Archive for June, 2007

To Everything (Comintern! Comintern! Comintern!)

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Breakthrough: An Amateur Photo Revolution
Photo by Steve Rhodes — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Even if you are not a professional singer, you have my permission and encouragement to go ahead and sing along with The Byrds — I swear it’s not too late. There are others, though, that are warning against the voices of amateurs, and these pros are making good money off of their fear factories.

As covered in Festival News (Amateur Culture Unite), the latest entry in the who-is-authorized-to-create-as-an-authority debate, is the distinguished Andrew Keen with his book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture. Andrew is no slouch on the tech and culture scenes: he has helped to create companies and opportunities in both spheres.

If you doubt Andrew’s credentials, though, he is more than happy to provide his bona fides. As he writes in his own online bio:

Andrew’s erudition, his entrepreneurial experience, and his writing and public speaking skills have established his voice today as both the most controversial and incisive in Silicon Valley.

As the self-defined “most incisive” voice, Keen’s new book warns of a world wide web that perpetuates mediocrity precisely because the web is inclusive in offering a platform for the vox populi. If amateurs replicate the professionals our culture will be brought down to the lowest common denominator — something the professional media would surely never let happen. (Thankfully, Keen’s own publisher, Doubleday, only sells books that enhance and purify our culture. Where would we be without their latest publication, The Diana Chronicles?)

The issue of amateur v. authority (i.e. professional) is really about two very different fields of inquiry and communication via the web: journalism and the arts.

The most virulent in warning of the dangers of an open space are journalists who tout the vetting process available via paid employment, editors, and publishers. Most people I know who use blogs and feeds for news have not abandoned traditional news sources at all. Rather, readers have expanded the depth and breadth of coverage of the world with access to stories from on the ground. Global Voices is a perfect example of how amateurs can enlighten and inspire readers — and even do the same for professional journalists.

Surely, in this day and age, no one can doubt that professional journalism has its limitations, either due to lack of resources, or due to ownership structures, whether private (to maximize profit) or governmental (to minimize opposition).

(Even big book publishers can get facts wrong. Take a look at Lawrence Lessig’s catalogue of mistakes in Keen’s book.)

In the arts, the culture-is-collapsing worriers are missing the point about platforms for posting and sharing by all of those amateurs. Making tools and technologies available to the masses to replicate or imitate the professionals enhances the interest, support, purchase, and development of the professional arts.

Think about the still camera becoming readily available, and the growth of photographic art’s appreciation and sales. Think about families making all those home movies, and Hollywood’s continued growth as well as the development of independent movie making. Think about how playing an instrument increases the enjoyment and admiration of a professional musician’s work.

The last thing the arts need is to have a Comintern of professionals dictating who can make art, and how to make it. If professional art imitates life, what’s so bad about amateur life occasionally imitating art?

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Yusef Robb

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Live Earth LogoLive Earth is a 24-hour, 7-continent festival that takes place July 7, 2007. Live Earth will reach a worldwide audience with the message that we need to take urgent action to combat global climate change. We interview Yusef Robb, spokesperson for Live Earth about the genesis of the festival, how they are making the event as ‘green’ as possible, and what each of us can do to combat global warming and environmental degradation.

 Interview: Yusef Robb [9:32m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

KadmusArts Ovation

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Photo by JM — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Anytime there is a new outlet for showcasing a wide range of the best in the arts, there is a reason to cheer. When KadmusArts gets to play a part, there’s a reason for an ovation — in this case, literally.

This week, an arts channel is reborn in the US. OvationTV will be America’s only twenty-four hour national television network focused on the arts. First launched in 1996, the network is re-launching with national coverage via satellite carrier, DIRECTV, and a new creative team behind the ideas, program choices, and audience opportunities.

We’ve been going through their program selections, and it’s really cool. (You have to be happy about a channel that offers everything from Kabuki to Leonard Cohen, Andy Warhol to Henry Darger, and Jackson Pollock to John Coltrane.) Even more importantly, they have been reaching out to arts organizations to provide new platforms for groups to promote their own work.

In the no-shame-to-promotion category, team KadmusArts is working on Ovation’s website to help provide content, context, and other fun online connections to the programs and the artists featured.

Be sure to check out the site, which Ovation is developing step by step. You can also find information on how to get the channel, and as well as initiatives in programming and opportunities for arts organizations and companies.

Think of it as a kind of multi-arts festival ready for you 24/7. A definite KadmusArts Ovation.

- Bill Reichblum

Night Owls Unite

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Photo by Justin M. Silles — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Midsummer’s Eve can be fun, celebratory, wild and — now we have proof — good for your work. According to a recent study, those who are used to being active through the night tend to be more creative.

Marina Giampietro and G.M. Cavallera, of the University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, published their findings in an issue of Personality and Individual Differences. According to the research, as covered in our Festival News, those who work through the night are more likely to be creative.

Even more comforting for those of us who like to work in the dark hours, the study also showed that creativity does not stop, nor even diminish, with age. (That’s a relief!)

Certainly, KadmusArts would not be growing so well without colleagues’ comfort, if not enjoyment, with overnight work. For some, working in the middle of the night when the rest of the world is asleep appears to be a precondition to creating new wonders.

We stand — sleepless — in good company.

To help inspire your Midsummer’s Eve’s festivities, here is a list of fellow night owls. Perhaps you can incorporate their imaginations into your celebrations. Or, perhaps you know names to add to the list of those whose work in the dark has shown us the light!

  • Antonin Artaud
  • Samuel Beckett
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Charles Dickens
  • Alexander Dumas
  • Thomas Edison
  • W.C. Fields
  • Glenn Gould
  • Martha Graham
  • Jerzy Grotowski
  • James Joyce
  • Franz Kafka
  • Stanley Kubrick
  • Groucho Marx
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • Marcel Proust
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Leonardo da Vinci

Here’s wishing you a Midsummer’s Eve that is as festive as a long night of creation.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Mark Monahan

Friday, June 8th, 2007

Photo: Mark MonahanMark Monahan is the executive and artistic director of the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest, which takes place this year from July 5-15, 2007. In the years since Clarence Clemons took the stage and helped kick off the first edition of the festival, the Bluesfest has become one of the largest outdoor festivals in the region. In addition to his work with the Bluesfest, Mark has championed a Blues in the Schools program and a music competition for youth, bringing blues music to a new generation.

We talk with Mark about the rapid growth of the festival over the years, initiatives to make the event environmentally friendly and why festivals are so important for artists and communities.

 Interview: Mark Monahan [8:28m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

How to Love Art of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Monday, June 4th, 2007

Photo by The GC Three (+1) — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Howard Stein, one of the great theatre teachers, used to begin an advanced seminar standing next to a large stack of plays. One by one, he would hold up a play and the class would have to vote whether each play was genuine dramatic art, just good theatre, or really bad art. Some thought his point was to trash work, or at least signal what should be trash. They were wrong. His main point was to get the students to think critically and be able to articulate what makes art work. His second point was to get the students off a merry-go-round of pretension — pretending to like something because it seemed the right, noble, and most intellectual thing to do.

I thought of Howard’s lessons during a recent international theatre conference. One of the panelists appeared to be making the argument that everything on television is bad; art institutions that receive a lot of funding produce good work; but, the best and truest art work is happening in those places that are attended only by the few.

Now, I love, and have spent years, working in the experimental and avant-garde scene. One of the greatest theatrical experiences of my life was in a tiny room on the Russian-Polish border with the smallest audience possible, one. Still, don’t you think the panelist is being just a bit, well, more than a bit, pretentious?

I mean, even Lou Reed said, “I like to watch things on TV.” (The panelist also made a point of trashing everything on television: “Whenever I watch it, it makes me want to cry.” Oh, please. This might have been a good point — if she was talking about the news.)

What the panelist is missing is that art does not connect to an audience when it is being pretentious: pretending to be something it isn’t. No one likes art that pretends to be deep, pretends to reveal the truth of humanity, pretends to be memorable. Artists can be extremely successful — in other words popular — and do just fine on all three of these counts. Think Charlie Chaplin.

One of the great experiences of festival going is to be able to catch the latest experimental work in an abandoned building, then laugh at a clown show, and then take in the coolest jazz. In other words, the best festivals know that audiences like variety: small works in the same context as large scale works. Most importantly, audiences like artistic expression that is direct, and honest.

There’s even a life-like balance to be found in enjoying a master’s work one day, and silly work the next.

I wonder if the panelist likes the music of John Lennon. Here’s a guy who churned out pop hit after pop hit in collaboration, and on his own. He did pretty well. One has the sense, though, that he never took himself too seriously. And yet, he created an anthem, still for our art and our times: Imagine.

- Bill Reichblum