In 2004, Grant C. Dull saw it as his challenge to make Buenos Aires’ sub-cultural art scene public and founded the urban life and arts guide What’s Up Buenos Aires (WUBA). Four years later ZZK Records was formed and in 2009 followed “just the natural next step”. He launched FeatBA, an agency unifying music, graphic design and photography, aiming to generate a space in which alternative culture can thrive.
“FeatBA is giving the local scene a global perspective,” says the Texan, aiming to make the city’s underground activities noticed all over the world. His musical artists, who all fall under the self-developed term “cumbia digital”, are already playing shows on top-shelf events all over the globe.
Among them the talent scout’s playground SXSW in Austin, Texas; the legendary Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California’s desert and the Roskilde-Festival, named after the host city in Denmark. Now Dull is trying to push Buenos Aires’ visual artists to the same level.
The philosophy for the comprehensive project is the same, he made his label big by “thinking that there are no limits ‘cos there are no limits.” He goes on to say: “it’s just all these kids are working in very different and eclectic-experimental ways and do not care about any boundaries or anything else. It’s important that an artist doesn’t care.”
Whereas artistic perspectives are known worldwide for their gambling-character, many of the participants, taken under his wings, start to earn their income with it. That step was – for the majority of them – always denied, and financial independence was not to attainable through creation. The lack of prospects in Argentina is replaced by their artistic talents, which they are using to make a living. That marketing accompanies a loss of credibility might be a widespread opinion, but it is one Dull does not partake.
Rather he sees a propulsive motivation to lead a self-fulfilling life as a successful artist and means that this perspective keeps pushing creative urges. In place of sell-out, he describes the commercialisation in the following way: “The essence of what we do is extremely underground and it’s definitely authentic and not mainstream. All the same, the world has changed so much, and underground stuff can be enjoyed by everybody. It can be commercialised and can be a business.”
In the meantime, there are also financial ambitions. Nonetheless, he emphasises that there are no expectations or guidelines about how the work, represented through FeatBA, should be. “The principle was, is and will ever be: do what you do ‘cause that’s what you do.” A simple concept, that should make the agency grow to be a serious provider of sound and vision.
Because of the lack of an advertising budget, every promotion and visibility is given by WUBA and ZZK Records. First members of staff go now also abroad to represent the three companies in other metropolises like New York. Giving the local scene a professional presentation, they hope for international attention. “I feel happy to be connected to all these artists and to work with them and therefore it doesn’t feel like selling or marketing,” comments the founder, who has been living abroad for ten years.
Dull got stuck in Buenos Aires in 2003. He came to Argentina after years of travelling because he came across the work of two important characters from the country’s artistic history. “The works of the author Jorge Luis Borges and the musician Astor Piazolla were my first contacts with the Argentine culture and they blew me away. They were doing something completely different, original, vanguard and amazingly beautiful.”
Taken by the local characteristics of Buenos Aires, in his eyes, every big city produces great artists as part of a global movement. “Art is a modern reinterpretation and combination of all available social elements.” Whereas these elements are often influenced by the all-embracing internet, the resident occurrence grew more independent.
The agency’s photographer Pedro Quintans describes the situation to be an artist in Argentina as “twice as arduous with half the money.” A situation that made an exchange to other country’s arts for a long time almost impossible. And therein, also Dull sees the country’s advantage: “The visions of the artists here are more organic, less connected to outer influences. But now, I’m trying to build bridges, I promote, I’m hustling and selling.”
For more information about FeatBA and an insight in the artists works, check www.featba.com To get in touch with the activities of the local subculture, far from the tourists’ haunts, visit www.whatsupbuenosaires.com. Information, tour dates and music of the ZZK Records artists are available on www.zzkrecords.com.