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hautepop

@hautepop / hautepop.tumblr.com

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No but seriously, Fuck Minimalism

Minimalism lied to you. 

Minimalism told you that the past was monochrome. That the height of ancient fashion was a plain white robe, that the Enlightenment was the most important art movement of the eighteenth century, that Victorians wore nothing but plain black, white and brown. It told you that Japanese art was its inspiration but stripped away every beautiful detail.

Minimalism told you that the functional must be unadorned. That simplicity is elegance. That plainness is clean. It told you that ornament is clutter. That trim is only used to hide mistakes. It tells you that beautiful things collect dust, that intricacy is dirty. 

Minimalism told you your cultural heritage is tacky. It told you vibrant African prints clash. It told you intricate Islamic tiling is fussy. It told you beautiful European embroidery is quaint and old fashioned. 

Minimalism told you to limit your vocabulary. It called clever wordplay purple prose. It told you clarity was in short, dull sentences. 

Minimalism told you that masculinity is expressed in dull simplicity. It gendered the ornate. 

Minimalism told you that nature is only expressed in simple lines. That certain colours shouldn’t appear together. 

The truth is, minimalism lied. It’s an ugly 20th century fad that has long overstayed its welcome. It endures for two reasons. 1: It’s easy to mass produce. Flat pack furniture is cheap and easy. Tailoring printed fabrics and adding well-placed trim takes effort. Designing architecture that’s more than just boxes takes time. 2: It allows boring white men to erase the importance of POC, women, and their own heritage in the history of art and design. It keeps influence in the hands of the few and devalues the work of thousands of skilled people.

So fuck minimalism. Embrace ornament. Wear as many accessories as you want. Decorate the space you inhabit. Perform theatre in beautiful places, not in dark boxes. Support artisans and craftspeople. Use the words you found in thesauruses and old literature. Celebrate real history. Make the most of modern synthetic dyes and use colour in everything you can. Enjoy beautiful things. 

Less was never more.

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The best, pithy argument against minimalism I’ve seen. 

cc two recent longer-form pieces from Twitter friend Kyle Chayka:

Found another California City, or close to it - the ghost grid of Sun Valley, an unincorporated area too small to be part of any municipality, off Route 66 in Navajo County, Arizona.

Thing is, if you zoom in on Google Earth, you can see there are some people living there - 317 in total, in fact - in a few scattered clusters of houses. At the edge of the town, on Sunflower and Summer Roads, two junkyards.

Bizarrely, though, there's a shop in the middle of nowhere: UE560, a custom printing t-shirt business with its own website, UE560.com. Judging by its aesthetic, I'd hazard a guess UE stands for urban exploration.

There's always someone been there before you.

"What still distinguishes the functioning of human beings from that of machines – even the most ‘intelligent’ machines – is the intoxication of functioning, of living – pleasure. Inventing machines which feel pleasure is a task that is still beyond the powers of humanity. All kinds of aids can increase human pleasure, but human beings cannot invent any that would feel pleasure like themselves, or better than themselves – that would feel pleasure in their stead. They can make machines which move, calculate and work better than they do – but there is no technical extension of human pleasure, of the pleasure of being human. For that to occur, the machines would have to be able to invent human beings, or conceive of them. But it is too late for that. They can only be extensions of human beings – or destroy them. Machines would have to exceed what they are – to become metaphorical machines, parabolic machines, excessive machines. Now, even the most intelligent machines are nothing other than precisely what they are – except perhaps, where some accident or breakdown occurs which you can always attribute to them as some obscure desire. They do not have that ironic surplus of functioning, that pain and suffering: they do not give in to narcissistic temptation, and are not even seduced by their own knowledge. Which perhaps explains their deep melancholy, the sadness of computers. All machines are bachelor machines… "No doubt one day some will learn to give signs of pleasure, and of many other things, for simulation is within their powers. But they will just be imitating our psychological and social mechanisms, which are already engaged everywhere in multiplying the signs of desire, sex and pleasure – just as biological cloning merely plagiarizes our cultural mechanisms, which have long been doomed to mass reproduction."

Baudrillard, Impossible Exchange (2001) pp.113-4 via James Butler (@piercepenniless) on FB

"We need to remember friends, that we write deeply out of friendship, that we write to friends. We need to regain some of the energy, as writers and as readers, that people have on the Internet when for the first time they e-mail, when they discover that they can write anything, even to a stranger, even the most personal of matters. When they discover that strangers can communicate to each other."

