“BEING UNDERGROUND”: A DEAD CONCEPT

BY SANZA BULAYA, TRANSLATION BY CORALINE CHUANG

 

I am polishing this article right after the so-called “big” boxing fight between the boxing legend Floyd Mayweather and his very unique challenger Conor McGregor, who is the best in his discipline the Mix Martial Arts (MMA). Many have expected this fight because it sheds the light on the difference between English boxing as the “noble art”, versus MMA – the growing sensation in martial arts entertainment business. In my opinion, English boxing requires different things that sets it apart: passion, courage, commitment, strategy and a bit of “composition.” Yes, I said it: “composition”. I’m just quoted the defeated MMA champion McGregor who declared after his loss: “Floyd Mayweather wasn’t really that fast or powerful, but he was very composed”. In this fight, the underdog fighter acknowledges that the key quality of the undefeated Mayweather was “composition”. A great lesson learnt that comes after fifty professional fights as a professional. It comes with no surprise that the outcome of this “show” was the loss of the underdog. Whatever the amount of talent you have, if you don’t go through a process of maturing your art, it is more than a challenge to meet-up with success.

I see this situation as a persistent trend in many fields outside of boxing when you have someone challenging himself, or challenging his peers or proposing some new ways of doing things. The outcome always comes with no surprise when one spent time on dedication to craft skills, develop self-confidence and patiently grow experience until the moment comes when you have the opportunity to show your talent: to show how “composed” you are or you could be.

“I took the early rounds pretty handily,” McGregor said on his post fight interview. “He had to change his style, and fair play to him, he adjusted, he changed his style — put his hands up and moved forward. He’s composed. He’s not that fast, he’s not that powerful, but boy was he composed in there.”

在人們稱”大型”拳擊賽的傳奇裡, 弗洛伊德·梅威瑟(Floyd Mayweather)與他彼此間非常獨特的挑戰者麥克格雷戈(McGregor) – 他們是綜合格鬥(Mix Martial Arts 簡稱MMA)世界的佼佼者,在開始前我要先以他們的故事來拋光以下我將要述說的故事。很多人都期待這場決鬥, 在武術娛樂業持續增長的知覺下,它揭示了在英國拳擊貴族藝術中與綜合格鬥之間的差異性。在我看來,英國拳擊需要不同的戰略等等將之所組成為一塊: 激情,勇氣,承諾,以及一些”構成(塑造)”, 是的! 我說的是”構成”。我剛才引述的是在比賽中失敗的前冠軍者麥格雷戈在他輸了獎盃後曾說過: ”弗洛伊德·梅威瑟他並不是個動作很敏捷或者強大的對手,但他是很有”戰略組合”的對手。在這場戰鬥中, 失敗的戰士承認, 梅威瑟能贏勝利的主要關鍵是”戰略組合”。在專業的訓練並經過50場比賽後他學會了一門相當重要的課程。毫不奇怪地, 在這個”決鬥”中結果輸的是那條失敗的狗。無論你有多少才華, 如果你不去經歷那些熟練自己技藝的過程,那成功這個字彙將僅僅不只是一個挑戰如此簡單就能達到而已。

我認為在拳擊賽中許多其他領域也都呈現出這樣的趨勢,當你有挑戰對手的時候, 或挑戰你同等之人或提出新的行事方法時, 結果總是不會令人太訝異,當某一個人花費很多時間與精力致力於茁壯他的工藝技能, 發展自信,耐心以及成長經驗, 一直到哪天你有機會去展示自我天賦的時刻到來: 展示給世人們看看你是否或者能夠地如何去將”自我塑造”。

麥格雷戈在比賽後接受採訪時表示:”我很熟練地輕易拿下第一回合”。”但他不得不去改變自己的風格並且來進行場公平的競賽, 他做了些調整, 改變了風格─ 舉起雙手向前。他重新組合了自我。他並不是那麼迅速敏捷,也不是那麼強大, 但可以這麼說,有一位重新構成的男孩在他身體裡面成長了。

Nowadays, things are different. You can come out from nowhere and being an accepted challenger, performer or artist. It doesn’t matter now if you are not experienced because the key factors of passion, courage, commitment and strategy are out of discussion. In the old days – not so far from now actually – to develop yourself you needed to be first in the shadow by “being underground”. Being “underground” was a reference, a label of quality and “composition” (according to the “composed” definition used by McGregor after the fight with Mayweather). In fact, “being underground” or “underground” could be many things, so let’s spend a moment to define it precisely.

