[iDC] Re: The politics of cultural production

saul ostrow sostrow at gate.cia.edu
Sun Aug 27 23:06:57 EDT 2006

The promotion of culture as a tool of social conscience is has long  
been considered a significant aspect of a political struggle. It as  
an alternative media has been used to get the message out  by  
criticizing the dominant consciousness, conventional values and an  
ideology of class domination.   By promoting doubt, self-criticality,  
and self-determination as positive forces, this critical culture by  
negative example proposes  that awareness is a determining factor in  
the evolution of those uncontrollable variables within the human  
equation. Problematically, those who seek to construct a more  
egalitarian society and those who wish to turn culture and  
consciousness into  commodities  both act in the name of achieving  
the same promised autonomy of discourse, self–referentiality, and  
self-reflectivity. Each side in this equation seeks hegemony over the  
terms and means of cultural production because these are the  
traditional means  by which  not only the aesthetic but also  the  
social values, standards and criteria that form our collective sense  
of self come to be   re-enforced, maintained, reformed and reformed.

The heroes of this epic struggle for political  emancipation through  
cultural  awareness are supposedly the artists and intellectuals, who  
continue to negotiate the conventions of their practices, the forms  
of mass culture and the means of production by challenging the social  
relevance of these practices and the limitations of their forms.   
Beyond this, critical culture continues is  the only area of social  
production in which the stated ideals of individualism and innovation  
are sustained.  Because we are allowed and even encourage to exercise  
this fetishized, relative freedom  we continue to believe that  our  
critical practices can effectively challenge the legitimacy of  
Capital's mass culture industry which on the structural level   by  
turning all real events into an author-less, un-interruptible flow of  
undifferentiated information and entertainment produces a reality  
that is more nuanced, and complex  than we suspect.   Within its  
economy  our lives  are made to appear to be nothing more than  a  
confusion of facts, fictions, and ersatz experiences.   The  
consequence of this is we are slowly being disconnected from the  
world of knowledge, awareness that induces the desire to transform  
our world and ourselves.  Under these conditions it would appear to  
me that in the absence of a viable collective sense of self - that  
the consturction of one would be the first order of business -  
otherwise we have no place to speak from or position to speak for.

On Aug 27, 2006, at 10:06 PM, MATTHEW C KENYON wrote:

> Saul,
> I've been thinking about the politics of cultural production by  
> analogy to the shoe industry (Nike) and the popular critique of the  
> shoe industry (via adbusters). Nike uses its understanding of youth  
> markets, mass-media, concentrations of capital etc. to produce  
> sports shoes, while propagating the belief that what you put on  
> your feet has something to say about who you are as a person.
> Toronto based Adjusters (popular critics of both Nike's production  
> methods as well as Nike's manufacturing of cool) just started  
> making shoes of their own. The adbuster shoes are the "Anti-shoe"  
> designed and marketed to be an alternative to Nike in may ways (pro- 
> union, renewable materials etc.).
> Adbusters move from making a critique of consumer culture, to  
> manufacturing a shoe that makes being critic of consumer culture  
> another nich market-brings up many questions.
> The problem with perceiving oneself as a critic outside of the  
> system-is that 1)you are not offering up true alteratives (i.e your  
> comment re: global economies)  2)you never can be outside of the  
> system entirely. Adbusters critical stance regarding Nike Shoe  
> Company failed to cause real change-largely because they were  
> preaching to the converted.
> The problem with providing functional alternatives (in this case a  
> "better shoe") is that you must engage in the conventions of the  
> system-in this case in order to market, brand and sell your  
> alternatives. (i.e. Anti-shoe billboards function and look a lot  
> like shoe billboards after all.) This ends up being simply another  
> branding strategy, and fails to bring about real change.
> Instead, I' like to think of the role of the artist as a kind of  
> thermostat-providing cultural feedback. The Artists (thermostat)  
> function is to deliver messages to the power center(s) (air  
> conditioner) not to assume their function. I see this reactionary  
> position as one position in a system of feedback. Where the problem  
> exists is in a system where consumption/production run unchecked- 
> The air conditioner without a thermostat.
> Link:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackspot
> Have a great first week of class. I'll try and do the same on sept.  
> 5th.
> Matthew Kenyon
> Assistant Professor
> 210 Patterson Building
> School of Visual Arts
> The Pennsylvania State University
> University Park, PA 16802
> mck16 at psu.edu
> http://www.swamp.nu
> http://www.sova.psu.edu/newmedia.html

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