Kathy Acker, Bodies of Work, 1995 via McKenzie Wark on FB

Source: facebook.com

A strange desert road trip on the trail of Jack Parsons, the father of American rocketry

Happy and proud to have a story up at travel & photography site RoadsAndKingdoms.com, illustrated lavishly by photos from Bradley Garrett, Joel Childers, and myself.

3000 word feature on a 2400 miles of tearing hell round the desert in pursuit of mushroom clouds, magic rituals, and failed utopias.

"That this trip opened with an echo of the bomb was only too appropriate. Parsons’ life blended science and magic, utopia and destruction—not as conflicting philosophies but facets of a greater whole, a thrilling yet knowable universe that man could systematically control. In this vast ambition, there seemed no one more Californian."

*

The story continues: part II, The Ghost Grid of California City.

For an introduction to Jack Parsons, you want the George Pendel biography 'Strange Angel' - or his essay 'The Last Of The Magicians' in VICE.

For more detail on the Babalon Working ritual, read Strange Suppers & Spells Diverse by Peter Grey, from a talk at Treadwell’s Bookshop on 2nd October 2015, celebrating Jack Parsons' 101st birthday.

Violent Matter

My twitter account has been suspended, for quoting a line from a poem by Sean Bonney, whom I think is one of the best poets writing today. It is not an easy poem by any means, but it is worth reading. I was moved to quote it by the grim sight of Tories twerking at Manchester Pride, but I also worried about the quotation, and its context: quotation, especially from poetry, can so easily wrench things out of their context. (But then, I think, that line’s supposed to be quotable anyway.) Regardless, I followed it up immediately with a link to the whole poem. The few members of LGBTory who saw it didn’t like it – good, it was intended to be upsetting – as I don’t like seeing Tories, who are members of a party that for decades demonised and prosecuted queer people, who even today are a party riddled with homophobes and racists, who even now preside over cuts to services essential for parts of our community who are in appalling circumstances, marching in Pride parades. Ask anyone at AKT or Stonewall Housing what a Conservative government means for LGBT people and you’ll want to spit too. You’ll want to explode with anger.

I admit it’s hard to take a flap about poetry and some thin-skinned Tories seriously, other than as a demonstration of exactly how limited the commitment of conservatives to ‘freedom of speech’ is. Poetry is not usually regarded as a strong weapon; it is rarely now even accorded the power to change minds or wound hearts. Poetry makes nothing happen, though its inutility shouldn’t be occasion for praise. Why the flap, then? It’s worth tracking some of the implications of this little backyard scandal.

VIOLENCE

The poem, and the lines I quoted especially, employ a rhetoric of violence that is uncomfortable to read or hear. (Steve Willey reflected on performing this poem here.) But it is not an unambiguously violent poem: the lament in the stanzas that precede those lines for the ‘dying angles’ of the city, its grappling with the ‘horrific quantity of force we will need to continue even to live’, and the torque of violence and formal restraint in the final stanza itself – these are the context in which the imperative is given. They do not diminish its violence, but nor is its violence entirely separable from it (that’s why I felt it necessary to link the whole thing). Why is it compared to music or drunken speech, and why is simplicity their common factor? All three elude in some way the intractability of sober speech; music in its supersession of discursive meaning, drunkenness in its removal of hesitancy and doubt, and violence by counterposing its brute physicality to language’s endless filiations and ambiguities. They are all moments that (briefly) transcend alienation. Is this justification, is this a moral good? The poem makes those judgements difficult.

At the risk of stating the obvious, there is a difference between violence and violent rhetoric, however distasteful one might find the latter. Bonney’s poem is, the title tells us, After Rimbaud. Rimbaud, after witnessing the semaine sanglante, the week of butchery at the conquest of the Paris Commune, also wrote an extended fantasy of vengeance and violence, which dissolves at its end exclaiming “It’s nothing — I’m here! I’m still here.” That is to say, the fantasies of violence in Rimbaud are undercut by the realisation that hyperbolic vengeance is impossible, and is often an expression of defeat or impotence. Both the justice of his anger – world-encompassing – and the impossibility of its realisation are the themes of his poem; were it otherwise there would be things to do other than write poetry.

