Death of Arts By Showbusiness

There’s no business without show business: How Commercialism Bankrupted Britain’s Art

Take me into any West-End Show. Point at the grandeur of the buildings, the deep carpet that grips the soles of your feet and the heavy stage curtain – the theatre is not a home to Art, it’s merely a facade.

It can be so easy to make the crucial mistake of confusing the two. Decades of commercialisation and development, has warped common conceptions of Culture – until the public standards for what Art is have been irreparably ruined. This is not a problem endemic to the Theatre either, all formats of the Art world have been ravaged to similar effect. Homogenised through endless reiteration as opposed to innovation.

As much as it might be painful to hear – the state of Art in London has diminished, not excelled, in the past two decades.

Bedroom DJs and Laptop Producers

bedroom-djWith major advancements made in sound technology in the past 15 years, it has now become significantly easier to write, record and produce independently.

Surely, you’d think, this would lead to a boost in our country’s musical output. However, as is always the way, instead of hundreds of innovative performers – pushing the boundaries of our growing culture – we have been presented with a multitude of laptop wielding ‘producers’, all content to emulate and replicate what has come before.

The result of this technological revolution? A shamefaced recycling of ideas and trends, leaving us in the shallow quagmire of music that we find ourselves in. Of course, the widespread popularity of reality shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and The X-Factor have done little to help the cavalier nature with which most approach the Arts. The old saying ‘Everyone’s a critic’ has never been more true.

The 21st Century Star Making Machine

x-factor-xAlthough these reality talent shows can be as much about the judges as the hopeful contestants, the real damage they have done in the long run is to convince a nation, brought up on the weakest two decades of culture, that they have the requisite knowledge and experience to judge performance.

Coupled with the aspirational nature of the shows, is the suggestion that anyone can be a ‘star’ – as long as they conform to the social and cultural values that are deemed worthy by the show’s creators. This, inevitably, created generations of families that did not reach beyond Saturday night entertainment for any new or innovative form of music. As the songs performed on these shows tend to be covers of ‘classic’ pop hits or current chart successes, a cannibalisation of the music industry began – a sadistic black snake consuming it’s own tail.

Too Late To Recover?

Although viewing figures for these shows have been diminishing, year-on-year, it might be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, there is still hope for the survival of Britain’s Art scenes. It lies dormant, hiding in plain sight amidst the digital sea of social media.


Thanks to the internet, and the sharing of digital content, it’s possible now for the groundbreaking artists of tomorrow to make waves with an audience that truly supports them. Through the use of sharing sites, artists can create and innovate at their own leisure.

Whether or not the world pays attention – is another matter.

London, The City and The Water Inside

Within the city limits, hundreds upon thousands of living creatures work their way through daily life and daily struggles. We see them on the Underground, we see them on their way to work and we see them lying on the streets, begging for coppers. The city is awash with the unwashed masses; there is no class distinction as we are all unclean. Both banker and pauper, barista and barrister. We all hurry through the same paved streets, swipe the same cards on electronic terminals and struggle to see past the next activity, the next break, the next sleep.

‘During lunch time hours these private swimming baths can be even more blissfully quiet than usual, lending your lunch hour a serene sense of zen.’

However, there are points of peace and tranquillity placed inside the city limits, you must simply learn to either find them, or create them for yourself. It may sound like an impossible task when you are encased in a sandstorm of people and money; but if you close your mind’s eyes you can find this place of peace. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking ten minutes to yourself, locking yourself in a toilet cubicle and listening to whale song. Or perhaps you could find a local swimming pool on your lunch break, better still get yourself on Gumtree and seek out a private swimming club. During lunch time hours these private swimming baths can be even more blissfully quiet than usual, lending your lunch hour a serene sense of zen.

Take both these ideas and put them together. Contact the owner of the private swimming club and suggest the playing of whale song throughout the PA system, just for an hour a day. Here’s how that conversation could go down:

You: Good Afternoon Sir! My name’s ***** ****son, you may recognise my name, I suppose its kind of unique.

Owner: Ah yes, Mr, ****son! We all took note when you signed up to us, what can we do for you?

You: Well, its a strange request, but one that I hope you can allow for me. I was wondering whether you could play whale song between the hours of 12-1pm on the weekdays. The pool is awfully quiet at these times, and I believe it would give the place a real calming feel, what do you think?

Owner: I think that’s a wonderful idea, just wonderful! I’ll get on to that right away Mr. ****son, and will you be bringing your friend agai-

You: Thank you, Jeffrey, I look forward to seeing you next week.

One Piece Pools from Paramount Pools

‘I think that’s a wonderful idea, just wonderful! I’ll get on to that right away Mr. ****son, and will you be bringing your friend agai-‘

This kind of conversation is something that could reasonably be implemented after just a couple months of regular use of the pool. Once the staff know your name, as well as your habits, they will more than likely wish for your custom to continue. Therefore they will be more likely to agree to your request, in light of your special relationship. Suddenly, you have your own tailor made place of zen. Within London, The City and The Water Inside.


Private/Public = Controlled/Anarchic?


