The Liberation of Underground Art – Part 1
Underground art in all its different guises has never really offended mainstream audiences as they have had no access to it. But things are changing, instead of trying to find small back street venues were performance artists are displaying their work, fans of underground art can now do it easily from their own homes, and that means critics too are in the same situation.
The internet police rarely have time to catch up with the odd video posted of a live event or performance, and this means that experimental subcultures are more accessible today than they have ever been. This internet liberation has its benefits and consequences for both the artists and their audiences.
The internet is different to all other formats of control or censorship, it is so big that it is impossible to police 24/7 all over the globe. The fact that nobody is forcing you to click on a link or watch a video clip is irrelevant as far as the boo boys are concerned, they are simply miffed if subject matter that they personally disagree with is available in the public domain.
There are thousands of letters of complaint that have been written concerning audiences claiming offense of one particular public performance or other. And these are only the tip of the iceberg of disgust at certain public performance outrages in the UK. But what is strange about all this outcry is not the performances themselves but why the people where there to witness it in the first place.
If you were asked to attend an event in some back street venue, featuring work by Mad Alan and called Modern Panic then you might expect you were not going to enjoy a family musical, so why go? But when you surf the net, then it is really easy to click on the wrong button and be led down a path you did not intend.
The Internet Liberation
Underground artists have always battled to get their work out to larger audiences, but if underground art was available to mainstream audiences then it would be no longer be underground. This is the danger of the current situation with the internet.
At first the internet was invaluable as a mechanism to liberate all manner of art, including underground performance art, and bypassed the rigid gatekeepers of culture and morals. And in the beginning the safe space where underground art could live, not upsetting anybody, and displaying risk and dissent was hidden away. Now it is just one click away.
It is quite curious why people do not simply click off immediately to a site that they deem offense, instead of watching something the whole way through before feeling outraged. But even so, this is the dilemma that underground artists are facing, their material is being accessed by audiences that it was not originally intended for. For an underground artist to be successful their art has to reach an audience that is both open minded but also ready to accept new ideas and concepts, not all viewers of the internet are such.