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KATHY KEELE ON ARTS IN THE DIGITAL ERA

The Australia Council, in partnership with the ABC, this week hosted a two day forum, Revealing the Arts, at which 250 arts leaders debated the issues faced by artists working in new digital mediums.

With the explosion of TV, mobile and online platforms, and a high speed National Broadband Network just around the corner, we need to find new ways to deliver Australian art and cultural content on these pathways.  One panellist at the forum commented that, in the digital sphere, artists are in danger of being outstripped by the pirates and pornographers. Certainly, these players are unrestricted by the niceties of copyright and intellectual property concerns.

For artists, a top priority is the re-evaluation of copyright and patent laws in the digital context and/or the building of realistic agreements between content producers and deliverers which recognise that artists should be paid.  Why should all the profit go to the techno/supplier end of online?

Too often, the artist is the first to be exploited in the rush to celebrate the great new access and democratic engagement of the digital experience.  Some Twitterers at the forum anarchically enthused about throwing all texts, images and protections to the digital wind. But Iím concerned that a new media does not become a new opportunity for commercial exploitation.

Appropriately then, the Australia Council is advancing simultaneously on two strategic priorities: to build artists income and sustainable careers, and to build digital arts content.  We must resolve the former, the protection and income of artists, so we can quickly respond to these huge digital opportunities.

The Australia Council has long recognised the need for exploration and innovation in the arts, from our art and technology strategy in the 80s, through to the hybrid arts committee and the media arts board in the 90s and, more recently, the Inter-arts group.   We are always responding to changes in how artists create work.  The dissolution of the media arts board long ago signalled that digital practices were increasingly commonplace across all art-forms ñ it makes no sense to ghetto the practice in a single board.

Our job is to fund organisations and artists to make content ñ and in this case excellent digital art content.  By partnering with the ABC, the Australia Council is also looking to the distribution of that digital content and, I hope, inspiring other agreements between content providers and pathways.

Our Digital Content Strategy recognises that the whole arts sector must improve its understanding of the myriad of digital platforms; and the way audiences will interact with, participate in and consume art in the future.  It was apparent at the forum that we all have some catching up to do.

Our strategy not only addresses the distribution and repurposing of digital content. It not only encourages the great marketing opportunities which exist online, the chance to engage with new audiences and deliver them back to traditional arts venues.  We are also guiding artists and organisations to explore how digital technology can impact on creation, production and performance, how the audience experience itself is changing.

Galleries and museums have inspiring examples online of community interactive and self-curated, remixed “exhibitions”.  Some prominent Australian artists are exploring how new digital technology can change traditional visual art-forms, with practices gradually moving into the mainstream.

Performing arts companies have successfully employed digital media to develop innovative marketing, outreach and education campaigns.  Many though are still challenged by the ways digital technologies can enhance and alter the audience experience of live performance.  High speed broadband is set to speed us to a new invention of ëlivenessí.

Dance artists, however, have been quick to employ digital technology in live performance, most notably with projects such as Chunky Moveís Glow and Mortal Engine. Both these productions are collaborations between dance artists and technologists, and provide significantly new experiences for audiences.

We announced this week two new digital arts funding programs aimed not just at the artistic community but also at that new breed of practitioner, the so-called digital native.  For our Geek in Residence pilot we are seeking technically confident artists or creatively confident technicians to work together with arts workers in a host organisation. The Digital Culture Fund has a similar focus on new digital creators and, significantly, on outcomes which redefine the ìlive eventî shared between the maker and audience.

In this second year of the Australia Councilís digital strategy, we are already moving from artistís rights in the medium to now exploring the digital experiences they are delivering.

Kathy Keele

Chief Executive

Australia Council for the Arts

Contact

MEDIA MANAGER

Brianna Roberts

PHONE

(02) 9215 9030

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