“cultural promiscuity” in art audiences

No facet of society – not even the arts – is immune to the conversation about metrics, measurement and big data.imgres

As LA Weekly explains, “On Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles, museum administrators, marketers and cultural leaders gathered at the Walt Disney Concert Hall for the presentation of “Culture Track 14” hosted by the Music Center. Billed as revealing a “dramatically changed cultural landscape,” the 2014 study – and the conversations around it – drove home many particulars that audience members already assumed and other dynamics long at play.

“Arthur Cohen, CEO of the culture consulting firm LaPlaca Cohen, painted a picture of today’s arts audience as overcommitted, hyper-connected, overstimulated and characterized by “cultural promiscuity” – meaning they aren’t as likely to join organizations or buy subscriptions, which continues a seismic shift, particularly for performing arts organizations. The idea that “everyone likes everything” doesn’t come as much of a surprise in a moment when pressing that ubiquitous “like” button has come to signify so much about how we express ourselves.

“Millennial” (18-29) and “Prewar” (over 70) participants were shown to be the most active, with “Gen X” (30-49) and “Boomers” (50-69) the least active. (Diversity and income range were not covered in this presentation of the research sample, and audience questions on this point led to private discussions when the event dispersed.)The Culture Track research found that culture is “social first,” meaning a big part of the attendance decision is based on making connections and spending time with friends and family. This holds true especially for millennials, who are the least likely to participate in an event alone. One of the most interesting findings in the presentation was that 79 percent of audiences define going to a national, state or municipal park as a cultural activity, with 87 percent participating at least once a year. It’s rare to see constituencies such as museums and parks leaders at the same table, but perhaps a conference bringing them together could result in impactful collaborations. Could the L.A. River be our next great cultural institution? Also along these lines, presenters also brought up the fact that L.A. is ahead of other cities in terms of diversity and trends.http://www.laweekly.com/publicspectacle/2014/06/11/a-study-shows-how-audiences-are-changing-but-should-data-guide-artistic-decisions

“The closing panel discussion brought certain tensions to the surface. Ann Philbin, director of the Hammer Museum, immediately stated that she doesn’t make creative decisions based on research; rather, she hopes to guide audiences toward content they didn’t know they wanted.Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) director Philippe Vergne took issue with the use of the word “culture,” and quoted the artist Carl Andre: “Art is what we do. Culture is what is done to us.” Vergne pointed out that “we” are in the knowledge industry, not the entertainment industry, which brought to mind the architect Rem Koolhaas’ observation that “culture is work, not just passive consumption.”Another topic that deserves further consideration, but was not covered by this event, relates to patronage. Seeing that patrons and foundations are increasingly focused on audience participation and quantifiable impact, we run the risk of failing to protect and promote the immeasurable value of the arts. The balance between scholarship and engaging a fast moving, celebrity-driven culture whose attention is harder and harder to hold is delicate, and we need visionary patrons more than ever. 

“If art audiences are searching for authenticity and connection, as Culture Track indicates, the study raises the question of why and how arts organizations should use data. Studies such as this one are useful for deciding how to package and promote cultural content – topics on which LaPlaca Cohen is available to advise. But the most authentic thing organizations can do is follow one of Philbin’s assertions: artists are leading the way, and organizations should follow the visions of the artists they support. Quantitative value should follow qualitative, not the other way around. As Tom Finkelpearl, the new Cultural Affairs Commissioner of New York, recently stated in The Art Newspaper, “We don’t see the arts and culture sector solely through the prism of economics.” 

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Art and Queer Culture

Recently released with book launches in Los Angeles and New, Art and Queer Culture by Catherine Lord and Richard Meyer is now available. As the authors write:

“Spanning 125 years, Art and Queer Culture is the first major historical survey to consider the ways in which the codes and cultures of homosexuality have provided a creative resource for visual artists. Attempts to trouble the conventions of gender and sexuality, to highlight the performative aspects of identity and to oppose the tyranny of the normal are all woven into the historical fabric of homosexuality and its representation. images-1“From Oscar Wilde to Ryan Trecartin, from the molly houses of eighteenth-century London to the Harlem drag balls of the 1920s, the flamboyant refusal of social and sexual norms has fuelled the creation of queer art and life throughout the modern period.