Firstly, “underground” is a stage in the development process. In music for example, “being underground” means spending some time to make your music: to train yourself as an artist and to meet, influence and grow your audience. It’s a moment in the development process when you show your commitment because the only rewards you get out there are: self-confidence and authenticity. You sound authentic because you connect directly to people touched by your art. Many bands or artists use that key moment to build-up fame and success. Going through “underground” in the art development process is a guarantee of authenticity and credit. In my opinion, it is a critical foundation in the development process. Someone like Malcom Gladwell referred to it in his “10,000 hours rule” in Outliers, and someone like Tom Rath touched base upon “developing strength” in “Strengths Finder”.

Secondly, “underground” is also a genre. By way of simplicity, “being underground” also means being independent and accessible for a dedicated audience. Most of the time, “underground” conveys a sense of belonging to a community of people that share the same passions, interests, lifestyles, causes, etc.… “Graffiti” has been for long time an “underground” art for the unprivileged urban communities, until it has been being named as “street art” and sold for millions by the most respected art auction houses to savvy art lovers and investors. For people making money out of it, it has something unique because it is “underground”. It’s a genre: it speaks about being anti-conformist. No doubt, it is a statement to call for non-mainstream affiliation. Therefore, in art this is obviously a hot trend/genre when we refer to “street art”, same in fashion design, this is also a driving force when you see the styles inspirations and influences coming from the streets.

Finally and most importantly, “underground” is a dedicated place. Literally, it means something or someone situated beneath the surface of the ground. Not a big secret here, so let’s put it this way: the ground is everything you can see or perceive. Now, everything that happened underneath is different… The human nature has been being always attracted by the secrecy, the fantasies we make when we don’t really know what is happening. However, for people in charge of maintaining or creating order, “underground” forces have always been a threat to the exposed world – the world exposed to the light. The secret societies like the “Freemasons”, the “Illuminati”, the “Skulls and the Bones” – just to mention a few – started to gather members in places where you cannot be seen. This “underground” concept plays a key role to understand what it is to be qualified as an “underground” group, artist, or movement. As a result of this terminology evolution overtime, today we talk about “culture” as opposed to “subculture” in sociology in order to distinguish few people from a larger group of people… Here we are, it is an extension of this special viewpoint of “being underground” that has shaped culture and has affected modern sociology.

現在的時代已經不一樣了。你可以從一個默默無名的人,搖身一變,變成一位受大家所接受地表演者或者藝術家。跟你有無經驗其實沒太大的關係。因為在以前重要的關鍵因素裡像是激情,勇氣,承諾和策略這些大家早就拋之腦後了。在過去 – 時間點實際上離現在不遠處 – 當你要發展自我,你必須先受”地下社會文化”的陰晦洗禮。”地下社會”它曾是一個代表, 一個”塑造組合”的本領標籤 (這話是根據麥克格雷戈在比賽中敗筆梅威瑟後的採訪中所定義的”組成(composed)”的意涵)。事實上,”當身處在地下社會文化”或”地下文化本身”它可以代表很多事情,所以讓我們來花點時間精確地來定義地下文化這個詞彙。

首先,“地下/反主流)”是一個發展過程中的階段。在音樂方面來舉例,”身處地下社會”意味著花費時間來創作你的音樂:訓練自己成為一個藝術家,並且去滿足,影響跟增加你的觀眾群。當你展現出你對於自我的承諾時,這將代表著開發過程中的一個重要的時刻, 因為你得到的唯一收穫是:自信心以及真實(真切)性。因為聽過你創作的群眾會因你的真切而備受感動。許多樂團以及藝術家都利用這個關鍵的時刻來建立名望與成功。在藝術過程的發展中,經過”地下文化”的巡禮便是一個朝向真實真切與成功的保證道路。在我看來,這是發展過程的最關鍵基礎。像是作家麥爾坎·葛拉威爾(Malcom Gladwell)曾在他10,000小時的理論裡提及此基礎, 並且像是作家湯姆·銳斯(Tom Rath)這樣的人物,他藉著開發自我內在的力量來作為尋找策略之基礎。

