April 7, 2017

"An early video sketch of 'Doggie Hamlet,' a site-specific work by the choreographer and performance artist Ann Carlson, has recently become fodder for conservatives intent on eliminating federal funding of the National Endowment for the Arts."

"I can’t defend this strangely chopped together video, which undercuts the scope and mysterious splendor of Ms. Carlson’s vision. But as a dance critic, I will fight for Ms. Carlson, a multidisciplinary artist whose work poignantly explores social issues through the lens of performance. Art is subjective to be sure, but judging a three-minute promo without context does no one any favors...."*

Oh, well... why do favors? Here's the video. Judge away!


Ann Carlson - DOGGIE HAMLET, excerpts from Peter W Richards on Vimeo.

It's certainly not mean or unfair to judge an edited version that was made available as a promo. A promo invites judgment in the hope of favorable judgment. I'm not going to assume that more "context" would make it better. As long as the artist controlled the edit, I'm going to presume that what was stripped out was worse.

_______________________

* The quoted article is "But Is It Art? In the Case of ‘Doggie Hamlet,’ Yes" by Gia Kourlas (in the NYT).

85 comments:

FWBuff said...

Did the dog and the sheep consent to be part of this performance piece?

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

"Is it art?" Is not the question. I don't care about that debate.

The question is should government pay for this crap? Let her go to some liberal foundation or find a rich patron and let them subsidize her works.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

The biggest problem is the name. Nobody can take "Doggie Hamlet" seriously.

OTOH, "Horatio Hound," that's worth paying for.

eric said...

That was funny in it's terribleness.

I hope she doesn't take herself too seriously.

Ficta said...

What's next, Cahootie Macbeth?

Don't mind me, just amusing myself.

fivewheels said...

She takes it seriously enough to feel entitled to $45,000. And honestly, where did that money go? You couldn't produce that for less than, say, $625? Give me five grand, let me keep what's left over, and see if you can tell which is the real one and which is the cheap mockery.

jv said...

Actual shepherding is more beautiful, more moving, more useful and cheaper.



Rob said...

Government of the sheeple, by the sheeple, for the sheeple.

madAsHell said...

Lazlo's film was better.

Yancey Ward said...

I look forward to "Taming of a Real Shrew".

Jake said...

King (of the Jungle) Lear has potential.

tim in vermont said...

If we can't tax you to give the money to our friends for their hobbies, why bother to vote?

At least she had the sense to know that nobody was going to pay for a ticket.

The Godfather said...

If you like shepherding films, "Babe" is much better. In fact, it's just better full stop.

Swede said...

Shut the fuck up and cut her a check, you cretins!

tim maguire said...

I could only muster up 30 seconds of patience so my opinion should be discounted accordingly, but I don't see art here. I see a dog, sheep, and a woman in a field. The dog and the sheep have purpose.

Lewis Wetzel said...

"Ms. Carlson’s production grant was $45,000."
Understand that there are people, working for minimum wage, desperately trying to make ends meet, who are being forced to pay for this thing.

Balfegor said...

Went in hoping it was going to be Hamlet dubbed over video of dogs in cute costumes and was sorely disappointed. This is FALSE ADVERTISING! Cut her funding off!!

Matthew Sablan said...

I'm sure we could get Not the Government to pay for it.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

What artist would wish to be dependent on a government grant? Isn't the implication that your art is then a government product? Can a grantee be said to have any artistic integrity at all? I don't think so.

mockturtle said...

a multidisciplinary artist whose work poignantly explores social issues through the lens of performance.

The less we explore social issues, the better off we'll all be.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Went in hoping it was going to be Hamlet dubbed over video of dogs in cute costumes and was sorely disappointed."

-- This too is what I had hoped for. Oh well, there's still a chance for a great Rosenpup and Guildenwoof are dead.

Scott M said...

Hasn't the long march of history, back into antiquity, shown that art will find patrons no matter what? And, further, if the drachmas start drying up, won't that float the very best at their various crafts to the top? Wasn't the statue of David "modern art" at one time?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

You mean there's a full 70 minutes of border collie and sheep and people whirling around waving sheep pelts? The "literal video version" of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" may be marginally sillier, but it's also much, much shorter. Also, it made me laugh. This is possibly the silliest thing I've seen in years, and yet it isn't even amusing.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger Tyrone Slothrop said...
What artist would wish to be dependent on a government grant?

