John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Saturday, January 22, 2005
  Art for art's sake - money for god's sake
Was part of a number by 10cc in the 1980s

Tablature for this is available along with the lyrics. (in the chorus).


Art for art's sake money for God's sake
Art for art's sake money for God's sake.
Gimme the ready Gimme the cash
gimme a bullet gimme a smash gimme a
silver gimme a gold make it a million
for when I get old


Which raises a number of questions.

The role of semantic art - music (with words), poetry, drama, fiction is not clear. What is clear is that it does not operate in isolation from reality.

Much of the saga with Bezhti has remained outside the public domain. This particular dispute was primarily driven by a large number of consultations which put the contents of the play "in the face" of the Sikh community.

I still believe that if the Birmingham Rep had not consulted on the play it would have passed with little comment. The fact was that they highlighted the whole thing with the Council of Gurdwaras then having asked them what they thought refused to change anything.

If they never were going to change anything then they should not have asked. They may have consulted with the best of intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

One of the issues which causes "consultation" problems is that frequently people "consult" when they are not going to change anything regardless of what the "consultees" say. They may "hear what you say", but that means nothing.

What really happened with Bezhti is that following the consultation fiasco, dress rehearsal and production of play it built up to a relatively low level of stress on the Wednesday with about 50 people present. This resulted in a small number of arrests. The reaction of this was

a) A meeting between the Council of Gurdwaras and the Rep Board, which was futile because noone was going to change anything

b) An increase in tension between the police and the generally law abiding religious Sikhs.

On the Saturday, therefore, the ante had been upped. There were about 500 protestors (my prediction for the Rep had been that they could hit 10,000). My sources indicate that there were non-Sikh troublemakers there who wanted trouble. They got it.

I am still not clear who was involved in the violence and vandalism that night. My sources indicate that there was involvement from others than Sikhs. Whoever was involved it was unacceptable, but if there were others out to cause trouble that is an important point.

On the Sunday the whole thing went out of control. When things go out of control there is little that can be done. The only sensible approach is to stop the key irritation.

The important point to remember is that children were attending "The Witches" which was the Christmas production for the Rep.

On the Monday, therefore, things were quite tense. Intelligence predicted a crowd of about 5,000 and that all the spare tickets had been bought up by protestors (see The Playboy of the Western World). If the event had gone ahead it would have put childen in the middle of what was a big dispute and could have continued to be violent.

Anyone who thinks the Rep should have continued to put the play on is insane. Regardless of any ideas about fighting battles for "free speech" it is totally unreasonable to put children in the middle of such a conflict. No one could validly criticise the Rep for pulling this play in the circumstances.

To me the saddest thing about the whole situation is that there were lots of ways the dispute (which got more press than the Ward End Vampire) could have been entirely avoided. Not least not using the ik onkar would have taken a lot of the tension from the play without any changes to the words of the play.

The Sikhs were particularly upset that the Rep used the phrase "It would change the flavour of the play" to justify doing something that particularly upset the Sikhs. The perception was that something that should be quite minor to the Rep was massively important to the Sikh Council, but the Rep continued to refuse to make specific changes.

In any event it is quite clear now that this play is very unlikely to be peformed in Birmingham again. It is sad that the playwright is unwilling (AFAIK) to talk about the issue to anyone willing to try to resolve the situation, but that is life.

The issue about art and its relation to reality has not had proper consideration.

The questions about the involvement of art in the death of Jodi Jones is also a live one.

There is an argument that the lyrics of Marilyn Manson were in part responsible for this sad event.

As a musician I am interested in musical theory. This relegates the issue of the lyrics to the 3rd division. Lyrics and images are, however, important.

I do think that artists need to accept responsibility for any consequences of the art that they produce.

This does not mean introducing censorship for lyrics and plays any more than exists already. However, it is an issue that does need proper consideration.

I personally think this approach is a sensible direction for responses to such matters.

Films such as "Team America - World Police" have very complex messages. It will be interesting to see how the USA responds to a film which has Michael Moore as a suicide bomber and has "Team America" going around the world blowing up Paris and Cairo.

It still brings me back to the original lyrics, however. If artists produce art that hurts other people by encouraging damaging behaviour then they should accept responsibility for that part of the behaviour they encourage.

The "money for gods sake" then can:
a) Go to compensate people for the damage.
b) Create financial responsibility will result in artistic responsibility.

I think that the current laws justify this in any event. All it requires is for someone with a "locus standii" to take action. The burden of proof in a civil action is balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt so I would think there would be cases which could prove an element of causality.

 
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