PRINT October 1990


As everyone must know by now, the contemporary arts in America are under a campaign of intimidation by opportunistic politicians and spiteful bureaucrats. Issues of content aside, there is more to public backlash against the arts than a periodic overflow of the traditional anti-intellectual current in American life. People know that the promises of American ideology—daily reiterated in the idiom of merchandising—have been betrayed and that there’s nothing they can do about it. They know that the fundamental promise of freedom has been betrayed when freedom boils clown to “disposable” income, to the money to “buy time.”

Grants to artists, on whatever basis they are awarded, look like—and are—dispensations of privilege insofar as they help to buy time for the very people whose lives are conventionally understood as symbolic of a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of doing the work they

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