Raymond Williams once pointed out that ‘violence’ is a term used primarily to describe the unruliness and dissidence of the governed: that is, force out of place. It has been a consistent feature of dissident writing to point out the moral arbitrariness of these terms, and their use to describe only force not sanctioned by the state. When directed downwards, violence is called ‘restoring order’, ‘restraining’, ‘discipline’ etc. Contestation of this taxonomy is part of Bonney’s poem – Downing Street’s ‘assembly of ghouls’, the ‘euphemism for civil war’ that goes on in the country surrounding us. There is a sense of moral disgust at the equivocations that allow such violence to go unremarked, naturalised, for its architects to remain inculpable. That is the sense that leads to the imperative in the final stanza. It in turn picks up on a vein of thinking about violence that runs through late 20th century communist thought, that sees violence as purgative and foundational, most clearly expressed in Sartre’s preface to Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth. It is hard today to fully endorse this line of thinking, even while accepting its strong critiques of pacifism; I’m not sure whether it’s a result my inclination as a reader, but I detect a measure of ambivalence about this doctrine in the poem, too. But key to both Rimbaud’s and Bonney’s poem are that they do not seek to redeem their violence or explain it away – that would diminish both of them, as it would to claim they simply seek non-violence. Instead they operate in the difficult moral and political ground of fury, powerlessness and despair, and do not seek to foreshorten its difficulty by providing an easy way out of it.

There is more I might say here – about the distinctiveness of this poem in saying things that typical poetry audiences do not want to hear, about its insistence on culpability, about its status as a difficult object, and about the kinds of desire and fragility operating in it – but I think it is enough for now to underline the dual character I’ve been exploring above, that is, its insistence on polarisation and culpability, and the (bridgeable? unbridgeable?) gap between its rhetoric and actual violence. It is unpleasant; it is not a poem about nature and flowers, and it is not a ‘political poem’ that tries to find ten rhymes for ‘Tories are bad’. If it is ‘about’ anything, it is about what it means to continue to be alive in a world ordered such as ours is, without lying to oneself about it.

NEUTRALITY

Why quote it at all? Something snapped in me when I saw a bunch of young conservatives at Manchester Pride. I thought of the occasions where I’d been privy to how these people really behave when they think no-one else is listening, the curled-lip contempt they have for poor people or black people, their mourning for the Empire, or their hatred for ‘weird’ queers or ‘showoff’ faggots or any of the other hundred hatreds that pour off them. I thought of the people I know who have been made homeless, or whose health has gone through the floor under this and the last government. And yes, I thought of section 28, I thought of all the other standard objections, of who founded Pride and what it stood for before it became this. I know the justifications – the claim that ‘pride’ is a neutral value, that the march must be inclusive of all LGBT people – and I know people whom these justifications drive away. And it seemed to me that those lines summed up exactly the ambiguous border of anger and despair, seething frustration and impossibility that Pride brings out in me.

It was intemperate, of course, and like other occasions where I’ve spoken passionately or intemperately, I might regret it. (It is precisely that intemperate spasm that the poem captures.) But it also seems to me that impassioned speech, intemperate or polemical, even invective or calumniating speech, is part of a really living public sphere. I don’t like this argument much: I don’t think anger or vituperation gets us anywhere useful when it’s our chief mode of discussion, yet anger also seems necessary when trying to break up a consensual silence in public life. That silence is around responsibility, the idea that some political choices are reprehensible and wrong, that they have material consequences, and that by joining the organisation that enacts them you bear some portion of the blame. This is not a pretty picture – a euphemised civil war – but it is only describing what is actually happening; it is antagonistic, even imperfectly and hyperbolically so, because such is the state of things. It is to say: the consequences of your politics ought to follow you in everyday life. You are not neutral.

To quote the lines that I did is a way of trying to puncture that neutrality; it is a way of saying politics cuts through our identities, and does so painfully, and that to be silent about it is to betray principle. It is both a marker of antagonism and a deep frustration. To capture both sides of that strange position requires poetry. It is not a threat, nor an encouragement; it would be ludicrous to think so. It is perhaps worth saying that I am not someone who thinks of violence as a political solution – it never has been – but that rhetorical violence can bring out some of the otherwise hidden violence under the carapace of neutrality. So it goes. I have more to say about the history of politics and violence, but in another time, and another place.

