Why Arts Fundraising Will Drive You Insane

July 19, 2010

So it’s been almost three years I’ve been pushing hard at/giving up on/pushing hard at/giving up on going to Afghanistan in order to complete the military documentary project I’ve been working on since Nov. 2006.  If that sounds like an emotional yo-yo– it is.  Because people get excited!  And then you talk!  And then there’s a long period of silence during which your hope turns sour and becomes dark-hearted cynicism.  But then the possibility presents itself again!  And despite knowing better, you get excited!  And then you lose all hope (again).

This also involves being toyed with in cat/dead mouse manner by people who have the power and influence to lift one or two fingers and are not necessarily willing because it’s become the American way to stop any and every conversation dead with “yeah but what’s in it for ME?”  (How ’bout the Golden Rule, maybe?)

This does not, however, mean that I’m cynical.  If I were I wouldn’t keep getting my hopes up and getting deeply invested (again).  And since pretty much existing in the artworld all but requires having a shit-ton of cash on hand, you can understand how for somebody broke and working class this gets frustrating because your lack of wealth constantly puts you in the position of having to rely (heavily) on other people who do not necessarily have any good reason to help you, or are distracted, or are fickle.   That’s just how things work, and it’s excruciating, but that’s just how things work.   Power begets power, and the smaller the stakes the sharper the knives.

It’s only a little bit of an overstatement to say that getting shot at by the Taliban this December if things go right seems less distressing than having your fate rest in the hands of people who are indifferent to or unaware of that fact.   Because getting shot at is a matter of fact: you’re getting shot at so if you have a weapon you take cover and fire back and if you just have a cheap camera you just take cover.  You take action.  I don’t mean to diminish the psychologically damaging nature of getting shot at (and if you’re a service member, randomly but nearly constantly) but what I mean is that arts fundraising gives you the illusion of possibility and leverage and control but really your only option is to hug the ground and wait and hope you get lucky.

What I’m talking about here is going to Afghanistan to embed with US forces to document them and their lives during actual combat.  I did this in “Fake Iraq” and now I want to do it in the real Afghanistan, because I don’t think people are getting a comprehensive idea of what it looks like to be a US service member in 2010.  It’s not much more complicated than that.  This is something I want to do and think I can do well, if given the chance.   And the prospects of this happening are as likely as they ever have been, which means I have about a 30% chance of actually going, which means that every day that goes by when you don’t hear from a funding source (for whatever innocent reason) is like having dental surgery with no anesthetic.

And finally when you’re actively fundraising (and I have worked every angle possible, and I mean EVERY angle) you get your own powelessness (in the form of poverty) presented to you with a flourish on an hourly basis.  Because there are always contingencies, always hoops to jump through, always one more reason to wait.  This, dear readers, is how arts fundraising (no matter what the goal) will drive you insane.

Slapping-up of photos to resume soon.  I made some small inept drawings!  Meanwhile go buy Careful/Eric Lindley’s album Oh, Light and check out the videos below.

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