The Group vs The Individual : A Critical Look at Media Control in The ARTS Today
Joshua A. TRILIEGI for BUREAU of Arts and Culture Magazine
There is a serious dilemma facing the human being in today's society. This dilemma can
be approached and spoken about in a variety of ways. I will speak about it here as a writer,
artist and individual creative human. Many people believe that the individual in today's
society is powerless. Any person espousing this declaration would only be justifying their
own position within a certain group, network or union of some sort. This publication,
BUREAU of Arts and Culture is owned and operated by an individual. The photographs,
articles, editorials, interviews and the advertising as well as distribution is provided by a
single human being. You would be surprised how that little fact angers, frustrates and in
one way or another attracts the attention of those who work within a group:a board of
directors, a corporation, a staff of decision makers, a hired employee who answers to a
hired employee who answers to a hired employee. I have been on a board of directors.
I have been a hired employee. I have worked within a group in the 'for profit' as well as
the 'non profit' world. I hold no ill will toward any such group whatsoever. If a gallery
or private business is science related or religious related or family related or believes in
the concept of 'one' . So be it. Though, if a non profit whose mission statement is to plant
trees suddenly becomes science related, religious related, family related, or a particular
belief system pervades its work atmosphere due to it's employees views, then, is it really
there to plant trees ? Or is it planting trees only for, with and around people, places and
other organizations that hold that same belief ? This is the current dilemma surrounding
many of the groups within the city of Los Angeles and the world at large. If you are given
a voice in your community as opposed to earning that voice in your community, than it
can indeed be taken away just as swiftly as it was given. In the past few years, we have
seen Disc Jockeys, Columnists, Curators and Actors, Artists as well as Musicians fall
prey to the game. Losing positions, contracts & employment. Thus empowering the
group & creating an atmosphere of fear among those who still have a position at that
particular institute, station, group or business.
There is a proliferation of groups happening in the present tense that seems to me, to be effecting the way that an individual may or may not go about being an individual in todays society. It would be extremely easy to quote Aldous Huxley or Ray Bradbury or Shakespeare or any person in the past. I will refrain from such logic and attempt to simply describe this condition as it exists in my own reality. One in which as an individual, I find it more and more challenging to create, present, sell and profit without affiliating myself with a particular religion, race, value, nationality or non-profit entity of some such sort. I was raised in an extremely independent atmosphere. One in which we were taught that being an individual, creating as an individual, living as an individual and expressing ones self as an individual was of the utmost importance. Many corporations which will go unmentioned for obvious reasons may be abusing their power to influence society in a way that goes above & beyond their actual business, product and or service provided. There are food chains, delivery services, soda companies, beer and alcohol companies, motorcycle and vehicle manufacturers who may be doing much more than selling product or providing a service to America. I have worked within the film, television, print media world and educated in the landscape of Hollywood, billboards and the media world for most of my life. I am no new comer to journalism, commercialism or the non profit world of fund raising.The last ten years have been devastating to new voices and independent thinking. Even the most independent of thinkers have a radio station, a college, a publisher, a non profit, a group with which they rely on to help support their, 'independent' voice. Most of the major institutes relate on one level or another to a belief and value system which pervades just about every decision being made. Let me lay it out for you. Skirball , LACMA, MOCA , Hammer have affiliations and the curators, employees and everyone involved have a cultural goal of some sort. These institutes would often prefer to have the first and last word when it comes to their programs being presented to the public.Disney Hall, which houses REDCAT has connections with California Institute of the Arts. This is an Art school for gifted as well as wealthy young folks and experienced Artists and Individuals to gain employment by teaching classes, workshops and the like. The artist John Baldesarri worked and taught at Cal Arts, shows his work at Gemini Gel on Melrose Avenue and is clearly a part of the establishment we are currently discussing. Mr Baldesarri has a very clear understanding of how groups work. There may have been a point in time when he & his contemporaries such as Ed Ruscha were indeed individuals who created art works that were individual. Both are now senior artists who are represented by museums, galleries and a group of world wide art buyers who have invested in the work. They are now a part of a much larger group. What is this group ? How did the work of a few extremely revolutionary artistic individuals become infused in such a way ? Was it intentional ? Was it gradual ? Was it for acceptance ? Was it for success ? Or is this simply a notion created by an observant individual within a system of groups & individuals ? Survival in the arts is political. I have been in the middle of negotiating an ad deal, an interview or simply discussing an appointment when suddenly code words are used to effect a response. Family. Science. One. To name a few. How much of this is effecting business in the arts ? Quite a bit. Most of these institutes have more than an enough funds to support a new arts publication. Not a single institute has supported BUREAU magazine yet. Has the entire art world and the need for success been co opted by a group of extremely wealthy or extremely powerful or extremely well positioned individuals ? Conversely, will a group of under represented human beings abuse their power to be represented ? Possibly. Who decides what plays, posters, images & commercials as well as copy writers for radio, film & television will be displayed ? How does this landscape of images, both visual & sonic effect the way you or I think about ourselves, our friends, our families or those people we do not know ? The psychology of advertising, the psychology of conversation, the psychology of social media or should we say the child - like - psychology of the world today is offensive, abusive and often ill intended. Ultimately, these tactics often backfire on the abuser(s) of such ideologies, creating a vacuum of negativity and a waste of time, money & even costing people more than they may have intended. When a group of people intend to influence an individual, it is often surprising how resilient, how tenacious, how strong & focused this type of attention can enliven, strengthen and even provide sustenance to that individual. For example, most banned books become international best sellers outside their own nation. Opposing a certain person, place or thing often times empowers that entity.
