La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela at the Dream House

13. Funding Serious Art in Today's Climate

LA MONTE YOUNG: How many people who have the money have the spiritual interest? So what is interesting about…

MARIAN ZAZEELA:Heiner and Fariha Friedrich

LA MONTE YOUNG: …is that they believed in our work ever since they discovered us and this is very unusual. They believed in it on some totally other level and so you know, most patrons, if they give you something, they want a lot in return. They want this or they want that. They want objects. They want this, they want sex…whatever they want. It doesn’t matter what they want; they almost always want something. But they didn’t want anything. All they ever wanted from us was for us to do our work. And Heiner would take such joy in coming to one of the installations that we were constructing and talking to us about it and participating in the creative process and seeing us do something that was completely creative away from the constraints of the marketplace. And, it was really a miracle that he discovered us and it is something that we have to be eternally thankful for because there is nobody like him. It’s very rare that anybody comes along in life and gives a person that kind of support so they can do free, creative work.

FRANK J. OTERI: Which raises another entirely different area that I didn’t even think of going into, but I think it is something we should talk about: the whole question of how serious art can exist in a society that’s based entirely on profit motives.

MARIAN ZAZEELA: Yes, it’s really difficult.

LA MONTE YOUNG: I mean, Kyle’s essay was so great, you know the one I’m referring to, where he talks about…it’s all about commodity.

MARIAN ZAZEELA: It was on his website. It was a diatribe against the commercialism of music. It’s still there, I think.

LA MONTE YOUNG: It basically says, you can’t do the concert in this place because it’s not going to make money. You can’t make this recording because it’s not going to make money. And everybody comes to you with the preconceived point that it must make money.

MARIAN ZAZEELA: And, you know, even our beloved funding organizations such as they are, like New York State Council on the Arts, it’s definitely under this thumb also and may, you know, we can think our days are numbered, I mean MELA Foundation gets a very small grant from NYSCA to carry on our work, but it could even be cut off soon because of various reasons. One is this space is not ADA compatible or up to that level. Of course it’s an old building so maybe we can slip by for a few more years. But, other things like that and just because we have small audiences, I know that they look at how many people are there and I don’t. I worry a lot about how the panels look at these reports that you send in and I guess that they do read them, amazingly.

LA MONTE YOUNG: Well, in the past there has been some tradition of those who are in power supporting the arts. For example, the Maharajas in India prided themselves in keeping the best musicians, the best poets, and actually studying music with them.

MARIAN ZAZEELA: And calligraphy! These maharajas who did miniatures and…

LA MONTE YOUNG: And when Marian and I go to Europe, we’re really treated like we’re important and we earn money and people pay us and they think it’s important that we’re artists. In America, nobody wants to pay me. Nobody wants to pay me to do art and that’s a sad situation, you know, that we live in such a materialistic society, that we have lost track of the importance of spiritual evolution. We can see the arts as part of the spiritual process and the powers that be could just as well support it, if they were interested in it, if they understood it.