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Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Michael Fallon, from The Chronicle of Artistic Failure, has an interesting post at mnartists.org about the new generation of artists emerging and their reactions to critics and to just about anything that questions their artistic authority.

I thought his observations were interesting, albeit slightly inflammatory at times:

“First, it was odd that these students from blink-and-miss-it Carleton were, for the most part, calmer and more relaxed—smug almost—than any twenty-year-old has a right to be in front of such a large audience. This is especially true considering the event, a notable international film festival, was older—at 26 years—than these kids were. But then, this may not be so unusual after all, given the numerous reports from those in-the-know which suggest that most kids of this age—those of the so-called Generation Y, born after about 1980—have come to believe that attention and fame is their very due. According to a 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center, 51% of 18- to 25-year-olds identified “to be famous” as one of their top two goals. This was above “to help people who need help” (30%), “to be leaders in their community” (22%), and “to become more spiritual” (10%), but behind the number one choice (“to get rich,” 81%).

Finally, it was clear to me that the abundant self-confidence on display by these kids wasn’t necessarily evidence of skill or achievement. The film they made was actually not all that good; it was not revealing, not at all introspective, and it made little logical sense.”.

He brings up many valid points and confesses that on occasions, he has found himself at the receiving end of unjust irate reactions from those artists whose works he criticizes.

From the article:

““Young people today,” writes Twenge, “have been consistently taught to put their own needs first and to focus on feeling good about themselves.” She further claims that, despite what you might expect, such self-pampering has done the group nothing but harm. Twenge cites numerous studies which offer evidence for a host of problems among her generational cohorts: a decline in manners and regard for social rules; a disengagement with civic concerns; a tendency toward cheating and an antipathy toward authority; a strong sense of entitlement and inability to take criticism; high levels of drug use; loss of faith in the rewards of responsibility and hard work; increasing sense of loneliness and an inclination toward shorter relationships and sexual promiscuity; rising levels of depression, anxiety, panic, and nervous breakdown; and suicide rates twice what they were in 1950.

Despite its myriad problems, this young generation also has—tellingly, and incongruously—a remarkably high sense of self-regard, or what Twenge calls a “cotton candy sense of self with no basis.” In psychological terms, according to Twenge, her generation is afflicted by abnormally high rates of “clinical narcissism,” a pathology with numerous manifestations (many of which are listed above)”.

I immediately remembered another article I read this week, in “Psychology Today” about The Plight of the Little Emperors, on the subject of China’s “only child” culture. These Chinese children who are now coming of age and, in the author’s words, “expect the world”.

“Chinese parents bemoan their only child’s desire for instant gratification, excessive consumption, and a life free of hardship, but such complaints are just proof that the policy worked: The children are like little Americans.

and

“Since the policy’s inception, the Chinese have worried that the extreme combination of discipline and indulgence would result in maladjusted kids, self-centered brats who can’t take criticism and don’t understand sharing. Asked if he wished he’d had siblings, one 22-year-old from Sichuan province replied, “Does this mean everything I have would have to be cut in half or shared? No, I don’t want that.””

These two articles, discussing two seemingly opposite cultures, actually highlight rather similar phenomenons within the same generation, namely the apparent sense of entitlement, hedonistic approach to life, difficultly dealing with criticism, etc. I cannot help but wonder if this is the result of globalization and the marketing approach we’ve seen for the past 20 years or so. Generation “Me” is not the result of a vacuum, an isolated development but rather, the result of many external influences, amongst which might be consumerism and the social aspiration of consumption as a defining factor of our personalities. Such trend has not emerged only in the western world, but on a global basis, with brands released everywhere simultaneously and campaigns only slightly tailored to local cultures. Also, worth noting, is fame as a social aspiration. Is this related to small/ local communities losing appeal and the appearance of the “global stage”? When we grow up with the impression that the whole world is a village, how could we possible aspire to less than global recognition?

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next decade or two, as this generation matures and actually exercises leadership and drives the decision making process.

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I know this is not an art critic’s blog, but this article at The Guardian upset me enough to have to comment on it.

In it, Peter Conrad sets to more or less smash the books of former collaborators and friends Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim. What bothers me is not that he dislikes the books. After all, taste is well, subjective. It’s the personal vendetta-like tone that he employs throughout the whole article what bothers me. There isn’t an ounce of objective criticism in his piece:

“Beyond expressing pious hopes about Utopia, Barenboim has little progress to report. Anecdotes are tediously recycled; the title of his book should have been ‘Everything Is Repeated’. An insubstantial volume is filled out with a random sampling of interviews and journalistic articles, which supply inadvertent glimpses of the man behind the missionary. The conductor is more than an evangelist”.

and then this:

“Barenboim, who says that he reads Spinoza in his dressing room during intervals, worries about ‘musical ethics’ and fusses over ‘the moral responsibility of the ear’. I’m not sure that a sense organ can carry such a burden; we don’t ask our penises to possess a conscience”.

Now, I cannot believe a critic could be so daft as to ignore the power of metaphor, but he gets even more juvenile by attacking Said on account of bad orthography! If anything, shouldn’t Said’s editor be held accountable for that?!

