Friday, March 27, 2015

Remember how last night we were talking about right-wing zillionaires and energy giants buying control of our cash-hungry nonprofits?


Do you want to know who made this lovely little documentary about Serge Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes possible?

by Ken

This is another of those stories you couldn't make up.

Last night I wrote a post called "'Why are science museums in bed with science deniers?' (actor-activist Mark Ruffalo)," which I had finished far enough ahead of time (an hour, and maybe even a few minutes more) that by the time it was posting, I was enjoying an episode of DCI Banks on my local PBS station. Somehow I had never seen an episode of DCI Banks. That was nice.

Afterwards, though, I figured that was enough lolligagging. It was time to dip back into the real world, or at least my version thereof. That meant dragging myself back to the computer. Sigh.


In last night's post, I noted that not only actor-activist Mark Ruffalo but everyone else who asks, "Why are science museums in bed with science deniers?" --
knows the answer: $$$$. That's right, almight dollars. Right-wing plutocrats have 'em, and nonprofit orgs of every stripe need 'em, more often than not desperately.

And the lucky-ducky institutions that cash those checks are quick to assure us that the money doesn't influence the way they perform their functions, no sir! And with that assurance we can all rest easy, right? Except that pretty much every day we read new, usually well-documented charges that, on the contrary, nonprofit institutions and media are giving their right-wing zillionaire donors quite a bit of "consideration."
I proceeded to recall my horror at the renaming of Lincoln Center's longtime New York State Theater as the David H. Koch Theater, even as I understood why somebody was more than happy to pocket the truckload of Koch cash that came with the deal. Then I wrote:
Considering how big a business the "development" (i.e., fund-raising, not to be confused with the "development" of anything actually cultural or artistic) arm of the nonprofit world has become -- one often gets the feeling that the "development" teams have become more important at many orgs than the teams that actually do stuff -- it's not hard to understand the appeal of free-floating $$$$. Small orgs, no matter how high-minded, are in a terrible position to turn away any potential donor, and large orgs now have such an overwhelming need for $$$$ that they feel they have no choice but to go where the $$$$ are.


One last thing I did before rechaining myself to the computer: I checked to see what might be on the tube -- something I could leave on in the background while I pecked away at the computer. I noticed that as a post-DCI Banks filler, to get them up to 11:00, Channel 13 had some sort of little show about the legendary dance impresario Serge Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. I guess because it was a mere half-hour thingie (some sort of documentary, I assumed, but a half-hour documentary?) that I didn't immediately pay much attention. But after a bit more searching I decided to just let the thing, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music, narrated by Tilda Swinton, run while I pecked away.

Now dance isn't my field, but music is, and because of the composers Diaghilev collaborated with, Ballets Russes was approximately as important to 20th-century music as to 20th-century dance, and again, since dance isn't my field, I figured I could stand to know more about him and his company, and also to see what there might be to see. Given the half-attention I was paying while pecking, I had the feeling that it was in fact quite a terrific 26-minute production -- I only wished I'd watched more carefully, and maybe somehow had the presence of mind to record it.

I did at least have the presence of mind to be watching at the end, for the credits -- to find out just what this thing was, with maybe a view toward tracking it down somewhere, somehow. Imagine my surprised to ciscover that it was a film made in conjunction with an exhibition that was presented at the National Gallery of Art from May to October 2013, called (what else?) Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music. Later, armed with this information, I was able to track down the YouTube version of the film atop this post.

I learned one other thing from the credits -- that the thing was made possible by ExxonMobil and Rosneft (which I discovered is described on Wikipedia as "the leader of Russia’s petroleum industry and the world’s largest publicly traded petroleum company"). Now I'm not saying this is a bad thing, necessarily. I'll bet it was a swell exhibition, "organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art, Washington."

Why, look just at the film that the exhibition left behind. (Yes, go ahead, look at it!) And I'll bet the exhibition wasn't cheap to put on. Do we really think it could have been, or at any rate would have been, put on without access to somebody's deep pockets? A quick show of hands, people. Everyone who would have picked up the check for the project, raise your hand.

Now that we've taken care of business, feel free to enjoy the film if you haven't already done so. Courtesy of you-know-who.

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At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be it ballet or basketball, these are the circuses meant to mollify us (along with the GMO "bread" they sell us to eat) and keep us from seeing how we are being exploited against our best interests.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Yeah, well, uh . . . it's a nice little film!



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