第二,”反主流”它也是一種風格。透過真切地”身處地下”代表著獨立性以及對同樣概念的觀眾群提供一個抒發管道。大多數時候,“反主流”對某些團體它傳達了一種歸屬(認同)感,他們共享激情,興趣,生活方式,理想等等因素…對於較弱勢的社區團體來說,塗鴉長期以來一直是一種地下藝術,一直到它被命名為”街頭藝術”後才開始被重視跟尊敬,有些作品並以數百萬元的價錢在藝術拍賣會上售給那些懂得藝術的投資者以及收藏家所購買。對於以此為生的人來說,它是具有獨特之處因為它是一種”反主流”的精神,它是一個流派:它述說著反守舊派的故事。毫無疑問地,這是一種對非主流歸屬的口號。在藝術界中,當我們提及”街頭藝術”時,它絕對是一種新浪潮,在時尚設計界裡它也是一種推動力,你會體會各種設計風格以及那些來自街頭文化影響所產生的靈感。

最後,最重要的是,”地下”是一種專門指向的地方。實際上,它代表著位於表面之下的某種人事物。這並不是一個多大的秘密,我們這麼說好了:表面是你看得到也察覺到的一個空間。但是現在,所有表面之下發生的一切是多麼地不同…人類一直被他們所不知道的祕密深深吸引著,當我們不確定發生什麼事情的時候我們會對其產生幻想。但是,對於致力維護或者創造社會秩序的人來說,”地下文化”這種勢力一直是種曝露在世界上的威脅,一個存在於光明底下的世界。如同某些秘密團體像是共濟會(Freemasons),光明會(Illuminati),以及骷髏會(Skull and Bones) -又稱「優羅嘉俱樂部」(The Eulogian Club),在這先提及一些 – 這些秘密團體開始在你看不見的地方召集會員。這個”地下”的概念發起了一個關鍵的作用,讓人們去了解並且被認同誰有資格成為”地下”社會的一環,或者藝術家,或者是政治思想的運動。今天,我們談論社會學中的文化以及”亞文化(subculture)”,為了從一大群人中區分出某些族群…講到這,這是”地下”這一特殊觀點的延伸,它演變成現代文化並且也影響了現代社會學。

From these three fundamental aspects, we comprehend more what is the event(s) behind “underground” movements. As I was born in the 80’s, some “underground” movements marked my childhood like rap and graffiti. At school, we were taught about some History “underground” movements that influenced the course of History and also impacted the course of our stories: the Resistance movement during WWII that contributed to defeat Nazism, African and Latin-American guerilla movements that supported the decolonization process against western powers… The more I see it now, the more I regard “underground” as an awareness and a resistance to a mainstream way of thinking that is rampant in society: in music, cinema, literature, fashion, design, politics, culture. For those who resist to the formatted model, they accept to go one level down “under the ground” to live, experience, create their own inspirations and their own rules. Philosophically speaking, it’s a relevant debate to question the values and the lifestyle alignment at society level, but this is not my attempt here. Economically speaking, I guess there is no debate: the outcome is quite straightforward. Judging by the art business development for “street art” for instance, “being underground” is clearly an economic awareness with no resistance. That being said, if we now talk more about “subculture” than “underground”, everyone will understand what is at stake. In other words: does that mean that “being underground” is a dead concept in this millennium?

