Project 15

I have two ideas:

One might fit in the “New Forms of Storytelling” category: I have been fascinated for a while by the amazing density of groundbreaking works in all disciplines that emerged in the years 1956 to 1959, many of them in California (or at least with a non-New York sensibility): Hitchcocks “North by Northwest”, “Vertigo” and “Psycho”, Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue”, the first recordings by John Coltrane, the Stahl House, Robert Frank’s “The Americans”, Kerouac’s “On the Road”, William Burroughs “Naked Lunch”, The Eames Lounge Chair, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum etc. etc.).

This phenomenon has been examined before (in David Halberstam’s “The Fifties” and Fred Kaplan’s “1959”). Both debunked the common assumption that the 50s were a culturally conservative era while the 60s brought all the innovation. But it might still be worthwile to look into this era, establish its political and sociological background, especially if it can be supported by images, film excerpts etc: how was this possible? And why does it seem impossible now? How come the divide between popularity and quality in cultural production seemed so much narrower then? And what allowed those artists to be so clearly ahead of their times while they seem often lagging today? Finally: are there common artistic/aesthetic features in these works? – A vast topic, I know. Maybe it could be limited to one or a few aspects.

Not sure if this fits in the “Investigative” category but it might: While we know quite a bit about the loss of power and influence of the formerly all-powerful journalistic institutions (NY Times, CNN, network TV etc.) a similar trend is happening in the cultural world. Publishing companies and movie studios are struggling to keep their traditional business models alive. Museums are doing better but are cutting corners in previously unheard-of ways: they showcase the collections of their donors (Eli Broad in LA), base entire projects on “collaborations” with corporate sponsors (BMW Guggenheim lab in NY) and give up curatorial authority in order to make exhibitions financially possible (the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the Met in NY was paid for by the house of Alexander McQueen and designed by the same people who designed his runway shows).

If the role of the curators, editors and gatekeepers is diminished, who will replace them? The “crowd”, the people who chose and categorize music for Pandora? The people at Apple’s iTunes, Netflix or Amazon? PR wizards in global companies like Volkswagen (which just started a joint venture with MoMA)? And will the weakness of the Institution damage artistic production? Or will it ultimately result in greater freedom, with everyone having the director’s cut, self-publishing their E-books and music autonomously and funding their projects through Kickstarter? Obviously, all this could also shed some light on the changes in journalism.