Nirel Escalante – April 28

When the term “mainstream” is used, it is referring to what as is deemed acceptable by the masses.  “Underground” is a term that refers to something underrated, new, or in other words what is “edgy”. Before reading “The Underground Mainstream” by Steven Heller, I have thought about how impossible it is for anything to be considered underground these days because of the internet. It is so easy and accessible to discover various sub cultures whether it be art, music, media etc. But as I’ve discovered in the reading, anything is underground until it is appropriated by the mainstream. For example in the reading he states  “In Europe the Weiner Werkstätte, Deutscher Werkbund, Bauhaus, and scores of other reformist schools and movements that sought to better the marketplace with convention-altering arts and crafts fell victim to their own successes. Their collective goal was to raise the level of both manufacture and design while changing timeworn habits and antiquated expectations, yet their ideas became established. The avant-garde is usurped when its eccentricity is deemed acceptable.” I think this example perfectly captures the relationship of the mainstream and the underground, and how it is relevant to contemporary design. It is pretty ironic how these reformist schools and movements wanted to do something new and innovative as a reaction to the mainstream, yet their innovations became mainstream themselves. Contemporary design can be considered the “underground” in this case, because it is all about being new, experimental and original.

We can see other examples of how the underground blends into the mainstream through music. Take for example the Punk movement. We see what happens when the core ideal of the punk movement contradicts with famous punk bands who have made it into the mainstream. We explore this idea in “Not For Sale”: The Underground Network of Anarcho Punk. by Tim Gosling We can see an example of this contradiction in this statement ” In actual fact, behind the glitz, “pink” saw itself as having an attitude that was counterposed both to established society and to the theatrical rock it had generated. The media stars of the mainstream movement were reviled and heckled for their betrayal of the cause by placing themselves in the hands of the industry.”

Another instance we can look at to see how the underground turns into the mainstream is the evolution of white nationalist politics, or what they’ve recently started to call themselves “the alt- right”. In this case we can see how the mainstream pertains to the majority of white people in america and the underground would be people of color. In this current time in America, white people are becoming the new minorities, and the rise of white nationalism is a consequence of that. In Blood and Politics by Leonard Zeskind, he states ” I predicted a mid twenty first century conflict within the united states as white people became a minority in a nation of minorities and were no longer able to preserve a system of white privilege through majority rule winner take all democracy.” I always thought that the twenty first century was so progressive and I was completely shocked to see the large subculture of alt right people empowered by a bigot president to make themselves more visible in the mainstream media which in turn empowers more people to join them too.


Zeskind, Leonard. “Blood and Politics.” Google Books, Google,

Gosling, Tim. “Music Scenes.” Google Books, Google,

Heller, Steven. “Underground Mainstream.” Design Observer,


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