Culture and Commerce part two: breaking up
The culture of co-opting
The first phase of research highlighted how the union of culture and commerce is a given - whether expressly declared or not.
However, this benign acceptance of interdependence can create blind spots to moments of conflict and imbalance. We believe that these moments of conflict are in fact moments of opportunity - where the relationship between culture and commerce can be re-thought, and therefore re-designed.
The conflict typically occurs where there is an over-supply, an over-inflation in value, or an impending or perceived irrelevance of a particular institution. A recurring strategy to overcome these moments of conflict has been to co-opt the techniques from another institution.
A sampling of contemporary forms of co-opting can be observed in museums, concert halls, and festivals. As individual types, they exist in a gradient from physical to ephemeral yet remain united in their need to engage new audiences, which is coupled to issues of permanence, legacy, relevance and image culture.
Once resistant to the social media and digital technology, Museums now embrace these phenomena. Until this turn, the relatively stable identity of established museums had contributed to the ongoing commodification of collections, and in doing so - ensured the value and veneration of the work inside.
The more recent embrace has found museums exploring an expanded repertoire of public relations opportunities, virtual reality tools and online collections. The intended effect is to make museums appear more flexible, in touch and approachable.
Festivals were once considered ephemeral, fleeting happenings. With the rise of digital technology and its extension of image culture – marketing teams and their social media platforms can operate year-round to perpetuate the cultural relevance of these annual events. The result is that digital media gives festivals the impression of being as present, permanent and culturally authoritative as museums.
The concert hall
Existing in between the museum and the festival, the concert hall combines the physical presence and authority of a museum, with the spontaneous quality of shows and events. The constant turnover of shows gives it flexibility, while the expectation to deliver certain types of events creates inflexibility.
The concert hall is a flexible space with an inflexible identity.
Authors: Julia Gottstein and Nick Roberts
Header image: Burning Man site at Black Rock Desert, NV, United States. Source: Google Maps