Monday, June 13, 2011

Response: Bread and Circuses

This has been moved from the comments page of the first post. More responses are welcome and can be mailed to

Panem et Circenses

Thank you for your very interesting analysis and contents that have always been among my personal concerns and constant topic of action and reflection. I won’t leave a long comment here, as I would be repeating myself again and again. I will link to a few texts below which will offer a few (hopefully) pertinent comments to some of the concerns you expressed, for whoever will wish to spend time reading more. I want to point out though that in my opinion the main focus of this discussion should be a political one.

The exclusiveness of the “avant-garde”
Its fragmentation
Its indifference to the real situation in the world today
Its individualistic outlook and not least its class character

Collective creative work and experience stands against what is being promoted on all fronts as the "me" culture, where the issue, for example, becomes that art has importance because it expresses "my" life, "I" did this first, or it gratifies "me" and yes this is happening all over the spectrum and genres of creative music itself. This can only contribute to the general crisis of society. The question then arises, as it does in an acute form at the moment, as to what is the role of art, music and other forms of culture and creative thinking in a strongly needed political renewal. Generally speaking, that question has to embody those emotions and aspirations consistent with this renewal.

The very notion that there is a society, that people exist as human beings within this society and as collectives with their own existence, is being taken away, is being negated. To demand that society shoulder its responsibility is being even portrayed as extremism and that we should be “moderate”. When once I dared suggesting that Provincial and Federal funding to Canadian orchestras should be strongly reduced in favour of younger, fresher energies I was told I was “subversive” (sic). We need art orientated towards the people's concerns, not to the concerns of those who look for geniuses and stars. The social forms where the people on a mass scale are drawn into art making, with professionals serving and working with amateurs, will take shape if we are able to redefine functions. How there can be mass participation, direct participation, in the art making. What is the art of the future?  This is one of the most exciting questions, this vision of the music/art of the future. To envision the art of the future, one needs to begin to envision also the society of the future and begin to push for that now. Meanwhile, everybody gets on with making the art they feel passionate about, with this perspective. And BTW why so much need for “free form” “free improvisation”, aren’t we already free? Can we become freer? Freer than Jazz…??

What are the conditions of performance, of social form, that will ensure creativity has a future?
The question "For whom?" now, when an acute problem is posed about the political renewal of society, and the role of culture in this, has to be answered in a nutshell by saying that the modern culture has to be based on humanity and on inviolable rights; a culture serving modern political requirements and serving the development of the productive forces. We need to foster a trusting environment versus a fearful one. Dialogue versus monologue in spite of the current trend (and possibly one we are going to face for a few years according to this recent exemplary specimen of propaganda:

As you, I know that Vancouver is full of amazing creative energy and resources whose potential is still greatly unexplored. The inability of the local creative community to coagulate around a common “political” program though clearly reveals the inadequacy of our communications and dialogues. Still, I have hopes and visions. This is the reason why I would support and vigorously encourage any opportunity for a local movement, which would allow a better and consistent discourse around these issues; this is the reason why I instigated and will continue to instigate creativity through the initiation of community ensembles such as the Vancouver Electronic Ensemble (VEE), and through workshops and activities to foster the energy that we all know but that not too many are yet willing to acknowledge or fully embrace. Too young, not established, not too many prizes or CDs yet?...

Art and creativity are a behavior and a vehicle for group meaning. While they both seem often irrelevant to most people lives they are actually a fundamental need because they involve making things special, taking care, making community. Reality is that in this city (and not only here) we don't have many spaces for people to exercise creative powers. Our models of art and creativity are not about participation in a social order: our models seem instead a way to escape from it.

 [ panem et circenses, (…again) - the Canucks versus the power of imagination,

too bad we realize that when we don’t sell enough tickets to our circenses ]

Too close, self-centered, distant.

We have become so individualized and conditioned to experience ourselves as separate, we have an actual fear of community, unless our beloved team wins, no matter what.

Real beauty (beyond any aesthetic meaning or demagogic definition) is an activity rather than an entity. We need to foster dialogue/collaborative works/interconnectedness to make possible the creation of renewed creative/artistic knowledge.  I believe that artistic intellect and knowledge live and grow inside artistic practices.  They are in fact more inside the process of making art than in a final object or artifact, and these autonomous zones already exist. This knowledge embodies the attempt to articulate the different ways in which creative process unveil itself: composing, writing, interpreting, playing, listening and interacting. We all know we could find a common ground for that to happen, but whenever I found myself around a table I hardly found anyone ready to finally agree on even a few common goals which could foster a real action. If we want to see real change it seems to me we are left with radical options, either a common ground and a real movement, or Hakim Bey’s autonomous zones.

Giorgio Magnanensi


il sole non aspetta il fuoco per essere caldo
     nè il vento la luna per essere fresco

noise, as music, is to be lived, no longer stockpiled

Radicalizing: listening is attention, not apprehension; 
to listen is evidence of what happens as sound, 
not knowledge of what happens with sound. 
So: sound is the presence of an absolute, 
his annunciation is its own revelation, 
listening then it certainly is not the act by which 
you come to a discursive apprehension, 
but the moment at which perception mediates 
and joins the multiplicity in the unity of formal knowledge. 
Listening is immediate experience in which knowledge 
coincides with the action: listening is ascesis.
(Franco Donatoni)


Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
  (Ludwig Wittgenstein)


What interests us in the image is not its function 
as a representation of reality, but its dynamic potential, 
its capacity to elicit and construct projections, interactions, 
narrative frames . . . . devices for constructing reality.
 (Franco Berardi “Bifo" L’immagine dispositivo)


  1. Giorgio - thanks for that Sun News Network link. Horrifying, but necessary to watch. Your comments on "fear of community" resonate large.

  2. For the record, I filled out the complaint form as follows - "I just watched a horrifying, horrifying example of 'news,' perpetrated by the Sun News Networks - Krista Erickson's vulgar attack on the arts (and arts funding) as embodied by the person of Margie Gillis. This is not journalism, it's a sort of ignorant right wing hate speech worthy perhaps of Fox News, painful to watch and repugnant to my values as a Canadian and patron of the arts. And I don't even WATCH interpretive dance!"

  3. Some comfort that Sun's audience numbers are in the shitter. I hope they don't really reflect what most Canadians think but fear that it's what the current neoliberal POLICY MAKERS think ...

  4. Panem et circenses, again.

  5. Reading Cavafy in Vancouver -

    Giorgio, as a rather lateral response to the discussions happening here - and the stupid events of the last day (when people all around the world are protesting for human rights and free elections) - I'm thinking of the other famous poem by Cavafy, the author of "Waiting for the Barbarians:"

    The City (trans. Keeley & Sherrard)

    You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
    find another city better than this one.
    Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
    and my heart lies buried like something dead.
    How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
    Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
    I see the black ruins of my life, here,
    where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

    You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
    This city will always pursue you.
    You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
    in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
    You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
    there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
    Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
    you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

    Reading the poem through the artistic issues you mention, this is what I'm thinking: “world class” might be a dangerous lie. “World class” has to mean more than “travel happens.”

    If we don’t value what happens in our communities enough – all the interactions that happen from the ground up for students, in local collaborations and performances, in small, inclusive acts of creation – and if we put too much value on what’s comes down from power structures as important culture, official culture, world-class culture – then we’re wasting everybody’s time and effort.

  6. Gentlemen, are you aware that the VPD has declared that criminals and "anarchists disguised as hockey fans" were responsible for the riots? I see a War On Anarchy in Canada's future...