PUBLIC SPACE

Twitter, of course, is a public space, an unintentional experiment in mass communication in which distinctions of rank and rights to speak are generally levelled. It has had huge issues with abuse and the treatment of women who dare to speak or write in public, including stalking, sexual harassment and murder threats. It has at the same time been hugely beneficial and educational for me and many others; it is typically the first thing I check in the morning. As I remarked above, it is quite an irony that the ‘libertarian’ wing of the Tory party – from which LGBTory largely draws – should seek to put limits on freedom of expression for a little chunk of mildly offensive poetry. Needless to say, the same expectation does not apply to racism, misogyny, class-hatred or the praise of various historical British atrocities when it emanates from them. I suspect part of this suspension is about Twitter trying to tighten its policy on abuse. I’ve complied with their initial demands for deletion, and it remains to be seen whether they’ll allow me back on as a result. It would be a shame if not.

There is a more general question about who gets to speak and what they get to say contained in this; about the kinds of questions or modes of speech are acceptable in public. Personally, I tend to value those freedoms more than many of those I share a politics with; they are ‘bourgeois’ freedoms and unequally applied, yes, but they also contain a real and necessary freedom within them, one that is freedom to express and think, not freedom from criticism or polemic, even when discomfiting. Such a freedom is often subject to constraints, sometimes those constraints are unjust. But beyond this freedom, there is a narrower circle of permissible expression, one that softens the edges of power, one that lights our rulers in a friendly manner, and from their best side. So we get discussions about ‘hard decisions’, ‘political realities’ and ‘national prosperity’ instead of the number of people driven into misery and despair by the government, into homelessness or precarious living, who are failed again and again by services stretched to breaking point until they simply to give up or break down. The people who make these decisions, who support them, are allied to them, want to become them, are dancing in the street. You can find yourself, again, spitting with rage.

Spiky straplines and quotations make for good antagonism; they can also trivialise and debase an argument. I don’t think hatred or violence are solutions to the world in which we live, I think they are a feature of it, a feature of a society debased by inequality and ordered such that baseness and violence are part of it. In such a situation intemperate speech is inevitable; antagonism in a public sphere governed by a narrowing range of acceptable opinions is also, I think, a good thing. But it is also necessary to reflect on the ease with which one might reach for violent rhetoric, about the gap between rhetoric and reality, how tangible and unbridgeable it might make political differences seem, how it might work to reassert those differences in a moment of defeat. Those are all double-edged possibilities; antagonism is never simply pleasant, it is always difficult, it is always beset by the possibility of being overmastered by hatred. That’s why I reached for the Bonney poem; poetry more than most forms can express that complexity without sacrificing a dimension of subjectivity that leaves space for conflicting, unpleasant or uncertain emotions.

There are, of course, those who will suggest that this is just dressing up hatred in literary guises, or excusing it because it’s in quotation – to such tin-eared critics and those invested in misreading, I can only say that disguising hatred is more than those ruling us bother to do. If, at times, I hate these people, it is because of what they do, rather than who they are. I think they are personally responsible, and I think they largely get away with it. And if I think hatred or violence are insufficient for a politics that really wants to change the world, then I also think it necessary at times to describe and respond to the hateful and violent situation we are already in, without pretending that we are saints, and without pretending we are unaffected by it. That is where I start from.

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That's a hell of a piece of writing.

I knew James already as a nuanced and sophisticated thinker. But this is just exquisite.

On Being 29 For The Last Day Ever: some kind of listicle

As online content farms mature and their precariously-employed workforces grow up a little, there's a whole rash of articles about being 29, and being about to turn 30.

Which is funny, because I'm turning 30 tomorrow. How on trend! (You'd expect nothing else, dear reader.)

Better check I'm doing it right.

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"Like yourself", "learn how to accept rejection", "remember life is short". OH GOD THESE ANSWERS ARE BORING. HOW ABOUT:

  1. Find a really good perfume
  2. Start cultivating a taste for whisky - and friends with stories to drink it with
  3. Be able to sleep out alone, in the wild, and not freak out
  4. Deadlifts
  5. Forgive your mother
  6. Learn to use clothing for theatre, armour and technical function
  7. Have an intercontinental affair. Sobbing your heart out at Heathrow is some of the most alive I've ever felt
  8. Have a regrettable affair. Have several. See the guy unexpectedly in a squat party 10 years later and find you've basically forgiven him
  9. Get your shit together with regular STI tests
  10. Buy your own domain name

Dear younger friends, please let me know how you are getting on.

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"For my thirtieth, I orchestrated a madly glamorous celebration at the hottest restaurant in town, one of those downtown McNally places. It was a seated dinner for 20 at a table behind a pulled-back curtain on a slightly raised platform, which gave the diners a sense of being in a play. This was deliberate: In those days, restaurants were considered another form of New York theater. It was the height of the '80s, when New York was known as Fun City. In retrospect, it's a bit astounding how decadent the party truly was. Each person at the table had had sex with at least two other people at the table; at least six people had cocaine in their pockets. Everyone smoked. No one was worried about the tab. I'm sure I wore something sequined and fantastic, because I remember feeling so happy that night."

