Geographies of creativity, economy and society – Rory Chambers

About

These series of blogs explore the wide topic of creativity. As a topic creativity stretches into many of our daily lives. It can shape cities, political movements, friendships, communities, economies. The four individual blogs will explore specific examples of creativity in the context of place, labour, activism and value.

Place: The Hive, Haggerston- A buzzing creative hub

The Hive is an “independent social space facilitated by not-for-profit company, ReSpace Projects” (HiveDalston, 2015). Located in the unused buildings of Haggerston, Shoreditch – an area renowned as a creative cluster. The Hive, as its name implies, is a home for creatives coming from a vast array of creative disciplines. Home to numerous dance, art, musical, and theatre workshops, in a “give as much as you want” pay format; it is a creative hub that “brings together diverse talents, disciplines and skills to intensify innovation” (Dovey et al, 2016:7). Drake (2003:511) builds on current spatial theory in reiterating the importance of creative hubs like The Hive in being a “source of creative stimuli and ideas” where creatives can bounce off the ideas of others, acting “as a catalyst for individual creativity”.

https://hivedalston.wordpress.com/hive-drawing-club/
HiveDalston

Alongside being financed by these charitable-donation-based workshops, the Hive is also monetised through hosting a number of ticketed events. These range from interactive theatre put on by local community groups to the screenings of art house films, sometimes accompanied by an unique Q&A with the director. However, what I find most interesting about the Hive is the late night international music and dance nights it puts on. Dance itself is argued by Daniel (1996) as being an example of remaining “authentic” in creativity, especially with the tourist and night-time creative economy sector commonly being framed around the objective of making as much money as possible. At the Hive, however, this is not the case. With the dance events they host, there is an emphasis on the artistic side of dance in “advertising national identities”, while remaining true to oneself (Daniel, 1996:781). For example, the “Shakti Bhakti Kiirtan Dance Party” hosted by The Hive in November 2017 aimed to bring and celebrate the authentic cultures of India to east London. Money was raised through the optional Indian food and drink available which was specifically made to be “authentic” to the Indian culture.

As mentioned earlier, the Hive houses numerous assets including a bar for its night time events and a cinema room for its screenings. This makes it a creative centre in nature, as well as being a cluster (Dovey et al, 2016). Alongside these assets, the Hive also houses a café which is active throughout the day. This gives it a greater diversity and variety in creative income streams made available during the day with this café but also during the night with the vast events it hosts. Ake Andersson (1985 in Hall, 2000) argues that this diversity of income streams is a vital in creating structural stability in often small-scale creative projects, in turn helping them improve their longevity. This concept was proven successful in terms of the Hive as it only had a start-up cost of £250 with no external funding, but has still managed to run for almost 1000 days in one of the most financially competitive areas of London (Respace Projects, 2017).

References

Andersson, A. (1985) Creativity and regional development, Papers of the Regional Science Association, 56, p5–20.

Daniel, P. (1996) Tourism dance performances authenticity and creativity, Annals of Tourism Research23(4), p780-797.

Dovey, J., Pratt, A., Moreton, S., Virani, T., Merkel, J., Lansdowne, J. (2016) Creative Hubs: Understanding the New Economy, London, City University of London.

Drake, G. (2003) ‘This place gives me space’: Place and Creativity in the Creative Industries, Geoforum34(4), p511-524.

Hall, P. (2000) Creative cities and economic development, Urban studies37(4), p639-649.

HiveDalston. (2015) About The Hive, Available at < https://hivedalston.wordpress.com/about/> [accessed 5th March 2018].

ReSpace Projects. (2017) ReSpace Projects Recycle-Reuse-Rethink-Renew, Available at < http://rally.respaceprojects.org/> [accessed 5th March 2018].

Labour: a conversation with Harry Chambers

Speaking to Harry Chambers, a freelance photographer for the last 34 years, he tells me of how his time studying fine art at Maidstone College of Art sparked his passion for photography and drove him towards becoming an independent creative entrepreneur. Harry stressed the importance of this “passion” when choosing a career in the creative industry, as without it individuals can lack the vital “emotional energy, drive, and spirit” needed when working in an industry that can be so uncertain and demoralising (Cardon et al, 2009:511).

Speaking further with Harry, I find that he certainly knows this first hand. He tells me that his job is laced with risk and uncertainties where he can still “make a week’s money in a month, or a month’s money in a week”, but also how the photography industry has changed significantly throughout his time. “I used to work a lot for print magazines, but nowadays everything is online, and those magazines don’t exist anymore”. This reiterates Ulrich Beck’s (1992) “Risk Society”, that current modernity is more industrial, whereby access to newly advanced technologies is almost universal. However, this brings with it new threats to society, in this case surrounding job redundancies due to the undermining of traditional forms of media like these magazines in favour of new digital platforms. Another risk this current era of modernity has brought to Harry’s work is the current advancement and accessibility of cameras, where “almost everyone now has a camera on their phone and think they’re a professional, so they think I’m not needed”.

As Harry’s work is individualised he is the sole bearer of his finances and their subsequent risks, which subsequently means that in order to minimise these risks he must be in constant competition with other freelancers over the limited available jobs. He told me that in the current environment these jobs have become more limited where “there’s only so many people that need photos taking, so in a sense I am competing against the other freelancers for these jobs, which can be extremely stressful”. This aligns to the work of Angela McRobbie (2011) who describes the freelance creative industry as an “individualised toxic labour market”, where freelancers are left to work in isolation while being in constant competition with others, creating an insecure way of life. However, similar to McRobbie’s understandings, Harry emphasises the value of networking in avoiding these isolations, but also in locating work – “I tend to work alongside other freelancers which is really beneficial… there’s a little web of us sharing jobs between each other”, therefore he manages risk through his social connections (Giddens, 1999).

Alongside the use of social networks in diminishing economic risk, he also stresses the importance of repeat clients. He spoke to me about an annual contract involving photographing the new employees from a major bank, makes up a significant percentage of his yearly earnings in which he has to take in particular care in order not to lose this vital source of security.

References

Beck, U. (1992) Risk society: Towards a new modernity, Sage, London.

Cardon, M., Wincent, J., Singh, J., Drnovsek, M. (2009) The nature and experience of entrepreneurial passion, Academy of management Review34(3), p511-532.

Giddens, A. (1999) Risk and responsibility, The modern law review62(1), p1-10.

McRobbie, A. (2011) Reflections on feminism, immaterial labour and the post-Fordist regime, New formations70(70), p60-76.

Activism: Kidult, keep off our culture!

Kidult is a New York based graffiti artist who is known for using paint-filled fire extinguishers to paint his tag “KIDULT” alongside other political messages and symbols. He is known for targeting high end fashion outlets such as Hermes and Chanel who “have used graffiti culture as a commercial image, riding the trend without being a part in the least”. Painting things like large dollar signs across these brands shop fronts, Kidult uses graffiti as a form of activism in protesting against these brands who take from the graffiti culture just “to make some cash”. This idea of the commercialising subcultures has been explored by the academics Tema Milsten and Alexis Pulos (2015). They argue that the reaction of culture jamming, as Kidult does, is a natural response that empowers creative individuals against large commercial incorporations who have relocated these sub-cultures into the commercial sphere where they do not belong.

kidult pic 1

Kidult emphasises the importance of researching brands’ current and past misconducts before creating his work. For instance, in his work of “culture jamming” Dior’s advertisement posters, Kidult created reworked and parodied alternative posters as a means of attacking Dior’s controversial past (Harold, 2004). Kidult argued that “Dior has been hiding an ambiguous past for the longest, especially with its affiliation to the Nazi regime in the past”. This led him to rework Nazi arm bands into a variety of Dior’s poster and display them publicly across the streets of Paris. Alongside the addition of the Nazi armbands in Dior’s posters, Kidult also included political messages addressing John Galliano, the then creative designer at Dior, who at the time had was accused of racially abusing members of the public in a Paris café in 2010. Now fired by Dior, this form of almost playful media activism has been found to be extremely successful in undermining the marketing rhetoric of multinational corporations (Harold, 2004). In this case it brought into the public light the mostly unseen biography of Dior’s history, while also put pressure on the brand to sack John Galliano.

