28 March 2011

The Rise of the Trans-Disciplinary Cultural producer

Postmodernism died, and now we exist in a twilight that is both almost indistinguishable from Postmodern forms and ideologies and simultaneously non-relativistic, driven by moral conceptions of right. Perhaps this new cultural phenomenon is too young to accurately characterise in any full sense; as Bourriaud proved with his book Altermodern, yet there are certain aspects of this new cultural regime that are transparent and clear.

Postmodernism began a process of blurring the distinctions between modes of production and artificial divisions of knowledge. These distinctions were, and to some extent still are, enforced through books and their placements in libraries. This in turn facilitated university reading lists to “trap” their students within physical sections of libraries and thus “trap” them within artificial sections of knowledge, oft creating parochially minded graduates, or worse academics. The little written about affect of Postmodernisms belief in the end of history is a flattening of borders between disciplines; if you can’t move forward any more then you must move sideways into unfamiliar areas of pre-existing knowledge. It was however the advent of the Internet and its forced erosion of the supremacy of library architecture that began to change the way that the young accessed information and knowledge. The likes of Google and Wikipedia, and the multitude of other information collation engines, returned results to questions across the spectrum of disciplines. For the first time the casual reader was exposed to answers from the sciences and humanities; the world did, in essence, get thousands of times bigger over a few short years.

In the wake of the death of Postmodernism the move to trans-disciplinary modes of enquiry has been accelerated, with the primary knock-on of this being the move to trans-disciplinary modes of cultural production undertaken in recent years by an ever increasing number of young people; be they art school graduates or otherwise.

What the internet has done is expose all of culture simultaneously, nothing is hidden or underground, nothing ultimately is better or worse than anything else outside of a context of what’s “on trend” as unconsciously decided by the multitude of international (and indeed local) web users. In this case the idea of tackling culture through a single form seems almost absurd, but perhaps ultimately necessary. Accumulated human knowledge is far too big to be tackled as a whole, but perhaps the divisions of that knowledge should now be drawn by question and not by mode of answering; The subject should no longer be, for example, Philosophy but instead be “the meaning of life” or similar. The young are beginning to realise that to answer a question purely within a school of thought is to in fact reach no answer at all.

If one is to look, for example, at my good friend and some times collaborator Francis P. Brady (http://pixelocracy.co.uk/) we can see this new mode of production. Brady, like myself, graduated from Chelsea Collage of Art having studied Fine Art but upon graduating shifted from understanding Art as something separate from culture to instead understanding it as just one facet to be explored and exploited along with many other disciplines. His work now dives between Graphics, Illustration, Music, Art and many other things often simultaneously within the same piece, all informed by cross-genre and trans-disciplinary research. One only has to enguage with his website and blogs to see this open approach to cultural production:
http://www.me-memex.blogspot.com/ & http://onehumansecond.blogspot.com/

This movement isn’t simply happening with Artist moving beyond Art, its happening in all the other cultural genres too, in Music the ultra cool Witch House movement is so incredibly effective for the simple fact that it is more than just a musical genre, its use of images and text takes it beyond and through so many other cultural disciplines.

The problems that this new way of thinking and making throws up is how to make a living, and get noticed within the conventional circles. Funding opportunities and projects along with magazines, journals, galleries, gigs etc.. are all heavily tied to disciplines. The trans-disciplinary cultural producer appears to these old fashioned bastions as an indecisive creature, who hasn’t got what it takes to settle to something. The reality is quite the opposite, they in fact have a better working understanding of what on earth is going on in the world at the moment, and should be positively supported. The convergence of modes of production can only facilitate more knowing works - art or otherwise, and that should be actively celebrated. Cultural institutions needs to follow the plethora of digital activists whos’ blogs and websites present a better world.

What this move towards trans-disciplinary cultural production shouldn’t be confused with is those Artists who work across disciplines within the arts, such as those who make videos and paint, for example. This mode of production doesn’t share the same revolutionary qualities as what I have tried to outline above. For the artists that work in this way still remain artists, trapped within the art world, perhaps unable to experience or interact with culture in a broader way.

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