I AM NOT DOING THIS. AM I A FAILURE?

Though actually I totally could wear something sequinned. And I'll construct the social graph of tomorrow night after the party.

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NOW THE SCIENCE BIT. LISTEN CAREFULLY:

"The physical symptoms of ageing don’t suddenly escalate when the clock strikes midnight on your birthday. And there’s no objective reason it should feel so much worse to reach a goal – to still be single against your will, say, or not to have bought a flat – the moment your age flips from 29 to 30.
Yet frequently it does"

Oliver Burkeman reports on research that shows you're more likely to have an affair, run a marathon and commit suicide in birthday years that end in '9', in some desperate attempt to tackle your increased awareness of your own mortality.

Yay!

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This is the pep talk worth reading:

"My 29th year was when things started to click for me, personally and professionally. I finally found the courage to quit a job I’d long hated and leave a city I liked even less. I was still working really hard, but felt like I was finally gaining some traction. It was around age 29 that the number of fucks I gave about other people’s opinions dipped to critically low levels."
[...] Writer Alice Munro once described your early 30s as “an age at which it is sometimes hard to admit that what you are living is your life.” I think that’s hard at any age. What gets easier with each passing decade, I suspect, is not comparing yourself to how other people are living their lives. As I age, I fully intend to give fewer and fewer fucks about how I’m supposed to be, or when I’m supposed to accomplish certain things. It frees up head space for the sort of creative thinking I’d rather be doing.

Here's to that.

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akinators-boyfriend
nobody came to his birthday party

SHUT UP OKAY THAT MADE ME REALLY FREAKING SAD OKAY LOOK HOW SWEET AND CUTE HE LOOKS POOR BABY 

i don’t even know this snake and i feel guilty for not being there

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“It’s my birthday next week. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to organise people in London. We’re all so… not just busy, but tired. I can’t blame my friends but I feel for the snake. You and me both, mate.”

(Wrote this in August 2014. Saw it again today - and it happens to be my birthday tomorrow. The above still stands. Though my friends are now more busy than tired, I think. That’s better? Though they still never RSVP!)

Fingers crossed for no #snakefeels tomorrow, right?

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queenrachelselina

I’ll RSVP I’m coming to your birthday!!!!!!!

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Yay!

Well, we'll be at a bar on Exmouth Market in London, tomorrow from 7pm.

If I don't tell Tumblr which bar, I'm not risking a gatecrashing scenario... right?

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akinators-boyfriend
nobody came to his birthday party

SHUT UP OKAY THAT MADE ME REALLY FREAKING SAD OKAY LOOK HOW SWEET AND CUTE HE LOOKS POOR BABY 

i don’t even know this snake and i feel guilty for not being there

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“It’s my birthday next week. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to organise people in London. We’re all so… not just busy, but tired. I can’t blame my friends but I feel for the snake. You and me both, mate.”

(Wrote this in August 2014. Saw it again today - and it happens to be my birthday tomorrow. The above still stands. Though my friends are now more busy than tired, I think. That’s better? Though they still never RSVP.)

Fingers crossed for no #snakefeels tomorrow, right?

Photo: Alexander Nazaryan, 2009

"Although most New Yorkers haven't been there, the Hole hides in plain sight. Many pass it on the way to John F Kennedy International Airport, on a bleak road above which jets wheeze in on their final descent toward the runways along Jamaica Bay. Behind a tatty curtain of trees and weeds, there is a strange depression in the land, as if a sinkhole had opened here on the desultory border between Brooklyn and Queens. It looks less like a New York neighbourhood than an Arkansas village, only with housing projects on the horizon instead of the Ozark Mountains. Welcome to the Hole."
"Every city has a shadow city. Paris has the catacombs. Hong Kong had the Kowloon Walled City. New York has the Hole. Places like these matter because they declare that the past is not fully known and the future may well turn out to be a shitshow"

Jay Owens, Medium, 20 August 2015

"California City is an exurb, a town without a centre, a place without place: only an aggregation of affluent-ish detached lots. A city, population 13,223. Nearby there’s a prison, an air force base, a Hyundai testing facility and a boron mine. Other sources of employment include Mojave Air and Space Port, which started to hint at why my travelling companions wanted to come here: we were on the trail of failed utopian dreams."

