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Introductions to sections of the Connexions Annual written by Ulli Diemer.
The established wisdom has it that the media are neutral purveyors of news and entertainment, while the arts are about individual creativity and cultural values untainted by the vulgar concerns of politics and economics.
However, the experience of those outside the cultural mainstream is rather different. There, it becomes apparent that the arts and the media do reflect the biases and distortions of the wider society.
Working class people, women, people of colour, Native people, lesbians and gays, find that their lives and experiences are distorted or ignored, their voices too frequently unheard. Artists with an alternative vision have great difficulty penetrating the deadening homogeneity of the commercial arts marketplace. Those critical of the status quo have little access to the mass media. In every sphere — television, film, radio, the record industry, publishing — a few giants in the media and the cultural ‘industries’ are almost totally dominant. The saying “freedom of the press belongs to those who own one” reflects the reality well, and not only where newspapers are concerned.
The situation might be compared to a huge sports stadium. Everybody is free to have their say — so the dominant ideology claims — but the established system owns and controls the loudspeakers, the video screens, the action on the field, the rules of the game, and the stadium itself, while we, the people in the stands, have only our unamplified voices with which to make ourselves heard. Not exactly a “level playing field”.
And then, what happens if we decide that we don’t want the game
at all, let alone the existing rules? What do we do if we decide
that we don’t want to sit in a stadium, subjected to loudspeakers,
watching someone else’s game?
What if we want to transform the stadium into a park and talk to each other and play our own games instead of watching?
The groups in the Arts/Media/Culture chapter of the Connexions Annual are responding to such questions.
Some of them are challenging the cultural and media establishments to make them become more representative and more honest. Others are fighting for Canadian cultural survival in the face of market pressures and government legislation that threaten Canadian magazines, the CBC, and other cultural industries.
Many others have taken the route of creating their own alternatives. Here you will find alternative radio stations, magazines, theatre groups, book publishers, filmmakers and distributors giving voice to points of view that challenge the dominant culture. There are groups devoted to creating space for women, blacks, Native peoples and others who have little access to the mainstream. Groups are making use of the arts to stimulate people’s imaginations so they can see the world in a new way and explore ways of changing it. New forms and new approaches to art are being developed and experimented with. Groups of artists are using the arts to create new bridges of trust between themselves and the communities where they live, and in so doing are helping to create alternatives that give voice to the experiences of ordinary working people.
Aussi disponible en français:
Connexions: Introduction aux Arts, Médias et Culture
También disponible en español: El Anuario de Conexiones: Introducción a las Artes, Medios, Cultura.
Other Overview Articles from the Connexions Annual:
Introduction to the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Community, Urban, Housing section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Development, International section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Economy, Poverty, Work section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Education, Children section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Environment, Land Use, Rural section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Health section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Human Rights, Civil Liberties section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Lesbians, Gays section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Native Peoples section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Peace section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Women section of the Connexions Annual