We are now talking about social media, abuse of power by those who own property, businesses and the conservative viewpoint of the world as well as those who would use whatever power they may have that is in direct opposition to the afore mentioned issues. Those who have no property per se, but have bodies on the street, those who may not be conservative per se, but still have an idea about how others should live, believe, worship or love. Those who collectively have a goal in society to further their particular group, nationality, income bracket, or religion. Things have gotten out of hand.
Everyone has good reason to pursue their goals. Maybe they have been waiting for decades to have a certain amount of power. Maybe they have been oppressed. Maybe they have ancestors who have experienced a form of genocide, holocaust or simply been marginalized. Whatever the issue is, income, jobs, power, religion, belief: group affiliation is often hurting us as humans. We as a group of humans perceivably struggling to further the group that we may look like, talk like, act like. In America and here in Los Angeles there is a culture war that nobody wants to talk about. It is not talked about on the radio, it is not written about in the newspapers, it is not discussed on the television. It is sometimes alluded to in metaphor, in fiction, film and theater. But on the streets of Los Angeles, this war is very much alive and not well at all. There is a struggle, perceived and sometimes very real, for: the customer, the job, the buyer, the opportunity, the sustained lifestyle, the ability to profit, the ability to express one's self, the ability to be supported by the industry in which one chooses to work. Over the past few years, I have quietly created a few literary works which have a long term commitment prior to completion. A book of short stories, a novel, a couple feature documentaries, large bodies of paintings & a series of photographs. As an artist who works as an individual, I have spent a good amount of time away from society . Sometimes days, even weeks, working extensively on a particular project. Writing, photographing, editing, creating a world that others will later view, discover and experience for them selves. This is what the role of an individual artist is about. Upon re-entering society for the purpose of publishing the first edition of a new cultural magazine in which I interview artists, architects, photographers, organic farmers, curators, theater producers in a casual conversational style. I was surprised by the amount of resistance, coercion and down right uncooperative nature with which the very world I was celebrating and those who seek to control it, reacted. The snobbery, meanness, immaturity & selfishness as well as the amount of lies, double talk and ridiculousness that was provided was abundant, amazing, alarming. The down right petty conversations at non profit as well as commercial radio was astounding. The male dominated aspect of certain radio stations and the belittling perspectives that so transparently wish to influence the listener is embarrassingly simple minded. These same personalities love it when they get a good review.We got many emails thanking us for this or that complimentary word. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of very cool, intelligent and cooperative individuals out there, but the ratio was definitely skewed toward a certain amount of people who appeared to want something other than what a free publication on Arts & Culture is all about. Many wanted something for free, at any cost. Others went out of their way to influence how and what would be written. Others went so far as to promise, intimate and carrot dangle offers with which they never meant to follow through with. I found it rather amazing how much time and energy some groups invested in attempting to influence, infer or even infatuate to simply get what it was they wanted from this very simple idea of a new magazine that had affordable prices, a great look, a fun and interesting format, with smart and concise writing which continued on-line with extensive audio & visual support on our website.
