Muslim & American Extremists censoring Art

In the Time magazine article Indonesia’s Artists vs. Muslim Extremists,by Jason Tedjasukmana, the author decries the “Talibanization” of Art in Indonesia. He recounts a story of religious fundamentalists defacing a statue of nude women with spray paint. Government officials and police did nothing to intervene in this and other incidents within Indonesia. There is a certain sanctimonious tone to the story. “Here in the democratic West we are so much better than that” is the assumption of the article. “Our secular society does not allow the religious nutty fringe to dictate our policies toward art”…. but is that true?

Earlier this month, at a virtual worlds event, in the leading edge of 3D art, an installation by Rose Borchovski was summarily ejected by organizers because the art’s nude figures were in violation of the zoning restrictions in the virtual world. Last fall, Linden Lab, the creators of the Second Life virtual world caved in to pressures from American social conservatives to push “adult” content into virtual red-light districts. One would expect openness and sophistication in the high tech international community of virtual reality residents and the arts community. Instead Linden Lab seems to have chosen to “Taliban-ize” expression within Second Life more effectively than the Indonesians with spray cans.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Will more public engagment or more electronic media be the future of the arts


While recently the Met was reported to be contemplating replacing its’ summer programming with filmed performances shown on the big screen, the public was more engaged in filming and tweeting about the 30 public pianos that the city of London had placed on the streets.

“They’re out there to get people talking to one another and to claim ownership and activate the public space,” said the creator of the project, Luke Jerram, an artist who lives in Bristol.

Using obvious search terms in Twitter I found no one chatting in the public commons about the possibility of the Met replacing summer opera with its big screen version. It would seem that news was a big snore, while by contrast I immediately found 140 recent tweets on London’s street pianos. Does this simply mean that in a day of social media viral news that anything you can capture on your cellphone, digitally broadcast to blogs, YouTube, and tweet about is going to have the edge?

Or does it mean something more important about our culture’s relationship to art at this moment in history?

I think the signs are there that people want to take back art from the star system, from corporate control, big record systems, film studios and corporations. From the popularity of shows like American Idol to the rise of YouTube videos to the “do-it-yourself” atmosphere of the Arts in the virtual world of Second Life, more people are spending their entertainment hours watching the little guy and more people are engaging in making art instead of being passive observers.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Toronto Bubble Battle July 11 @ 3 pm

Never has a Smart Mob had so much fun as blowing Bubbles at the annual Bubble Battle organized by the street art group NewMindSpace. The people who brought you the Union Station pillow fight, street car parties, and city wide Capture the Flag games are sending out the news by email, facebook and cellphone to be at King and University tomorrow at 3 pm …. and bring your bubble gear!

Here are my own snaps from 2007

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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International Drawing Day June 6

You know you want to do it.

You know you really want to do it.

Do what?

Draw of course!

So on Saturday June 6, International Drawing Day stop everything pick up a pencil, a pen, a paintbrush, a chalk, a burnt stick if you have to, and just draw something. Everyone has an artist inside longing to bust out of the prisons that most of us put that aspect of self in these days. Art is for everyone. Take back your right to create stick figures, cartoons or whatever your artist inside is capable of rendering.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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The purpose of the Arts

As I conclude my three years with the Toronto Philharmonia, I am led to consider again the purpose of a live performing arts organization in this time of electronic media. Why have a professional orchestra performing in our community when we can listen to such great music on CD, on our televisions or via online podcasts?

Some will say that the social experience of sharing a live performance in a great hall is, in itself a reason to support our orchestras and chamber ensembles. I agree that it is one reason. But is it enough?

If we make our musical organizations simply museums for the display of works by composers long dead and gone, we have no one to blame but ourselves when other citizens find what we are doing irrelevant to their daily lives, or who feel that what we do can easily be replaced by electronic records of performances by a very few orchestras worldwide.

An art form is alive, growing, challenging our assumptions, involving us, and provoking debate or it is dying. Performing the best of music from the past should always be a part of what an orchestra does, but if it is not also encouraging students, new musicians, community artists, collaborating with living composers, creating opportunities for its own musicians to learn, grow, explore new collaborations then it is irrelevant to the artistic life of its own community. It is my view that this is at the core of the mission of any orchestra in today’s society, and not the after-thought, or add-on that so very many organizations regard the role of education and professional development.

Organizations that view contributions to music development, education and professional development as hoops they must jump through in order to succeed with funding applications are unlikely to priorize these activities. Unfortunately it is a common view. I would challenge them to put the musical life of their community at the core of their Mission and view concert presentation as but one way to contribute to that Mission.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Technology in the Arts Conference

It was my privilege to present to people at the Technology in the Arts conference at the University of Waterloo May 9-10 on the subject of classical music in virtual reality.

My introductory presentation can be found here. In addition I have posted my backgrounder document with more detailed technical information here

But the magic really happened when Alessandro Marangoni, stepped up to the real piano in Italy and the virtual piano as Benito Flores and charmed the participants across oceans and media.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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So you want to know how to get more bookings as a classical performing artist?