Last month me, Brad Garrett & Wayne Chambliss drove 2400 miles in 8 days. I've finally got one episode, one place story written up.

"If this place was haunted by anything it was by the fantasy of what we wanted to see there"

4 links on advertising, attention and morality

1. On the Moral Superiority of (Web) Advertising Mike Elgan, Datamation, July 2013

"Advertiser-supported search engines represent a transfer of wealth from the world’s rich to the world’s poor – without onerous taxation."

2. Is Advertising Morally Justifiable? The Importance of Protecting Our Attention Thomas Wells, ABC News Australia Religion & Ethics section, July 2015

"Advertising is a natural resource extraction industry, like a fishery. Its business is the harvest and sale of human attention. We are the fish and we are not consulted."
David Whittier, a former professor of cyberethics at Boston University, said the clearest defense of ad blocking comes from utilitarianism, which suggests that the most ethical action is the one that maximizes utility. “In this case, ad blocking is completely ethical because it by far benefits more people than it harms,” he said. “Anyone who says that online advertising is annoying and distracting is absolutely right.”

4. The Future of Morality, at Every Internet User's Fingertips Tim Hwang, the Atlantic, August 2015

Two recent high-profile examples show the shape of an emerging notion of what we might call ethical attention. More than simply symbolic gestures, the refusal to link or click actually expresses a deeper vision of the role norms play in the evolution of the Internet, and more importantly, new ethical expectations for individuals and platforms on the web.

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As someone who both works in the broader advermarketingPR world and uses adblockers (two! Adblock Plus and Ghostery), it's worth jotting down a few notes on where I sit.

1. I'm basically pro advertising-funded media, from news websites to TV & social networks. Why? Universalism.

It means we get communications platforms shared across all of society, not just an elite who'd pay a subscription. (While not subscription-funded, we can see what social media platforms for the heavy-user elite look like in Ello and Diaspora - they just weren't any fun.)

This universalism is essential for creating a commons, a sense of society as a shared project.

Wells suggests taxation but I'm chary of increasing this, especially on a flat-rate basis like the BBC licensing fee. Elgan makes a not-entirely successful case for advertising by contrast functioning as a tax primarily on the rich. I am in favour of this.

2. Arguments about the 'direct value' or utility of advertising to the consumer are mostly bollocks, but...

The first article tries to make this argument in favour of search advertising - it's eh. The second article seeks to argue against this 'utility' position in four ways:

i. Consumers no longer struggle to find information to make purchases (we have price comparison websites)

ii. The signalling value of high advertising spending as indicating a company's stature & trustworthiness is also daft, because inefficient way to this end. (cc a campaign to get Coca Cola to redirect its annual $3 billion ad spend to charity)

iii. The social status that advertising can confer on a product and its consumption

"What's the point of buying a Rolex or Mercedes unless the people around you know that it is expensive and are able to appreciate how rich and successful you must be? The business logic here is sound, but not the moral logic. [...] Such advertising constitutes a regressive tax imposed on the rest of us by luxury brands in order to increase the value of their products to rich people."

iv. "Advertising creates value by spinning a story around a brand that customers want to buy into"

"I think the fashioning of these illusions - turning clothes into fashion; turning food into health; turning diamonds into love - is the most significant way that advertising creates economic value, as real as the transformation of steel into a car or cotton into cloth. But I am dubious of the worth of its achievement. In effect, advertising tries to do our practical reasoning for us, shaping and ordering our inchoate desires into actionable preferences for specific products. But will buying those things really make us happy?"

I guess I work in this industry because I believe that branding is the transformation of objects into symbols (a process I find inherently interesting), and that these branded symbols are as good as any others for communicating with.

Many people might like to conjugate this something like, "I make vaporwave music, you carry a Verso tote bag, and that sad bastard over there thinks his Nike trainers make him cool"... But same difference.

That is, I have bought things that have made me happy. Whether or not this stands up against serious philosophical arguments as to the nature of the 'good life', I'm unsure. But infecting stuff with meaning works to create social value within the boundaries of the capitalist here-and-now, at least.

That said, meaning being social, I can't separate point iv) from iii) and argue that the 'story' only has value for people because it's potentially wasted other folks' time to create this shared, communicative capability.

3. The right to preserve our attention

These pro/anti- advertising arguments tend to be perceived in black and white terms - you're either for or against it all. I'll hope you'll recognise that's not hte argument I'm making here.

