Monday, May 21, 2018

Let’s Talk About Community



Community. It is a word that is weighted by its speaker and the context in which it is being deployed/employed. It can be a sickly word with its feel good, buzz kill, self-righteousness or it can be irony clad or proof with a hairline ability to tip one way or the other. It is a word and an idea that I have been noticing, thinking about, and at times participating in and it has me wondering things.

In the art world, the idea of community is its own breed. It’s a boring idea to me in most aspects, we all know the tropes and the coding that goes along with it, but recently I felt it wiggle a bit. I was working with/around an artist collective and it was interesting to see their need, desire, and sometimes surrender to this idea of community. The process of wanting to collaborate but for the sake of equilibrium or perhaps erasure of the ego/self.

Hard to do, fraught perhaps, but there was a sweetness to the intention. Of even the desire to try to put into some legible practice all those theories of Marxism et al. that inspire and prescript a form of ‘change’ yet have little proof or even attempt.

These efforts made me think about the general art landscape and the ‘communities’ that exist and if those are shifting. When thinking about the how, why, and if about this question, I return to the idea of money (it’s always related to money).

The structure of money and the idea of a career have shifted a lot in the past 10 years or so. The ‘gig’ economy, the digital nomadic freelancer, the idea of home being more about the flexibility of the body versus specificity of a geo-location, has upended the bounding boxes of interaction and place.

This elasticity makes us more able to merge and dissipate with casual or focused ease but it also perhaps alienates, thus making us want to stick together even if sometimes that is only through the digital thread of social media intimacies.

Earlier today I was reading an article in The New Yorker about the video game Fortnite. There too you are windowed into a world, mostly inhabited by young people, in which the idea of community is also expressed. It’s a different kind, one that feels perhaps alien to those too old to wrap our minds around the nourishment of this type of connection, but it is here and it will only become the norm and the foundational experience points of this idea of community.

As a species we can only truly be healthy if we are socialized and around others. Isolation is the greatest killer. But how can we/do we function in a healthy way (or what are even the healthy ways?) in which to do this in this art world, in this city, in this time, in this whole system of things? Is there a way in which you can be a part of a community when the foundations are ever shifting, ever expanding, and ever engulfing oneself to become a singular mass?

The visualization and the texture of ‘flattening out’ has been the pervading image in my mind for sometime when thinking about the state of things. Everything doesn’t feel accelerated, it feels hyper extended and thin. Like some sort of membrane that never snaps. In this state, the desire and I think actual need, to create or feel a part of a community, in whatever form, is so important. It’s like a little cluster sack in this larger ever expanding mesh of ‘the way things are’ that makes us remember we are organic.

Maybe the biggest shift I’ve been seeing/feeling is that some of the hard edged cynicism and irony that has been the vogue for so long is less utilized. The meme is like news, the news are like memes, the revelation of the deep/hidden meaning of things is all right at the surface so there isn’t the need for social/cultural arbiters to translate anymore. The defensiveness towards sincerity is lessened. Perhaps many times this takes on the form of apathy or ennui but I think it at least gives some potential for shifts and pivots to occur in the way we approach all of this living thing.

Community. I’m not a joiner; I’m not too sure about it all. I’m not into collectives, I’m not into cliques, but there is something in the air that feels both desperate and necessary and to understand a thing, you have to well, at least be open and possibly even participate.