liberal arts and crafts

Reading Garcia Canclini’s Transforming Modernity (Popular Culture in Mexico) – Chapter Three really soars after careful framing in the first two… He talks to ways in which local expression is in dialogue with/altered by hegemonic expression, through, for example, tourism. He invites cross-disciplinary analysis. To what degree is performance, especially experimental work (which, practically speaking, means local in some sense – for a concise or even marginalized audience) encouraged, sustained and framed as a commodity suited to tourists?


Also: does it ornament (make palatable) the underemployment capital requires to maintain a rich pool of available labor? –


“A study carried out in 1980 by COPLAMAR (Cordiancíon General del Plan Nacional de Zonas Deprimidas y Gropos Marginados, or General Coordination of the National Plan for Depressed Areas and Marginal Groups) indicated the gravity of these problems: according to it, some three million individuals disguised their unemployment by taking up hawking – as shoe-shiners, trinket-sellers, “fire eaters” – on the capita’s street corners. The promotion of crafts, which provide work for producers in the countryside and for thousands of marginals in the urban marketing system, transforms ‘a situation of visible underemployment (a short employment season per ear) into a situation of generalized invisible underemployment all year long through the juxtaposition or superposition of economic activities with abnormally low income.’”


And –


“While the capitalist system proposes urban homogeneity and technological comfort as a vital model, as long as its basic project is to appropriate nature and subordinate all forms of production to the market economy, a multinational industry like tourism must preserve archaic communities as living museums.”


The space formerly occupied by large and layered works is demanded back by the market – the market wants not only the space (the fattest example, Broadway) but the content, and wants that content standardized, suitable for tourists or distributable per brand-recognition with the unique or “exotic” confined and perpetuated through the control of just-enough-resources to craft, to folklore.


To what extent is the theater “community” a reality of the tourist economy? Are we a fake “tribe”? Is theater the “folk art” of a relegated, invented, managed, disempowered mass – the folk art of the liberal arts? And to what extent is performance preserved as an innovation pump for the core of the conventional? (To what extent are experimental artists kept around to refresh convention and sustain its profitability?) To what extent do contemporary artists buy into the notion that their work is “improved” when appropriated?

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