And then he gives away the true reason behind the trashing:

At least he commits no orthographic error when he casually refers to ‘the egregious Peter Conrad’. I guess he intended to insult me, but I’m happy to bask in a cack-handed compliment, since the dictionary says that the adjective means prominent, distinguished or, at worst, outrageous. No argument backs up the animadversion, so who can tell? If I’m on Said’s shit list, the company I keep is melodious; he considers Verdi to be a bad composer, sniffs at Bartók, patronises Alfred Brendel as a ‘decent, earnest’ dullard and derides Pavarotti as ‘a grotesque’. Said’s sloppiness matters because he enjoys pretending to be holier and higher-browed than the rest of us.

So, it is personal after all, isn’t it Mr. Conrad?

Perhaps art critics should no longer wonder why their positions are disappearing. The should look no further than Conrad’s pieces to understand why people might not be interested in what they have to say.

On an unrelated note, I will also be (cross)posting every now and then at NewInnergy, my business partner’s blog. Unlike Conrad, I’ll try to keep it civil, on topic and objective.

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I come across a lot of good articles and posts that deserve attention, so I am starting a new (semi regular) section today.

Without further ado, today’s links:

  • I already mentioned Marc van Bree’s ambitious project. He has continued developing the strategies for a new media communication plan from an orchestra perspective. It’s a must read for anyone working in cultural institutions. Follow the development here. New sections of the document are updated daily.

  • We are Media is is a community of people from nonprofits who are interested in learning and teaching how social media strategies and tools can enable nonprofit organizations to create, compile, and distribute their stories and change the world. They are also running a very worthy project: a wiki/ manual of sorts to assist Non Profits in the how-to of implementing Social Media tools. First part of the Strategic Track can be found here. However, all modules are worth a read. Beth Kanter, of How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media is behind this project.

“McKinsey’s second annual survey on the business use of Web 2.0 technologies—including wikis, blogs, social networks, and mash-ups1—were asked which of these social and interactive tools their companies have adopted and for which purposes, what they are doing to encourage adoption, and how satisfied they are with their use of these tools.They were also asked to what extent they are using such new technologies to interact with their employees, customers, and suppliers—and, ultimately, how important these tools are to their companies’ competitive edge”.

  • A news release from the Library of Congress:

“More video material has been uploaded to YouTube in the past six months than has ever been aired on all major networks combined, according to cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch. About 88 percent is new and original content, most of which has been created by people formerly known as “the audience.””

The whole piece at Faster Future can be found here. If you work in anything remotely related to New/ Social Media, go read it. It’s an excellent explanation of why you should have a strategy that includes communities. Also, this post at Communities Dominate Brands makes a great point:

“Language and accent are deeply intertwined with otherness and class and therefore belonging.

This evolving democratisation of languages are signifyers of sameness – Crossing points if you will towards mutual understanding””.

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Yesterday I got a bunch of press kits from a new customer. This is not some inexperienced, “just out of school” musician trying to build a career, but a well seasoned composer with a reasonably well regarded name and reputation in a particular niche of classical music circles. Let’s say he is no Daniel Barenboim in the “fame meter” but he is certainly not an unknown interpreter. So, I was quite shocked with what I saw: badly written releases, a default Word document lay out… you get the idea. The Spanish version of the kit was full of typos, to the point that in one page, they had misspelled the composer’s name (and this was written by his agent, who is a native Spanish speaker). The English one appeared to have been translated by Borat.

I weeped… and then I got to search for some other Classical Music composers and interpreters so that I could send my customer some examples of what his direct competitors were doing. And then I weeped some more.

I checked the top results in Google and what I saw was not just inconsequential text. It was bland, boring and dull beyond belief. Fifteen page press kits packed with text in small fonts (warning all links go to PDF files) or an inane collection of newspaper and magazine clips. Or this other example, where the ego driven agency splashed the entire release with their logo in such prominence that I am unsure weather the soprano in question is Ana de Archuleta or the unfortunate Elizabeth Caballero.

Compare the above press materials with this, this or this, also from the top results but in the pop music category.

Classical Music institutions, programmers, and artists have to struggle with the general perception that the genre is boring, elitist and not worthy of mass consumption. I generally disagree with these statements, but obviously many marketing professionals working in the area are not helping much to dispel these myths. In these visually driven times, how you present your content has become as important as the content itself. I am afraid many cultural institutions could learn a lesson or two from pop culture.

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I am absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of tasks to complete while setting up a new company.

We do not have a website yet, we do not have half the things we need, but getting all this done while we work on customer proposals and other business related issues is certainly a challenge. Still, I thought a blog was better than absolutely no presence and while the proper site is developed (currently looking like my 4 year old niece had a go with a box of crayolas), at least I will keep updating this space with some relevant news and commentary.

I am, after all, in agreement with Guy Kawasaki’s advice “GET GOING. Start creating and delivering your product or service. Think soldering irons, compilers, hammers, saws, and AutoCAD—whatever tools you use to build products and services. Donʼt focus on pitching, writing, and planning”. (or at least, his advice sounds very suitable to justify our current strategy).

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