We have car dealers giving us the wrong number to their ad agencies, keeping us on hold for over twenty minutes at a time, playing the kind of games through their employees and sales persons that I have not experienced since being in grade school. Its amazing how horrible & mean a group of workers could actually be. Sometimes it was simply a disgruntled receptionist or security guard who would insist that so & so was not in the office. Usually it turned out that Mr or Mrs so & so was not only in the office, but was damn interested in the magazine & wanted to assist, get involved, stay in touch or even place an ad. Other times it was clearly a concerted effort to control the amount of dialogue written about a certain subject : ART in this case or MUSIC in that case or THEATER in another case. The average person may not realize how difficult it is simply to review and photograph a band or an art exhibit or a theater piece and get paid for it. On the one hand, writing the article is the easy part. Getting access to the artist, performer or performance is sometimes tricky. Having the theater, gallery or museum contribute to the cause financially can seem impossible. Sometimes these are entities with either a non profit status or a major budget provided by governments grants, or a very strong affiliation with a certain religion, nationality or belief system which this particular publishing entity does not belong to. Quite frankly, as a publisher and editor, I refuse to align myself with any particular group as it would be unfair to any other particular group. The BUREAU of ARTS and CULTURE, by its very nature is an open ended, multi cultural, non political, non religious publication which resolutely refuses to be pandered to, be influenced by or harassed & harangued by those who attempt to do so. It is debatable wether the faith based non profit has done more good than damage to our world. On the surface, it looks like one thing, look again and you may see abuses of power at every level. Even the entities which bring us Classical Music, Jazz Music, Rock Music have been somehow co-opted & often times controlled by a group that is very tightly aligned with either the government, a church or a corporation of some sort. This is not a complaint, this is not an accusation, this is an observance that I believe needs to be discussed, realized and understood by the public at large. Did you know that many of the ' stories ' being narrated on National Public Radio are often completely fabricated or highly skewed, manipulated, or just plain metaphor for a whole other paralleled side story ? Did you know that stories on the BBC Radio about International issues are often fodder for things happening right here in America ?
We are talking about major museums here, major corporations, sometimes a person or ad agency that controls an entire six block radius of car dealers. Sometimes, BUREAU magazine is in direct competition with a city owned entity that sees another ad option as competition for their own publication. Not to mention the kind of tricks that other independent publications attempt to pull, by using their influence to effect sales of a growing new publication. Other times we are talking about radio stations, commercial & non commercial who are very aware of what we write, the power of persuasion through publication & controlling the conversation as well as keeping a lock on possible revenue. Because of the fact that the BUREAU of Arts and CULTURE communicates with FCC complied entities such as radio stations, news papers, weeklies as well as indie writers, d.j.'s and announcers as well as producers, directors, artists, actors, union officials & a good many people who own their own businesses or play a big part at very powerful non profit entities like most of the museums in town, without exaggeration: influential people of a cultural nature know who we are and what we write. How does a group of people who consider themselves to be independent reconcile the fact that their non profit has to fill out forms and report directly to the federal government on a monthly or yearly basis and still consider itself independent ? There is no such thing as independent anymore. Even the radio stations that have befriended and supported BUREAU of ARTS and CULTURE projects in the past surely must realize that they too are hard wired into and out of a Federally created broadcast system and that although they are allowed a certain amount of commentary, they too are not as so called independent as they wish to appear. Unfortunately, no one is as independent as they wish to be in todays world. It has been an extremely interesting season for our magazine and I have had a wonderful time creating it. I am proud of it. Though, wether we can continue is beyond my control. It may be that we too will soon apply for non profit status to survive, thrive & grow. Because of the fact that we affiliate with & write about Anglo American, African American, Native American, Chinese American, Armenian American, Pacific Rim, European and Middle Eastern art, theater & music, it is safe to say that those who have an influence in these diverse communities through out Los Angeles have heard about us, read about us, know about BUREAU of ARTS and CULTURE. We are about to begin writing about cuisine and other subjects which will include just about any culture that you can imagine: Vietnamese, Cuban, Ethiopian, Thai, Cambodian, French, you name it. Notoriety comes with a certain amount of scrutiny. But I never expected the kind of reaction, direct and indirect that writing about art, theater and music would ever provide. Nor did I realize how the group(s) would collectively react. Some times for, sometimes against, something that would be written. I thought that America was a place where a man or woman could write, paint, compose whatever they wanted. There is a clear and present opposition to new voices emerging in this current landscape. But that fact has only inspired me to dig down deeper.
