"The worship of celebrity is the religion we have conjured out of the hollowness of our deepest selves." From Louis XIV and the Aztec feast of Toxcatl to Byron's and Britney Spears' hair, Stephen Marche muses on the meaning and origins of celebrity culture in Consumer Products:
"Celebrities are not appendages of our society anymore; they are the basis of our communal lives. Literature and architecture, art and politics, are at most sidelights—small, ancient alleyways down which fewer and fewer minds wander. Pop culture has long since left the word culture behind to become the primary way we understand the world. Just before she died, the film critic Pauline Kael told a friend, “When we championed trash culture, we had no idea it would become the only culture,” and she was right."
“I am not exaggerating when I say that to a true collector the acquisition of an old book is its rebirth." This wonderful little essay by Walter Benjamin on unpacking his library is brimming with eminently quotable thoughts. I've collected a few here:
"Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories. More than that: the chance, the fate, that suffuse the past before my eyes are conspicuously present in the accustomed confusion of these books. For what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order? You have all heard of people whom the loss of their books has turned into invalids, or of those who in order to acquire them became criminals. These are the very areas in which any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness."
On utility v. magic:
"There is in the life of the collector a dialectical tension between the poles of disorder and order. Naturally, his existence is tied to many other things as well: to a very mysterious relationship to ownership, something about which we will have more to say later; also a relationship to objects which does not emphasize their functional utilitarian value—that is, their usefulness—but studies and loves them as the scene, the stage, of their fate. The most profound enchantment of the collector is the locking of the individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final thrill, the thrill of acquisition, passes over them. Everything remembered and thought, everything conscious, becomes the pedestal, the frame, the base, the lock of his property. The period, the region, the craftsmanship, the former ownership—for a true collector the whole background of an item adds up to a magic encyclopedia whose quintessence is the fate of his object."
The flaneurie of collecting:
"I have made my most memorable purchases on trips, as a transient. Property and possession belong to the tactical sphere. Collectors are people with a tactical instinct; their experience teaches them that when they capture a strange city, the smallest antique shop can be a fortress, the most remote stationery store a key position. How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!"
And books as building blocks:
"O bliss of the collector, bliss of the man of leisure! Of no one has less been expected, and no one has had a greater sense of well-being than the man who has been able to carry on his disreputable existence in the mask of Spitzweg's "Bookworm." For inside him there are spirits, or at least little genii, which have seen to it that for a collector - and I mean a real collector, a collector as he ought to be - ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them. So I have erected one of his dwellings, with books as the building stones, before you, and now he is going to disappear inside, as is only fitting."
My fascination with Karl Lagerfeld and his books has extended to his ceaseless creative energy applied to the many roles he plays as fashion designer for multiple brands, filmmaker, publisher, photographer. I'm in awe that he shoots his own advertising campaigns for Chanel and directs brand films like Remember Now.
While briefly in Paris a couple of weeks ago I picked up, fittingly from Colette, a copy of the catalogue of his recent photographic retrospective Parcours de Travail, a great testament to the breadth of his visual work.
The rise of Anna Dello Russo as fashion icon and media brand is a fascinating and forward thinking example of an industry insider (AdR is currently editor-at-large of Vogue Japan) adopting social media tools to establish and enhance their public persona. The meme of her maximalist approach to dressing as theatre and curation keeps spreading across traditional media these days:
On the second floor of an early-1900s apartment building in Milan sits a Chanel doormat that is shared by two adjacent one-bedroom apartments. The first belongs to 47-year-old fashion director Anna Dello Russo. The second belongs to her clothes... The furniture in apartment number two is 19th-century Italian, and the space is filled with a pirate’s booty of glittering designer shoes and costume jewelry.... Such a living arrangement might be considered unusual by anyone who didn’t own 4,000 pairs of shoes and 250 black tuxedo jackets."
So there's this 12-year-old called Nicky Wishart, a self-described "math geek", who's trying to keep his local youth centre open (which is due to close because of budget cuts), raising money by washing cars with friends, and by organizing on Facebook a picket outside his constituency office. Which happens to be that of David Cameron. Now, England is a country that tends to speak of its young as apathetic or feral, so you would expect the behaviour of such of child to be praised for his civic sense. Instead, he was taken out of class by an anti-terrorist officer and told that as the organizer of the protest if anything happened he would be arrested. Details of this disturbing story can be read here and here.
Away from all the media bias against England's students protesting at the shameful trebling of university fees, away from the terror the Daily Mail saw in Camilla's eyes, away from governments ready to bail out banks and bankrupt future generations, take 5 minutes to listen to the passionate and rousing speech from this 15-year-old school kid:
"This was meant to be the first generation that never thought of anything bigger than our Facebook profiles and our TV screens. It was meant to be the generation where the only thing Saturday night meant was X-Factor. I think that claim is now ridiculous... We are no longer that generation that doesn't care, we are no longer that generation to sit back and take whatever they give us. We are now the generation at the heart of the fight back."
"What WikiLeaks is really exposing is the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out. In the last decade its political elites have been shown to be incompetent (Ireland, the US and UK in not regulating banks); corrupt (all governments in relation to the arms trade); or recklessly militaristic (the US and UK in Iraq). And yet nowhere have they been called to account in any effective way. Instead they have obfuscated, lied or blustered their way through. And when, finally, the veil of secrecy is lifted, their reflex reaction is to kill the messenger."
Bonus link: WikiLeaked.
The news of a Justin Bieber mural in the home of a Brazilian drug lord was making the rounds of the interweb last week. Elsewhere, there was the story of El Ponchis, a 14-year-old hit-man for a Mexican cartel. Draw your own connections.
(unknown origin for both images. drop me a line if you know)