December 15, 2003


Congratulations, Victorian taxpayers! Your money is helping two vandals cover the cost of damaging a building in Sydney:

Painting "No War" on the Sydney Opera House may have earned Dave Burgess and Will Saunders a legal conviction, but it's also brought them the odd prize.

The pair picked up the W.I.N.K. (Wired Innovative Naughty Kids) award for Best Subversion of the Dominant Paradigm.

W.I.N.K.? Wrong vowel.

The prize is a stylish lightbox and $2000 in cash.

"The money will go straight into paying the compensation that's been awarded against us," Burgess said. "We are both kids who have been taught to clean up our own mess.”

These kids are 33 and 42. Slow learners, I guess. Where did their $2000 prize come from? The W.I.N.K. awards are presented by the B(if)tek Corporation, a tax-leeching two-gal electronica outfit run by Nicole Skeltys and Kate Crawford. These chicks would have you believe the cash was drawn directly from their own freaky-cool, retro-hot, post-structuralist purses:

The best we can do with our humble bank account is to give our money away yet again to artists and activists whose deviant passions and visions make us whoop with glee.

Which would be fine -- whoop your gleeful heads off! -- if it was, in fact, their money. Which they assure us it is:

At this time of year, we go to the B(if)tek bank account and take out $2000 of our hard earned dosh to give away to the Most Deserving. That is, the individuals who have best defined cultural and media subversion for the year.

Girls, please. Lies make baby Jesus cry. Where did the money really come from? Let’s check the Victorian government’s list of Digital Culture Program Project Grants from April 2003:

Applicant: B(if)tek
Project: The WINK Awards
Amount: $2,000

By “our”, Nic and Kate mean “other people’s”. And by “hard earned”, they mean “given to us”. B(if)tek or B(ut)fuk or whatever the hell they call themselves are continually loading up on government handouts; their latest CD was funded by a $10,000 grant, and Nic recently scored $1,800 so she can visit Cologne, Berlin, and London.

Credit where it’s due: these technobodies know how to work the system. They’re experts:

Crawford lectures in media and communications at the University of Sydney while completing her PhD. Skeltys works in the public sector on financial policy in welfare.

With pedigrees like these, it's no wonder that B(if)tek received Australia Council funding.

And it’s no wonder they’ve previously donated taxpayers’ money to Indymedia. A final point ... B(if)tek played the Sydney Opera House just one month after B(ug)diks Burgess and Saunders successfully subverted the dominant paradigm by causing $150,000 worth of damage to the place. Crawford told the SMH that “the chance to perform at the Opera House will be a highlight of her career.” What a complete H(yp)ocrite.

UPDATE. Reader Stephen F. writes: "Crawford once eked out her living at the SMH. Which may explain a lot. Her profile at the University of Sydney Web site defines WINK as an award "for excellence in electronic arts". Makes perfect sense then that her research interest is 'online media ethics' -- Opera House painting is not online so it's probably ethical. Ponying up for this sort of stuff is depressing."

And from Brett Milner in comments: "Kate Crawford and Nicole Skeltys were recently on Triple J's 'Restoring the Balance' claiming the award money came from 'sheer hard work' and by saving '20c here and 50c there.' You can download a mp3 of their interview here."

Posted by Tim Blair at December 15, 2003 10:48 AM

Looks like you're growing the same bountiful crop of jackass artistes over/under there in Australia as we do in Canada. I guess it's some kind of post-colonial thingamajig, eh?

Posted by: rick mcginnis at December 15, 2003 at 10:51 AM

You gotta stop with the wit - I fell out of my cubicle laughing at the "lies make baby Jesus cry" line ...

I'm sure I just accidentally inserted several system killing bugs into the software of a major multi-national ...

Posted by: Robert Blair at December 15, 2003 at 11:06 AM

ditto here Robert!! The clients give me strange looks when I start giggling away (whilst I am billing them!)

Posted by: tc at December 15, 2003 at 11:21 AM

Given the largesse of the Vicwegian taxpayer, would it be possible to get them to pay my NSW speeding fine?

Who should I forward the bill to?

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at December 15, 2003 at 11:22 AM

And they're not even good looking.

Posted by: aaron at December 15, 2003 at 11:42 AM

Not many lefty women are aaron, just look at Margo (well don't, unless you have a bucket handy)

Posted by: tc at December 15, 2003 at 11:43 AM

Why hasn't this been brought up in the mainstream media? Don't tell me the politburo at "The Age" would want to keep a cap on such a blatant mis-use of public funds, when Brackstoria is already beset with examples of malfeasance, corruption and ineptitude?
Surely a broadsheet acting in the public interest would leap on an easily verifiable example of political subversion of public funding?
(By the by, I'll take some of those shares in the Iraqi desert.)

Posted by: Habib at December 15, 2003 at 12:00 PM

That reminds me of a joke- "What happens when socialism takes over control of the Sahara desert? Nothing for thirty years, then there's a shortage of sand!" Hyuk!

Posted by: Amos at December 15, 2003 at 12:27 PM

Best Subversion of the Dominant Paradigm?!

Do they have an award for Best Visualization of World Peace?

Best Example of Thinking Globally Whilst Acting Locally?

Best Freeing of Tibet?

Best Expression of the Warning that If You Can Read This, You Are Driving Too Damn Close to My Car?

