***UPDATE – a slightly more polished and beautifully type-set version is part of the SYSTEMICS book.

(made available to read online for free once-in-a-while or generally with a donation based password.)

[a humorous discussion of art and culture and their contextual changes through web 2.0]



I have often wondered what LEONARDO DA VINCI would’ve done, had he lived today, let’s say in a place like London, simply just getting on with ‘his thing’. Would he be penning the new Wonderbraad, or a worldwide Coca-Colare-branding strategy? Perhaps he’d choose the art route and make it with Campbell– tagged, factory-tinned artist shit, followed by pink-yellow portraits of the President of the United States of America (sporting his trademark ‘mysterious’ Mona Lisa style smile)? He could also be more ‘radical’ (as he apparently was with his anatomy obsession and his spiritual and political views) and while unveiling photorealistic wax sculptures of naked, prepubescent girls, he is inviting the gathered audience to give it a go. Broadcast live to the world on MTV, they can try some of the new spearmint-spiced energy drink – Girl Power – directly from various-size pricks sticking out from their bodies like ferocious cases of acne vulgaris. But then again, he might simply do movies, with the Miramax guys to serve as the prestigious court to support him. Or what if his other obsession, science, in the end had completely taken him over and he ended up multiple Nobel Prize winner whose highly disputed work to treat cancer at root DNA level meant that we got finally rid of one of the most stupefying threats to our precocious mortality?

Could he have done all of those things – at once?

Then again. He might as well just be some scruffy and lonely computer nerd, who in a ghostly council estate, with sweaty palms clutching his wireless infrared mouse, day-in and dayout keeps surfing the net, in the hope to find some sort of ‘contact’ with other like-minded people on the planet. Perhaps with the business model of a Secondlife slash Google metacommunity-portal, he amasses a fortune in only two years and then either goes on to take over the world or buys a remote island on Ebay on which he and his mates found a newschool, Hippie-style commune where true unconditional love and politically unbiased child-care have become a reality for everybody involved – whilst astutely keeping it all secret from any media goons whatsoever?

But let’s leave this all up to everyone’s own imagination. What is important for us here is to ponder what ART or CULTURE really mean to us, at the beginning of the 21st century, in the midst of a ‘consumer driven’ capitalist society, like for instance again London, where during the day the world blatantly turns around the two ‘competing’ free dailies London Lite and the new London Paper and around Lost and Big Brother as soon as we crash on the couch after work.


On one hand we have so-called ‘established art’, art that is being curated and gallery-pimped between London and New York (aka ‘Nylon’, every  city hopper’s apparent paradise) and then the rest of the world’s most fanciful cities. Whilst some of it is surely crazy and cool, a lot of it comes across as selfindulgently shallow. There can be no doubt, established art – Fine Art – is a lot about money. For ‘money-people’ it is a quite sexy and safe investment – its main attractiveness (tax issues aside) being the potential to make extortionate margins in a relatively short period of time if you’ve got either a good nose for new talent or the balls to play it all cool when spending a million on a complete pile of rubbish.

In order to be allowed into the arena of Tate, MoMA or whichever temple of worship has presently won the battle for cultural supremacy, the artistic discourse needs to be molded to successfully wet the taste-buds of the current intellectual elite. You got to be flying-off to conceptual brain-wrecking exercises in an attempt to present your individual matters and answers to our universal dilemmas: death, hate, greed, war, racism, abuse. But no matter how hard you try to push those humanitarian boundaries, for art to be ‘established’, the bottom line will always be that if it doesn’t look good in an open-space Central Park loft or a renaissance Andrea Palladio mansion (next to the post-modern Scandinavian designer tables or the 5th century BC Chinese flower pots) you’re not going to be making it as an artist. You’ll probably get laid at the opening night of your first solo-show somewhere in Nylon, but you better get lucrative contracts while you’re on top of the game, private and business, if you don’t want to end up as a sad junkie art-tutor wasting away in front of his Sony vintage black-andwhite telly, in a shabby, vomit-stenched studio in downtown LA. The bottom line of ‘art’ in the context of ‘art market’ is that it definitely helps if you want to ‘become an artist’, if you know how to please people in power – and that doesn’t necessarily mean with your art alone.

