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Dead Milkmen and The Role of Art


So Rodney Anonymous, he of the Dead Milkmen, won a contest this week in Philadelphia that saw him become mayor of the town. Well, perhaps not the real mayor, but a kind of virtual- "we love this guy" mayor. And what does he do on his first day as mayor? He encourages all Phili citizens to go out there and get themselves some industrial music (Dead When I Found Her and AAIMON included, of course). Good man. Great mayor!

But seriously, this intersection of mayor-politics and the music we love got us thinking, and thinking critically, about the state of today's art-funding, and the place art has in Canadian (and to some extent American) society.

Which is to say: a poor place.

Arts funding, and funding for the humanities in general, is shrinking, and with technology, iPads, and everything else that has a chip in it (except synthesizers of course) drying up the well of public funds, we kind of think it's time to point out the obvious: everyone loves music, books, and film. No one really buys Kindles or mp3 players for the technology; they buy them because they give access to the good stuff: Dead Milkmen, Star Wars, and Dostoyevsky.

Since things like punk rock aren't measurable in the same way as things like computer chips, it's easy for governments and funding agencies to ignore them. But we shouldn't ignore art because nothing gets off the ground without it. We can argue all day about whether video games or cooking skills constitute art (and maybe they do), but why spend so much time and public attention on those kinds of questions when musicians can barely get government support, and art galleries are constantly in danger of closing? When was the last time a mayor or major media outlet actually raised the issue of art in a meaningful way? And is it really the case that the value of the humanities is so questionable, that classics, literature, and fine arts departments are shrinking, while computer science is ballooning?

Perhaps we should consider that what made Rodney's declaration as mayor so unique is in fact a kind of sad and scary thing.