“Although the book proceeds in a chronological fashion, it does not propose a progressive narrative in which homosexuals become increasingly adept at negotiating the circumstances of censorship and overcoming the terms of stigma and invisibility. The dialogue between art and queer culture does not move towards ever more affirmative images of equality and dignity. Rather than countering homophobia with ‘positive’ images of assimilation, many of the artists and photographers featured in this book draw upon, and even draw out, the deviant force of homosexuality.  Continue reading “Art and Queer Culture”

Check out “Recaps”

RECAPS is a wonderful online magazine, bearing the subtitle: “Reclaim Culture Art Politics Sexuality.” As editor Martabell Wasserman (among others) writes in the “about” page:

“RECAPS Magazine is a forum for conversation. Our mission is to explore what emerges when content from different historical, geographical, methodological, aesthetic and political vantage points is brought together. The magazine includes work that ranges from the canonical to the provisional, the abstract to the polemical, the timely to the archival. RECAPS explores the relationship between virtual community and embodied activism. The (re)print section is the most literal example but this line of inquiry structures the entire project.

RECAPS attaches uses the prefix “re” in categorizing the content because the magazine is built on the ideas that resistance is a process of repeating ideas, reworking strategies and reimaging what seems possible. “Re” reflects the belief that ideas are collectively produced and an engagement with the political present requires looking backward”. Continue reading “Check out “Recaps””

Obama points to assault on reason

Picking up on a theme popularized by Al Gore, President Obama recently criticized media journalism for


promoting an “assault on reason” and for contributing to a divided culture.

“The U.S. news media typically applies hackneyed or partisan templates to political issues, often distorting rather than informing the public debate,” reports GlobalResearch:

“President Barack Obama has become the latest politician to put his toe in the raging waters of the media debate, with some mild observations about the powerful role that media outlets play in reporting – and often distorting – political events.

In an interview with The New Republic, Obama stated the obvious: ‘One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates Continue reading “Obama points to assault on reason”

Kim Jong Un vs “cultural infiltration”

North Korea is doing everything is can to crack down on cell phones, TVs, and anything else that can bring “subversion” into the country.images-1

It’s a Stalinist campaign reminiscent for the old Cold War, as Kim Jong Un has recently ranted: “We must extend the fight against the enemy’s ideological and cultural infiltration.”

As Worlding.org reported last week, campaigns to indoctrinate North Korean children are nothing short of remarkable. Salon.com writes that the new emphasis on media is just as extreme:  “Kim, who became North Korea’s supreme leader after the death of his father a year ago, called upon his vast security network to ‘ruthlessly crush those hostile elements.’

“Over the past year, Kim has intensified a border crackdown that has attempted to seal the once-porous 1,420-kilometer (880-mile) frontier with China, smugglers and analysts say, trying to hold back the onslaught. Continue reading “Kim Jong Un vs “cultural infiltration””

One Nation: Divided or United?

“We live in an era of democratic contradiction. As the Cold War recedes into history and the apparent triumph of liberal democracy spreads around the globethe domestic state of democracy within the United States remains in jeopardy,” writes David Trend in A Culture Divided: America’s Struggle for Unity. Echoing sentiments expressed in last night’s acceptance speech by Barak Obama, an excerpt from A Culture Divided follows below:

Rather than a nation where citizens feel empowered in their common governance, the U.S. has become a land of where growing numbers of citizens feel alienated from the democratic process. Voter turnout for the 2012 U.S. presidential election was nearly 20 percent less than in 2008. Massive anti-incumbency Continue reading “One Nation: Divided or United?”