The Wire

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In Writing

The Portal: Mississippi Records's Eric Isaacson

May 2013

The reissue label boss (featured in The Wire 352) introduces us to his selection of underfunded independent cultural institutions: "Bear in mind I rarely surf the net for anything beyond movie showing times. Still, I happen to know these organisations are worth keeping an eye out for."

Sahel Sounds
Chris Kirkley's travelogue is an example of amateur but passionate ethnomusicology at its finest. Chris is posting evidence of the world’s real avant garde of folk and pop music and art – such as scenes in Africa that are mutating so fast that if you blink, you miss a whole evolutionary cycle. Chris scrapes together enough change under his couch to fly to Africa and works with hardly any budget once there.

Global Jukebox (Association For Cultural Equity)
This is the Alan Lomax archives site dedicated to showing the most utopian aspects of Lomax's vision. Their goal is to make as much cultural artefacts that are in danger of being lost, available for free. Lomax felt many important cultures were in danger of being silenced in the face of the media industry. He understood that the folks developing technology, more than anyone else, were shaping culture. This was a screwed-up situation, as the planet’s poorest people could contribute to that culture, but didn't have access to the technology. This is more true today than ever. Only two out of the seven billion people on Earth are online, and you can bet that the remaining five billion are the poorest. But it's always the poorest folks who create the best art. This website is trying to create a place where endangered minority cultures can have a voice. Because the Association doesn't use Lomax's legacy for crass commercial purposes, this important work is criminally underfunded. I suspect these guys work ten hours for every hour they actually pay themselves for.

Portland Museum Of Modern Art
Don't let the fancy name fool you. This is a folk art museum operating out of a basement. Libby Werbel, who runs the museum, funds the whole thing from the tips she makes as a waitress. Still, they manage to show major works by the likes of Bruce Conner, Fred Tomaselli, Chris Johanson, Sonny Smith, Johanna Jackson, Mingering MIke, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, The Philadelphia Wire Man and many others.

Zen Mafia Tumblr (NSFW)
I don't understand this site but it’s one of those car wrecks you can't turn away from. It might be the most apocalyptic thing on the Internet. As I understand it, a bunch of artists in LA are doing high concept internet searches and posting the results as examples of folk art. This site could, unfortunately, be the model for what contemporary folk art galleries will be in the future. It's really uncomfortable to look at. God, have mercy on all of our souls.

Sound American magazine
Online magazine covering fringe music from the present and the past. There is no commercial support behind this whatsoever, just obsessive love.

WFMU Radio
A station of major cultural importance that somehow manages to stay on the air, come hell or high water. Featuring a well-curated selection of shows, it stays free for the people, without commercial interruption. This is proof that we can entertain ourselves without the help of commercial sponsorship.