Exploring Indie

By James Pew

Here is another excerpt from my book Studio Manifesto: Exploring the Possibilities of Indie. As always please leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

“I wanna disconnect myself pull my brain stem out and unplug myself”- Henry Rollins

Disconnect from what? From everything you assume and take for granted – from culture itself.

“Stay ahead of the culture by creating the culture” – from the book Ignore Everybody by Hugh Macleod

Wipe your operating system clean and start from the beginning – but this time ignore the prevailing culture and find your individual. Create your own culture.

Being indie can mean a lot of things to many different people, among them the belief that indie means individual or independent from the normal. It is the individual person captivated by the notion of independence and the process of discovery involved in individualism. It is breaking free from a larger dominant collective that is the impetus of indie.

Why do we have indie artists? This question cannot be looked at seriously without first looking at the process that initiated what we’ve come to view as the basic human behavior of being an individual.

To the person engaged in cultural studies or studying the human and societal effects of media (technology), it is well known that before the appearance of two very powerful media man existed in a tribal state. Sometimes referred to as tribal sleep. The two media, or technologies, I’m referring to are the phonetic alphabet crossed with the mechanical process of printing. Typography.

The new medium of the book at first was a means of accelerating the tribal message of Christianity. The first repeatedly printed books were restricted to the Guttenberg bible. But soon this medium became the means by which individual man emerged. The Guttenberg printing press catalyzed the detribalization of man, ushering in the age of typographic man. This age created the separate individual, and the private point of view, among other powerful effects described later.

It was not long after Guttenberg that Edison came along with new electric media, disrupting things and returning us to our tribal roots.

The information age, which is based on electric media has been gradually retribalized since the appearance of the Edison’s light bulb and many other equally pervasive electric media that followed (telephone, radio, TV, internet). The explosive process started by the Guttenberg technology is reversed under the stress of electric technology.

Mechanical Age = Explosion
Electric Age = Implosion

In Marshall McLuhan’s 1962 book the Guttenberg Galaxy, he lays out the following framework based on his study of the human effects of media.

Up until 1450, society could be described as a blend of the following,

Pre-literate or Pre Guttenberg culture:

Oral Culture
Active, Participator, Social
Balanced Senses

From 1450 to 1900, people became individuals in an explosion of innovation.

Literate/Mechanical Culture:

Books are the dominant medium
The Eye is emphasized (senses not in balance)

From 1900 to the present,

Post Literate/Electric Culture:

Books are no longer the dominant medium
Electronic Media
Senses in balance again
Re-Tribalized Man
“Global Village”

Here is a great youtube video by roddy99 tracing the history of media.

From the most ubiquitous electric media since the light bulb, and more recent inclusive forms like social media, and even older inclusive forms of media (TV, Telegraph/Newspaper, Radio), they all tend to arrange us into societal patterns not unlike the ancient tribal structures of humankind. Involvement and participation on behalf of tribal members is key.

The difference now hinges on a crucial factor. Awareness, or awake-ness. Are we blindly being led back into tribal sleep? Or are we marching headfirst into a new tribalism fully aware of what’s happening? James Joyce best expressed this concept in the Irish Classic Finnegans Wake. Coded in the title is what Marshall McLuhan called the Finn cycle, or tribal cycle, occurring egan or again. But now the character of Finn is Wake, or awake. Finnegans Wake.

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
He grew whiskers on his chin-egan,
The wind came out and blew them in again,
Poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again.
There was an old man named Michael Finnegan
He went fishing with a pin-egan,
Caught a fish and dropped it in-egan,
Poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again.
There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
Climbed a tree and barked his shin-egan,
Took off several yards of skin-egan,
Poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again.
There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
He kicked up an awful din-egan,
Because they said he could not sing-egan,
Poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again.
There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
He got fat and then got thin again,
Then he died and had to begin again,
Poor old Michael Finnegan

Traditional Irish Folk Song – Michael Finnegan

When you awaken to what you feel is an undesirable situation you are more likely to want to exercise your independence in a way that reorders the situation to fit your liking. At the heart of indie is awakening. To Do-it-yourself is to separate from the convention of do-only-what –you-are-told. To be indie is to recognize, and to some extent reject, the pattern of monotony that established order favors.

To be an indie artist is to fully understand the implications of indie. This awareness will help you build mankind’s road map so desperately needed in our process of collective awakening.

Many people alive today are quite happy ignoring, to the best of their abilities, the new inclusive tribal media. This person consciously decides to remain in the mechanical age, and he revolts at tribal electric man.

The opportunities for independence have compounded in the electric age and provide far more expansive forms of individualism. Take the blog for example. Its closest ancestor seems to be the book in that it allows the individual to express a private point of view. To the reader though, the book is a private experience. By contrast the blog allows the reader to react and express their private point of view, in what results in a tribal or communal dynamic of conversation and deconstruction amongst the readers/community members.

The indie artist retains individuality in spite of the pressures of greater human interrelations through the complex of digital networks and modern tribal communities. However, unlike the person who chooses to exist in the previous age, the artist must live in, and deal with, the present one.

“The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of knew knowledge in his own time.” – Marshall McLuhan

Awareness allows the artist to, escape the full hyptnotic effect of electric media, and retain the most favorable qualities of his typographic ancestry, namely the formation of his individual. All of this while thriving in a re-tribalised creative culture.

Here is another roddy99 youtube video on the impact of the printing press:

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