My Facebook and my Instagram feeds have fascinated me prior and after the fight between Mayweather and McGregor. Many of my “friends” (I call them friends according to Facebook terminology guidance) have become boxing lovers/experts and posted many comments about the fight. Some of them even made some screen captures to share with their “friends” the status of the fight and to show some support to their favorite champions. Boxing “expertise” was born in few days, faster than what it took for McGregor to train for that fight. However, it was the same outcome: with no surprise, my “friends” lost their independent judgment to assess the fight quality, the boxers preparation and obviously their respective experience… I don’t only blame my “friends” because this is something happening in the social media networks: the new mass media controlling power. I blame mass media power that made up the fight and the fighters. Let me explain myself, everyone knows what was the main motive of this fight: a great opportunity to make a lot of money. Indeed, it was not really a sport challenge as we could expect from the great values of boxing also known as the “noble art”. Why so much excitement around this fight? For a very simple reason: the revenues generated from the fight will set a record-high in boxing entertainment business. At the end of the day, what makes this boxing fight profitable in terms of revenues is how many sponsors will cover the broadcasting, how many people will buy the pa-per-view package to follow the fight. Somehow, from a quantitative point of view: size matters to make money. The more people follow the fight, the more revenue the organizers will make. Now, if you try to apply this quantitative concept to “being underground” you will be surprised. What I meant here is, if you think of some of your favorite “underground” movements you realize that size matters. “Underground” is something that grows from little and more often from the scratch in terms of passion, energies, vibes, and recognition. To start with, “underground” is related to something modest in terms of size. For example, when you are a “mainstream” artist you are promoted by the establishment and it could be big media, big corporations, institutions, big productions houses or big studios if you do music or cinema to promote you. However, for the “underground” scene it is the opposite. There is a form of humbleness when you are part of the “underground” community. There is not necessarily a straightforward incentive to be popular or famous. I guess there is more a sense of being recognized because of pure talent and “composition”. That’s the reason why some artists try not to be over promoted to keep some close ties with reality which means: safekeeping authentic values, feeling the audience, being aware of consumerism and finding a good balance between living out of art and not being only a product…

從這三個基本方面來說,我們了解了更多關於”地下”社會,政治,思想運動背後的故事是什麼。我出生在80年代,有一些”地下”運動代表了我的成長童年,像是嘻哈,饒舌和塗鴉。在學校裡,老師教了我們一些有關於”地下”運動影響了歷史進程的故事:在二戰期間的抵抗運動(Resistance Movement)有助於打敗了納粹主義,以及支持對西方強國的非移民進化過程的非洲和拉丁美洲的游擊運動(Guerilla Movements)…我看得越多,我越認為”地下”它但表著一種意識,並且抵制在這個社會上猖獗蔓延的主流思維方式:例如在音樂,電影,書籍,時尚,設計,政治,文化等方面。對於那些抵制生活在格式化模式下的人來說,他們願意將自我蹲低並且接受”地下的存在”,去生活,體驗,創造靈感以及自己的規則。在哲學上面來講,這是對於社會層面的生活方式以及質疑價值觀的相對辯論題,但這並不是我在這裡想要說的。從經濟學上面來看,我在猜這已經是場辯論賽了,而且結果其實非常的明白了當。以”街頭藝術”來說為藝術發展為例,”身處地下”顯然是一種不具有抵抗力的經濟意識。話雖如此,如果我們現在來談論更多的”亞文化”而不是”地下文化”,我想每個人都會明白這兩者間的利害關係。那麼,這是否意味著”身處地下”在千禧年代中已經成為了一種死亡狀態的概念呢?

