Deciphering Culture

Posts Tagged ‘Art & Politics

Short takes: different types of “creative metropoles”

with one comment

Interesting project winding up in September 2011 looks at the different strategies taken by eleven European cities to develop and support their creative industries. The Creative Metropoles project is based on a premise I share and would like to see shared in the U.S.: “a facilitator of innovation, creative industries are essential for the development of other sectors.” The cities (as different as Berlin and Riga, Amsterdam & Warsaw) will each identify their own best practices and learn from each other’s experiences — “the ambition is not only to present the good practices but also deal with current problem issues and generate new knowledge and approaches.” The project is working in 5 policy areas:

1. structure of the public support for creative industries

2. business capacity and internationalisation of creative industries

3. space for activities by creative industries and creative city districts as creative incubators

4. funding schemes for creative industries

5. demand for the outputs of creative industries, including municipalities in the role of consumers.

The final report, particularly the appendices (Good Practices from European Cities) offers an interesting view of the diversity of approaches to developing creative industries that have had significant success and point to the need to both localize (i.e., collaboration for mutual benefit among Berlin) and reach across national boundaries (i.e., relationship building between artisans and designers in Fes, Morocco and Amsterdam). There’s a lot of material and I’ve just been browsing but my first impression is there’s a lot to learn.c

Why do Americans think the Japanese draw themselves as white? (@Sociological Images)

with one comment

Interesting post from the always excellent Sociological Images.

GUEST POST: WHY DO THE JAPANESE DRAW THEMSELVES AS WHITE?

Please welcome Guest Blogger, Julian Abagond.  Abagond is a middle-class, West Indian, New Yorker; he is also a computer programmer who enjoys ancient Greek.  He writes whatever he wants at his blog.  In the borrowed post below, he explains that the question is really “Why do Americans think that the Japanese draw themselves as white?”  Enjoy.

Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white? You see that especially in manga and anime.

As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white. Why?  Because to them white is the Default Human Being. (for the rest, click here).

Also, check out: GUEST POST: THE UNBEARABLE WHITENESS OF BEING HUMAN

Written by Jeffrey Callen

August 30, 2010 at 10:21 am

“Every Life Has a Story” — Employee Education meets Art meets Responsibility

with one comment

I’m blown away by this video, reportedly produced by fast food chain Chik-fil-A as an employee education tool. The company wanted to encourage its employees to see customers and  co-workers as people first. Many companies state their commitment to making life better for their employees and their communities but then fall short. Chik-fil-A may be the real deal. The blog of company President and C.E.O. Dan Cathy, LIVE, LOVE, LEAD is worth checking out. Here’s a sample:

Jun 22

It’s All Personal

“It’s just business, it’s not personal.” You hear that sometimes when people have to make unpleasant decisions or do things that are a little uncomfortable. And it’s a nice phrase to make things feel a little better, but I’ve learned over the years, as both an employee and an employer, that it’s simply not true. There’s nothing in life that is “just business.” Everything we do is personal on some level. Any decision that involves people is by nature personal.

Keeping things personal is one of my biggest jobs as a member of the Chick-fil-A leadership team. As fast and as full as life gets sometimes, it’s tempting to break things down to “just business.” It’s a lot less messy to deal in Excel spreadsheets and categorize employees and customers as numbers. They’re just data. You just need to get XX amount of employees to serve XX amount of customers XX amount of food each day. End of story.

But that’s not true. Those employees aren’t numbers. They’re not just data. They’re moms and dads. They’re college students with dreams. They’re high school kids learning the value of hard work. They’re people just like me with hopes and fears and goals and friends and family. Same with the customers.

The customers are never numbers. They are dads taking their daughters out to dinner on date night at Chick-fil-A. They are moms who need a playground and a healthy meal for kids on the go. They are friends who camp out with me overnight for the grand opening of a new Chick-fil-A.

There are a lot of ways you can keep things personal at your business, but my favorite is to get out from my behind my desk. I like to be behind the counter. I like to serve someone a sandwich or help an employee make a milkshake. I find that dirty hands make it hard to see people as just numbers.

If you’re looking for me on most days, you’ll find me at a Chick-fil-A. Because it’s not just business. It’s not just data.

It’s personal. It’s all personal.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm

A “REMIXhibition” experiment — online media as social objects

with one comment

Andrew Dubber of the Interactive Cultures research centre at the Birmingham School of Media at Birmingham City University in the U.K. is inviting bloggers and creative artists to take an image, slogan or sign and respond to it. Based on the idea that people use online media as “social objects” upon which to base online conversation, Dubber is posting photos and video online to spur dialogue. Dubber’s article Fight the Power: The Art of Protest and the Theory of Social Objects is well worth reading for its access to this “remix” experiment, its theoretical exposition and its discussion of the Fight The Power REMIXhibition of Punch Records at the Custard Factory in Birmingham (in the heart of that city’s new arts & media quarter).