Long ago a distinction was drawn in British political philosophy between the public and private sphere. This is a distinction that has become a foundational key stone of the way our political culture functions and the way that we as a nation tend to view the world, life and society as it swirls and twirls around us. And it does swirl and twirl. It swirls and twirls and it twirls and swirls and all the swirlers hate the twirlers and think they are the problem and all the twirlers hate the swirlers and think they are the worst. ‘Get rid of the Swirlers!’ say the Twirlers ‘They know what they did!’ ‘Remove the bloody Twirlers’ say the Swirlers, till they’re fit to burst. And on it goes on and on, till no one has lost and no one has won. And Swirlers are boring and the Twirlers aren’t fun. Because they’re part of the swirling and twirling, these Swirlers and Twirlers, they can’t just sit and moan on their sofas, they need to get up and stop being a pain, and make Swirlers and Twirlers  together again!


The public/private sphere divide means that the state only has the right to make decisions over what happens in the public sphere, in the sphere of action where you are effecting others, effecting society. But not in the private, where your actions are only effective in any meaningful way on yourself. We still own the pubic though, and can and must act on it collectively. Yes in your own home you may be able to pick your own artwork or your own laminate flooring, and you can have your private sphere, that is what we all must do and how we all must live, but never let yourself forget that the pubic sphere is there and there to be acted on. So act!

Art Landscapes

‘The city is a beautiful place because it is created so completely chaotically, because it is unplanned and in that way somehow organic. It grows out of so many tiny decisions made with no explicit knowledge of the other decisions going on at the same time. It is a chaotic beauty and an unrelenting beauty. That is real beauty, it is unplanned and raw and real. That is the beauty of city.’ Clara Bethly


The way that the city develops is fascinating, the way that it grows and somehow develops its own meaning and identity. And all of this adds up to art, in my mind. The beauty of the buildings. The beauty of the signs and the shop fronts. The neon! You look down an alley and see a steaming drain with light piercing through it. You look down another and see a Neon flamingo indicating an exciting bar with a miscellaneous and potentially awful foreign theme. These are the little mysterious glances you get, so many closed doors, so many people is strange clothes, so many bars and cafe’s packed full of people, so many stories and mysteries. You just want to absorb and hear them all.


Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today.
I want to be a part of it, the city, the city
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it, the city, the city

I wanna wake up, In a city that doesn’t sleep.
And find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap.

These little town blues, are melting away.
I’ll make a brand new start of it, in the city, the city

If I can make it there,
I’ll make it anywhere.
It’s up to you, the city, the city.

The city, the city.
I want to wake up, in a city that never sleeps.
And find I’m A-number-one, top of the list, king of the hill, A-number-1…

These little town blues, are melting away.
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it,
In the city, the city…

If I can make it there, I’m gone make it anywhere.
It’s up to you, the city, the city!

On What We Wear

The main canvas for public art, and almost all art in this day and age is our very own bodies. We cut them and scar them. We paint them and pierce them. We pump them with plastic and cover them in powder. We wrap them in colour and shape, we change them and mould them into something that were not. Then we take them out and display them, in an attempt to display our internal dispositions. ‘Look at these choices I’ve made, look at my decisions and see me’ we cover ourselves in indicators in an attempt to answer questions and make statements. The hope is that our appearance will introduce us, tell a little story, maybe leave us able to be less and say less….


…or not, I do not claim to know everyone’s motivation for everything that they do.’ 

From ‘Why? Why? WHY? And, on another subject, HOW?!’ by Lucy Loorolla. 

All the great young designers of our time, from Siobhan Molloy to Tre, are creating the world we live in now and the world we will inhabit tomorrow. Their work drips of the arms of those who wear it and fills our lives with colour and shape. They are motions and movements in the wind of our lives. They paint the canvas in which we live, learn and die. And we will die, all we have between then and now is colour and light, and these people are providers of that’ 

Patrika Smorth 

is your appearance a form of public art?

“…. and as human beings have always felt the urge to edge a little closer to a class considered superior to their own, there must always have been the tendency for fashion to be adopted by circles which had a lower status than the group setting the fashions.” 



Public Art Part 1

“A communities public art reveals the parameters of excepted expression and thought it allows. For this reason alone, it is always more intesting in Europe” Jesse Janitz

“Art’ publicness rests in the quality and impact of its exchange with audiences…at its most public, art extends opportunities for community engagement, but cannot demand a particular conclusion”  Cher Krause Knight

The pubic sphere is a fascinating space for all forms of expression. It is, firstly, the primary place for social expression, it is where we talk and argue, where we display ourselves, display the social and political groups we have become a part off and display what we think and feel about the world we have been coerced into being a part of. Public Arts confusing place in this dialectic is its relationship to the establishment. Most often all pieces of public art are made with the consent or encouragement of the establishment. But an artist who is worth exhibiting in public and being given the opportunity to communicate in this realm will want to say something to some extent about the establishment. So it often takes the place of accepted dissent.


“Guns” by David Černý, Prague

What is ‘accepted dissent’? It is how the establishment co-opts its own opposition, it takes a strain of the dissenting movements and weaves it in to its own ideological structure. It is the most powerful act a hegemonic force can do. The greatest example of this, perhaps, is the story of ‘God Save The Queen’ by the Sex Pistols. This was a song that was banned from radio play, was considered the most highly offencive attack on the establishment possible, and a few years later was played, in front of the queens progeny,  at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. Stripped of all meaning, offence and aggression, it had now taken the place of accepted dissent, consented too by the very people it was meant to attack, and so rendered impotent. The cultural-political left purely cultural. Sad.