Random Acts of Culture: Reclaiming Art and Culture in the 21st Century
Between the Lines Press. Toronto: 2010. 282 pages.
Making a radical analysis of cultural life from pre-history to the present, this book draws new conclusions, showing how the present nature of cultural activities is determined by historically recent economic patterns that undermine the social and democratic nature of the arts. It examines how literacy, imperialism, industrialization, and electronic technologies have coalesced to produce a new category of participant in cultural affairs: the spectator. It proposes, as an antidote, “vernacular culture,” modern practices that have as their model the very different role that the arts played in the past and still play in Eastern, African and other less industrialized countries, in which whole communities participate directly in performances and where cultural activity is not an artificial ritualized oasis outside normal life, but an essential part of everyday experience.
“This is a pioneering book. Contemporary societies lack, and badly need, an understanding of that part of culture that people make for themselves. Clarke Mackey brings this often invisible realm and its history into clear view. His book will help everyone who wants to think about the future of culture.”
—David Cayley, producer of CBC Radio’s Ideas and author of The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich
“The Art Cognoscenti avoid inviting bulls into their china temple. Here is a big bull, filled with research and reason, bellowing with radical creativity.”
—John Fox, Fellow, Creative and Performing Arts, Lancaster University (UK), and co-founder of Welfare State International
“Clarke Mackey moves with panache from personal perspective into a bold interdisciplinary account of why art is the way it is in our present-day society, and how it could—and why it should—be otherwise.”
—Ruth Howard, Artistic Director, Jumblies Theatre, Toronto
“The world is falling apart. In the emergency, we can learn from the past, but we cannot go back in history. It is time to come with new ideas. That is exactly what Clarke Mackey does with great creativity in this book – inviting us to discover the new world within each of us, and to recover the capacity to be surprised by the child and the artist we all carry within our adult, consumerist, alienated selves.”
—Gustavo Esteva, Zapatista advisor, negotiator and activist, and author of Grassroots Post-Modernism.