At the other end, we have of course ‘underground’. Counterculture. Fuck-all, grass-root, unadulterated and raw self-expression. Emotionally deranged graphic-novel artists, pot-smoking crash-punk poets, neo-existentialist, mushroomchewing Internet illustrators, below-the-belt-hitting, razorsharp cartoonists, god-like-scripture-compiling computer programmers slash animators. If we look around on the net for a bit, we’ll find a sheer endless stream of creativity with sometimes astounding talent. The World Wide Web offers a never-seen-before diversity of styles, approaches and flavors, created and published instantaneously – without a budget or the need for any authority approval – on countless community portals and personal blogs. With the click of a button, we can share our stuff with other people in the world who appreciate what we’re doing. We can leave comments, critique, appraisals. We can do whatever we want, show each other whatever we’ve got and together rise, play, love, moan and laugh. We’re out and about, hunting and gathering, feeding and being fed, while we respectfully, mutually grow as human beings.


In the midst of all this, we have – most omnipresently – MUSIC. Music, in many ways, appears to be one of the most urgent forces behind any cultural (r)evolution. I’m sure they whacked sticks on some tree trunks before painting elaborate hunting scenes into their caves – perhaps using the beats of those drums as the background tracks for their visual inspirations? With music you can virtually go anywhere, you can get everything you want in life, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – and of course celebrity status and the vacuous promise of a ‘freedom of speech’. Your career can range from being laughed at on stage (PRINCE) to doing whatever the fuck you want with whoever the fuck you want to do it with, as one of the most influential figures in the whole scene (PRINCE). We all consume music everywhere. iPods have become nearly as important as mobile phones (or are happily merging with them as we speak). You can listen to tracks while you fuck or at work – or while you sit in a tank and shoot at Iraqis. Musicians are blessed amongst artists as they’re creating their stuff for a market which not only is simply enormous but very very REAL indeed. Music runs through the veins of our public domain. The vivid discussions about online copyright issues (1) only give us a glimpse into the death-threatening changes major labels are facing as they attempt to keep a tight reign on this incredible economic cheesecake.


In order to shed even more light into our question of “what is art and culture”, here is another fantasy exercise: what would LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN do, had he written his music in 2007? Would he have set up a MySpace page and you could add him as a ‘friend’ like you do with BANKSY, ALAN PARTRIDGE or WOODY ALLEN? Would you check out his tracks and then leave a comment, “great stuff, man. keep it up”, or something? Would he be in a band, JOHN LENNON style, to press for more love, peace and freedom in the midst of a ‘free market’ madness? Would he still be able to ‘break through’ eventually and later on in his career lead a court case against shitloads of faceless suits who on behalf ofSony or Universal publicly try to cut off his balls and make him a whore they can squeeze, suck and pimp? (2)

After perhaps a turbulent life during which he DJ’s and travels the world with his special Max MSP spiked piano, he could go out with KATE MOSS or ANGELINA JOLIE and as soon as his pending deafness comes to the fore, Hello! and Rolling Stone magazine’s sales figures overnight triple as they’re running glossy exclusives purporting an angle between hypocritical pity and something which in German is poignantly referred to asSchadenfreude. For the labels, the loss of one artist doesn’t matter at all. Besides, they’ve just signed JOHANNES BRAHMS and his style is so much more urban and cool. It far better hits the nerve of the ‘now’ and thus crack-opens fresh, titillatingly virginal revenue streams – yeah, man.

And what about a guy like WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART? People loved and still love his stuff. Not for the first time has he been compared to artists like MICHAEL JACKSON and one can clearly see the point in this. There are quite a few similarities, not just the ambitious, violent father story and the incredible talent. Since the later stages of both artists’ lives come across as somewhat tragic and deeply disturbing, another intriguing question arises: could talent be doomed to failure and ultimate self-destruction in the human reality we’ve created for ourselves?


