Editor: Rino Breebaart
The pace of life, our burgeoning technology and the cultures we experience between them are accelerating. The rates of change and the new strata of information we absorb daily have conversely fostered a media and promotional industry that generate rapid cultural trends, each promotion more hip and ‘real’ than the one before (even though very little truly new or original material is actually being marketed). We are never allowed to rest, bide our time or make personally informed decisions about which art, music or film to buy into before the next big event claims our dwindling attention and finances. In a way we are the willing subjects of trend and hype: we are attracted to the social kudos of being culturally informed and up to date, being keyed in to hip new talent, and so we (as reviewers and consumers) keep buying into promotional trends. The hype is where it all happens, culturally speaking — the eternal, superficial present of the promotional Now.
But cultural history is never written by those who spend most on promotion. The truly memorable art is the original, relevant and communicative work that (usually) dismays promoters and marketers and slips by the mainstream channels to become first an underground classic, then a cashed-in re-promoted re-release and only later part of our general cultural reference. All of which of course doesn’t do anything to dismantle the system of promotion that can afford to spurn such occasional slow horses. The next big hype is always just around the corner, and the temporal distance to that corner ever shorter. Focus on the Now, look at our glossies.
Contemporary cultural promotion reflects the most profitable ventures, and so we’re seeing the same kinds of winning formulaic films, bands and trends pushed again and again like endless varieties of shampoo. Consumer culture-dollars are limited and so advertising works overtime to differentiate homogenous & repetitive cultural products with inflated hype and cool-values — when there’s already a flood of culture to choose from. Also, since the sheer access to cultural variety and media has increased with technologies like the internet, this means every marketing minute matters more than ever. All of which compounds into the modern wave of advertising and similitude, with the highly anticipated, glossy but indifferent products riding visibly on top and heavily promoted, and all the other cultural ‘dross’ sinking into rapid obscurity. Despite the fact that so much of our future cultural heritage often starts as such dross. Despite the atmosphere over-promotion and jaded media ennui that typify our cultural interaction/consumption. Despite the one or two genuinely talented artists out there.
The really significant criticism and cultural review should concentrate on these lost artefacts, separating them from the slick, shiny crap that daily washes onto our attentive shores. With a nearly limitless bilge of culture being produced and the promotional calendar already so crowded, urgency and promotional hype should be the least important concerns when judging a work’s true cultural or artistic value, if any. A reviewer should pick up on facets that mightn’t have been fully appreciated, or which didn’t make the promotional grade or whose timing missed the mainstream boat. Reviewers need more time to compare, contrast and savour, to take stock and appreciate from a distance, rather than being at the compliant beck and call of every slick PR agency hungry for adspace. A reviewer’s MO should be: if a work is really that good, then it’ll still be around in several months, or even years from now. To fully appreciate a work it needs to be unshackled from the hype and promotional steamrolling. Quality art will always stand up and deliver its worth — and any critical writing should reflect this with due space and rich consideration, long after the industry has moved on. The promotional here and now of hype is not real — and never mattered in the long scale. Great art, says the cliché, is timeless — and not without reason: for Time is the ultimate judge. Cultural review and analysis should be slow and measured, indifferent to hurry and media fads, and thereby let its enjoyment be increased.
This stance applies to more than just cultural connoisseurship — in our consumerist times, it’s an attitude that has broad lifestyle relevance for all walks of life. It’s Slow Food and Slow Towns, it’s The Idler, it’s downshifting and taking control of the most important and precious resource of modernity: time.
I propose a Review that’ll evaluate nothing less than six months old (and ideally a year (or several)). I propose a Review with goodly proportions of prose and consideration. I propose a Review without Hype or Promotional Haste or Specious ad-Guff. I propose the cultivation of Quality, Style and Timely Taste.
I propose The Slow Review.