Creative Economy and Fringe Empowerment

by Matilde Magro

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How to connect de-urbanism, creative industries, regenerative practices, solidarity economies and social entrepreneurship.

Currently, there’s a movement called the Creative Economy, based on the principles of urban creative hubs — like the LX Factory in Lisbon — that is the base foundation of a healthy culturally rich city.

One of the biggest problems with this is the designation of what is Art, what is Creativity, and how these hubs define a genre of creative endeavor through multiplicity and publicity. And how Design and Marketing no longer hold hands in a partnership on the deciding on how to be a person in a post-consumerist society. The issue of defining an urban person is a bone to the dogs of the creative industries, they see bones and we see dogs. Creativity allied with marketing has caused more harm than good to our societies. Hubs of art are no more than despondent unmet needs crying for a place to belong, which in turn cause issues of dependence and co-dependence on behaviors that are far from what a healthy society entails.

One of the main issues is the proof of merit women face in the creative world. It’s far more common to see male artists who are crap in exhibits and women with proof of merit attached to them. When these creative hubs act interdependently with these social notions or denotations, it becomes fairly obvious that social endeavors in the creative world need to move to the fringe yet influential spheres.

I’ve been having long talks about the meaning of what is Art for about 20 years, and now I’ve found current notions of Art circumvent all crappy things as long as it has a name attached to it. Modern Artists feed on a degenerative society in order to gain ground in a post-apocalyptic presence, instead of creating actual change in a transition to a regenerative society.

Few actually care for construction but aim to watch the destruction and name it into what is their appropriative style of the need to belong.

So a few movements are joining in and attempting a regenerative style of Creative Economies, which cannot and should not happen if it doesn’t have true sustainable and regenerative values attached to it.

In my Systems Thinking projects, one issue that keeps popping up is that when one system ends, all that was not healed propagates towards the next generational system. So the importance of regenerative practices comes in handy. Much like trauma in an individual, when not treated and dealt with, it’s quite plausible to move on to subsequent generations. That’s also why a lot of traumatized individuals choose to not have children, and others make the effort to get better for the sake of the next generations.

The issue of condemning design to be an appropriation of marketing is beginning to sound like a last night’s nightmare. Designers are beginning to be free of the constraints of how to sell a product and actually help co-create solutions towards better practices worldwide.

I was at a Daniel Christian Wahl talk yesterday and was faced with the issue that most of these conundrums are still very much rooted in Academia and quite impossible to reach if you don’t begin to act in the fringes. The conversation was actually about the role of the University in Bioregional Learning and Regeneration. It was quite interesting, most people involved are from Universities, whether alumni or tenures, but in fact, the talk eventually revolved around how this work is being done outside of Universities for the past 50 to 60 years. It’s not new work, but it means it took this long for these subjects to reach Academia.

A lot of my friends and family with no background in Regenerative Practices have no idea how to apply sustainable methods when they’re fresh out of Universities. Particularly worrisome in the cases of Engineering and Architecture. These ideas about being regenerative have been talked about everywhere else, but the Universities. I propose that in light of new ways of doing things in society, this needs to come into consideration: for the longest time Academia has served as the oven for the world’s intellectuals, in fact, if you wanted to become a well-known person for doing meaningful work, you had forcefully to go through a University, particularly a University with enough name to give you some caliber. That is not as much so today as it was 10 years ago, but in my University days, it was quite easy to fall into the trap of the copy-paste opinions in order not to succumb to the boredom of what is asked of the students. To make things interesting, students need tools and it’s quite difficult to provide when the teachers themselves don’t have them.

I’ve had long family discussions about the future of Education, that in my opinion is far-reached, cheap, with quality, and online. And that’s been the reality for the past year, particularly due to the pandemic. If one year ago it was quite difficult for an employer to agree with the validity of a Coursera Certificate, these days they are more valuable than Bachelor’s in a lot of places. In the span of a year, things have changed quite dramatically in terms of Education accessibility.

One of the highest risks of going into Higher Education is debt. And that brings a lot of the world’s population to its knees when it comes to wanting to achieve higher grounds in terms of knowledge. It’s quite different the University approach to knowledge than the autodidactic approach. But in fact, is richer. So, why isn’t it more available throughout? The issue is that Academia forms Elites, and whether we like it or not, there are also Elites in Regenerative Cultures, even though they are cooler and more open-minded than the Elites we are used to.

European Academia is the backbone of the intellectual society, and also the single most exporter of knowledge to the world, even though the US likes to take that credit (most of their top scientists are European). The issue here is not who’s best but who’s adequate for what is needed. You might want to study algee to save the oceans, but it is asked of you to think about technological solutions. So xenobots are born. Yikes.

Academia is deeply rooted in what older elites think it’s best for the world, and that sucks because they’re mostly white men with no actual presence in society to know what is needed in a society.

So when something like a Creative Economy comes to the forefront as a valid mechanism of the new normal, as they say, it’s quite understandable that those of us in the fringe are worried it’s much more of the same marriage of selling art as a product of entertainment and character-building performances of what does not exist, forgoing the chance of applying the sustainable and regenerative practices that come out of the fringes that have been working tirelessly for decades on building a future we can all agree to.

If we allow the Academies of the world to unite on that front, we’ll see our work catalyzed into a business as usual instead of actual change.

Deurbanization comes with the issue that not only there is a need to decentralize power, as to make it a network of possible futures in a much more equal society, to help nature flourish and accomplish what past generations failed to do: actually value life.

For some of us, like in Portugal and other countries where this applies, it’s much more common for the issue to be deeply rooted in social activity than systemic activity. This may come as a surprise for most Portuguese citizens, but Portugal is actually on the forefront of the future and a model of behavior… take from that what you will (lol). It’s why in some places the social proof action makes sense, in others not so much — the issue of forestation and social individual activity is very pronounced here, whereas in the US there is still a fight over the validity of nationally grown produce instead of importation, which is more a systemic action than the individual.

The issue that transpires with Creative Economy is how creative hubs can act as the ground zero of creative societies. That’s a wonderful sentiment, but after decades of desecrating art in light of accomodating rubbish it’s safe to say, some of us are worried.

There is no point in establishing an economy based on Creativity if there isn’t a final divorce between Design and Marketing, between Art and the Elite Art World, and marriage between artists and common sense.

The idea behind building systems is that somehow, we need to realize in the building of it, that the local influence of the global is much larger and also much smaller than we think of. In groups of work, big systems creations is almost frowned upon, the visionary aspect of creation is still something fearfully and often delegated to the unable. Academics included.

If there isn’t actual participation and active participation of those who have been doing it in the fringes, promoting valid solidarity economies and gift economies and viable Art form, then it’s pointless.

Artistic city is a great ideal, but I would aim to promote art in kindergartens instead of people with less than low values and morals. I keep thinking that the kindness a Monet painting transpires is often relegated to the skill it takes to paint similar work. Shitty art is not art, is something that came out of a process.

If we unite the highest good processes in light of a better future, with or with no Academia, we can and will rebuild our society towards the highest good.

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