This week: How did our culture get to the point we don’t trust facts?… Are artists actually detrimental to neighborhoods?… Our notions of “greatness” need an overhaul… Europe’s new cultural paradigm desperately needs artists… Are donors to museum building projects do their museums a disservice?
- Do Facts Matter Any More? (Let’s Define “Facts” Please): It’s as if we live in parallel universes. Our facts seem obvious and irrefutable to us. In a social media-driven world, everyone seems to be armed with their own set of facts, and people interact with and reinforce those facts – things they REALLY know – and feel more comfortable dismissing the “facts” of the other side. “We are caught in a series of confusing battles between opposing forces: between truth and falsehood, fact and rumour, kindness and cruelty; between the few and the many, the connected and the alienated; between the open platform of the web as its architects envisioned it and the gated enclosures of Facebook and other social networks; between an informed public and a misguided mob. What is common to these struggles – and what makes their resolution an urgent matter – is that they all involve the diminishing status of truth.”
- How Artists Diminish Neighborhoods? Artists usually colonize neighborhoods because they offer cheap space for living and working. Artists are thought to improve such neighborhoods because they are “clean” industries. Artists are also thought often to strengthen the communities around them. The downside often for existing low-income residents is that their neighborhoods become gentrified and more expensive and long-time residents get priced out. Now, residents of LA’s Boyle Heights are protesting a new gallery’s opening as a threat. “The conflict between the art space and local grassroots organizations has escalated to dimensions greater than each of the actual entities by bringing to question the direct and indirect complicity of artists and cultural spaces in the displacement of long-seated, working-class communities.”
- What Happens When “Greatness” Loses Its Power? Susanna Eastburn wonders about the idea of “greatness” in today’s composers. In decades past there were composers you could point to who were stars, leaders of the field, who dominated the conversation. Today not so much. Is this a manifestation of the fragmented world in which we now live? Eastburn: “Fixed and hierarchical ideas of ‘greatness’ feel off-kilter with the times, even socially divisive in their narrow view of what greatness is and how it manifests itself not only musically, but also culturally and demographically.”
- Europe’s New Cultural Paradigm (And Where Artists Fit): Trying to construct a European culture out of a collection of national cultures has always been a huge challenge. The politics of doing this are fraying and a collective pan-European culture seems elusive. So what role do artists have? Charles Esche: “We need to learn how to construct plural truths and yet manage consistent ethics. We need to move away from monotheism. The different communities engaged with art have a potentially revolutionary role to play in this, especially if they again elide its old claim to autonomous action within the artistic field, with a real stake in a change in thinking about and acting in society.” Perhaps there’s no greater example of the challenge than the shift in Britain between the cultural celebration of the London Olympics and this year’s Brexit vote: “The ceremony didn’t depict a nation, it revealed it. It didn’t describe Britain, it WAS Britain – in the way that the Blitz spirit was or Dunkirk or The Last Night of the Proms. What. The. Hell. Happened?”
- America’s Museum Boom – Driven By Donors? America has seen a sustained and dramatic building boom in museum construction. It’s no secret why – it’s much easier to attract money for buildings than it is for programs. How perverse is that? Particularly when after the fact, museums often struggle to pay for meaningful programming. But it’s not just the fact of shiny new buildings themselves, it’s also how those buildings then help define the programming inside. Obviously donors drive museums, but are they also driving them in the wrong direction?