Last summer, I blogged about Under Pressure in Montreal, one of Canada’s premier graffiti conventions. While out last night checking out a show, DJ Static [of the internationally acclaimed WEFUNK radio show and regular DJ @ Under Pressure] mentioned to me that the festival has recently encountered some economic peril with many of its funders backing out. It is not the only one though as the Under Pressure blog indicates:
After 13 years of dedication and hard work, the organizers of Scribble Jam had to regretfully announce that due to lack of funding and the current economic climate, they do not have the resources to continue with the festival this year.
Read more HERE.
Events such as Toronto’s Style In Progress have already succombed to the same fate and this serves as a reminder more than ever that Under Pressure 2009 needs YOUR support this year…
Meanwhile, festivals that are a bit smaller like Ottawa’s House of PainT, which are primarily DIY with a bit of local community support, continue to roll on. I’ve always understood Hiphop culture to be grounded in “get-it-how-you-live” economics. In other words, it emerged out of an endogomous low-budget environment where the idea of sponsorship or support from external agents was far-fetched at best. To borrow a concept form Karl Polanyi, the economy was very embedded in the society. To extend that idea a bit further, when economy is embedded in society that way, value becomes determined by metrics that are responsive to that society. That is to say the distance between expense and expectation is shorter in these kinds of societies. Particularly with respect to cultural products – currency expectations (read: cost) are set based on the value of that product, which is determined by those society specific metrics.
Haute Finance and global economics have disembedded economy from society such that the value of a product, cultural or otherwise, is set externally and determined by metrics that are often quite apart from the society that produces them. The idea was that the ability of federal governments to communicate, exchange currency and goods, and participate in this international system would set up a more even-handed trickle-down system for the citizens who produce those goods/services. 150 years later, we see how that’s worked out.
What’s going on with these festivals is a good example of all of that. As this culture globalized and patched itself into a bigger economic system, it’s on the ground value – the endogamous value – became supported by off the ground finance, and things got disembedded such that culturally important gatherings find it difficult to support themselves on their own steam.
Might we see more regional and embedded expressions of culture in the future, based on real value to that region like the House of Paint model? What other feasible models might emerge? How will cultural investment strategies be affected by/reposition on account of the economic climate?
Before I go, I’ve gotta give a big Rest In Peace shout to IZ the WIZ, one of the very few Kings graffiti, setting the standard in New York and all over the world. He passed away on Friday. Do the knowledge here.