Yearly Archives: 2009

How social media will change the way the arts present themselves

I have an article in this fortnight’s Arts Professional arguing that the arts need to get to grips with the idea that a mother of a change is a’coming, and about how the arts have a chance to build a strong, resilient network in the face of coming cuts by adopting a new, generous approach:

… we have reached a tipping point. The gap between what new and old media deliver us yawning. This changes how opinions are formed and how audiences are reached. It also raises interesting questions about where high quality criticism is going to come from in the future.

On the surface there’s a simple conclusion to be reached from the arrival of the Twitterati. Arts organisations need to think more about social media. The Barbican website already has a social media networks button on its front page. Fine idea. Twitter can fill empty seats within a couple of  hours of a performace. But at the moment that’s where most people’s thinking stops. This is a mistake because the change is fundamental. Arts organisations, if big enough, used to hire press officers on the strength of their contacts book, but what does that mean now? It’s not just the dipping circulations – accelerated by the recession, newspaper advertising revenues are expected to fall by as much as 21% across the board this year. This means cuts. Emails to old contacts suddenly bounce; they’ve gone freelance. Talent is leaching away from old media. The money spent trying to get column inches is increasingly money less well spent[…] but that’s just the half of it.

Conventional arts websites have become good at doing two things. They list events coming up and sell you tickets to them. If you’re lucky there’s a blog, but it’s often pretty thin fare. These sites exist within a fast-changing internet filled with people sharing news, wit, opinion, photographs, films and music. In comparison arts websites often look staid and monumental […] The key word is “sharing”. If arts websites want to move from the vertical model – telling people what’s good for them – to the horizontal model of using the energy of social networks, then it’s about giving stuff away. As any sociologist will tell you, the basis of any social network, real or virtual, is reciprocity.

Read the whole article HERE.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Bill McKibben on the “torrent of art” about climate change

Bill McKibben wrote recently on about how, over the last few years, art has been shouting increasingly stridently about climate:

That torrent of art has been, often, deeply disturbing—it should be deeply disturbing, given what we’re doing to the earth. (And none of it has quite matched the performance work that nature itself is providing. Check out, for instance, James Balog’s time-lapse photography of glaciers crashing into the sea—if we could somehow crowd that thrashing sheet of ice into the Guggenheim for a week, people would truly get it.) But for me, it’s been more comforting than disturbing, because it means that the immune system of the planet is finally kicking in.

Artists, in a sense, are the antibodies of the cultural bloodstream. They sense trouble early, and rally to isolate and expose and defeat it, to bring to bear the human power for love and beauty and meaning against the worst results of carelessness and greed and stupidity. So when art both of great worth, and in great quantities, begins to cluster around an issue, it means that civilization has identified it finally as a threat. Artists and scientists perform this function most reliably; politicians are a lagging indicator.

I wonder, how true is this? Is identifying artists as the “antibodies of the cultural bloodstream” a hopelessly romantic idea, part of McKibben’s relentless optimism, an optimism that has sustained him for twenty years and more as a campaigner? Or will the next few years prove him right in his faith that, not only are artists making work of “great worth, and in great quantities” about the issue , but that art still has a privileged role in how society concieves of itself.

It’s certainly a role that many established artists would feel extremely uncomfortable with; but maybe this isn’t the time for such niceities.

Read Bill McKibben’s article in

Bill McKibben’s campaign

Bill McKibben talks to RSA Arts & Ecology about his call for artists to lead on

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology