Archive | February, 2012

Hipster Survivalism

29 Feb

There is a sort of hipster survivalism that is fascinating the young and dissatisfied. Discussions about essential belongings and the role of outdoor clothing in fashion indicates an emerging identity about being always ready to move and survive in the simplest way.

Archival Clothing (store.archivalclothing.com)

 

In fashion the functional is everywhere. From Archival Clothing’s obsession with all that is outdoors – detailing their own adventures on their blog – to Ozwald Boateng’s empire-ready catwalk colonialists for Spring/Summer 2012. There is a sense in all this that cultural value and use value are sliding together. Perhaps in recessionary times it is important to feel that you’re buying something useful and not just valuable.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Among the blogging elite there is an unending interest in being prepared for the worst. Typified by the Burning House blog and the Everyday Carry site’s posts, here people compare what they’d save from a fire and the things they take with them everywhere. And, where EDC is concerned, this goes much further than keys money notebook – you have to see it to believe it.

Best Made Company (bestmadeco.com)

One favourite example of this snowballing trend is the beautiful axes made by Best Made Company – hand crafted in Brooklyn. Who needs an axe in Brooklyn? Answer: Hipsters do. To adorn their mantelpieces certainly, but also for when peak oil finally comes around and we all have to head for Central Park to reclaim the land for the people Detroit-style.

Although with this growing fondness for knives and axes amongst all the young guns, there is a slightly frightening risk of a hipster version of a real life American Psycho scenario. Imagine the iconicity of an axe murder with a killer haircut. We’re a bit bored of blaming every cultural shift on the recession these days so we’d like to point to a few other potential influences on this pessimistic shift towards apocalypse preparedness.

Obviously there are scary things outside of the economic crisis, we’ve already mentioned peak oil, and fears regarding the environment are not going anywhere. But these fears are also making people seek authentic relationship with nature – so the image of the survivalist/boy scout in constant readiness is somewhat optimistic as well as pessimistic.

Everyday Carry (everyday-carry.com)

Undoubtedly there is a gender issue here as well. This is a trend that is predominantly affecting menswear. And our inkling would be that most of the posters on EDC are men too! There has been talk of gender crises for some time, and Hipster men perhaps feel their masculinity most restricted by the values associated with their social group. Cutting down a tree or killing a deer (as long as it’s done sustainably) is much more acceptable than objectifying a woman. Though this blog is itching to formulate its treatise on Indy boy sexism in a later post.

We certainly like to daydream about a world in which we’re whittling wood instead of typing. I for one have become fascinated by the idea of owning a clasp knife – though mainly because I once saw a yellow one. And there is nothing quite like cycling around London at speed to feel like you’re both self–reliant and putting your life at risk. We suspect that this aspiration for a life lived like Bear Grylls but with a better haircut will be around for a bit longer. Until H&M bring out their own range of tents axes and canoes this trend will be influencing design and fashion for some time to come.

Between the Covers – Vogue

27 Feb

As part of our never-ending quest for inspiration we regularly read magazines to see where culture is moving. 

In a new type of blog post, we will choose a magazine each month and share interesting cultural expressions and changes we are noticing.

This month, we looked at Vogue (all images from March Vogue UK)

Rio Graffiti

23 Feb

After exploring the graffiti in Barcelona, we saw signs of true Latin blood in the awesome graffiti in the suburb of Leblon in Rio.

What’s interesting about Rio’s graffiti is how well thought out beautifully executed and humorous it is.

Rio Graffiti

The naturally beautiful and exuberant environment of the city provides artists with rich inspiration. In the graphics you can see the lush green forests, bright sunshine and warmth of colour. The creative finish on much of the graffiti is so high it looks like it was originally designed that way. Certainly the proud residents are not trying to wash it off.

Rio Graffiti

Have the No Logo Generation sold out?

22 Feb

In the midst of a grunge revival we’re seeing the cultural icons of 30-somethings used as selling tools.

But surely this is a generation who are uncomfortable about being marketed to?   This is the generation who lapped up Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo’, saw themselves reflected in ‘Reality Bites’ and ‘Fight Club,’ got worked up about ‘McJobs’ and vented to Nirvana. The common thread was that commercialism is simply not cool.

But they seem to have left this vitriol in the 90s, and accepted their childhood icons being recast as ad men. At Christmas they had their heartstrings plucked by the gentle John Lewis cover of their revered Smiths, and they laugh along with BA Baracus reminding them to “get some nuts!” And it appears that nothing is sacred – even the holier than holy Yoda has come out of retirement to sell for Vodafone, and has found himself competing head-on with Kermit and Miss Piggy, who are batting for Orange.

Vodafone Advert (vodafone.co.uk)

 

As we’ve discussed before, personal memories are precious things - and brands should take caution before messing with them too much. In this nostalgia avalanche, will the children of the 70s want to reclaim their own cultural history and resent anyone who co-opts it, especially for profit? Have we reached a saturation point and begun to annoy this “anti-brand” generation? Brands should beware a Star Wars fan scorned.

Barcelona Shutters

21 Feb

Shutters in Barcelona

It was interesting being in Barcelona over the Christmas break.  The great thing about being in the city over the holidays is all the shop’s shutters are down, exposing a fascinating cultural negotiation.

Since the sensational success of the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona has been transformed into a hotspot of tourism and migration – in some ways saturating the proud local Catalan culture.

One visible expression of this tension has been the mass graffiti-ing of store fronts – but, brilliantly, the locals are fighting back by re-graffiti-ing the shutters to express their own cultural vision.

 

Young is Old

20 Feb

In 2010 Neil Young released his 33rd (!) studio album.  Neil Young was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.  Our mom danced to the recent hit ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ at her wedding reception.  These facts lead us to one irrefutable conclusion; Neil Young is old.  And like all our vaulted elderly, Young seems to be getting a tad cranky.  On January 23rd music rag NME reported Young’s claim that the sound quality of 21st century music makes him “angry.” In a statement to MTV News he’s quick to claim that it isn’t the music that he takes issue with, but the quality of the sound itself.

Neil Young (PA photos)

Regardless of where you fall on the age-old dispute between LP and MP3, it’s Young’s next comments that caught our eye.  He attributes the change in listening habits of the modern music consumer to the faltering quality of recording and replay technologies. Says Young, “That’s why people listen to music differently today. It’s all about the bottom and the beat driving everything, and that’s because in the resolution of the music, there’s nothing else you can really hear.” 

Surely Young’s got the chicken and egg mixed up.  He seems to suggest that the limitations of digitally reproduced sound are driving changing norms of musical expression.   But base-line driven music has been on the up since the early eighties and the first inchoate mic-checks of hip-hop, well before digital recording got Young’s gruff.  Even if you agree that artists are tacitly tagging their albums ‘Recorded for iPod’, who cares?  The changing ways in which we consume art and communication should drive the ways that artists produce it.  At the least, the two should exist in an on-going dialogue.  Otherwise art is relegated to an ‘other’ space, fully separated from its audience.  If a guitar is strummed in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, should we give a toss? 

To listen to more of the diatribe dripping from Young’s wrinkled chin, click here.

Diamond Advertising: What’s Love Got To Do With It?

14 Feb

Both love and wealth are reified in the image of the diamond. These two adverts found in a recent issue of Vogue appeared in time for Valentine’s Day and represent wildly different visions of what love is.

Tiffany Advert

One is passive, elegant, head over heals romantic and hopelessly conservative. The other is competitive, aggressive and ice cold in its neo-liberalism and lack of emotion.

Visually the Tiffany & Co advert is very minimal. All the complexity comes from the singular beauty of the large diamond depicted. It is photographed to emphasise a kind of uniqueness. The text reads simply ‘There is only one true love’. The diamond becomes a representative of true love, both utterly singular and utterly beautiful, it is the only thing that even approaches the specialness of love.

Wempe Advert

On one level this as an uncontroversial image of love but it is also stiflingly conservative. You may have only one true love, unique to you . Yet you should express this love the same way as everyone else: Meet a girl, fall in love, buy her a ring, and marry her forever. There is only one way to fall in love in the world of Tiffany & Co, and it only ‘truly’ happens once.

Wempe appeals to a more Darwinian concept of love. “Give her a diamond before someone else does”. The dark background creates a sense of masculine aggression to back up the strikingly gendered line of copy. The multiple rings complete this aura of competition, are there a number of prizes to collect?

Love here is a marketplace, by the logic presented in this advertisement the diamond is a means to stake a claim before someone else does. It’s almost as if the word Solitaire was used to subconsciously remind you that the threat of loneliness is never far away. Best mark your territory now, before it’s too late. A brutal realist might argue that this neo-liberal view of love is more realistic than the Tiffany version, but it is certainly less appealing.

 The sad truth of both of these adverts is that whichever vision of love you subscribe to at their very core they are threats of a kind. Both adverts tell the reader that there is something to lose, whether it is ‘the one’ or ‘the game’ there is not a lot of hope in these adverts for the singleton. Happy Valentine’s Day

Bad Girl Makes Good

10 Feb

We feel it is almost our duty to talk about M.I.A. beyond “the bird” that metaphorically poo-ed on Madonna’s “big day back” at Super Bowl.

Beyond her meteoric rise as a hip-hop artist, M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam) is a committed activist.  The daughter of Tamil freedom fighter faced intense prejudice growing-up as a teenager in Britain after her family fled war-torn Sri Lanka.  In her less well-known artwork, she focuses on how the theme of “otherness” is constructed in modern society (“other” is a term to describe non-majority ethnicities and religions in society)  

The concept of “Bad Girls” video can be seen as comment on how “otherness” is constructed in media culture.  The location of the video is ostensibly the “Middle East”, the visual cues of the location are identical to those we associate with war, conflict and terrorist threat” – however the video powerfully re-infuses this space with vibrant, spontaneous and open meanings.

Both a trick of the eye and the mind, the video opens us to a re-interpretation of a salient media stereotype – dysfunctional and threatening Islam.

One comment on the Youtube of the video clip by a fan “Thank you MIA for raising awareness of such important issues. While the mainstream media continually creates and sticks to it’s own popular narratives, your music and presence helps to both educate and stop people from forgetting on situations that should never be forgotten. Because of you I’ve been researching the injustice in Sri Lanka and making my friends aware, but still want to do a lot more. I now hope to be a journalist and can’t describe how much of an inspiration you are to me, Peace.”

Moral of this marauding blog, never overlook cultural meaning and significance in what appears to be low culture.  We never do.

French Vogue a GO GO

8 Feb

To celebrate the relaunch of www.vogue.fr Editor in Chief Emmanuelle Alt and French TV personality Mademoiselle Agnes – along with a posse of beautiful super models – performed a version of Wham!’s “Wake Me up Before You Go-Go,” a personal favourite of Ms Alt.

Paris Fashion Week kicks off at the end of this month – a week which reminds us mere mortals that we’ll never be part of the fashion elite, no matter how many copies of Vogue we have stashed in our cupboards. It’s refreshing to see them let their hair down and have fun.

Alt heralds a new, laid back, approachable direction for French Vogue which regular people can not only relate to, but can pick up the microphone to sing along with. You certainly wouldn’t have caught Carine Roitfeld jumping about the stage in a baggy white slogan t-shirt!

Should We Hold Back?

8 Feb

Grayson Perry’s ‘The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman‘ is dominated by the figure of Alan Measles, the artist’s 50-year-old teddy bear. The ragged, dog-eared toy has become the “God of Perry’s imaginary world,” playing the part of hero and ultimate male role model. Scattered throughout the exhibition are images of Alan Measles – Alan as fertility god, Alan cast in bronze as a huge toy soldier, Alan as motif for all that is good and brave and strong – but Alan himself, the tatty teddy bear, is nowhere to be found.

Alan Measles (alanmeasles.posterous.com)

Alan Yentob, in the Imagine documentary, asked Grayson Perry why Alan Measles was absent. Perry explained that, even though the British Museum is safe and special enough for the Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone, Alan was too precious to leave there. He was not only more prized than any other object, but more personal – the one thing not for showing, the one thing  so meaningful, so tied up with memories, that it is not for display. The absence in the exhibition of the talisman himself felt honest, and more moving than if he’d been propped up in a display cabinet for all to see. It felt refreshing.

We live in a world where everything is up for grabs, everything is to be shared. Weddings or break-ups, beach holiday or family Christmas snaps, even the precious first pictures of a new born. The bestselling book charts show as wide a range of revealing biographies and tell-all autobiographies as could possibly be desired. Things seem to be validated simply by their exposure.

Tracey Emin, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With (guardian.co.uk)

Tracey Emin is a clear example of this in art. She reveals the most intimate and distressing details of her history – love affairs, abortions, her relationships with her parents and grandparents. We have total access. No holds appear to be barred.

With more ways to share than ever before, perhaps it is time to consider which things are not available for public consumption?

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