But back to ART and CULTURE. What does ‘culture’ actually mean to us in the first place? Is it about wearing the latest designer outfits and showing them off in London’s ueber-cool Hoxton and Shoreditch? Is it embedded in novels about postwar immigration and broken family ties in Anglo-Saxon, urban society? Is it to be discovered through fastidiously crafted biscuit adverts where above-the-floor-floating people are shown with the expression of an orgasm on their stylishly made-up faces?

It is obviously very difficult to define or to judge. Renaissance style battles like the famous one between MICHELANGELO and LEONARDO about who’s the better draftsman have now turned into pseudo-intellectual discourses between one of the best draftsmen today (DAVID HOCKNEY), juxtaposed against someone who can’t draw at all (TRACEY EMIN). Who is the ‘better’ artist, JEFF KOONS or ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG? CHRISTO or NAM JUNE PAIK? A genuine, distinctive and confident Eastern European or African art student or a lecherous, world-famous, semi-senile and pretentious conceptual artist? Where and how do we draw the line(s)? The problem, if you will, with ART at this day and age, is that it could be ANYTHING, really. Give someone the luring self-righteousness of money and a somewhat Warholean ego-aloofness and they’ll seem perfectly appropriate to be one of the top 25 artists to look out for in the next issue of Art Review magazine or to open a ‘critically acclaimed’ solo show in London’s White Cube 2 gallery.

Perhaps, then, art and culture have just become another substitute for religion? At times where nothing is sacred except maybe a trademarked company logo, artists and celebrity status attract almost godlike attention. We readily worship our stars, due to weird psycho-dynamics called ‘projection’ and ‘transference’, and we happily and unquestioningly pay for their more-often-than-not lavishly expensive lifestyles.

But what does it actually mean to be ‘making it’ in the first place, what really ‘makes’ you a star? In a free-market battle for headspace and time it is the amount of LOVE and ATTENTION that you’ll get from other people, however force-fed and faked, which let you enter the mighty gates of stardom-heaven.

It’s a funny thing, though, FAME. Why is this ‘state’ so desirable? Why do most of us feel that we’d be so much ‘happier’ if we ever broke through to public acclaim? Is it not all just a silly dream for us mortals to raise our existence from the normality of everyday life into ultimately also just brainwashed ideas of importance? Should we not just get on with our pathetic little lives, down some more pints, snort some more lines, or simply pop a few more of those god-sent Serotonin pills, in order to miraculously dissolve any gnawing attacks of either hubris or self-deprecation?



Ever since JOSEPH BEUYS greased his torch-equipped sledges, it has become clear that everyone is creative and because of this everyone is also an artist. Living our life, this is the shamanic message, is essentially creating the ultimate piece of art. It is therefore always amusing that many ‘trained’ artists still today feel strangely uplifted or otherwise ‘ better’ than the rest of us lot who’re subserviently swiping their deep-frozen lasagnes at the localTesco or Sainsburys tills. The truth is, and they’ll also eventually be told, that we all just want to do our thing. It is part of human nature. We want to live and let live, grow and expand and if our thing – whatever it is – finally works, then great! Well-done. If not, well, we really just got to try harder. Nobody’s ever said it’s gonna be easy, have they?