The people who sit on the board that approves the grant are peers of the grant recipients. That is part of what corrupts the system. It is a closed system with little public input.

tim maguire said...

Sort of a live action version of dogs playing poker. That's what it should have been.

I've known a few performance artists. Narcissistic pricks to the last. Selfish emotional children who feel free to make anything and everything about them, because that's their art.

Bob Boyd said...

"There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time."

Ficta said...

Well, what do you know, there's finally not one, but two versions of Dogg's Hamlet available online:

Higher production values.
Younger (maybe) actors. Easier to see and hear the action.

I spent years trying to see this play. Finally caught it a couple years ago.

William said...

The dog was pretty good, but I would have preferred a younger, fitter woman in a diaphanous robe. Young, fit women in diaphanous robes: that's real art.

Tinderbox said...

Funny how "artists" are all for government review and approval of their work if it comes with a paycheck.

Biff said...

I kept thinking about the likelihood that the "artist" considered this exercise to be "work" for which other people should be compelled to pay, and then I thought of the farm setting, where actual work most likely is performed based on the expectation that other people would pay voluntarily for the product. I'd be willing to bet that the artist considers the former to be "freedom" and the latter to be "oppression."

I also note that foundations bearing the names of Doris Duke (tobacco heiress) and Andrew Mellon (banker) supported the exercise.

paminwi said...

These kind of bullshit government expenditures have got to go.

Bill Peschel said...

I don't care about the content; the government shouldn't be in the arts business, period.

Especially now when artists can make movies on the smartphones and writers can self-publish and promote their books for coffee money.

David said...

They had me for a few seconds with the sheepdog, but that was it.

$45,000 seems like a lot for that. I wonder how much they pocketed beyond actual production costs?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Let's say it's art. OK, it's art. Great.

Why the hell should I be forced to pay for it?! Why should some person poorer than me (your prototypical single mother w/3 kids and a minimum wage job, say) be theoretically forced to pay for it? Who the fuck do these people think they are, to demand that the nation pay for for their "work?"
We owe soldiers. We owe cops and firefighters and EMTs. We owe librarians, we owe road workers...hell, we even owe teachers.
We don't owe some self-described artist a goddamned thing. You want money, sell your shit to your rich artist-loving friends, but get your hand out of Uncle Sam's pocket.

john said...

With trepidation I clicked on the video. I was expecting to see a naked woman smearing herself with sheep excrement. To music.

I am somewhat disappointed.

Jersey Fled said...

It would be fun to read the proposal that was submitted requesting this grant.

Now THAT must have been a work of art!

Christopher said...

The idea of incorporating the unpredictable movements of animals into a dance piece is a good one. The problem here--as it seems to me, and only in the context of its artistic value--is that many of the the human movements are too small to play meaningfully against the context of the greater movement of the dog and sheep. She might be going for some kind of meaningful contrast when she has a dancer lie on the ground, inert, but inert is the way it feels.

Politically, I don't think there is a problem. There's plenty of NEA-funded projects that are artistically fantastic, and certainly some that are artistic failures. It's disingenuous to point out one of the many hundreds of grant-receiving projects as evidence that it's a waste of government money. It's even worse to whine about minimum wage workers having to shoulder the bill when the NEA makes up something like .003% of the federal budget. It costs as much as three Apache helicopters.

Want to bolster your small-government credentials? Go complain about the $15 million dollar wall the president wants to build.

William said...

It's not art; it's the manifestation of stupidity.

sinz52 said...

Peschel: " the government shouldn't be in the arts business, period."

Governments have always been in the arts business, from the Egyptian pyramids to today.

Who do you think paid Ludwig von Beethoven's salary? How did he earn a living?

And Johann Sebastian Bach was a court musician in whose employ?

JaimeRoberto said...

How do I get on this gravy train?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

sinz52, you are surely not representing the Egyptian pyramids -- the largest works of slave labor ever constructed -- as an example of government arts funding.