The internet is not a broadcast medium – and nor is it a ‘revolutionized’ older medium. It is instead a conversational space – and there are two main categories of object within that space: the conversation, and the things about which the conversation is taking place. By repositioning exhibited works and media artefacts that spring from that exhibition as individual and decontextualised social objects, the aim is to provoke conversation within that space. (to read the rest).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

June 3, 2010 at 8:29 am

For Staff Benda Bilili, disability is just a state of mind

leave a comment »

Most of the members of Staff Benda Billi, a pop band from Kinshasa (Congo), are homeless polio victims who live in or around Kinshasa’s zoo. The founders of the band formed the ensemble because other local musicians refused to play with them. The membership of the band soon was supplemented by street kids, including an 18 year-old boy who plays guitar-like solos on an electrified one-stringed lute he fashioned from a tin can. In the last few years, Staff Benda Billi has found success at home and abroad with successful albums and now a documentary Benda Bilili, which debuted at Cannes this week. Check out the review of the film by Will Gompertz of the BBC:

Cannes: Standing ovation for Benda Bilili

Will Gompertz

Cannes: There are over 1,000 films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which means it’s horribly possible to spend your entire time watching duds. Cannes is a game of chance; we hacks are like metal detector enthusiasts who go out each weekend with hopes of finding treasure but know the odds are stacked against them.

benda_bilili_2.jpgWell, on Thursday, just 24 hours after the festival opened, I struck gold.

It was in the relative backwater of the Director’s Fortnight that I stumbled on a French documentary called Benda Bilili. It opens with a middle-aged man with polio dancing on a dusty street in the Congolese city of Kinshasa.

The story then moves onto its main subject: a group of musicians that goes by the name of Staff Benda Bilili. The words “benda bilili” mean “beyond appearances”; for this band of brothers, it’s a statement with profound meaning.

The group’s original core is made up of three paraplegic middle-aged street-dwellers who live in cardboard boxes in this lawless city and stay sane by making music. They are joined by a 12-year-old drummer and by Roger, a 13-year-old runaway who makes music by connecting a tin can to a stick with a piece of nylon. (to read the rest, click here)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

May 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Music & the Struggle to be Human — Patrice Lumumba (@History is Made at Night)

leave a comment »

From History is Made at Night: The politics of dancing and musicking, a post asserting the primary place of music in the struggle to be human.

O Music, it was you permitted us to lift our face and peer into the eyes of future liberty

Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961) was a leading figure in the struggle for the independence of Congo from the Belgian Empire. He briefly became first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1960 before being overthrown and later murdered by Belgian/CIA backed forces. The following extract is from his poem May our People Triumph (full poem here). In it Lumumba puts music and dance (and specifically jazz) at the centre of the struggle to be human in conditions of slavery and colonialism:

‘Twas then the tomtom rolled from village unto village,
And told the people that another foreign slave ship
Had put off on its way to far-off shores
Where God is cotton, where the dollar reigns as King.
There, sentenced to unending, wracking labour,
Toiling from dawn to dusk in the relentless sun,
They taught you in your psalms to glorify
Their Lord, while you yourself were crucified to hymns
That promised bliss in the world of Hereafter,
While you—you begged of them a single boon:
That they should let you live—to live, aye—simplylive.
And by a fire your dim, fantastic dreams
Poured out aloud in melancholy strains,
As elemental and as wordless as your anguish.
It happened you would even play, be merry
And dance, in sheer exuberance of spirit:
And then would all the splendour of your manhood,
The sweet desires of youth sound, wild with power,
On strings of brass, in burning tambourines.
And from that mighty music the beginning
Of jazz arose, tempestuous, capricious,
Declaring to the whites in accents loud
That not entirely was the planet theirs.
O Music, it was you permitted us
To lift our face and peer into the eyes
Of future liberty, that would one day be ours.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

May 8, 2010 at 10:16 am

Book Excerpt – By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives (Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson)

leave a comment »

Reposted from:

Community Arts Network Reading Room

By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives” by Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson (Oakland, New Village Press, April 2010)

Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson met at San Quentin State Prison in 1985 while Tannenbaum was teaching writing classes for prisoners. They have corresponded and sometimes collaborated ever since, producing, as this book’s publisher New Village Press puts it, “very different bodies of work resting on the same understanding: that human beings have one foot in darkness, the other in light.” For me, the book puts a finger, tenderly, on the essence of what is so vital about art for social change – the kind of change that happens in the soul. — Linda Frye Burnham, Community Arts Network

This excerpt, by Spoon Jackson, is from Chapter Two.

Chapter Two: In SilenceIndian summer at San Quentin and the sweet sun brings back the times I ran the dry river with the greyhound dogs and lay under the heavy black railroad bridge as the trains rumbled across, shaking the soft sands. In those times, I watched the shadows of the railcars dart by, and when night fell on a hot day, played kick-the-can in pure desert darkness. There were no street lights on Crooks Street when I was a boy.

A boy with no one to listen becomes a man in prison for life and discovers his mind can be free. A woman enters prison to teach and becomes his first listener. And so begins a 25-year friendship between two gifted writers and poets. The result is “By Heart” — a book that will anger you, give you hope and break your heart. — Gloria Steinem

My skin feels warm and alive this San Quentin September, as though I am a lizard sunning on a big rock. Instead I wear prison blues — shirt, pants, coat — plus brown high-top boots and dark shades, the coat and the shades I put on whenever I am outside the cell. I sit in my spot on the winding metal stairs of the San Quentin education building and see Judith bouncing down the steps from the Arts-in-Corrections office. I notice her healthy pale skin, (to read more go to the Community Arts Network Reading Room).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

March 24, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 143 other followers

%d bloggers like this: