July 30, 2005

BLOGS | New blogs on ABC website

The Shallow End
Casting a critical eye over entertainment news from Australia and the world.

ABC News Online's daily take on arts news and events in Australia and throughout the world.

PUBLICATION | Is Not Magazine

A newmagazine has graced the streets of Melbourne over the past few months. Is Not Magazine is a 2 metre x 1.5 metre bill poster stuck up in about 50 places around the city and also available for purchase or subscription.


COMMENT | A Tale of Two …: Part One

by Linda Carroli

Given there is ever more mediaspace and that less of it is allocated to arts writing and reporting, the arts have consistently relied on alternative and independent media as a critical outlet. Even the ABC, the only major television station that has a history of encouraging artistic programming, provides less arts coverage. So the specialist zines, journals, websites and street press actually play a vital role in not only documenting the cultural life of a place but also in providing a place for art writing and publishing.

Two new cultural magazines have just hit the streets in Brisbane. Vulture is a ‘street press’ style magazine available free – once tabloid sized and printed on newsprint, the street press have evolved a range of glossy and creative publications. Machine is published by Artworkers, an artist alliance and resource organisation, and is also distributed free. Both magazines claim to engage the ideas and creativity of local artists and writers. Both magazines make it evident that other, particularly mainstream, media are not reporting and covering the arts in a useful way; at least, not in this era of creative industries, commercialising intellectual property and economies afloat on tides of ideas and innovation. How then do we live this dream when, as Terry Eagleton has argued, there is a problem of there being too much culture around? This means ‘a real danger … of producing a population with reasonably high cultural expectation in a society which cannot even provide them with employment’. From a government and policy perspective, that danger is also expressed as ‘educating the young beyond their station’. Both these publications are ‘young’ in that they are geared towards young audiences and/or produced as a result to develop young and emerging writers and artists.

Government policy seems to argue that if we have access to the economy, then we can all be entrepreneurs. And if Vulture is anything to go by, there’s a few aspiring media moguls in our midst. The economy is supposedly the great leveller. It’s one thing for a group of people to instigate their own publishing project but quite another to make a living out of it having duly completed our business plans, completed small business courses and completed a stint in an accelerator or incubator program through which, by a few reports, your are four times less likely to FAIL than a business that has not been incubated. In the wholesale bandwagonism that has seen a shift of discourse from culture to business, some flaws are fatally exposed. Simply putting the word ‘creative’ in front of a lot of business terminology does not in and of itself present a solution to the conundrum of self-funding artists and arts projects, if, indeed, that is the objective. In the recently issued Creative Business Toolbox, I couldn’t help but note at least one of the case study interviewees saying that she had a problem with cashflow. Doesn’t that mean she doesn’t have any money? And doesn’t that mean she’s not making a living? Free enterprise. Freedom of speech. Why do VI Lenin’s words - ‘freedom of the press is freedom of the rich to own it’ - suddenly come to mind? Yet, we persist in having faith in an advertising or government arts funded publishing revolution. Every generation does it (and thinks they’re the first to do it). Every generation loves it. Every generation changes it.

It’s never so black and white as that. In the current era, publishing is pervasive. Everyone does it. Everyone can do it. In fact, you probably need a darn good reason as to why you’re not doing it. This is a literate culture with high levels of cultural literacy. In theory, this should mean that specialist and free arts publications have a readymade audience. However, by all reports, this is also a time poor culture and that means we simply do not have the time to take advantage of all the cultural opportunities that are presented to us. In my artworld, I often talk to people about art writings that I have read and there’s some value there in sharing that experience with people in my artworld. However, I couldn’t, for example, have the same conversations with my family over dinner even though they do comment on a report or profile in the arts section in the weekend paper. The arts focus in the weekend newspapers is not only about selling advertising for the period when people are more likely to be looking for something to do but, I would think, also intended to be read over a leisurely brunch. It actually takes time to feed that cultural literacy by engaging in cultural ideas and in artistic work whether through experience or reportage.

An information saturated society probably doesn’t need any more information unless it’s going to somehow impact on our quality of life. However, this is where I get myself a little lost because this assertion does not speak to my concerns about this value, which has something to do with the fact that these two new publications, Machine and Vulture, are free. Vulture actually pitches itself as a ‘street press’ style magazine. Street press magazines are intended to be thrown away, to disappear as a kind of in the moment ephemera. Free is made all the more difficult and contentious because the magazines are also downloadable as PDFs from websites. Does free automatically mean ephemeral or without value? Of course not.

Part Two later. But please make up your own minds by visiting the websites.