Posted by: Joe Geoghegan at December 15, 2003 at 02:50 PM

"Biftek, who are Sydneysider Kate Crawford and Melburnian Nicole Skeltys, are the antithesis of brain-dead rockers. The duo are as cerebral and theoretically playful as their name, which was derived from Jean-Luc Godard's film, Une Femme est une Femme. (Biftek is French for steak)."


Posted by: JML at December 15, 2003 at 03:25 PM

Biftek is English for tube steak.

Posted by: S Whiplash at December 15, 2003 at 04:14 PM

"Bifteck" is a franglicism for "beefsteak".

Posted by: clog at December 15, 2003 at 04:54 PM

Kate Crawford and Nicole Skeltys were recently on Triple J's "Restoring the Balance" claiming the award money came from "sheer hard work" and by saving "20c here and 50c there."

You can download a mp3 of their interview here

Or visit the Restoring the Balance website here

Posted by: Brett Milner at December 15, 2003 at 06:01 PM

this stuff is golden. hilarious shit everywhere once you look into it. I particularly like the award criteria

"$2000 will be awarded to the best use of electronic art and/or media to subvert mainstream political and cultural values."

An award for subverting mainstream cultural values. I'm sure theyre some hard working cannibals, child pornographers, necrophiliacs and heroin dealers out there worthy of an entry at the least.

Posted by: Tom at December 15, 2003 at 09:30 PM

I remember when they covered Cliff Richard's 'Wired for Sound'. A crap cover of a crap song. How postmodern.

Posted by: Justin at December 15, 2003 at 09:37 PM

Tom - Good point. Surely there's an Aussie version of Jeffrey Dahmer who's done a damn fine job of "subverting mainstream cultural values" in the past year, and who deserves that $2000 more (to buy more freezer space, doncha know).

It's funny to watch these prententious chickadees (so desperate to be portrayed as brainy, cerebral, and intelligent) shoot themselves in the foot by borrowing taxpayer money to reward mindless "activism," all the while not realizing that genuinely intelligent people like Tim can hang their dirty laundry out for the world to see.

If there's any person dumber than someone over the age of 13 who believes that "subverting" mainstream values is always in and of itself a good thing, I don't know who it is.

Posted by: Kimberly at December 16, 2003 at 02:00 AM

Yes, that award for subversion of cultural norms is quite hilarious. Is there anything more Western than giving out awards willynilly?

Kind of reminds me when I was in college and in the "Clubs and Societies" listings saw an announcement for a meeting of the campus anarchists club to elect officers.

Posted by: Steve in Houston at December 16, 2003 at 05:48 AM

How much more subverting of the dominant paradigm can you get than giving taxpayers' money to two middle-aged art school losers who deface a much admired architectural and engineering feat at the expense of the said taxpayers. These chicks are just old-fashioned bludgers(?)

Posted by: Dave F at December 16, 2003 at 07:18 PM

The line '___s make baby jesus cry' is hardly a new one. Looks like some of you people need to read a little more widely than from your own sheltered right wing peer gorup.

Tim, you really seem to have an axe to grind. Whilst I agree they should have been honest about the source of their $2,000, the sum of money is hardly significant. Surely there matters of greater consequence to occupy your supposedly massive brain space. Not to mention greater sums of public money being wasted on areas such as border protection & iraq. And I bet you lot have collectively wasted well over $2,000 of company funds writing your well thought out & extremely funny responses to this article.

And commenting on any lack of aesthetic appeal into this debate is simply small minded.

Posted by: Justin G at December 19, 2003 at 06:01 PM

Big fuckin deal Tim.
Maybe it's time to pull your ugly head out of your right wing ass.
What's your agenda?

Posted by: Mike at December 20, 2003 at 09:26 AM

You mean to say that 'avant boring' musicians are rorting arts money? WELL I NEVER!

ahahah no biftek are hilarious.

like a bad joke you keep telling to see how far it gets.

anyway, i must be off to subvert the paradigm in my pants.

Posted by: manual jones at December 21, 2003 at 03:15 PM

It's wonderfully ironic that govt funding has ended up going towards anti-war expenses. I find that amusing rather than outrageous.

The problem with B(if)tek is that they're too clever for their own good. And their audience isn't all as stupid as the sycophants who populate their guestbook.

The WINK awards are about one thing: marketing B(if)tek. They have nothing to do with 'subverting the dominant paradigm'. If anything, they subvert the 'underground paradigm', which is generally not interested in awards, celebrities, and glitzy parties.

The $5000(-$2000) that it costs B(if)tek to put on their party gets them a *lot* of free publicity for their band - more than they could get through paid advertisements (and now that they no longer have Sony's money behind them, they need all the publicity they can get).

B(if)tek want to have their cake and eat it. They want to behave like celebrities (sycophantic fans, celebrity friends, glitzy parties, etc.) while supposedly 'subverting the dominant paradigm' to which they already belong. It must be embarrassing to them that so many people aren't fooled, and recognise hypocrisy when they see it - but then again, they seem quite shameless and arrogant in their interviews & publicity.

B(if)tek have made some good music (and some bad music - the comment above about 'Wired for Sound' is hilarious!) and I'm supportive of more women being involved in the music industry (apart from vacuous, pretty-girl frontpersons). But I do wish they'd stop insulting the intelligence of their audience.

Posted by: jesus at December 22, 2003 at 08:34 AM