Daily as an arts manager I receive dozens of unsolicited emails and material from artists I’ve never heard of and those materials are instantly discarded to clear my inbox and desk of excess clutter. Meanwhile I sometimes meet talented artists who ask, “how do I get booked to play more?”

Quite a number of years ago I had my first fulltime job in arts administration in a major US orchestra. I assisted the General Manager in administering the contracting of guest artists. The first thing I was told was to throw out all unsolicited material–no one wanted to see it, or hear it. I was horrified at the waste and for awhile made the effort to return the material–only to be met with angry inquiries and indignant letters about why I hadn’t put the material in the correct hands! Needless to say, from then on I simply trashed unsolicited promotional packages.

So if emails, glossy packages and promotional CD’s won’t get you a booking, what will?

Our business, the music business, is very much a word-of-mouth industry. Most of your bookings are going to come from direct or secondary contacts in the industry so you have to make sure that you make as many contacts as possible and that all those contacts are very positive.

1. The Music Director: When you perform with a conductor, remember that individual is likely also Music Director of 1 or more additional orchestras or ensembles. Find out about those connections, show interest, get details and you may be on the way to a follow-up performance with one of maestro’s other groups.

2. The Orchestra: Remember that many of the musicians in the orchestra have contacts with additional orchestras and ensembles, and may themselves be administering a chamber series in the area. Be cordial and friendly with orchestra members and find out about these networking opportunities.

3. Arts Administrators: Far from all programming decisions are made by Artistic Directors. Often decisions are left up to Artistic Administrators and General Managers, and certainly administrative vetoes are something to be avoided. Unpleasant, pushy, demanding and disorganized guest artists are just unlikely to be invited back. And if you have an agent who falls into this category, you might like to re-think whether that bull-dog attitude is good for you in the long run. If your agent managed to push someone like me into exceeding the orchestra’s capacity to pay or accommodate you in some way this time—enjoy it. You are extremely unlikely to be asked back and word that you are difficult or your agent is difficult will be telegraphed from manager to manager in short order. So unless you are a leading international virtuoso whose whims must be tolerated, think twice about bullying orchestra administrative staff. They will accommodate you once and then write you off the list. Remember that smaller organizations may not be able to provide as much as larger organizations. The simple willingness to take a taxi rather than demand personal airport pick-up will endear you to many a harried administrator’s heart!

4. Other arts organizations. Don’t forget the decision-makers in other local and regional arts organizations when you are performing. Likely you have more complimentary tickets than you can use. Invite decision-makers to be your guests at a performance. Don’t just invite the top people. If they can’t come, invite the Marketing Director, the Arts Administrator, the Program Assistant. Word of your great concert will travel in that organization.

5. Your web site: While aggressive forms of marketing (email spam, mega brochure mailers) are a waste of money, having a good up-to-date, easy to find website is essential in today’s world. When I hear about a potential artist, I immediately Google them. If I can’t find information right away I form a negative impression.

In addition, once I have booked an artist I need photos, bios, quotes from reviews. If they are all on your site, your promotion gets started months before artists who have to be asked for promotional material or who send material in paper format. We are simply too busy to be efficient at re-typing, scanning and editing copy that is in such an inflexible format. If you want to have more control over how your bio is edited, provide a number of “brief bio” options on your site. If you have one two page opus, be prepared to only see the first paragraph or two in print most of the time. If you think that’s your agent’s job, how well are they doing it? If not too well, it might be worth your while to bite the bullet and put your own site together.

6. Reviews–You need them. Post them on your website and circulate to all the contacts that you make in your developing career. Extracting a few choice quotes makes it easy for your bookers to get your promotion off the ground all that much faster!

What do you need to be booked?

1. Talent.
2. Opportunities for decision-makers to hear about your talent directly or through trusted contacts.
3. A comprehensive website for research purposes and promotional purposes. (doesn’t need to be fancy)
4. A professional and agreeable attitude with everyone in the business so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot!

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Bubble Battle in Toronto

NewMindSpace, self-described purveyors of “cultural interventions and urban bliss dissemination, ” brought their latest playful event to urban spaces in Toronto on the afternoon of July 2 with Bubble Battle, a flash mob of bubble blowers of all ages who filled the air at Queen and Bay with bubbles small, large, round, elongated. . . and mostly plentiful. The bubblers arrived on foot, via Subway and in small bicycle herds, sporting a collection of bubbling gear that was worthy of a Doctor Seuss book.


In Toronto these days, Queen Street is the happening place for artists and the alternative culture. It’s a far cry from the staid, upscale galleries and cafes of Yorkville. These artists are alive and creating. They haven’t been stuffed and mounted for display yet.

Bay Street on the other hand is the financial main thoroughfare of the city. A street of grey towers with hardly even a cafe along its downtown expanse to break the gloom.

So perhaps it was fitting that Toronto’s “Bubble Battle” took place at the intersection of Queen and Bay. To mean, it was the only explanation of the word “battle” since certainly no one was battling anyone in the festive crowd that assembled. The bubbles and the mood of the assembled masses were a great antidote to the greyness of the city.

MORE PHOTOS.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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