Instead I agree with pretty much everything Wells says about "The right to preserve our attention" - which is why I'm bringing in the adblockers piece as an example.

4. Why adblockers are moral, a precis of the Bilton article

i. Utilitarianism: Ads annoys more people than they benefit ii. Informed consent: Readers have no idea how their data's being sold to third parties, so may defend against this iii. But Kant's Categorial Imperative? Nope: "readers aren’t ethically obligated to support business models that can’t sustain themselves"

5. A fudged democracy

The Bilton adblockers article closes with the possibility that, if too many people use ad-blockers, sites will move over to subscription models - which would mean bye-bye universalism in order to push people into subscribing.

His implication is that this would represent something like the collective will of the consumer, at least in action if not conscious reckoning. In which case I'd have to agree it's some kind of fair.

Which is more than can be maybe said of the kludge we have at present, where people like me get to enjoy our universal media cake and eat it, by using adblockers - i.e. profiting off the inertia of other folk who choose not to. Functional yes, ethical - I'm not so sure.

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[Photo by Scott Philips, Paris, 1983 - img src | his blog]

Hunting Rebecca Francis Howley, NYMag.com 2 August 2015

Completely fascinating article about one of America's best hunters - Rebecca Francis - and what motivates her to hunt big game around the world.

What I'm interested by in this story is first Francis's extreme physical practices as she hunts:

"Consider her epic two-week sheep hunt in Alaska, undertaken with Lee in 1997. This involves, in extremely compressed summary: being dropped at the bottom of a 3,000-foot Alaskan glacier with a 50-pound pack and as many miles from anything; crossing said glacier over a day of difficult hiking; climbing the steep shale, surface-of-the-moon-like striated cliffs, on which sheep actually live; camping on plateaus so small they can’t accommodate the entire tent; remaining in that tent through a three-day rainstorm that drives the peak right off an adjacent mountain; running out of food; climbing back over the glacier to get to where the plane can drop more food; returning, once again over the glacier, to the cliffs; camping through a terrifying windstorm that threatens to sweep the tent off the mountain; engaging in an activity Francis calls “celebrating our anniversary” on a cliff while waiting for sheep to show up; shooting a ram from 500 yards at dusk; watching that ram tumble in a kind of blur of white and gray down a ravine in the glacier; having no idea which ravine; returning to camp for a few hours’ sleep; waking up to search for the carcass; spotting, by incredible luck, the mangled ram at the bottom of a ravine; slicing the ram open to look for any meat not ruined by bone fragments; and carrying the ram back over the glacier. Francis’s pack, when she made the sheep-meat-laden journey back, weighed 90 pounds. She weighed 115."

This is, I would argue, a substantial physical respect being paid to the animal which legitimises the hunt as a practice.

Within anthropology, studies of animal-human relations and particularly hunting often find a kind of symmetry and reciprocity, known as 'perspectivism': the animal has a consciousness and decides to be killed, just as much as the hunter decides to catch it.

"Men make gifts to the animal world, that is to the bush, and in return are the recipients of gifts of game animals killed by the hunters" -- Tanner (1979: 173)
"[Religious observances] materially affect the efficiency of hunting and trapping in an environment where animals consciously regulate hunters' access to them. If these acts are performed correctly, it is said that slain animals will be reborn and voluntarily offer themselves to hunters by entering traps and allowing themselves to be killed with guns. Cree sometimes say that hunters can only kill animals when this voluntary self-sacrifice occurs. If the practices are omitted or performed incorrectly, it is said that animals will fail to be reborn or will withold themselves from hunters by frustrating attempts to kill them." -- Brightman (1993: 103)

In the Siberian and North American context, this human-animal exchange operates through notions of compassion, gift-giving and reciprocity; in Amazonia through predation and commensality (Fausto 2007).

The ritualistic qualities of Francis's hunt - the silence, the waiting, the physical endurance, the bow & arrow, the restraint in when & what she'll choose to kill: these I would argue provide the adherence to a notion of proper forms (and, in addition, the levelling of odds between hunter and hunted) that legitimise the act of killing.

As an anthropologist, though, I must also pay attention to Francis's own perceptions of what she does. Her recognition of the fierce intimacy of hunting has perspectivist overtones in the talk of relationship:

"It’s a relationship I built with them that few people ever have. It’s you and God’s creation. It’s as close to God as you can get.”