自從梅威瑟和麥格雷戈的決鬥後,我在臉書上和Instagram上看到的圖片都令我著迷。我的許多”朋友”(我稱呼他們為朋友是根據臉書的社交術語指導)他們已經成為拳擊愛好者/專家並且對決鬥發表他們自己的看法。其中甚至有一些人他們使用手機擷取視頻並與他們的”朋友”分享戰鬥狀態,並且對他們最喜愛的冠軍給予一些支持。以拳擊作為”專業”這才剛誕生不久,比麥格雷戈在這場戰鬥的訓練期還來的更快。然而,還是同樣的結果:毫不奇怪地,我的朋友們失去了他們自己獨立的判斷能力來評估這場戰鬥的性質,冠軍所做的準備以及顯然他們各自的經驗…我不僅只責怪我的”朋友”因為這是在社交媒體網路上常發生的事情,新媒體掌握控制的權力。我責怪的是大眾媒體的力量塑造這些戰鬥與戰士。讓我來解釋一下,大家都曉得這場戰鬥的主要動機是什麼:它是一個很大的機會可讓你賺進大把的鈔票。實際上,這不是真正的體育競賽,正如我們可以從拳擊強大的價值中發現,同時也稱它為高貴的藝術。為什麼大家對比賽會這麼興奮呢? 原因很簡單:從比賽中所產生的收入將在拳擊娛樂事業裡面創下歷史性的新高點。在一天結束的時候,這場拳擊賽是有利可圖的,在收入方面來說,有非常多的贊助商會來投資並且推廣,想想看會有多少人會購買每次付費收看節目(pa-per-view 簡稱PPV)的整套節目來跟隨比賽的發展。換句話說,從數量上來看:多多少少都還是要賺錢的。越多的人跟隨比賽,組織者的相對收入就越高。現在,如果你試圖把這個量化概念應用到”身處地下”你會很訝異地,我的意思是,如果你想到一些你最喜歡的”地下”運動,你會意識到才幹(謙虛)很重要。”地下”是從最小開始培養,從這方面來看它具有更多的激情,能量,氛圍和認可。首先,”地下”,是才幹與謙虛並肩。例如,當你是”主流”的藝術家時,如果你是音樂人或拍電影的,你是由各個企業做為後盾,它可以是大型的媒體,大型的公司,機構,大型的製作節目公司或者大型工作室。然而,對於”地下”的背景則是完全相反地情況。

In this millennium, I believe that this mindset is no longer in fashion: the number of likes, the number of followers, the number of friends… We value more quantity over quality, which makes “being underground” less profitable business wise generally speaking. Sometimes, in some specific situations or in certain businesses like “street art” art business, it’s “cool” and “economically” viable to be “underground” because it’s just a marketing strategy. You can call it positioning, segmentation, picking a niche to market an artist or a intellectual production as a product remains the only way “underground” has survived. The current trend is to soften people and their way of thinking: it’s then called a “subculture” because implicitly, the main culture has become the norm… It’s quite sad to see how things have changed and make the “underground” concept dying. Music industry is a key example. I recall the French DJ David Guetta who is the best example of this irresistible trend. DJs used to be listened to because they could capture the best music vibes to be turned it into something unheard that could electrify a party or they could just mix different soundtracks, artists, and genre to re-create new color shades for music. The DJ-ing world used to be an “underground” scene although some DJs got their fame. With David Guetta, for good or bad I let you choose, we entered into something different. In 2003, Guetta and his wife released their first album called: “F**k Me I’m Famous”. The title of the album is a great translation of what is the air in this new millennium as far as “being underground” is concerned. It is outdated, people want fame: this is how they value, quantify and regard success. The French DJ positioned himself as such and has been being one of the most famous DJ in the world making a lot of revenues. Does that means that his work is better than an “underground” DJ? Who are we to answer that question? I think we are just creativity lovers who put a premium to appreciate the developing process of an artwork or a creation. We appreciate a genre because of its authenticity and sometimes, we do also look at creativity space wise: from where has this creativity process grown to touch and talk to us?

 

To be honest, I think “being underground” is dying from so many aspects because we are giving up. We collectively lack of passion, courage, commitment, and strategy to keep up and develop the “underground” scene. Technology is definitely a game changer: the Internet, the social media, the instantaneous connectivity, make us more passive in searching for ways to resist to the mainstream. Resistance is not an ultimate goal, it is just a state of mind when you are aware of what is offered and you take a personal call to assess you affiliation to a community or a group of people. Some says that in 1968, Andy Warhol probably said his celebrated “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” line:

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

當你是”地下”社群的一部份時你會有一種謙虛的態度。你的動機不一定是直接想成為帶動流行的人或者成名聲望。因為有純粹的想法在人與人之間”塑造/構成”,因為如此,我想在那裡或許有更多被認同的感覺。這就是為什麼有一些藝術家他們不過分推崇自己的原因,他們與現實接近,意味著:保持真實真切的價值觀,感動觀眾,意識到消費主義,並且找到一個良好的平衡點,人們雖然是由外在觀看藝術,但它能讓我們看到的卻不僅僅是一個單調的產品而已。