Beethoven and Bach made most of their money selling printed music. Bach was a court musician in many people's employ. Are you talking Muehlhausen, or Weimar, or Leipzig? Beethoven was all over the place too -- Bonn first, then Vienna. Haydn worked for Prince Eszterhazy until the latter died, then took up with his successor. Telemann, the most efficient of them all, not only wrote probably more music than anyone living or dead, but engraved quite a bit of it himself.

But can you see the difference between private patrons and public support? Because a patron with independent means is not equivalent to a government grant.

Pianoman said...

Hey, I'm doing "art" tonight at a local college, in the form of a musical.

Where's my federal funding?

I mean, if "art" is that important ... and it is, right?

Where's my check?

Roy Jacobsen said...

"There's plenty of NEA-funded projects that are artistically fantastic, and certainly some that are artistic failures."

Be that as it may, that is still doesn't answer the question of whether funding art is something that the federal government SHOULD be doing. And as is so often the case, this instance shows how, when the federal government does try to do something, it does a shoddy job.

Virgil Hilts said...

How is this any better art (its certainly less amusing) than the reenactment of the Battle of Pearl Harbor by the women of the Batley Townswomens' Guild.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ccuWFidUYI

Martin said...

Frankly, I don't care if Doggie Hamlet is good or bad, I don't want my tax dollars being allocated to art projects by a bunch of people I don't know, for a variety of reasons.

People like Ms. Carlson are and will remain free to make whatever art they want, subject only to being able to line up the funds and resources to do so. I see nothing unfair about that, compared to the gross unfairness of seizing people's money at gunpoint and having unkown other people decide to give it to even more distant others, to do things the people who pay aren't aware of but might disapprove of if they knew, for no compelling purpose.

That's much closer to theft than a legit public program.

Virgil Hilts said...

A far sadder article concerning Trump's proposed cuts relates to how they will hurt Opera companies. http://operawire.com/how-president-donald-trumps-federal-budget-cuts-to-nea-would-hurt-opera-companies/

johns said...

Ann is trolling the libs here. This is a random FB video by Ann's cousin Betty. But it proves you can put up ANYTHING and say the government is paying for it. Libs will defend.

Infinite Monkeys said...

I think he's a better dancer than she. I like the dog and the sheep and would rather just watch them.

I thought "Hamlet" = "little village". There was nothing about this that made me think of Shakespeare and it didn't occur to me that it might refer to that Hamlet until I read the comments here.

chuck said...

Border collies are great. Smart, good looking, hard working, and they don't need a government grant to perform. As for the dancers, they suck.

Quaestor said...

sinz52 wrote: Governments have always been in the arts business, from the Egyptian pyramids to today.
Who do you think paid Ludwig von Beethoven's salary? How did he earn a living?
And Johann Sebastian Bach was a court musician in whose employ?


J.S. Bach was employed by the diocese of Leipzig. His salary came mostly from the tithes. He was required to rehearse and conduct the choir, play the organ during divine services, and compose new works. Bach was not paid to do whatever struck his fancy. He worked full time almost every day of the week, and even then his salary was hardly adequate. Bach supplemented his income by teaching privately during those few hours when he wasn't committed to church duties.

Bach was not a "court musician", though he tried to be. He wrote six complete concerti as a kind of resumé applying for a position at the very minor court of the Margrave of Brandenburg. A job he failed to get, btw.

Your comparison of Bach and Beethoven's careers to the kind of despicable trash American citizens are forced to pay for is ludicrous. Firstly, there were many, many more artists than positions available in the 18th century, which coupled with the much more elevated tastes of that era made certain that the idiots didn't get paid — hardly the situation today. Secondly, the regimes you refer to collected taxes, fees, and rents from their subjects without their consent. We, however, are citizens in a republic, not subjects of a despot, with the right and duty to object when the government misappropriates our money by way of a cabal of self-styled elites call the National Endowment for the Humanities. Thirdly, these governments of the past you use to justify this kind of dissipation of the commonweal also engaged in warfare, erected walls and border fortifications, and expelled, exiled, or deported anyone who displeased them. Keep that in mind when you consider damning President Trump for bombing Assad's air bases, or erecting a wall on our southern border, or deports illegal immigrants, because we might just despise you for hypocrisy.

OGWiseman said...