As a rule, I do not write the kind of mean hearted criticisms that some publications supply. Being a third generation artist, I find that it is easy enough to ignore bad art, bad film, bad theater or bad music, than to spend too much time talking about it. Plus, who am I to say what is bad ? If I don't like it, I usually don' t want to spend much time talking about it. On the other hand, I don't write puff pieces either. I do occasionally write what I call an appreciation piece on a senior artist who has put decades into a career or craft. I am an enthusiast, a man who appreciates & recognizes craftsmanship, cultural expression and conceptual ideas, objects, architecture & invention. I find the current atmosphere in todays art, theater and music world to be somewhat harsh. Those in the power positions, those with jobs in the industry, those working on the outskirts as well as those struggling to get theirs are indeed involved in a culture war. It is real. I have experienced it first hand and it is not only hurting the music, the art, the theater, it is often directly in opposition of the very expression being sold on the wall, on the air and on the stage. Oftentimes it's a total mockery and hypocrisy of the very product being pitched or the actual musician' s message or composers lifestyle or artist' s entire oeuvre: amazing. The disc jockey's might think it's funny to belittle a little known fact of Beethoven's life. Providing some sorted little fact or even rumor-like innuendo that half the time sounds like the announcer is at odds with what it is to even be an artist. Did you want an example ? O.k. try Brian Lawrenson or Jim Sjveda at KUSC 91.5 FM where the composers of some of the greatest classical music ever composed are constantly mocked. There is an obsession with the constant reminder that such and such is 'DEAD'. Hey, Jim , It is safe to say that most listeners understand that this is a music written a couple hundred years ago. Half the time the actual living composers who are often guests being interviewed, see through this, but still have to play second fiddle to the D.J. ! It's amazing how the hosts of these shows ego's are totally fragile, overblown and often times at odds with what it is they are there to do: play the music. But you see, and here is my original point, they are there to do much more than play the music, they are there to control the conversation, continue a certain agenda with which they perceive they're listeners either want to hear, or to subtly influence that opinion over time. This is a culture war. It's both passive & aggressive . Or a station manager uses Bob Dylan' s catalogue to raise funds then turns around and talks about him in a derogatory term in front of the telephone volunteer(s). The Museum director lectures about some such conservative value while displaying the works of an extremely free living individual, artist or writer. The radio Disc Jockey plays a new song by R.E.M. then mentions in a negative way that its probably their 300th album, as if that's a bad thing. Its as if the purveyors and presenters have no right to present some of the works with which they are presenting. I have experienced this first hand & this is going on folks. This is the culture war that I am talking about.
Ever since I started writing about art exhibitions, culture, theater, fashion, design, music and Los Angeles, I noticed this little war. And believe me, they noticed that I noticed, because more than once, more than twice, more than a dozen times, I was put on notice. Well, I have decided to fight back. My job as a writer is to tell my readers what's going on out there & from now on, this writer, editor and publisher is going to tell it like it is. If a rude receptionist or a bad attitude security guard or if a disc jockey crosses the line, creates a negative slur or stereotype: I will write about. Like for instance, a security guard at a major film studio who recently shouted , " Hey Sammy ! " with a jewish person within earshot. I may find time to tell our readers more and in extreme detail about it. When, where, who and how many times it happened.A Bus driver, a curator, a snotty employee, a pedestrian on his or her cell phone, a driver running a bicyclist off the road. All open to discussion in a new weekly column on our three blog spots in Los Angeles, New York & San francisco with photographs, drawings, illustrations and locations of the incidents, quotes, etc … A Weekly Rant as it were. The Report on Culture Wars in the world today. So, you want to play the game ? Cool, lets play, as long as you don't mind others reading about it on a weekly basis. Will there be another BUREAU of Arts and Culture Magazine ? I don't know. That depends on the Galleries, Museums, Clubs, Bike Shops, Surf Shops, Skate Shops, Non Profits, Museums, Commercial Radio, Car Dealerships, and those businesses that traditionally support cultural publications: Beer, Liquor, Fashion, Film, Tourism, Hotels & Restaurants. Biting the hand that might feeds me ? I don't think so. It is pretty clear in recognizing those who like to see a new voice emerge and it is even clearer to witness those who tried to deliberately extinguish such a voice because it did not belong to them, their group, their religion, their institute, their college, their publication. If this is a culture war that I have accidentally or indadvertedly entered, than as a pacifist, I can only hope to identify the skirmishes, avoid the battles and win the war by teaching those in the field that war is hell. Now there' s a quote for you.