Doing our thing as such has become easier than ever before, though. There really is no excuse anymore for why we aren’t the next QUENTIN TARANTINO or CHRIS CUNNINGHAM, since eleven-year-olds can already chop up their mobile phone footage on iMacs and straight away put it on YouTube, make a name for themselves. By the time they hit puberty they’d already do their first Snickers or Honda commercial or get to directSpiderman 7 – yeah, right. For even the most talented person, to become really good at what they’re doing, it takes YEARS of most diligent efforts to get across what they’re trying to say, in a way which equally works for other people. It’s not just to master the technicalities of your art. You have to also add love and suffering, thought and depth, the right amount of pleasing and teasing, darkness and tenderness – all ingredients which don’t just appear out of nowhere by pressing a couple of fake 3-D buttons. You have to LIVE and do that quite extensively and also make sure that you allow enough time to reflect back on it. Doing something from 9 to 5 and then hitting the couch for your daily Sky-sponsored brain operation will not be likely to make you an artist. Neither will the ability to sign your ten-bedroom bastard-house mortgage contract with a 24k solid-gold fountain pen while your Gucci-clad ex-model fiancé snorts all your coke in the cherry-red Porsche outside.

Only working away day and night, on perhaps even stolen equipment, from your filthy bedroom, in order to chuck out a kick-ass, refreshingly new hip-hop record (THE STREETS), or writing-up a very-well-told children’s fantasy story in the warming coffee shop downstairs (J K ROWLING) will eventually make all the difference. It is, as beautifully immortalized by bands like THE BEATLES, perhaps the only ‘way out’, out of the painful constraints we’re bound to endure in our tragic existence, as supposed to the apparent fun and freedom awaiting, should we ever manage to make things work out for us. Makes sense. But is it really?


Anyway, for those of us who feel absolutely determined to live our lives the way we want to, the time has finally arrived to do this. It’s called Web 2.0. Even if it will not quite work out in this version, in a couple of years, with Web 3.0, we’ll have certainly come a long way. The big corporations have essentially lost their power to the worldwide community at large. There’s not much they can do to prevent this. We are in the final stages of a revolution which utterly frees the individual and allows us to be connected 24/7 with everyone else on the planet, regardless of sex, age, ethnicity, religious belief, social status or else. This finally IS the Age of Aquarius. We humans are in this together.

In this ‘new world order’, money will primarily be made on the Internet. Catch-phrase ‘attention based economy’. If we manage to get the hits, we will get also the appropriate amount of money. The big corporations, of course, understand this new game already quite well, so they’d buy the fattest cows like MySpaceFlickr and YouTube in an attempt to pester their visitors with sometimes more, sometimes less slutty advertising. Squeezing out the juice. For us, though, it doesn’t matter whether our online experience is being spoilt by corporate bullshit, since above all, it’s about becoming visible in the first place. It is to use and to be used and it is all for free, so not too many questions asked, not too many issues unearthed. Just shove your stuff on FacebookTwitterEbayYouTubeor whichever portal tickles your current fancy. Create a profile, smile or be weird and you’ll soon be making new friends. Stick around, spread the word and expand your horizon and reach. Web 2.0 is about community portals and cultural hubs inviting you to meet people you’ve never met before. You’d create a worldwide patchwork of contacts and affiliates which organically grows according to the time you spend nurturing it.

In the end, if you want to be very serious about your work, you’d set up your own blog-space or website. It is the core where every thread that you leave on the net will come neatly together. We all can, without specialist knowledge, publish our work like this – visible, downloadable and re-usable – and if 10,000 people really like it and give us a pound every year, say, we’ll essentially pay our rent. What more could we want from secular life, really?

Another good thing is that everybody who’s doing their thing bloody well knows what it actually takes to do it – 100% commitment to the cause. This appreciation of others’ endeavours is usually bolstered by full, unconditional respect and therefore jealousy will in the future not be an issue anymore. Although, deep down we’re all somewhat competitive. Most of us do improve and grow, even as kids, by playful, innocent sparring. And here again – nowhere can this be more clearly seen in the arts than with MUSIC.


Guys like those around London’s PushFM and RinseFM underground radio stations (at least at the time of writing) attempt to raise the envelope of “just good music”, as they themselves call it. What they’re referring to are basically computer-crafted audio tracks which can be equally played to hard-core music aficionados as well as to dancing, drug-popping party people. For any aspirational artist-producer, it is certainly one of the highest challenges to create something so wonderful and hypnotic that no-one can stop listening to.