This is not defensible as a work of publicly financed art, and whoever authorized its finance deserves rebuke. However, it frustrates me that a single, $45k waste from its budget is considered a justification to shutter the NEA, which actually does support a ton of worthy and useful art works. Why is it that experimentation and failure of individual projects is considered a feature of the free market, but a disqualifying reality of government?

By the way, the military and social entitlement sectors of the economy waste $45k just clearing their throat. Then they start talking. If this dumbass has to get that much for her stupid video so that we can have all the good stuff the NEA does, so be it. She shouldn't get it; we should improve the selection process at every opportunity. But even if she has to, to me, it's well worth it.

Quaestor said...

Beethoven earned his meager living mostly the same way most musicians earn their keep today — the people who enjoyed hearing the music paid for the privilege. This is not how Ann Carlson got paid, is it?

Quaestor said...

If this dumbass has to get that much for her stupid video so that we can have all the good stuff the NEA does, so be it.

A rather specious comparison, Wiseman. Military spending is mandated by the Constitution. No so the NEA. This is not to say the federal government should not be involved in the arts. The government frequently is so involved, and by the direct commission of Congress, which is in turn responsible to the People. This is not the case with the NEA. Their members are not answerable to the taxpayers. The persons who approved the grant to Carlson are in no danger of being turned out of office by the taxpayers. The only ass that gets kick is our collective posteriors.

Balfegor said...

Re: Infinite Monkeys:

I thought "Hamlet" = "little village". There was nothing about this that made me think of Shakespeare and it didn't occur to me that it might refer to that Hamlet until I read the comments here.

I don't see how you can see Dog + Hamlet and not immediately think "Great Dane."

Quaestor said...

Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a woof-woof (pant, pant) woof.,

Quaestor said...

I have a wonderful idea.

Let's chain one million monkeys to one million typewriters and let them bang away for one million years. Then the descendants of Ann Carlson can perform an interpretive dance to whatever the simians produce.





Where's my check?

tim in vermont said...

Yeah, there's just the one.

tim in vermont said...

Instead of forcing at gunpoint other people to pay for this stuff, people who think it's of value could always pony up?

Naah!

The Godfather said...

I may have missed it, but have the defenders of NEA grants made the case that the artistic quality of Doggie Hamlet is equal to the works of Bach and Beethoven?

Quaestor said...

[H]ave the defenders of NEA grants made the case that the artistic quality of Doggie Hamlet is equal to the works of Bach and Beethoven?

Yup.

urbane legend said...

Christopher said...
It's even worse to whine about minimum wage workers having to shoulder the bill when the NEA makes up something like .003% of the federal budget.

Those of us who complain about minimum wage workers shouldering the bill for this crap complain about all of the other waste and abuse heaped on all of us by our federal government.
As for the military, a pretty large portion of the military budget exists to keep defense contractors alive, as far as I can tell.

Joshua Barker said...

In an age of YouTube, 4K personal camera's and super cheap editing software, a motivated individual can create and diseminate content that is almost indistinguishable from more professional, Hollywood produced fare... Also, in the age of multi-millionare internet celebrities, there is NO REASON for government to subsidize or support every Tom, Jane and Sally who fancies themselves an auteur... Just as in the halcyon days of future past, let artiste's sing for their supper and find wealthy patrons to support them...

hugh42 said...


The dog and the sheep did well. Too much human interpretive gyrating..go natural with just animals. Cruel to frighten livestock with tanned lambskins. Let them remain ignorant.

EDH said...

I propose as a solution a new web site, akin to GoFundMe, called GoFuckYourself.

It would allow taxpayers to claim a refund of their share of a particular government arts grant from the artist.

Paul Ciotti said...

This makes no sense to me. Just because someone calls herself an artist doesn't mean she deserves government funding. I could make a video in a couple of hours with my Canon that would make as much sense as all this, which is to say, no sense at all.

wildswan said...

If we are just animals, then that's how the dogs would do Hamlet, correct? I'm doing a video on how snails would do Downton Abbey. So far, there's very sad scene where the snail playing Michael Crawley gets run over. But the scenes going up and downstairs (I have a good vine setup) are going at a snail's pace. I've requested 65,000 dollars which is less than any war ever fought and no one gets to leave till it's over so there won't be anymore wars and I'll also get the Nobel Peace prize. And the Academy Award for Best Hermaphrodite Picture when the knock-off movie is made.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

So self-indulgent I had to look away. Embarrassing. Awful. A sane, compassionate electorate would agree that the purpose of the mission has been lost.

