vol 30 no 2, 2010
The term 'underground' has a set of historical uses in various spheres of culture - comics, film, art and music. It maintains a symbiotic relationship with the mainstream, trading street-level and institutional in a continual cycle of unearthing and the risk of not being marginal any more. Guest Editor Lucas Ihlein casts a critical eye on what it was and is now including: copy culture, web-based and email art, comix, animation, zine and fan culture, activism, totally disappeared artists of the 1960s and 70s, marginal and experimental art, guerilla gardening, mining, rubbish dumps, living underground and archiving the underground. About the launch of this issue Prints of Lucas Ihlein's design Under Ground that was used for the cover of this issue are available from Big Fag Press Big Fag Press
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In guest-editing this issue of Artlink, I have not been interested in unearthing the work of 'Australia's hottest young underground artists’. In time, they will unearth themselves, and they don’t need my help. What I do want to talk about, and what some of the writers in this issue of Artlink tackle, are more literal under-ground phenomena: guerrilla gardening, mining and indigenous land claims, the digging of holes as a form of art, and ruminations on rubbish-filled ponds beneath city expressways. In other words, I’m interested in the underground as a relationship with (and under) the ground itself.
A further theme within this edition is printing and publishing. A trio of essays (by Jessie Lymn, Caren Florance and Vanessa Berry) explores the writing, printing, and archiving of underground publications. A strong D.I.Y. ethic infuses these contributions, and this is complemented by the inclusion of Shane McGrath’s interview with the creators of the recently published almanac of Australian ratbaggery, 'How to Make Trouble and Influence People'.
In addition, I have been keen to embed some ‘primary sources’: artists and writers heavily involved with underground cultures, making art within (and critically reflecting on) their own communities. For this reason some outstanding extracts from recent local and international underground comics are also reprinted here.
A note on ‘underground-vs-mainstream’:
‘Oppositionality’, as a political strategy, has been in crisis for some time. For activists and artists in 2010, choosing to resist the recuperation of the underground by mainstream culture means refusing to participate: dropping out. By now, such a revolutionary position, while romantic, heroic and ‘pure’, does seem rather futile. Some of the essays gathered here endeavour to find definitions and theoretical bases for ‘the underground’ as a cultural phenomenon. What such definitional attempts reveal is its inherently slippery nature. As Chris Fleming writes, the underground is ‘something we can track but can’t trap, whose identity, paradoxically, is evanescence’.
In culture, marginal practices are continually being unearthed and made visible to broader communities, which accommodate, and thus transform, them into acceptable ‘mainstream’ forms (correspondingly, the mainstream culture expands and transforms itself in the process). Throughout the twentieth century, this cycle of unearthing became so commonplace that it is now almost impossible to uphold ‘mainstream-vs-underground’ as a credible dichotomy. Rather, the two seem locked in an expansive, co-dependent dance.
I like to think of Underground and Mainstream as two savvy trading partners, each selling its own unique brand of prestige. Mainstream craves street-cred, gritty reality - authenticity – which only Underground can provide; Underground, in turn, desires institutional acceptance, increased resources, and historical visibility, and these are promised by Mainstream. For better or worse, it is in the moment of exchange between the two where fortunes are made.
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Articles in this issue
- Artrave: Artrave
- Editorial: Editorial
- ETW: Exhibitions to watch
- Feature: 1. Muffled sounds 2. The ear trumpet of the artworld has been struck by lightning
- Feature: Adapt or die
- Feature: Conquest for country: Rockhole or mine
- Feature: Dig it! The Hole in Australian Contemporary Art
- Feature: Hiding in plain sight: regionalism and the underground
- Feature: My own private underground: Discovery and adventure in the zine world
- Feature: Scene, Not Herd: The evanescent underground
- Feature: Seed bomb
- Feature: Steampunk: gunpowder and cups of tea
- Feature: Stop the press: the allure of ink
- Feature: Street dreams
- Feature: The arse-end of public art
- Feature: The Last Share House
- Feature: Thirteen paragraphs on the underground
- Feature: Underground film in Australia
- Feature: Underground networks in the age of web2.0
- Feature: When zines meet archives: above- and below-ground collections
- Interview: How to make trouble and influence people: Pranks, hoaxes, graffiti and political mischef-making from across Australia
- Obituary: Remembering Judith Hoffberg 1934-2009
- Preview: Tim Burton, Filmmaker and artist
- Profile: Renew Adelaide pilot: 2 wheels good
- Review: Adelaide International 2010: Apart, We are Together
- Review: Before and After Science: 2010 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art
- Review: Cubism and Australian Art
- Review: Everything's Alright: Hossein Ghaemi, Andrew Liversidge, Yasmin Smith
- Review: Feminism Never Happened
- Review: Hall of Mirrors: Anne Zahalka Portraits 1987-2007; Aehee Park: Caring for Aehee
- Review: Local Studies: Fiona MacDonald
- Review: Ruth Waller: A 30 Year Survey
- Review: Sculpture By the Sea: Cottesloe
- Review: Sue Lovegrove: The Shape of Wind
- Review: Sylvie Blocher: What is Missing?
- Review: The City of Fremantle Festival of Photography: FotoFreo 2010
- Review: Warm Up: Mike Singe