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International programs

Page history last edited by Alison Croggon 16 years, 1 month ago

Australian artists are increasingly successful overseas in all areas of the arts. In many cases, this has been facilitated by state and federal programs that have promoted work to international buyers or funded tours. This growing international recognition is one of the key means by which we can make our culture more sustainable.


However, it is worth examining the programs to test their efficacy. How could they better serve their constituencies? And - a linked question - how to arrest the present brain drain of cultural workers to fairer climes overseas?


A few initial thoughts:


* Is it worth creating an organisation equivalent to the British Council or the Goethe Institute that specifically deals with Australia's international profile, thus coordinating work that is currently undertaken by a melange of state and federal bodies? The advantage to this would be specialist knowledge: I remember being an advisor on a Literature Board panel, in which people had never heard of one of the more prominent French publishers.


* The language of bureaucracy is often mystifying to people in the arts business. A literary agent tells me that promoting the concept of "Australian literature" is worse than useless, and that recent programs to promote Australian writers (for example, at the Frankfurt Book Fair) have been basically a waste of money because of a lack of practical understanding of how international deals are done. International readers and publishers aren't interested in "Australian writing", they are interested in individual writers and books. She suggests that it would be more effective to spend the money on a advertising campaigns on specific books targeted to major industry magazines.


* Because of this lack of communication between the private and public sectors (among other things), there is little awareness of many of our local international successes. For example: Australians are the new force in genre SFF literature, with at least a dozen writers selling strongly in the competitive American and European markets. We ought to generate awareness across the field. And there is expertise behind those successes that could be drawn on in other fields.


* The most successful international careers occur when an artist's work becomes part of the local culture. Tours and promotions may alert the local culture to an artist's existence, but unless this builds ongoing relationships they will be no more than more or less successful one-off events. In general, bureacracy ought to be flexible, to permit greater responsiveness to the development of individual networks and careers. (Arts Victoria's international program is focused on the development of long-term relationships).


* Overseas organisations seeking to produce an Australian artist's work often approach the local Embassy for support, which is most often not forthcoming because of the lack of an effective cultural budget. At the least, strengthening the roles of cultural attaches would be a smart move in cultural diplomacy.

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