The artists hate Stephen Harper. And it’s not hard to understand why. His recent cuts to important arts funding have shocked and frightened the arts community (if you were fooled by his claims made at the Leadership Debate and elsewhere that his government actually spent more on the arts than the Liberals, check out former Torontoist Arts and Culture editor Karen Whaley’s excellent explanation of how that is a big lie).
In retaliation against the positively terrifying notion of a Conservative majority government, groups like Vote For Environment and the Department of Culture have sprung up to take the battle to the blogs. You might have heard about a concert happening tonight at the Phoenix called This Is Not A Conservative Party! featuring performances by Dave Bidini, Jason Collett, Stars, Ron Sexsmith, and (yes, it’s true!) the fricking Parachute Club. The DOC is behind this show; it’s just one of several campaigns they’ve got going to encourage people to vote with their mind on the arts. Since this is 2008, this means a viral video campaign is absolutely necessary. Since last week, the DOC’s blog has been featuring videos of so-called “Bad Dates With Stephen Harper,” created by such theatrical talents as Alex Pugsley, Rosa Laborde, Alex Poch Goldin and Linda Griffiths (the one at the top of this post is written by Rick Roberts and performed by Philippa Domville). A press release from the DOC describes a few videos yet to be featured on the site, including one written by actor/playwright Michael Healey (hopefully this one doesn’t require him to yell “fuck my wide ass!” like a certain viral video campaign involving similar people we remember from a couple of months back.)
The quality of the videos vary, but it’s a fun concept, and each “date” manages to be informative about an aspect of Conservative leadership failure as well as entertaining. But perhaps most effective in terms of a message is another video featured on the site that just went up yesterday. Stephen Harper has put a considerable amount of effort into portraying artists as “rich elitists” who don’t have anything to do with the “ordinary people” of Canada. The short video, which features different people giving their name and saying “I’m an artist,” speaks volumes in its simplicity. Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, it’s impossible to look at the people in this video and not notice their strong resemblance to… ordinary Canadians!