The navigatorium: where to first?

Editor James Littlewood on the business of culture and the role of TBI

Share

Here at TBI we’ve been kicking around some strategic questions. Just the usual stuff: who are we; where are we; where are we going, kind of thing. I’m telling you this for two reasons. First, because it’s pointless doing this in a bubble. So please: go ahead and share. Second, a couple of stories fell over this week so … who needs to lie in bed on the weekend anyway?

Our hunches and most of our numbers suggest that if you’re reading TBI you’re likely to have been looking for creative work at some time, and that brought you to us. Helping people work in the arts has been our mainstay from the get go. Or you may have registered with us in order to promote a creative project, which in a sense is the same thing: looking for an audience is looking for work. And I guess the rest of you just can’t get enough about art. We love you all. And if I missed anyone, please let me know.

I’ve been wanting to say we don’t do critical content ... It’s true that we don’t do reviews (for now, at least). But the best critical writing doesn’t judge: it educates. It helps audiences - and sometimes, practitioners - to understand where creative work comes from, how it works and where it’s going. 

You might possibly have read in recent times that the media business is changing, ever so slightly. To say we run on the smell of an oily rag is unfair: we yearn for a nice oily rag. Keeping the machine running soaks up all we have. Partly for this reason, we’re heavily reliant on supplied content. If you’ve read a Soapbox or an Advice to My 22 Year Old Self lately, the chances are it’s been written by someone for nix.

You might think that’s a bit rich, given we’re about jobs in the arts. Fair call. But our predecessors (who we really can’t thank enough: more on that later) have attracted enough of you to give us all some clout. This month, over 30,000 people will visit the site. 20,000 people will receive bulletins. And roughly the same number will catch us on social media. Whatever else we might do, we’re not turning people away.

All of which means: tell us your story. By all means, send us a presser. Especially your shortest version! I’ve learned that clearing the editor inbox is a task best batch-processed, so be brutal: what, when, who. We might assign someone to cover your event. But that’s pretty rare. More likely, we’ll consult our panel of expert judges (who sit on mountain tops sipping ambrosia), and if they like it, we’ll work with you to build up a story. The point is not to recycle your PR. But to build context and knowledge around what you’re doing.

I’ve been wanting to say we don’t do critical content. But in a sense, that’s not true. It’s true that we don’t do reviews (for now, at least). But the best critical writing doesn’t judge: it educates. It helps audiences - and sometimes, practitioners - to understand where creative work comes from, how it works and where it’s going. 

What are we looking for, exactly? I wish I could say. “We know it when we see it” always bugs me. So, generally, my main priority is diversity. For the time being, we’re exploring art and creativity in its broadest context. This is no time for the monochrome world of a dominant culture. What is diversity? It’s you. And us. And them: those ones we can’t yet see, don’t yet know, can’t quite make out. We want you all (hey, we can’t cover everything, but we surely won’t if we don’t know).

Diversity is also about region, and we’ve got some moves afoot to address this which will become evident in the coming days and weeks.

And sectors. We do a lot of performance here at TBI. And a fair bit of visual art. Not much literature, which is a crime. And - considering the professional reality of many creatives - we should probably do more about commercial creativity: the A word.

In other news: how’s your weekend, and the week ahead? From Thursday, TBI will be at Semi Permanent, so please come and say hi if you’re around. Self-plug: also in Auckland, I’m looking forward to this Sunday night’s heat for the Going West Poetry Slam at Ellen Melville Centre. The word ninjas get a workout from Manukau Institute of Technology’s performance poetry specialist Carrie Rudzinski at six, and then go up against each other for a spot in the final. Can’t wait!

Written by

James Littlewood

4 Aug 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo supplied.
Story
The PM and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage calls for art for the many, not the few.
Photo by Elijah O'Donnel on Unsplash
Story
In the age of ubiquitous reviews, what the hell’s happened to the arts critic? Vanessa Zigliani demands an answer.
Semi Permanent
Story
Editor James Littlewood and Designer Chrissy Irvine bring you the best of Semi Permanent. Join us, and use TBI's code: SP18xTBI.
Photo: Tobias Keller via Unsplash
Story
TBI editor James Littlewood makes the case for artists to lead on climate discourse