Houdinis of Bewilderland

Creative Escapology in the Age of Austerity

by Kevan Manwaring

This article was written as a commission for the Doggerland journal –  to make it more web-friendly, I will serialize it here in digestible extracts. It’s initial title was ‘Prepping for the Art-apocalypse: creative survival in the Age of Austerity’ but I decided that just fed into the current Neoliberalist, survival-of-the-fittest, paradigm and its predilection for ‘disaster-porn’. I want to offer a more  positive approach, although the question I started it with still stands:

In an era of philistine-funding cuts in the arts, corporate-controlled channels of consumerism, and a fear-fuelled conservatism in commissioning and programming, what strategies are available to us to foster artistic survival?


Part One

Welcome to the Smeuse-House

The whole is made up of holes. We stitch together our rags and tatters and make something out of nothing. Slowly the picture emerges. Metonymically, to the arrhythmia of the new fin de siècle. Fragments are offered. And we make of them what we will, piecing together a narrative of (all)sorts. The future archivist looks back and sees the crumb-trail, the pioneering projects, the unseen visionaries, the coteries and communities, the salvage-culture sculptors, apocalypso bands, escape artists of an imploding neoliberalism. Those who have found the gap in the hedge and wriggled through. Houdinis of Bewilderland, the artists and poets who wander amongst the ruins of the failed project of civilisation and etch broken songs onto singed codices.

Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 2016

Next: Rhizomes with a View

This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:  http://www.doggerland.info/doggershop

Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.




3 thoughts on “Houdinis of Bewilderland

  1. firespringsfolktales

    It has to be a yes. We trapped, curtailed, stifled and blocked by so much in our commercialised, capitalised culture that there is no choice but to go under it, over it – through it. It’s the hard way. But. If you want creativity to speak to what’s inside you, and to your communities, perhaps it’s also the only way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nimue Brown

    Reblogged this on Druid Life and commented:
    This post is the beginning of a much longer adventure, so do have a look and if looking liking, keep reading. There’s a lot here I found resonant, and that echoes a lot of my own feelings and intentions, although I don’t really have my thoughts about creativity and society in anything like this coherent an array, as yet. In face of all the things out there that are difficult, painful, and just plain wrong, we need hope. This is a series of blogs that are all about how we find and develop hopeful, viable ways of being. Enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person


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