Bohemia and Creative Industry: From Paris to Broadway

First of all, because of the title of this book, Neo-Bohemia, this song (turn it up!) was stuck in my head the whole time I was reading. It’s a different version than what you might expect…

Last week in class, we talked about cities much in need of a makeover, which were then transformed by arts and culture. We discussed how those cities would attract creative class workers. This week, Lloyd gives us a real-life example of a neighborhood in Chicago that was transformed from a drug-dealing, sparse neighborhood, into a “celebrated center of hip urban culture” (8) complete with bars and bands, coffee shops and art galleries. This transformation of Wicker Park helped young artists to find opportunities to perform, display their art, and get jobs.

I didn’t know what exactly Bohemia even meant. So before reading, I had to look it up. The definition for Bohemia: a district inhabited by persons, typically artists, writers, and intellectuals, whose way of life, dress, etc., are generally unconventional or avant-garde. It also started as a movement in Paris, and spread as a term to generally describe gypsies and beggars. Lloyd writes that “The ideology of bohemian life has been constituted as oppositional to the propertied classes ever since it arose in nineteenth-century Paris” (17). Think Les Mis, but meta, adding artists and musicians to the community of rebels. The stories of these people then inspired Puccini’s La Bohème, which was the original version of the musical Rent (la vie bohème? Yeah, that.)

Lloyd quotes and disagrees with Richard Florida, who writes that in the present time “Bohemia is obsolete because artists no longer feel themselves to be alienated within the current economic order” (18). Lloyd says that the “new Bohemia” is important in entertainment and new media production.

Lloyd also writes about how Wicker Park was used as a location for The Real World reality TV show. This created jobs for local creative industry workers in the area, but also changed the atmosphere of the town, making it (for however brief a time period) a destination, and environment that people would want to visit. The building where the show was filmed used to be a sweatshop. At the time when it was a sweatshop, it provided jobs for people in a different way than the TV show did. With the changing of history and rise of media, the building and the community around it changed each other. As Lloyd says, “Increased movement of artists into the Wicker Park area helped to set the stage for the building’s reanimation as a site of legal enterprise” (29).

Bohemia and Fordism are basically opposites. Fordism described Henry Ford’s ideas about the assembly line before the Great Depression. The Assembly Line “Law” said that productivity could be increased by making labor less creative, hiring workers with less skill, etc. Unlike Bohemian ideas, Fordism was a system of social organization in which rationally organized manufacturing is the dominant economic activity. Large cities housed factories, which were crucial to this mass production. (see pg. 36)

The main problems with Fordism were that 1) People were treated like robots…

2) The factories made so many identical products that the supply exceeded the demand.

            Although we obviously still have factories today, the rise of the creative class is encouraging creativity in the workplace, and creating more jobs where people are doing things like inventing and programming robots, rather than being treated like robots.

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