Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On Indie Creative Arts

Something cultural icon, Kevin Smith (of Clerks and Dogma fame) said got me thinking about what it means to be "indie" today. Technology has made so many production tools in the creative arts accessible to the average consumer. One no longer needs the backing of mutli-million dollar studios and companies to actualize artistic vision. Of course, those kinds of resources are nice, but they are not a necessity. 

Just as with Indie film makers have a sometimes antagonistic sentiment toward Hollywood, a lot of independent musicians like to bash the big record musical acts, the popular acts with a huge, industrial, money-making machine backing them. I don't think that it's really fair to say that top bill acts are somehow less genuine or legitimate than the struggling indie musician. As Smith said (assuming I understood him correctly), Hollywood runs on an ethos of mass appeal. Just the same, Billboard-topping acts are, whether we like it or not, a reflection of music that appeals to a wide spectrum of people. Granted, this is a topic that can take-up an book's worth of back-and-forth points and counterpoints, but I'm willing to risk overgeneralizing so I can ramble through some thoughts about independent musicians.

Something that indie artists offer fans that big label artists do not is direct access to the creators and creative process. From my experience, the average indie act is willing to stick around after a show and chat with audience members, something that would prove a logistical nightmare for the likes of Lady Gaga or Katy Perry. Smith returned to his indie roots with the release of his film Red State. The film was done on a relatively small budget (though perhaps not small enough by indie film standards?). He promoted the movie through his own avenues, and after screenings, he stuck around to answer questions from audience members.

For people who are interested in process over product, the independent arts scene is rife with endlessly fascinating stories and ideas. Before one can really complain that the "true musicians" (as if there is such a thing) don't get the recognition they deserve, one must patronize the independent arts scene: see an indie flick instead of going to watch the Avengers, check out the local music scene instead of paying a premium for the Rolling Stones, visit an underground arts gallery instead of a going to MoMA for the hundredth time. 

That said, I'm not in favor of supporting independent artists who feel that they're somehow entitled to a certain amount of attention simply because they feel that have more to offer than what's already popular/culturally legitimized. Creativity rears its head in many ways, and art that truly makes us think, feel, and/or perceive differently in a meaningful and valuable way is the primary kind of independent art that stands a chance of some kind of posterity. That kind of audience response is something that comes with an understanding of the target niche/demographic and the stick-to-it-ive-ness that have characterized artists who are remembered.

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