在這個千禧年,我相信這種心態已經不存在於時尚界:按讚的人數,追蹤你的人數,社交媒體上你有多少朋友…我們重視數量大於質量,這使得在”身處地下世界”裡的行業獲得的利潤相對較低。或者有時候在某些具體情況下,或者像是”街頭藝術”的藝術企業底下的行業,它”很酷”而且”在經濟上”是可並存於”地下世界”因為他被作為一項營銷策略。你可以稱之為將產品打入市場,或者分割,挑選一個藝術家為這個產品的利基來作為的營銷手段,或者作為產品的智力生產線,只有用這樣的方式才能讓”地下”作為它的唯一途徑而生存下來。目前的人們太軟弱以及他們的思維方式: 因為它隱含的背景所以它被稱為”亞文化”,主要文化允許為這個利基產品而為之提供了市場…看到事情如何轉變實在是令人難過的事情,並使得”地下”這個概念枯萎殆盡。從音樂產業來看是一個關鍵的例子。我記得法國DJ大衛·庫塔(David Guetta)它是這個不可抗拒的趨勢裡面最好的例子。我們以前聽DJ放歌因為他們可以捕捉到最好的音樂以及創造氛圍,把它變成一種你從沒體驗過的音樂旅行並且來一場電音派對,或者他們可以混音不同的曲目,藝術家和不同的音樂風格,來為新誕生的作品填上一筆好玩的色彩。DJ世界曾經是一個”地下”的世界,雖然有些DJ很有名氣。提及大衛·庫塔,不管好或壞我讓你們自己選擇,我們現在正在進入不同的階段。2003年, 庫塔和他的妻子發行了他們的第一張專輯:“F**k Me I’m Famous”。就”身處地下世界”而言,在這個千禧年中的氣息,這張專輯的標題就是一個很好的翻譯。它很過時,人們想要成名:這是他們重視的東西並且將之量化且視為成功的目標。法國DJ將自己定位在一直是最有名氣的人物之一,以及當一位流行DJ他在世界上可以賺取很多的收入。這是否意味著他的作品比”地下的”DJ來的更好呢? 我們該作為怎樣的角色來回答這個問題? 我認為我們只是創造性的愛好者,以優質的方式來欣賞藝術品或者創作的過程,我們會因為某一類型的風格所釋放的真切(真實)性而備受感動 ,有時候,我們看待具有創造力的空間:在這個創意過程中我們可以感覺到它與我們內心的談話越來越近。

老實說,我認為”身處地下社會”這個觀點在多方面正慢慢消失,因為我們放棄了。我們的群體缺乏激情,勇氣,承諾以及策略來跟上並拓展”地下”的場景。技術它絕對是改變遊戲的規則的一個癥結點:網路,社交媒體,瞬時連接,這些使得我們更加被動地去尋求抵制主流的途徑。抵抗不是我們最終的目標,這只是一種當你知道他們提供的是什麼的時候,並且以你個人觀點去評估你隸屬於一個社區或者另一群人。在1968年有些人說, 安迪·沃霍爾(Andy Warhol)可能說過他著名的一句話”十五分鐘的名望”:

“於未來,每個人都將成為世界聞名的十五分鐘。”

This celebrated quote led to the concept of “15 minutes of fame”: the idea that celebrity will almost always be fleeting therefore everyone has to search for it at any cost. For that reason, I also think that “underground” as a concept is dying. Honestly, I miss those moments where we used to gather as a group or a community for something meaningful on our own terms. “Underground” was not that bad, it gave birth to some on the most fascinating trends in art, fashion and even politics. “Being underground” is a philosophy: it’s mystic, it’s powerful, and it’s about nor forgetting that we are alive.

這句著名的引用導向”十五分鐘的名望”的概念:名人幾乎總是短暫的來來去去,所以每個人都想不惜一切以任何代價永遠地去索取世界聞名的那個十五分鐘。因此,”地下”這個概念正在枯萎殆盡。我想念以前那些時刻,在那時,人們曾經因為要去做一些他們認同有意義的事情而讓一群人或者社區團結聚集在一起。”地下”並不是那麼地糟糕,它成為了藝術,時尚甚至政治上最引人入勝的趨勢。”身處底地下世界”它本身是一種哲學:它是神祕的,強大的,而且它還依然存在在這地表之下。