In the arena of cutting-edge production, therefore, each ‘contestant’ tries to counter a track which has managed to hit them severely with something hitting back even more beautifully and severely. Eventually, truly outstanding pieces of work ‘naturally’ emerge. It is quite fascinating to follow such ground-breaking tracks into the stage of a substantial fan base, where all the effort someone has put into creating something that strong is all of a sudden starting to pay off – although not necessarily in terms of money. But it is certainly nice to get the recognition you deserve by peers and fans alike who not just sheepishly subscribe to ready-made superstars but instead acknowledge your sincerity and efforts with their heartfelt love and support.

The whole kick of life as an artist and the challenge of making a difference is that whether any money will ever arrive, you can never be sure (if you need to be, go and work for a bank). But you might be able to increase your chances if you as an ARTIST are prepared to surrender your talents to forces beyond your control, who in turn try and squeeze out the dosh ‘for you’, from whomever and wherever they can: the SUITS.


Perhaps in order to become rich, suit power and its categoric imperative of HARD SELL are the only way to go. This is a tough call, but I shall end this discussion by at least putting this serious question on the map.

How can it ever work for everyone?

Are we ‘civilised monkeys’ perhaps ‘meant’ to fuck each other over? Bomb the shit out of a country in order to revive fucked-up internal economy and secure perilous oil supplies at strategic positions? Is this the way how it works in this life, this world, in our sociobiological REALITY?

Or is capitalism not perhaps a bit too idealistic – or naive even – in terms of freedom of the individual? Since we’ve all been emotionally damaged by just the way in which our human condition works, we do eventually need to create some political framework, like perhaps an Emotional Capitalism(if that’s not a contradiction in itself :) where money is not the only bottom line at the end of the day, but where it is equally important whether the emotional integrity of the people you’re making it with is left untouched by any cynical cycle-of-abuse-induced lies?


With a new breed of economy, where it is mainly about hits, some new and distinctive laws seem to emerge:

The first people who’d buy into something or somebody NEW will always get everything for FREE. It is perhaps a ‘natural’ reward, if you will, or an ‘evolutionary incentive’ in terms of micro-evolutional progress, for having the courage and spine to invest our most precious resources like headspace and time on something that we deep down feel has potential and can give us something that we need. By recognising someone or something as they’re just about to emerge, we demonstrate the ability to SEE behind a sometimes scruffy, unpolished surface – or sport at least the open-mindedness to sense that there is something great behind it – and therefore we don’t have to pay because we’re in fact the ones who’re helping it rise into the ‘sky’ (whether the one above or the media giant remains to be seen :).

On the other hand, the further away we are from something which later turns out to be IT, the more expensive it’ll be to still be a ‘part of’. By recognising something only after it has reached a more apparently visible stage of unfoldment, we really are not needed anymore for its continuing success. The breakthrough has already happened and the tables of this extremely translucent deal between ‘seller’ and ‘buyer’ have henceforth forever turned. In other words, our failure to jump on the bandwagon while it was parked in front of our door, perhaps while even all our friends always kept going on about it, results in increasingly costly procedures to still grab a place by the time it’s gone past our noses.

There is this funny saying in Vienna, that people who have no idea how the system works ought to pay so called Moron Tax (Deppensteuer) in order to compensate for their adamant refusal to look the truth in its face. I feel this is quite a sweet analogy for what seems to be emerging as a kind of self-regulating dynamic in a grown-up economy of the 21st century. Perhaps it turns out, after all, that ignorance is not actually bliss anymore, but does in fact cost quite a lot of money.

Whereas awareness, thinking and creativity not only pay off, but are possibly the only way to go.


London, May 2007
© 2007, all rights reserved



(1) Interesting paper about the problems of online music rights written by Apple’s grand father himself, STEVEN JOBS —>

(2) Hysterical article about the way how major labels hunt down new artists and then fuck them over —>