Jeff R Warren


Public Art Policies and Ethical Communities


For the first time in many years, the arts have become a central issue in a federal election. In the lead up the Canada's 2008 federal election, the Conservatives quietly made cuts to cultural and artistic initiatives, and made an ammendment to Bill C-10 which would allow the Heritige Minister to deny tax credits for Canadian artistic production. All of this comes merely months after the restructuring of the CBC shut down the CBC radio orchestra and radically changed the programming on CBC Radio Two. While some political pundits claim Stephen Harper's comments targeted against the arts, such as his complaint about the hypocricy of 'fat cats' at a gala opening complaining about cuts, are a political maneuver to create a 'wedge' issue, others think that Harper does not understand the importance of the arts. What is interesting about this conflict is that the rhetoric used on both sides of the issue appeals to that of 'ethical communities'. The Conservatives argue that they are worried that the federal government does not support unethical art that does harm to the community. Responses to this stance equally rely upon 'ethical' rhetoric. Margaret Atwood sees the Conservatives as destroying community and goes so far to compare Harper to a dictator. The viral video 'Culture en Peril', a video featuring singer Michel Rivard, frames the art funding cuts as the destruction of Quebecois culture. While the CBC hopes their programming changes appeal to a wider audience and thus serve the community better, critics decry that the CBC are 'dumbing down' and thus not ethically serving community. Similar arguments have taken place over the past several years regarding copyright. This paper explores these topics as discussed in the popular media, and concludes with an evaluation of these positions based upon a view of how the experience of the arts is related to interrelational ethics.


Jeff R. Warren is Assistant Professor of Music at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, and teaches double bass at Kwantlen University College. He also serves as the director of the interdisciplinary Verge Arts Series at TWU. His main teaching and research interests include 20 th century art, jazz, and popular music, improvisation, meaning in music, postmodern aesthetics, ethics, continental philosophy, and psychology. He is also interested in sound installation and soundscape design. He has published and presented internationally on ethics, music, improvisation, and philosophy. As a performer, Jeff has played bass professionally in jazz, latin, rock/pop, and art music settings. Jeff is currently a Ph.D candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he is studying with Nicholas Cook and Andrew Bowie. His thesis title is “Musical Experience and Human Relationships: Improvisation, Repetition, and the Ethics of Music.”