Week 13 – Twitter Chat Champion!

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      Nicole Steer

      In week 13 I participated in the Twitter Chat as one of the Twitter Chat Champions! We used the #ifn614culturechat hashtag if you want to see what we got up to. The topic was Culture and Pop Culture.

      Whenever I’m talking about Pop Culture, I always like to bring up the well-known equation of “Comedy equals tragedy plus time”. I’m a little dubious of this myself, but it leads to a pseudo-equation that I DO think is true: “High art equals pop art plus time”. There were lots of attempts to define pop art or what separates popular culture from “real” culture – lots of talk about pop culture being temporary, transient, mass-produced, whereas “real” culture is timeless, permanent, and rare (or at least more so than popular culture). This kind of definition has always bothered me, though, because, historically, most “high art” was what we would now consider “popular art” at one point. Austen and Shakespeare were definitely writing for the masses, and probably weren’t thinking of how palatable their art would be to people a hundred or more years down the track. The original Dadaists, who we’d these days consider 100% “real” culture were very dismissive of “high art” and produced their art to be either completely nonsensical, or filled with cutting-edge references and cultural memes. If the Dadaists were in their height nowadays, you would imagine they’d be on 4chan or the like producing absurdist, shocking, politically-charged internet memes and viral videos. A great more modern example is of “Banksy”, the well-known graffiti artist (“street artist” if you want to be posh). When he was just starting out, he was sniffed at by art critics as just another tagger, a vandal. Now that he’s been around in the public eye for long enough (and with an aggressive marketing technique at his side), he’s begun to become regarded as “real art” and his art is housed in galleries and museums, and other street artists are censured for defacing Banksy originals. He’s even got a pretentious theme park installation going.

      People also brought up that libraries are often more conducive to the growth of popular culture than galleries, museums, and archives. Libraries are often community hubs and more often foster a kind of two-way dialogue that is often missing in galleries and museums, and especially archives. Libraries are more likely to have young people and local small-time artists displaying their works, workshops for disadvantaged groups, etc. Galleries, museums, and archives, however, seem to be more – mercenary, maybe? Or not quite, but they seem to only focus on things that are regarded to be VALUABLE, or which will conceivably be considered valuable in the future. (Not just for monetary purposes, but also for purposes of recording culture.) They only showcase a select few voices and are very hands-off, compared to many libraries. You get a few exhibits at museums, for example, that encourage touching and feeling and community input, but they’re still very much the exception to the rule. Libraries, many people seemed to agree, are a better place for the community at large to “have their say”. It was also pointed out that this often includes disadvantaged groups and minorities, including ethnic/racial/religious minorities, LGBTI+ groups, women, youths, the working class, etc – who are also much more represented in “popular culture” than in “high art”.

      This is why I’m very passionate about popular culture and legitimising it in the eyes of other artists – it gives a voice to people whose voice is under-represented elsewhere. I feel that libraries, as community hubs, are not only a great place to showcase these voices, but also have an implied duty to do so.

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