Cultural Cycles of Attention: Where In Time To Find the Next Big Thing

Cultural Cycles of Attention: Where In Time To Find the Next Big Thing
Arts & Culture
Dan Gould
  • 11 february 2009

Musician and cultural commentator Nick Currie has written a spot-on essay explaining his theory of cultural attention. Similar to the trough theory we posted about yesterday, Currie illustrates how cultural cycles of revival and neglect work, pointing out where in history to look for the next new (old) thing.

He explains a fertile, frontier area of time he calls “The Battlefront”:

The battlefront is the area right at the edge of the goldmine — the place where the acceptable and lucrative revival era meets a time which is currently repressed, neglected, and a-slumber. What’s so interesting about the battlefront is that the process of reassessment is so visible here, and the revaluation is so daringly and consciously done. An elite of taste-leaders and taste-formers unafraid of ridicule are hard at work here, foraging for bargains, bringing an unacceptable era into fresh acceptability. There’s a kind of shuddering repulsion for long-neglected, long-repressed artifacts, and yet something compellingly taboo about them. Their hiddenness makes them fascinating — it’s as if their very sublimation has given these cultural objects some kind of big power over our unconscious. The best curators and fashionistas are to be found at the battlefront, battling for the fascinating-repellant things they find in that twilit zone between acceptability and unacceptability.

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