Creative industries are responsible of the political landscape we’re in. Here’s why.
In the slow-diving Zeppelin called “Political Landscape”, one voice that is hardly heard is the one of the creative class. While the Obama era coincided with an elevation of pop culture, seeing arts and artists influence the mainstream opinion, it seems that the cycle has come to an end and that a rift has again separated the creators from the spectators. A number of symptoms can be seen across creative industries:
- Cultural institutions under threats
Whether for waning funds (Musée des Confluences, Lyon or a number of institutions in Australia), cultural disorientation (La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris) or structural loss of confidence (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), the public-private partnerships operating the major cultural institutions in Western metropolises are subject to threats regarding the quantity and quality of their cultural offer.
While Australian authorities are using public funds to influence the political representation of culture, Parisian authorities are looking to “diversify” the offer at La Gaîté Lyrique, to reach beyond the “young, hip and hipster audience” that has been interested in emerging music and technologic culture since 2011. The quote says a lot about how deep the cultural vision by the public funders goes.
- A music industry re-industrializing fast
In the wake of the tectonic digital shift which is still sending Swift-size ripples through the economy of music, contents creators and distributors have finally repositioned and are exploring quite a new game configuration. Old world jobs have gone and new marketers have joined.
On the cultural side, hip-hop and black culture have built an empire with strong roots in the communities, basically embodying the new business model. And the culture is working hard to turn itself into an (if not The) industry too: see the Tidal affair. That being said on the bright side, it also means that the reality is that black culture is normalising as fast as it rose from authenticity. It moved from a paradigm-changer to a part of the system too fast. Is Complex Media, a group with deep relevance for youth and street culture, really an outstanding voice and relay of opinions on the market? Normalisation here has yet to turn into instutionalisation.
- Fashion’s faux pourquoi-pas
Who better than the mother of all luxury and fashion brands could be the flagship of the current concept of “staged faux-relevance”, where a cynical knowledge of social trending issues is set up to look like deep understanding of the world. Yes, we’re talking about Chanel and its new system of show themes which only builds on the Mattel’s Barbie environment development: Barbie at the beach, Barbie goes to Hollywood, Barbie goes on the Internet…
Real fashion statements are long overdue.
- Film/TV gone meta and beyond
As far as critiques are concerned, the film industry has turned into an ideal world, no little thanks to a generation of geeks taking command: J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan and company have turned Hollywood into a meta-dream machine, with The Matrix and Inception as its pop manifestos: a story about a story about people telling a story about people. TV blockbusters are now more and more openly quoting Debord: Westworld has formalised conceptualism of pop culture in its final form. Series are for audiences playing video games, listening to Kanye West homage to gospel, renewing a Netflix subscription, bookmarking a Youtube video of John Oliver. The overwhelmingly deep universe of video has taken our audiences so far into fiction than fiction has taken over news channels too. What is wrong with Fox News? Maybe we should ask HBO.
- Design for what?
Commercial arts has become a heavy investment for companies. Marketers and business leaders are increasingly turning to design as a business solution in itself. The competition between Nike and Adidas for sports products and … lifestyle indeed, has turned to a battle of creative staffing and engineered progress. For the young creative directors out there, the future seems golden. But there are already signals of an industry losing breath. The conversation between designers and corporates is reaching a tipping point. Brands: do we change the world with or without you?
Creative companies are probably by essence the most progressive companies. Design studios are in that sense often the most avant-garde structures in terms of social responsibility. But they can only accomplish their purpose if clients are on the same page. So this applies to the political landscape: politicians. Are you progressive enough to design the future with us? Now let’s revert the thought: Designers, are you political to design the future with them?
Creative classes need to reconnect with their audiences.
We see some illustrators connect with people on the saddest global occasions: terrorist attacks, natural catastrophes… And once in a while, a great political poster comes to existence. Concerts used to be charitable, but the constraints on artists livelihood now makes it impossible for the industry to support causes. Science-Fiction used to question the future, but now too often it is merely an excuse of a genre to demo technology (hello Gravity). Our creative industries need to reconnect with people, by daring to say. By daring to challenge the status quo. By taking a political stance and formulating a counter-culture. We can not leave the ground to the dumbing of masses.
It is our irresponsibility, our defeatist posture, which has probably allowed populisms to rise again. Let’s create and change. Creativity is political, because it is a public object. Res Publica. Creativity is the heart of our Republics.