Video Umbrella cover animation as part of their work. Remember the National portfolio isn't the only funding avenue. Grants for the arts is an open applications Lottery funded programme, through which we have recently made a large grant to a Animate, a specialist animation company.

Animate Projects:
Sorry Alan, but that's just wrong or at the very least disingenuous. Animate is indeed a specialist organisation, and supports a wide and inclusive range of creative talent that those organisations - which focus exclusively on work by visual artists - don't.

We (it's my company) are emphatically 'interstitial' - we support 'visual artists', but also animators and filmmakers. I hoped your answer might be better informed.

30 March 2011

now let’s see..where are we..

In deciding which organisations to fund (from April 2012) as part of its new Portfolio. Arts Council England took the opportunity to ‘find a balance’ across its investment in the arts - including artform, size and type.

So just what kind of ‘balance’ have they achieved?

They shafted Animate Projects, but we’re just one organisation. Albeit the only organisation focused on experimental animation. Or any other kind of animation for that matter.

But what about the rest..

Some media organisations did well - or at least survive. National agencies LUX (200k) and Film and Video Umbrella (377k), and regional organisations including Film London (320k), FACT (1m), B3 Media (190k), no.w.here (55k), furtherfield (77k), Nottingham’s Broadway (100k) and Brighton’s Lighthouse (120k).

But other digital/media organisations have either been axed or maybe they didn’t apply (ACE said it would publish a list of all applicants, then changed its mind).

As well as Animate Projects, the Arts Council has axed or won’t be funding: onedotzero, PVA Lab, Lumen, Four Corners, Vivid, Picture This, tank.tv, folly, proboscis, Pavilion, SCAN, Mute, Potland Green Cultural Projects, Lovebytes, Media Art Bath, Independent Cinema Office. And digi-friendly types like ArtSway, Castlefield, moti roti, Isis..

The North East’s (brilliant) AV Festival and Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival seem to be the only new visual arts digital media related organisations on the list. Oh, there’s also Somerset Film and Video. Getting 87k. I’m sure they do good work, but they do seem to be emphatically a film organisation. And in the same region as Picture This.

Animate Projects denied Arts Council England Portfolio status

Animate Projects is sorry to announce that its application for Arts Council England's National portfolio funding from 2012 was unsuccessful, because there are ‘other arts organisations whose contribution fits better into the national picture’.

As we announced in January, our application to Arts Council England’s Grants for the arts programme for 2011-2012 funding was also rejected. However, we were encouraged to resubmit and we are pleased that this application was successful. So, we can continue to deliver a programme of online exhibitions over the next year.

We would like to say a very big thank to the many people who expressed their support; we will be exploring all possibilities that might enable us to continue to support animators, artists and their audiences..

We send commiserations to other colleagues who were unsuccessful and our congratulations to those that made it into the Portfolio.

22 March 2011

Competition: win a copy of the exclusive CUJO PRIMITIVE

To mark the UK DVD release of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, we are pleased to offer three copies of the Primitive issue of CUJO as prizes.

CUJO is ‘a magazine and a guide to the imaginary’. It’s free, published in Italy, distributed by hand, published in a numbered edition of only 1000 - and available only in ‘personal places that the artist loves and that somehow represent him’, spread around the world. It is not available in the UK.

Find out more about CUJO here

You can buy the Primitive DVD at Amazon here.

For a chance to win a copy of CUJO: Primitive, we want you to tell us three famous people or animals you would like to have been in your past lives. Entry through Twitter - tweet your 3 names followed by #CUJOPRIMITIVE

The three trinities that intrigue us most win a copy of CUJO. Tweet before noon, 1 April 2011. Our decisions are final!

Uncle Boonmee.. and CUJO PRIMITIVE are part of the PRIMITIVE projects, as are the short films Phantoms of Nabua (which you can see here) and A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (see it here)