What is CGRU
CGRU is a collective of ex-Artists seeking to promote Cybernetic Philosophy and Grunge values through criticism and analysis of the dying Art and Culture industries, innovating "post-apocalyptic" alternatives that benefit society by building new forms of community and creative expression. We are largely founded by some poor, trans and disabled Communists and freaks.
What CGRU Does
Primarily, CGRU operates the website cybergrunge.net, a free and open-source website operated for public benefit, which offers a platform for ex-artists and ex-musicians to share their work and connect with others, as well as educational material and applications.
We also build and maintain other private channels for plotting our revenge.
Over the past century the role of art has changed radically many times over. In the "classical" era, the artist was an often destitute and marginalized figure, completely reliant on aristocratic patronage to survive. An "appreciation for the arts" was for a long time in western culture primarily a symbol of class privilege, and as mercantilism transformed into the more mature form of capitalism this signifier of high class became more accessible. In the economic "boom" in the west after the World Wars brought mass media into the reach of millions in the new "middle class" with maturing technologies like radio, and television, recorded music and mass-produced art, the old aristocratic patrons cloistered themselves from this prevalent "low-brow" folk art and mass media, while white collar and eventually blue collar families alike had enough disposable income to foster an unthinkably profitable Culture industry, using consumer choice to not only express their own tastes but to show off their newfound opulence.
Art was then split between the prestigeous "high brow" world of stuffy tax-dodging millionaires and obscurantist academics, and the "low brow" world of pop music and entertainment, blockbuster films, and arts and crafts hobbyists. This split would continue on, but the next significant change, though, came with an increasing affordability of musical instruments, art and craft supplies - the "means of creative production" that would allow the masses to take a more active role in shaping the culture they consumed. These seemingly "democratizing" conditions lead to Rock, Punk, Techno, Hip Hop - genres which were inherently tied to political protest. Most notably was Woodstock, wherein thousands of freaks who had been tricked by the CIA into ingesting hallucinogens for fun attempted to change society for the better by growing their hair out, dancing naked and forming new religions.
This was the era in which art almost seemed to transcend mere commodity - art was seen as a force for good in society, a way for the masses to express themselves through consumption, and valorized as a noble expression of heady truths and authentic emotions. Yet no matter how much the public felt that art was something more, that concerts and t-shirts and vinyl records were a sacrament of the human condition - an industry bound by feduciary responsibility to shareholders under capitalism was still coalescing to extract profits. There was the dawn of record labels, subculture cliques and the birth of the pop superstar. It had a good run, and billions were made by a few, millions by more, but it just wasn't sustainable. As the 90's came and went, echoes of the the so-called "Me Generation" had brought the Ego of an increasingly critical consumer base to a level that was seemingly insatiable, no matter how many fads, marketing gimmicks and gadgets they were given. With a public so increasingly diverse in tastes and opinions, the cracks in the existing model of the Culture industry were beginning to show.
Not only was the average consumer taste far more specified, but the quiet crisis of stagnant wages, inflation, rising housing prices driven by real estate speculation, a massive consumer debt bubble, and increasing wealth inequality were beginning to put a hole in the average American's disposable income. In the context of the underlying economic conditions heading into the 21st century, the public was satiated (or at least distracted well enough) for a while by the increasing availability of a previously little-known technology: a counter-insurgency tool developed to more efficiently kill people in Veitname decades earlier which would soon be given a minor facelift and called the Internet. When combined with the progress that had been made on a related piece of technology known as the Personal Computer - its funding and research origins dating back to the use of punched-card machines used by the Nazi's to keep a tally of Jews and dissidents - a new bull market called the Dotcom Boom would disrupt more than just the stock market.
With the introduction of the internet, we had plenty of changes in the art and music world that aren't really much worth recounting, but we must anyway here: with the digital distribution of music came some rather boring and funny attempts by the legacy culture industry to protect their "intellectual property" and copyrights. It didn't take long, though, for services like Spotify, iTunes, Netflix and Youtube to develop a new model that made music and movie piracy practically obsolete by providing an enormous variety of content at a prices nobody could pass up. This corporate conspiracy to lower prices destroyed record labels and independent musicians overnight. By far the most successful of these new tech companies were Facebook, Amazon and Google, which pioneered the model of offering free or unbeatable prices and recouping lost profits from sales by selling users' personal data in bulk and riding on market speculation to boost stock prices. Another convenient coincidental effect of the "content-aggregation" business was that all of the labor needed to create the content that fuels the platforms is done for free or at the sole expense of the users (the "useds") themselves.
I say these things aren't worth recounting, though, because as much as daily life was supposedly transformed with the internet and smartphones becoming devices used by millions, and soon billions of people, the underlying conditions of the real economy can never be infinitely ignored. The reality was that more and more Americans were staring down a bleak future. Credit cards and mortgages have almost become outdated modes of debt compared to the increasing prevalence of college loan debt, medical debt due to an absurd healthcare system, and the rarely mentioned but massive scale of for-profit policing implementing de facto taxes on the poor and working class by using petty fines and for-profit incarceration to raise revenue for a State beholden to corporate interests and thus unable to do anything but lower taxes on the rich and print money to dump into the stock market.
As much as we would like to hope, there is no other way things could have gone, and our future is sealed. Why? Because all of this has taken place not because of some greedy individuals, not because of an incompetent regulatory state. What allowed all of this to happen is a single financial instrument, the foundational structure of Capitalism itself: the Corporation, a legal entity with a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits for its shareholders. There can be no "ethical" corporation, no "ethical" capitalism, no meaningful "reform" or debate. So long as our governments grants articles of incorporation and require profits be delivered to shareholders, Corporations will do as they are required by law: to suck the wealth out of the entire economy and put it into the hands of a few. What are artists to do as the world burns, as the air gets harder to breathe, as the water gets darker and more toxic, as bombs rain down, as each day becomes harder, more filled with fear, as a rage builds in everyone around us, unable to understand why this is all happening or how to stop it, as we watch an abstract notion, a figment of the human imagination, something we ourselves created, consumes us all? What are artists to do?