Contemporary Culture from the Bottom Up

Cultural Kaleidoscope: Community, Consumption, Activism and more

Open Field could certainly evolve into a bona fide commons, or at least as much of a commons as can exist within current society, but an authentic commons is not a temporary affair. Building a place where tools, ideas, and projects are shared and money wields no power is a profoundly urgent and exciting experiment, but its success would require that we redefine what we do as artists. We’d have to move beyond a demonstrative mindset and into a productive mode, and to build a more permanent presence geared to supplying goods and services, tangible and intangible, that society doesn’t currently provide. We might have to chip away at the “visiting artist” paradigm as well, because residency, longevity, and accountability are greater enablers of community. Finally, it might make sense to try to redefine privilege as an outgrowth of participation in the community, rather than individual reputation, and find new ways to distribute agency, control, and attribution.


I’m not arguing for an end to art or for self-effacement on the part of artists. Rather, I imagine the commons as a space where art practice can find new meaning as it addresses deeply intractable and unsolved dilemmas. Not a single year’s crop, but a field with many harvests.

  • BombSite has another great interview with Mike Daisy that touches on a similar theme and questions how narration in various art forms can affect political change and how language and theatre can play an important role is bring people together and eliciting the kind of empathy that makes people want to take action:
The role of art is that it can be that which generates empathy. And, remember, for me, my art is woven and integrally bound to story and to dramatization, so that it lives in the space. So we bring people physically together and we physically tell them a story and we share the space for a time; those things are like woven into it. So ideals like community, sharing, being together—they’re inextricable. [...] And so I actually think that art is in a position right now to be a very provocative force because the language . . . the language of what we’re talking about when we talk about public policy and about the shape of the world, the spread of corporatism and whether labor even matters—all of these things, I feel, are disconnected because they are not wired in to empathy anymore, to care.
Though the response to this image was clearly negative, Illamasqua dug their heels in and refused to remove this advertisement.  How can they now deny intent to harm, when they have clearly been told that what they have done is without doubt racist and hurtful but refuse to remove the image?
Despite the controversy over the advertisement, what is absolutely assured, is that this will happen again.  No matter how many times Black people protest and say that Blackface is racist and hurtful, the fashion industry will continue to do this because like every other industry, they have found profit in catering to and supporting Whiteness.  As long as there is money to be made, no one cares who’s being hurt.


The problems these women describe are different, but their outlook is the same: traditional gender relations are by and large bound to endure, and genuinely progressive social change is a lost cause. Gently, like a good friend, the Atlantic tells women they can stop pretending to be feminists now.


This magazine is absolutely necessary. Why? Ask yourself – Where can twenty-something women look to find a constant source of inspiration? Where can they look to find stories of other successful young women following their dreams and defying expectations? If you can think of more than one source that appeals to twenty-something women who are multifaceted, then feel no need to donate.


Seeing both films sheds light on the process of art created as collaboration, when the mix of marketplace concerns and artistic visions converge and collide. It took four years for Smoketo emerge, and only a few short months for Blue in the Face. The end result reminds us that the act of creating work is always both a manifestation of the individual artistic vision and the way the work acquires a life of its own in the process. Making art, making a film, is still an act of creation that reminds us of the power of mystery, for the outcome is ultimately unpredictable.


And throughout all this were the art projects. The drug pictures are just one of many. It makes him rueful that nobody cares much about the others. Nobody wants to know about, say, the 28 days during which he blocked up his ears and attached a copper funnel to his mouth “in an attempt to hear the world through the inside of my mouth”. Nobody wants to know about the thousands of discarded photographs he’s spent years retrieving from bins around Johnson City. He points to a portrait of a sweet little girl. “Her family threw all her possessions out because she went to jail,” he says.


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Written by Nicole Casamento

Nicole Casamento is the founder of Culture Grinder.


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