2012 round up part 2 – surprise and substance

Looking back at the year that has gone, 2012 was indeed tainted with the seriousness of a double dip recession. It was a year where conventions were being questioned and artists who were different to the norm began to truly break through into the mainstream.

This was especially evident in the music industry where the traditionally macho scene of hip-hop and R&B saw the success of Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean. Both differentiate themselves by being openly vulnerable to their audience. Lamar has given voice to the person in front of the gun, deromanticizing violence, while Frank Ocean has dared to come out as gay in an emotional Tumblr letter to his fans.

This openness and step down from the superstar pedestal could also be seen in the behavior of big brands, perhaps most surprisingly from luxury brands. For instance, Burberry opened its catwalks to the ‘common people’, striving for ‘democratic luxury‘ and embracing digital marketing and social media.

Another unexpected development in fashion was the rise of the distinguished older lady – featured on the covers of magazines, in adverts and on blogs. And it wasn’t the traditional home stung bake-making grandma we saw, but eccentric older women who dare to be different and who play with fashion.

On the more critical note, culture got seriously threatened by The Coalition leaving arts subjects out of the English Baccalaureate. This stuck as an ironic development, especially after arts and culture was marketed heavily as a crucial part of London’s identity during the Olympics. The contradiction made many leading artist respond with a public outcry, which was followed by Jude Law accusing the government of ’cultural vandalism’ at the Turner Prize awards ceremony.

Under these circumstances, when culture’s value is being seriously downplayed, it is interesting to note that performance art has been given more room in the mainstream art world. The in-depth and engaging feature length documentary The Artist is Present, about the performance artist Marina Abramovic and her MOMA retrospective, won international acclaim. Tate Modern also embraced performance art with their (rather disappointing) exhibition A Bigger Splash and The Turner Prize nominated a performance artist for the first time ever.

Culture apart, 2012 has also been a year of some fiery debates about social media and future governance of the internet. Online privacy was also questioned when Facebook users claimed that private messages from years gone by were circulating on pages for all to see. It has now been called the scandal that never was, since the majority seem to have accepted Facebook’s denial of a bug. They explained that it is our online behaviour that has changed, including the way we communicate on our FB walls, and that the messages had always been public.

This wasn’t the only time Facebook found themselves in trouble last year. Public outrage followed as they introduced a new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for Instagram, which gave them the right to sell access to photos to advertisers. Photos that have boomed in numbers after this years shift towards a more visual social media, which is the result of the rise of high-resolution smart-phones and us being more careful with what we write online.

Instagram responded to the criticism by implying that the disagreements only was a miscommunication caused by a ‘confusing’ language. A patronizing attitude and a tone of voice which has become increasingly common among brands that try to dodge misconduct. A more successful response to criticism was instead made by O2 that managed to turn a major network outage into an opportunity to build some love on Twitter. Simply by taking responsibility and being (surprisingly) open, honest and funny.

And its just this attitude, of turning a negative to a positive, that I hope will remain and develop during 2012. Substance isn’t dull, its normally what leaves the most long-lasting impression. Lets stand up and defend what we believe in, and lets force the Coalition to rethink and reevaluate their educational reform. So they start to appreciate culture like we do – as an important tool for self expression that allow us to both learn and communicate.