Since I wrote about the wine being illegal at art openings in Ontario a little while ago, and there’s even more restrictions I have been informed of. It’s no secret that after years of kowtowing to the LCBO to pay and fill out no sale special occasion permits for art openings, I now fully support going “off the grid” with your art openings – if possible.
Being technically ADD, as most creative types are, means I am a bit dis-organized and distracted at times but our kind have the super-power of lateral thinking and seeing the big picture of a situation, making connections between factors and relationships. I will attempt to demonstrate a connection I am seeing between the individual and the LCBO, the g20 and event venues. Seriously. Ok, here goes:
1) I have been informed by other gallery administrators that LCBO employees are “cracking down on galleries” and are now demanding a list of invited guests in advance. Their reasoning? That “it’s the same as a wedding – you would not have strangers off the street just showing up to drink the wine.” Um, ok. Hard to argue with someone who has a fundamentally idiotic and flawed perception of the issue at hand. Anyways, some employees are being ambitious enough to find a gallery website for “evidence” of advertising for an art opening and printing it out to show the applicant why they will not be allowed to serve guests wine at their art openings. Yep, good job. We live in a province where you have to line up at one of two corporate-controlled franchises to purchase spirits or beer, and the people who work there will stalk your cultural blog to prevent you from doing something that is slightly less old than prostitution – that is, drinking something fermented in front of something someone drew. Why has Quebec not degraded into a lawless, despot hellhole where they eat babies at art openings and there are burning husks of cars in the street? Answer: because they are too busy laughing at Ontario and deservedly so. Apparently, the way around this to provide a huge list of, say, 500 people so when an inspector shows up and sees 100 people then they won’t charge you. If they count 101 people and you provided a list of 100, then you will be fined.
Is it just me or is this sounding like a Kafka story? Like 1984? Like a fascist regime? Like The Unbearable Lightness of Being?
Where the hell is CARFAC in all of this? Anyways, I digress…but my main point is connected to the response to protests as described below…
2) The g8/g20 is in Toronto right now and they have achieved a surreal and existentialist state of bliss by granting a fence more rights than a human being. The police are everywhere – and not just downtown either. I’m in Parkdale right now and literally there are cops every few minutes going by outside. Apparently, I support people blowing up people with bombs if I don’t like this. They will intimidate, harangue and detain you if they don’t like the looks of you (starving artists beware!) and even though I know, you know, they know and everyone knows doing this is illegal it is accomplishes the goal of intimidation and locking you up for the duration of the g8/g20. And that is directly related to the following observation about corporate control of water…
3) My partner was telling me about attending some lectures related to issues surrounding the g8/g20 last night – at a concert hall where they have a strict “no outside food / water policy” and forced everyone to dump out their water before entering. More specifically during a really hot day they made water rights activists dump out their water from environmentally friendly containers. Inside, there was expensive bottled water and a small and expensive selection of junk food. This is not unusual – outdoor festivals do this all the time and force you to shell out big bucks for water inside a tightly controlled environment. This disgusts me – it is one small step away from charging people for using a venue’s oxygen. They will hire people to search people to make sure no illegal water can be smuggled in. It is a basic necessity to survive and is required by all at all times of the day – by controlling and charging for it is vile and the worst example of what is wrong with our society, in my opinion.
So, what is my point with these three examples?
The connection here is the theme of the dignity of the individual versus the industry of taking away the individual’s dignity. No, I am not talking about manufacturing plants or smelting ore. I am talking about the artificial industries of control and regulation in all three examples. With art openings, the monopoly of beer and wine distribution continues to create a false sense of impending crisis and is creating more bureaucracy (translation – more jobs!) to control areas of culture they should not be interfering with at all by making absurd rules that are difficult to fight – it is an economy of intimidation and helps ensure a monopoly for many years to come.
In the second example, it is no secret that the industry of fear has spawned unreal spending on security and the military. By public protesting we have given a perfect excuse to spend more on more cops, wanna-be cops, fence makers, camera installers, sonic beam scientists, cop car contracts, lawyers, snacks for cops, pepper spray stores – oh the jobs and industry based on fear is truly awesome!
And finally, the control and security around people’s need to drink water is the absurd but logical extension of this kind of attitude. Not only do you create jobs by people stopping people drinking water in hot and crowded outdoor environments, but also support things like offshore drilling to keep creating plastic bottles and creating recycling plants and restaurants where the water distributors can meet for lunch with the festival/ venue management.
Which brings me to me final point – whose fault is this anyways? How did this get to this absurd point?
Well, the fault is entirely yours and mine actually. These degrading and humiliating industries that are based a very dim view of humanity have been allowed to grow and blossom because we let it arise. I imagine in other countries and even long ago in ours the three situations I listed above would be ignored en masse and thus cease to exist and preserve a collective dignity. Perhaps some of the massive funds being gobbled up by the military, intelligence agencies, petty government bureaucrats and greedy food and beverage corporations would instead be diverted to such areas as health care, arts and education. Call me crazy, but that seems to be a better use of money and better tools for a healthy and dignified society.
So what do we do now? As usual, it is now up to artists, writers and the intellectuals to scream and scream about it until things slowly change. It’s not that free speech is technically a problem anymore, it is that the majority of our population lives in the suburbs and are far too distracted by shopping for new TVs, arguing with neighbors about property lines and entertaining the kids with Disney movies in the back of the minivan to pay attention to such un-fun issues – unless it was encapsulated in a hollywood blockbuster. Because arts and ideas are not supposed to be entertainment but unfortunately it has to be to have any real chance to change things.
The mob rules, people, and unfortunately I see no sign of enough people giving enough of a shit to engage in meaningful civil disobedience. People are taught to distrust other people – and to see money in education and arts as a luxury. But paying someone to stalk galleries on social media to see if there is a party going on, paying cops to drag youth off to jail for gathering in public and paying for oil spill clean-up is somehow a better use of our resources.
Less mass media and more going to galleries each week would probably solve this, but I am frankly not hopeful that things will improve anytime soon. I know I can be caustic on this blog, but my vision was to have a space where I could say things that perhaps other people wanted to say but could not for fear of reprisal or politics.