Living and booking house shows in Boston for several years was a good primer for the inherent difficulty and bullshit that will always be part of autonomous, self-determined cultural organizing: authorities want to shut you down, there are never enough resources to make things happen, people just burn out. It happens everywhere because the capitalist mess of a society that we live in wants us to fail if we care more about people, art, and ideas than profit and bottom lines.
In alternative cultural spheres we’re conditioned to feel like institutions are inherently bad, because as they stand, a lot of them are. But some institutions can be really important, especially when they create truly sustainable, accessible, safer spaces and/or generation-spanning platforms for sharing collective knowledge and energy. Of course, institutions will always need to be interrogated and sometimes destroyed. But we also need to build better ones from scratch in order to foster better futures.
The Silent Barn, the all-ages collective art space where I live and work in Brooklyn with about 100 of my closest friends, is one type of creative response; an answer to the trying times that art and activism currently face, where the pressures of utter commercialism seem inescapable. Sometimes it feels like one big collective push against it all, one big collective pull to open up space where it didn’t exist before. The Barn has been going in various forms for about ten years, and is unique in its attempts to channel the spirit of DIY into something lasting; in 2013, the project signed onto a ten-year lease.
On Sept. 25, the Barn suffered a bad fire that left the building severely damaged (mostly due to flooding throughout all levels of the building). All twelve of us who live there are displaced indefinitely, and multiple residents lost everything. Community support poured out on the internet. To be clear, the Silent Barn is insured, so while our rebuilding costs should eventually be reimbursed, our residents’ personal losses are not covered. We won’t be having any shows for about a month, and every day that we are not open, we are losing income, putting our sustainability at risk. We need donations right now, but in truth, spaces like Silent Barn always need donations; community projects always need community support.
The Silent Barn sends love and gratitude to our Boston fam and all folks who are organizing and playing fundraisers; thanks for your support and we hope to see you soon <3 –Liz Pelly of Silent Barn