Friday, April 23, 2004

What makes me uneasy about independent media? Last night I went to the Spinach7 launch at the Public Office. All my housemates were out in force because Lorelei's boyfriend Mark was playing, and some of my workmates were there as well, because one of the Spinach7 editors works at my work. I must for a minute remark on Mark's performance, which I really appreciated: it was kind of like a deranged industrial version of Beck. Mark is a little guy with floppy hair, and he was wearing a stripey t-shirt and stumbling about yelling into a microphone over electronic beats and squelches. Mark is so polite and quiet away from the mic - I would never have thought he had it in him. My housemates were slow-dancing with each other to this stuff - it was truly a sight to behold.

Later, most people stayed out on the terrace. They were too cool to dance to the homey hits, even though I wanted to, badly; when they played the Bounty Killer remix of Ms Dynamite's "Put Him Out" the only dancers were me and this other guy. We ignored each other in our own little dancing worlds, while a few other people sat around the walls like puddings, staring at us.

Anyway, so I left early. And I was flicking through the actual magazine when I was in bed, and I started to feel uneasy, in that nagging, non-specific way that I do whenever I come up against any of those things like Indymedia, zines, The Paper, This Is Not Art, and student newspapers in the days when they didn't look like government-issued 'yoof' pamphlets. Like, I admire what Spinach7 is trying to do, which I interpret as creating a space for subjects that don't get coverage elsewhere, while still making it sexy, self-sustaining, and, dare I say it, 'cutting edge'. Unlike, say, Vice, which people seem to love and I don't know why, because it's so smarmy and written from the perspective of being better than everyone else.

But my feeling of unease just wouldn't go away. I realised that one of the editorial team was this prick who was flaming me on the Contemporary Cultural Studies discussion list in 2000, when I first vaunted the idea of studying bogans. And I recognised a number of other names, like Eve Vincent and Jacob "The Human Shield" Nowakowski. And some of the articles really gave me the shits, like this nasty, contemptuous, sarcastic rant from Philip Brophy about how far ahead he is of the rest of Australian society.

It bothers me that all these people seem to know each other from Express Media or doing Creative Arts or from festivals and zine fairs and 'workshops'. It's all about grassroots art and media, and DIY fashion, and carefully ritualised forms of subversion and culture jamming, and meeting like-minded people with tropes like "I thought I was the only one who liked [insert bottom-up form of cultural production here]." I don't know what makes me more uneasy: the fact that I also like doing these things but think and go about them in a completely different way that only draws people's ire; or the fact that despite the rhetoric of accessibility, it's all so clubby and everyone seems to know each other.

Perhaps it's because these people make me feel that because I'm not constantly trying to counter global injustice with grassroots protest and cultural production, there's some part of me 'missing' and I'm a bad person. I once tried to provoke The Boy by telling him that I had no politics. His face didn't change and he didn't take the bait, so I never found out what he thought. It wasn't strictly true, though - I constantly wrestle with why I believe what I do, and agonise over the discursive constitution of those beliefs. Perhaps another reason why independent media make me uneasy is that I wish I could find some of my own ambivalence reflected in their pages, rather than the ideological certainties I find instead.

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