Jim S. said...

Two wienerdogs from Verona.

Jim S. said...

Antony and Cleo's Parrot.

Jim S. said...

Meerkat of Venice.

Jim S. said...

Merry Wolves of Windsor.

Jim S. said...

Twelfth Shrike.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Don't arts and sociology students spend all of their time studying things like "lumberjack Chic" and hard core porn? They clearly don't think the NEA and NEH types are producing art representative of American culture. Why should the taxpayers?

Jim S. said...

A Midsummer Night's Bream.

OK, I'll stop.

EMyrt said...

1. mockturtle said...

" 'a multidisciplinary artist whose work poignantly explores social issues through the lens of performance.'

The less we explore social issues, the better off we'll all be."

I'd add that if the above statement is a DEFENSE of the piece, we know it's PoMo crapola and not worth watching.

2. Questor beat me to it (and did it better) re Bach & Beethoven; I would add that personal patronage is very different than bureaucratic funding. For examples of both, the history of ballet and opera are instructive. L'etat, c'est moi.

3. The pyramids were not built by slave labor, anymore than the medieval cathedrals were. Those who built the pyramids were in high-prestige well-paid positions; it was a religious honor to be involved.

mockturtle said...

The Taming of the Shih-tzu?

Lewis Wetzel said...

Tigress Andronicus.
As Ewe Like It.
Cariolioness.

Balfegor said...

More seriously, I think there's a place for public funding of preservation of the arts. I think funding for museums and operahouses and performance grants for small musical ensembles and theatre troupes and the like are fine, even if many of the museums are full of horrible soulless modern art, and the musical ensembles play tuneless jazz, and the theatre troupes play the Vagina Monologues. They are picking and choosing from works that have met some bar -- even if it is not my own -- for quality, and are performing or preserving it for the public.

I like the National Gallery of Art, but if I had to name my favourite art museum in DC, it would actually be the Luce Foundation displays in the American Art Museum -- just row after row of miscellaneous paintings, sculptures and random bric-a-brac all lined up behind class or in drawers like stacks in a library. There's a lot of crap in there (as indeed, there is generally a lot of dull, uninteresting art on display in the fancier galleries in both the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery), but there's so much that you can come across something interesting that otherwise you simply never would see. And there is the conservation centre behind it -- I've never seen anyone working in there (probably because I only ever go on weekends), but the last time I was there they had a huge portrait of George Washington they were working on. Those are efforts I'd be fine supporting with my tax dollars.

If the public is going to pay for the creation of novel art and music, then I think it ought to be for some public purpose, e.g. to celebrate the centennial of the Armistice next year, or the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence or whatever. But mostly, let it run on commissions and commercialisation.

mockturtle said...

Love's Labradors Lost

Left Bank of the Charles said...

"That'll do, that'll do." The annual NEA and NEH budgets work out to about $1 per capita, 2 cents per week. My two cents is that conservatives are getting more than their share in entertainment value just from having something to complain about.

Michael The Magnificent said...

The dog is the only one with talent in this ridiculous movie, and the dog is willing to perform it's "art" for a few cups of kibble per day.

We got ripped off.

M Jordan said...

As Homer Simpson once said, "It was good ... but it wasn't great."

I would add, "Or even good, when you think about it."

Rusty said...

I'm getting rather tired of subsidizing hacks.
Lewis W has the gist of it.
" I paid for what!?"

Rusty said...

Left Bank of the Charles said...
"That'll do, that'll do." "The annual NEA and NEH budgets work out to about $1 per capita, 2 cents per week. My two cents is that conservatives are getting more than their share in entertainment value just from having something to complain about."

Not quite the point is it.
I'll simplify it for you. Those that subsidize are get the art they subsidize. Government subsidized art gets the art government approves of. Government art. Governments at their very best are mediocre at anything they do.
Why do you want mediocre art?

Daniel Jackson said...

I'm with JaimeRoberto, I want to get in on this action!