kidult pic 2

While Kidult’s work is also symbolic of the protection of Graffiti culture in being a subculture of deviance, I also believe his work reflects the wider meaning of graffiti as a “vehicle of resistance” (Marche, 2012:78). The positioning of his work reflects a rebellion against the current western consumerist society we live in, where individuals are obsessed with material items and designer labels. His work transforms theses spaces that are so entangled in this culture, from spaces of consumerism into spaces of protest, in sense rupturing these capitalist spaces. I believe this is all in the hope of promoting social change against this culture through highlighting that these brands will do anything to make money. In this case taking from a culture that isn’t theirs. The illegal means by which he does so also enforces the ideology of graffiti as being a counter culture that should be separated from this current consumerist mainstream society, and should never be commercialised (Snyder, 2006).

References 

Harold, C. (2004) Pranking rhetoric: “Culture jamming” as media activism, Critical Studies in Media Communication21(3), p189-211.

Marche, G. (2012)  Expressivism and Resistance: Graffiti as an Infrapolitical Form of Protest against the War on Terror, Revue française d’études américaines, p78-96.

Milstein, T., Pulos, A. (2015) Culture jam pedagogy and practice: Relocating culture by staying on one’s toes, Communication, Culture & Critique8(3), p395-413.

Snyder, G. (2006) Graffiti media and the perpetuation of an illegal subculture, Crime, Media, Culture2(1), p93-101.

Value- Art4space, involving all  

The not-for-profit social enterprise Art4space is a community based art group aimed to “inspire individuals through creativity”. Based in various locations throughout London, Art4space utilises visual art as a method of connecting and enhancing communities. Their projects have arisen in “housing estates, hospitals, community centres, public playgrounds ….and a sculpture park in India!”

A large majority of Art4space’s projects work alongside the younger generation, incorporating learning with creativity. For example in September 2015, Art4space launched their Stockwell Studies mosaic project. Working with local schools, residents and sheltered housing through a number of design and making workshops, the volunteers constructed a mural consisting of a digitally printed titles. The mural celebrated the life of Dr Annie McCall alongside the antiquity of the Annie McCall maternity hospital. This task was of great educational value to those who took part as they got to learn about and use advanced digital printers, alongside learning the history of the hospital and life of Annie McCall. However, as like the majority of Art4space’s work, the real value came in the form of community. Bringing together a diverse group of individuals from all different ages and backgrounds, the workshops created an invaluable community presence.

value pic 1.jpg

The value of community is a widely explored topic. The academic Lorna London (2002) who is known for studying the interactive experiences of children has investigated the significance of a community presence in aiding the early social development of children. She found that community inclusion can be invaluable for the early socialisation of children in teaching them how to cope with presented problems as a team. These findings can be generalised to Art4space’s Stockwell Studies mosaic project as the young children would have been encountered the obstacle of making sure their tiles aligned with the others in the overall mosaic. Therefore they would have been forced to work with others as a group in order to cope with this problem, which is a valuable life skill.

Art4space’s work targets populations that are at risk of being socially excluded. As found by Scharf et al (2005) social exclusion tends to occur in older and deprived populations. The inclusive and free-of-charge nature of Art4space’s work helps to combat social exclusion within these populations. This has been shown to be invaluable as an array of work has investigated the negative consequences of being socially excluded. For example, Bynner’s (2000) study associates social exclusion with a number of social issues. This includes behavioural issues from a young age which may overspill into later issues of criminality and mental health problems. For example, the development of depression due to a lack of social interaction in older populations

Art4space’s work is monetised through an online shop with all profits being injected into their future projects. Their work’s real value comes from the social benefits from providing a community to be part of.

References

Bynner, J. (2000) Risks and Outcomes of Social exclusion: insights from longitudinal data, Institute of Education University of London, London.

London, L. (2002) Community interventions to create change in children, Psychology Press, London.

Scharf, T., Phillipson, C., Smith, A.E. (2005) Social exclusion of older people in deprived urban communities of England, European Journal of Ageing2(2), p76-87.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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