What Makes Vienna’s Next Top Artist?

Is government funding just another casting show? God’s Entertainment stages a Kuratorium at Brut

It’s a reliable formula for insanely successful TV shows: People compete to live their dreams. From American Idol to Project Runway, shows have looked for dancers, singers, models, wives, designers, with something called the X-factor, whatever that is. 

But in an all new series, Vienna’s Next Top Artist, a theatre collective called God’s Entertainment is using the format in a performance art piece at Brut, to bring both levity and visibility to a topic that has remained in the shadows of Vienna’s cultural scene: government funding. The winner will get an EMMA7 award worth €5,000 and the opportunity to stage a co-production at Brut.

 

The collective God’s Entertainment takes selective funding to the cleaners | Photo: God’s Entertainment

The collective God’s Entertainment takes selective funding to the cleaners | Photo: God’s Entertainment

Off-scene irony 

Boris Ceko of God’s Entertainment has long been frustrated with the current funding system and hopes that it will become a subject of public debate. He cited the unequal treatment of the “off-scene” performance art, or alternative theatre projects compared to the established state-owned stages.

“Why does one stage do better than the other?” he asked. Vienna’s recent theatre reform has made some steps to levelling the playing field, separating the roles of theatre owners and artistic directors. But still, Ceko says, “it seems that a chosen few get the big public money, and others get the leftovers.” But he doesn’t blame the government officials for all of this; he also thinks the artists need help.

When performers seek project funding, they go to the Culture Division of the City of Vienna, MA7 (Magistratsabteilung 7). Applicants often complain that the Kuratorium, in effect a jury, asks bizarre questions, and it’s not clear why projects end up being funded or not. Even the artists don’t know why a presentation at the MA7 will get them funding one year and none the next. While corruption still dominates political headlines and cabaret stages, artists are also no strangers to Freunderlwirtschaft (favouritism).

“We’re interested in presenting the selection process ironically,” Ceko explained, because it seems so arbitrary in its current form. “What is the MA7 afraid of?” he asked. “What is the problem with making the evaluation and selection process public?”

 

All or nothing

There is no shortage of aspiring artists in town, often struggling for recognition and often without any outlet at all. This is where Brut and God’s Entertainment want to give them a leg-up. Unlike conventional casting shows, God’s Entertainment’s doesn’t want to offer the contestants or the audience a “dream life” as an artist, but invite them to look inside the workings of Vienna’s contemporary performance and theatre scene.

“It’s also up to the artists,” Ceko explained. There is money to be had, and by opening up the funding process to new audiences, God’s Entertainment hopes to prompt more gifted artists to apply for funding. By satirising the process, Ceko says, it will be funnier and more low-key, while making the world of funding more accessible.

Ceko has no interest in dictating what the winning artist will produce; he warned against the influence that funders can have on a project’s execution.

“I don’t have a problem with just giving the winner the money,” he said. But before that, everyone involved will peer deep into the mysteries of the funding process.

 

Applications accepted through 8 Sept. 

send to: topartist@gods-entertainment.org or by mail to: 

19., Liechtensteinstrasse 81/1 

Performances on 3,4,5,10 Oct.  

Gala and Award Ceremony 12 Oct.

Brut, 1., Karlsplatz 5

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