"...what we are faced with is not a moderate rearrangement of our economy and way of life. It is a seismic, massive disruption. Their reactions, then, should be equally monumental...."
Good read along with PDF linked below Groundbreakers - Using the strength of women to rebuild the world economy.
Economy Collapses, Artists Start Revolution
Published On 2/27/2009 12:33:37 AM
By RUBEN L. DAVIS, TheHarvardCrimson
By now you’ve probably heard that the world as we know it is spiraling out of control, and no one—not even Savior-In-Chief President Obama—knows what to do. Everyone, from salt-of-the-Earth Middle Americans, to class of 2006 Harvard economics graduates, is losing his job. That more than a few current seniors will likely be spending the coming year living in Mom’s house, “working things out,” has gone from an unspoken reality to a common experience. Who knew a little banking crisis could make such a stir?
Prior to the recent downturn, those in creative businesses—that is, the clothing designers, the restaurateurs and chefs, the advertisers–were certainly conscious of the extent to which the cash flow of the moneyed can affect their lives. Lower Manhattan eateries and boutiques, the large part of which stake their livelihood on the profligate spending of be-bonused Wall Streeters, were sent reeling in the wake of September 11.
Consciousness does not, apparently, conflate preparedness. More and more, it appears that these nine-to-five artistes are just as without direction in this crisis as the rest of the world.
Their bread crusts and beret counterparts–that is, the unsigned musicians and freelance visual artists–should be less affected by the crisis, given their relative removal from financial systems. To boot, rents are plummeting in major cities across the country, as is the cost of living. This is something to be excited about.
Yes, you read correctly. While it’s a truism to say that the best art has always been created in poorer times, the real gift that all artists today have been given is the opportunity, freer than before from market-driven industry pressures, to answer an eternal question: where do we go from here?
For many of the workaday sorts, the answer seems to be “backwards,” or at the very least, “stay put.” In her New York Times blog “On The Runway,” Cathy Horyn recently lamented “how serious and mature designers are acting nowadays,” noting how, “for a decade we’ve talked proudly of branding and luxury groups... Maybe the more sober business climate will put more emphasis on creativity.” Many designers at last week’s New York Fashion Week showed collections that were demure, either fearful that their clientele would not deign to purchase more outlandish clothing this coming fall, or that customers would be focusing instead on updating old standards, like coats and suits. Others, namely Marc Jacobs, chose to hearken back to times that they remember as freer or happier—the 1980s. They tended to become subsumed in their own nostalgia, however, and though exaggerated shoulders and metallic fabrics were a gleeful response to these gloomy times, they did not necessarily come off as conscious or even relevant.
We all know how people dressed when times were fun, but how will we continue to enjoy ourselves and celebrate life when times are tough?
I believe that the answer to this, and other similar questions all artists are charged with—whether they are business-oriented or not—lies in the realization that what we are faced with is not a moderate rearrangement of our economy and way of life. It is a seismic, massive disruption. Their reactions, then, should be equally monumental.
Though the natural reaction might be to freeze or look back, some have begun to take this global shift as an indicator, fundamentally modifying their approach to creativity.
British-born singer Antony Hegarty has long been invested in the constant evolution of his sense of individualism. His arresting, haunting songs are often personal and inward-looking, though recently they seem more reactive to the outside world. Hegarty’s focus and sensibility has evolved from 2005’s grand and dramatic exercise in emotiveness, “I Am a Bird Now,” to inhabit a quieter, more introspective space. With the recently released “The Crying Light,” he focuses on the more fundamental, including his relation to the Earth and connections to his parents, touching on both of these relationships on the slow-burn “Aeon.” He wistfully laments our inheritance from the world and our family, as he sees it as one of mixed potential and inevitable disappointment. “Let’s do something differently, let’s take our power back,” he implores. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” begging others to take note.
If France’s Phoenix and the New York-based Yeah Yeah Yeahs are any indication, other musicians certainly have. Both bands exploded onto the indie rock scene around the turn of the millenium, but their newest offerings stand to be radically different records than their previous fare.
If the first single from the upcoming “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” titled “1901” can be taken as any evidence, the stylish and exacting pop sound that has become characteristic of Phoenix has been overhauled, replaced by a recognizable, though notably rougher and more electronic style.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have taken it one step further on their recently leaked follow-up to 2006’s “Show Your Bones.” Not only does “It’s Blitz!” sport objectively kick-ass album art, it reveals a band that has jettisoned its old standbys in an effort to liven things up. The art punk garage band who started out supporting acts like the Strokes and the White Stripes has reportedly forbidden their lead (and very talented) guitarist Nick Zinner from doing what he does—play the guitar. Seismic, indeed. “When Karen orders, ‘No guitars for Nick!’ it makes you approach things in a different way,” noted Zinner in the SPIN magazine cover story for March. Claiming famed disco producer Giorgio Moroder, Donna Summer, and lead singer Karen O’s love of dancing as inspirations, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs promise to drop a record that sounds little like their previous, steadfastly rock-based work.
Fans of the YYYs are well aware of Karen’s passion for prancing across the stage at shows in loud costumes, but never before has the rest of the band (always clad in I’m-not-here black) seemed so enthusiastic about tripping the light fantastic.
While the album will not be officially released until April 14, it is clear that the group avoided the temptations of caution, uncertainty and nostalgia, favoring a spirit that embraces the opportunity for change and creativity that uncertain times present.
Who knew a little banking crisis could make such a stir?
—Columnist Ruben L. Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.