DEAR READER, this is a reprint from my zine Musea #162. If you would like, skip the intro and go to the Door of revolution of your choice.*
Door #1: Music
Door #2: Art
Door #3: Literature
Door #4: Fair and Open Review Source for all Artists
Door #5: Art Centers
FIVE DOORS to the art revolution. INTRO:
Perhaps some Tuesday or Wednesday evening you’ve walked by and not thought twice about what you were seeing or hearing. That’s understandable. There is nothing unusual here, just another shopping center in an upscale part of Dallas, not far from downtown. On the Lover’s Lane side of the shopping center at Lover’s Lane and Inwood Avenue, is a large parking lot in front of a row of shops. Towards the center of the row, you can see a film theater in between an ice cream parlor and a men’s clothing store.
The theater is the Inwood Theater. It’s 60 years old this year, but doesn’t look its age. It’s kept its charm and updated its amenities. The facade is packed with neon lights that continue up the tower spelling out I-N-W-O-O-D in running lights. It’s the highest point in this area of town and easy to spot from a distance. (For a photo and a brief history of the theater, see LandmarkTheatres.com.)
You notice the theater has an outside box office, a glass-topped bump out. You also hear music, a single singer singing and playing a standard guitar through a shoebox size amp stuck in the box office window. You look inside the glass box and see a tall man standing and playing music. It’s melodic, danceable, upbeat, and passionate. If you watch long enough you might see people coming out of the “Lounge”, the bar within the theater, dancing their way to their cars.
If you didn’t see someone playing, you might have thought it was a radio. Many do. You may see others listening to the music too. Young children seem to always react the same way, they hear the music, see the player, stare with that dazed look in their eyes; then, with permission or prodding from their parents, start dancing to the music. Some adults tip the guitar player. Some don’t. When time comes for the next set of shows, the singer puts the guitar and amp away and sells tickets.
So, why is this music probably the scariest and most revolutionary music in the world so scary that no media source dare talk about it; not indie punk zines like Maximum Rock ‘N Roll; not hip music/fashion magazines like Nylon, not radio news shows like “All Things Considered” from NPR, National Public Radio; and of course not any mainstream media source. While listeners are tapping their toes, all the media from the underground on up, are shaking in their boots.
I don’t have an answer why there is a total band on this new music (or any new music or art style for that matter). Perhaps the media is stuck in a safe and sanitized mode where no one can fathom that music can change from what it’s been for the last 50 years. Yet when it has become everything it started out opposing; when it’s become safe, sanitized, flabby, over puffed up, and boring, then it’s time for a change. It’s a new century, a new millennium! It’s time for new music, music that cannot only open up the door to new styles of music, but can pave the way for new arts of every kind. This issue spells out 5 of those new DOORS that that guitar player is opening up. Each door leads to a different ART REVOLUTION. Ready? Pick a door.
DOOR ONE: Music
What if you were a musician and you didn’t play the game, let alone follow the rules? What if you purposely did things in a different musical way every chance you got just to be innovative, just to stir things up, just to shake people out of their doldrums, just to bring back fun, excitement, and newness to music?
Things like this:
1. I play an old standard guitar, a 1964 Silvertone bought at Sears for about $50. It’s not new, it wasn’t expensive then, and it’s not electric. I say you can play music without overly expensive new instruments. And you can play it without electricity. 2. I play in a theater box office. I say you can play professional music and not be in a club or a concert hall. You can play anywhere. Why not? (Come by and see me play. I look forward to meeting you.) 3. I try to sing like I talk, not overly melodramatic, just in a simple and honest way. And I try to pronounce the words clearly. 4. I write my own songs. I’ve learned songwriting over 40 plus years of practice. I try to make the lyrics do two things, make sense, and say something worth saying. The songs are melodic with fun choruses. They are well crafted with solid structure and good intros, middles, outros, etc.
5. I also play instrumentals, and I cover many of the best songs written by others. I play all kinds of genres, all types of music from rockabilly and country to bossa nova and classical. Why not show some breadth? Why be a one trick pony? That’s boring. 6. I record in the back-to-basics way with a minimum of studio tricks, no over production, no auto-tune to correct my pitch, no 20 or 30 tracks of filler,etc.. And remember you can’t lip sync in the studio. 7. I’m not a band. Bands have now become THE main way to be safe, conservative, and never controversial; THE best way to fit in and to upset no one. It’s the world’s most accepted music and it has become the world’s most boring music. I play post-bands music that purposely is not a band. It says so in the title! It also openly protests what bands and rock have become. 8. I don’t want to sign with one of the 4 major record companies. No musician that believes in innovation and new music would saddle himself with these four dinosaurs.
But that music pouring out of that box office mini amp does more than just protest what music and the music industry has become. That’s just the tip of the art revolutionary iceberg. If any one investigates why I am playing that way, they’ll see that I am also protesting the other arts and art industries, and I’m promoting a revolution in them too! More doors coming up, a hallway full!
DOOR TWO: Art
January 8, 2002: walking back from a fast food taco place I had a conceptual art event/revelation in my mind. I conceived an imaginary art piece built on that year’s Turner Prize winner. He imagined a gallery with lights flashing. I imagined turning off the lights as a conceptual art way of turning off the lights on the abuses, silliness, and elitism of modern art and the modern art biz. And, I imagined the beginning of a new type of art to replace it, a back-to-basics art that does not emanate from Ivory Tower galleries to us ‘peasants’ below. Instead it is art that is mass marketed for all – the last art form to do so.
Yes, painting can now be mass marketed with painting-on-canvas copies as good as the originals. And we’ve already got great cheap color copying for drawings and prints. So what will that do? Review history. What happened when books were mass marketed with the invention of printing, or the pulps, or paperback books or desktop publishing. What happened when music was mass produced as records, cd’s, internet files? Or what about movies as videos, dvd’s, or on line films. Every time there was mass marketing of an art form, there was not only a renewed interest in the classics of that art form, but an explosion of new art. Art, painting and drawing, is next on the mass market list.
But Post Modern Art is more than just copies. It’s a back to basics style of art that challenges the abuses of present day art, an art that at its worst is 1 cold, 2 disjointed, 3 non communicative (the artist has to explain his work. Good art speaks for itself!), 4 weird, 5 elitist (art is too often limited to a trio of characters: the gallery, the artist, and the rich patron. The rest of us are out of the loop!) Also note that for the price of some of these new mega museums, you could end poverty in many small countries. Where are our priorities? 6 technically poor, when there is any technique at all, 7 pompous and inflated, what used to fit in a small frame, now demands a whole wall or an entire room! 8 not functional, not useful, not integrated into our day to day lives. 9 no breadth or scope. The old art has painted itself into a corner!
But there’s also a plus side to the new Post Modern Art. The new art not only protests abuses of the art we have now, but it promotes new ways. 1. Replaces the galleries and the gallery system with multi art centers where art is a part of all the arts of a community. 2. Advocates a breadth and depth of subject matter, art styles, and techniques. 3. Communicates clearly and has social value. Speaks to the community and the viewer, not just the artist who made it. 4. Advocates painting and drawing reproductions. Reproductions and art copies liberates art. It allows art to travel to every town of any size. While the original work is safe in a museum, the copy can go anywhere. Now all the worlds great paintings can come to you where you live. Imagine a show of all Van Gogh’s major paintings (as copies) traveling to a school auditorium in a small East Texas town. And next week there’s an all Goya show on the way! Sweet. And with painting copies the contemporary artist can get royalties on copies sold. Look what that has done for musicians, writers, and filmmakers. And like record stores, you could have art copy stores that show not 20 works like a gallery, but thousands of art copies representing thousands of artists past and present, 5. Puts art to work. Whether it’s and illustration for a book,a greeting card, a bookmark,a t-shirt, or a copy of the work hanging in: city hall, a school room, or a church; the new art is art put to work and integrated into the community.
Modern art isn’t modern anymore. But Post-Modern art is.
DOOR Three: Lit
When was the last time you heard the media do hard news stories on the publishing industry? It seems like it’s taboo to question anything they do, though just about every talk show promotes their books. And maybe that’s the problem. The media and the publishing industry have a symbiotic relationship that prevents any scrutiny.
But the publishing business has deteriorated badly. It’s the golden age of nothing in mainstream publishing. They’re wasteful, extravagant, and pay exorbitant royalties to bad books while neglecting new and better writers. They refuse to take chances, evolve, or improve.
Novels, the cutting edge of 1851, are flabby, needlessly long and complex, and over priced. And they are over produced with a waste problem of unsold books that is unforgivable in this day and age.
Nonfiction books are usually 10-page essays padded out to 200 pages and a giant price tag. And too often huge advances go to political tomes in what looks like a gambit to buy political influence.
Autobiographies are usually professional ghost writers writing books based on some famous persons notes and recollections and not getting the credit they deserve.
Children’s books are usually celebrities that shouldn’t write, foisting their lack of skill on innocent children, while gifted children’s writers are blocked from being published at all.
What’s missing is:
1 Media coverage. Not only is there no media coverage of these publishing abuses but there is no coverage of advocacy groups that oppose all this excess and nonsense. The main such group is the ULA, Underground Literary Alliance. literaryrevolution.com
2 New styles of writing. Zines are the major innovation. You are reading one, one of thousands published across the country over the last two decades. See zinewiki.com.
3. New writers in old genres that aren’t novels, such as plays, short stories, poems, etc.
4. Competition. When there is only a handful of publishing giants, you get dinosaurs competing for quarterly profits and little else. When you have thousands of publishers, you have to compete on quality. The former gives you stagnation, the latter gives you a golden age of literature.
DOOR Four: Fair and Open Review Service for All
The world is experiencing an explosion of art in every genre: new music by the truckload; zines by the thousands; artists, architects, filmmakers, and actors by the ton; websites and blogs galore, and classic art from past golden eras piled to the sky. How do you sort through it all, separate the wheat and give the rest the shaft?
Fair and open reviews, that’s how. But where is there a place open to all artists of all kinds?
Search engines have become the home room to everything on the net. It’s the place to start out searching the art you want. But there is too much to wade through and too much good stuff is left out or buried under the data. What we need is a review site that does all the heavy lifting, that searches through the masses, and helps us find what is time worthy, what’s soul enhancing, what’s up and coming.
I’ve started such a review system. But for it to work and be fair to all I had to change a lot of the rules of other review sites. Here are some major differences.
1. No Ads. Ads ruin everything. Sooner or later ad pressure from the biggest advertisers determined who gets reviewed and what gets reviewed. Also the review site spends its time chasing ad dollars, instead of spending the energy reviewing works.
2. Everyone Gets Reviews. Reviews make or break art careers. That’s the golden rule. If you can’t get a review you won’t have a career. If a review site denies anyone a review, it’s denying them their careers. It’s that simple. So to be fair everyone must get a review. That means no back room meetings to weed out most of the work submitted, for who knows what reason. And no good ole boy network that favors only friends with favors, with reviews. And no boycott of indies in favor of mainstream reviews only. In other words no hidden selection process, no selection process at all. Everyone gets a review.
3. Professional, not Amateur Reviewers. Some present day review sites allow anyone to review anything and it shows. The reviews are unchecked and unfair. They too often either end up being amateurish, or biased to the max, and seldom do the reviewers have the background in that field of art, to do the work justice. And note the bulk of a professional review is not the reviewer’s feelings, that is often the least of it.
4. Processing fee. By charging a modest upfront processing fee for each review (about the cost of mailing in the art work for review) everyone pays for the review site, and its employees salaries. No reviewer is influence by the money collected because everyone that gets a review is paying the exact same amount. That way the reviewer is free to truthfully and honestly praise or denounce any work no matter how big or influential that artist is.
5. Vent. Feedback is crucial. Every reviewer will be in turn reviewed by the readers. They should have their say too. That adds an important dimension to the review process. Also reviewers should respond to their criticism.
6. Allow Some Wiggle Room for Amateurs. I have two levels for reviews. The professional level is tough. It expects the artist’s work to be on a professional level. But there is also a milder and less expensive amateur level of reviews. These are reviews that help amateurs become professional by promoting what’s good and encouraging change on what’s not working.
Now imagine such a professional review site, one place with reviews of everything from this months’ magazines to last nights TV and radio shows, from the latest cd’s to every recording of a Beethoven symphony, from every major art work to every new museum or major building built, from new fashion shows, to blogs and websites.
And while we are on the internet, I’d like to add two side doors worth opening.
1. A No-ad net world newspaper.
2. A No-d net radio station, or two, that plays all types of music.
Ads are for things we don’t want or we would already have them. They promote selfishness instead of sharing, and waste instead of conservation and recycling.
DOOR Five: Art Centers for ‘Each and Every One’.
That fifth door of our art revolution opens to a new type of community art center. It’s part library, part museum, part performance hall, part art center, part school, part store, and entirely fun.
When was the last time you spent all your free time; days, nights, and weekends, at the Dallas Arts District? I bet you responded with,’Huh?’ or ‘Why would anyone do that?’ Indeed! Most towns build an expensive elitist art area with separate buildings for music performance, art, books, etc. There’s a concert hall for the rich, a high priced museum built by some art collector, and a separate building for a library.
My art center concept (spelled out in other issues of Musea) would combine all the above. The city and or patrons, would donate the money for the building, then turn it over to the citizens, and get out of the way! It would contain all of the following: a library/museum for everything that’s cool and fun, a concert hall open to filmmakers, musicians, theater companies, speakers, or anyone who signs up; an art gallery that shows and sells thousands of copies of art works, instead of only 20-50 originals like most present day galleries or art museums, plus restaurants, game rooms for chess,cards, and board games, or for art classes or meetings of any kind, whatever the community wants to do with its art center.
Now would you spend your days, nights, and weekends at my art center? You could see a movie, hear a musician, see a play, hear a speaker, see some art, play in a tournament, read a book, attend a class, or just hang out all in one place.
Let’s retrace our steps and go back to that singer with his guitar playing in that box office. Now you see how scary that music is. It opens the door to… well at least 5 doors to all kinds of radical art changes while it protests the status quo.
Let’s sum up. There’s the door to Post-Bands music. There’s the door to Post Modern art. There’s the door to Zines and a revolution in Literature. There’s the door to a new type of Review Site that reviews all arts. And there’s a door to the Town Art Center open to all arts, all artists, and all the people of that town… And more but I’ve run out of room and need time to catch my breath. That’s enough for now. You can ask for more later.
c. 2008 Tom Hendricks
This arrticle is also a series of 6 very short youtube videos. The intro is at