The notion of animals as a gift from God's creation for human use also has direct parallels in the Arctic anthropology I'm reading:

"...the game animals that we hunt for food are the things that come from God. From the time earth came into being and subsequently after that, game animals were placed so that humans can use them for sustenance. That is the reason why they are, right up to this day." -- George Kappianaq, quoted in Laugrand & Oosten (2015 p.3)

Looking again at where Francis explains how she understands her hunting practice, we see her also justify her hunting in terms of human nature, provision of sustence, and this one-on-one encounter with animal nature:

“It’s like,” she says, “you look at dogs. You have these cute lapdogs, and they’re sweet and tender. But then you have dogs that are natural hunters. That’s just who they are. It doesn’t make them a bad dog. They’re still dogs. And some people are made different. It’s not because I want to go murder something and take something’s spirit. It’s, I’m gonna provide meat for my family. I’m gonna have an experience in nature. I’m gonna be one-on-one with this animal.”

I don't think I would call her motivation to encounter the Other, you know. I think it's more perspectivist than that: so, not that the animal isn't an-other but she's also recognising it as a consciousness, and there is a glimmer of knowability in that.

The author does however rightly draw our attention to the contradictions and romanticism in these explanations:

"On the long flight home, I look again at the picture. I have by this time seen pictures of Francis scraping the meat from a moose in which most of her body is literally inside the moose. She is a survivalist chasing violent communion with nature, almost unimaginably tolerant of physical pain. The giraffe in the photograph is an animal that exists to be killed by people like Francis, wild but not quite wildlife, live but not quite livestock, his entire life scripted from conception onward to provide hunters with the idea of wilderness in a place where wilderness has been made impossible."

Food for thought.

*

References & further reading: - Brightman, Robert 1993 'Grateful Prey' (Google Book) - Fienup-Riordan, Ann 1994 'Boundaries and Passages: Rule and Ritual in Yup'ik Eskimo Oral Tradition' (Google Books) - Laugrand & Oosten 2015 'Hunters, Predators & Prey: Inuit Perceptions of Animals' (Google Books) - Tanner, Adrian 1979 'Bringing Home Animals' - Willerslev, Rane 2004 'Not Animal, Not Not-Animal: Hunting, imitation and empathetic knowledge among the Siberian Yukaghirs' JRAI 10(3) (full text pdf)

Avatar
Anonymous asked:

I've been thinking seriously lately about getting into trend forecasting, specifically with regard to emerging net culture and larger pop culturism. The only TF company I know like this is k-hole who brought normcore to popularity so I was wondering if you knew other similar TF companies or how to get into the industry? Thanks! I wanna make the zeitgeist my life.

Right.

First thing you need to know is that K-Hole aren’t a real trends agency but rather conceptual art. Or, um, well, they weren’t a real trends agency. Now they might be. It’s kind of complicated. 

But basically whilst they’re awesome, they are also very special snowflake and not actually a firm you can join.In this post I’ll outline how you can actually build a career in this space from a mostly-London perspective. 

Many thanks to Scott Smith of Changeist who has provided 90% of the intel. (Though I’m not sure you can work for him either, he’s very boutique.)

1. Trend forecasting is often not called trend forecasting

‘Trends’ and ‘cool hunting’ were buzzwords in the 1990s, but the rise of the internet made knowing what denim brands were hot in Tokyo less of a leverageable advantage.

“Innovation” is the present buzzword - “innovation agencies” and “innovation consultancies” are one place you find this type of work. “Brand consultancies” and “brand strategy” firms are another - and the cool (expensive) end of qualitative market research (or “consumer research”) a third. 

2. Accept that what you’re doing is capitalism

Companies don’t hire you because you are especially zeitgeisty. They hire you because you can guide them to make more money - either by making products that are more relevant to consumers’ lives, or communicating (marketing) those products more effectively.“Here is a cool thing going on in culture” is not valuable business advice. “You should do X because of Y cool thing going on in culture, and you’ll achieve result Z” is.

Accept that what you’re doing is business consultancy and read up on competitive advantage, branding, positioning and so on. Ultimately it’s knowing this stuff that makes you better at trends consultancy - not just developing some terrifically expensive intuition about brands… *cough Cayce Pollard*

2a. You can still make K-Hole style conceptual art about capitalism and brands

You just won’t be doing it as your main job. Or getting paid for it  - a girl can’t eat Fast Company articles or Tumblr likes, more’s the pity.

In fact, making pretty decent money in this industry and then going freelance as a consultant is probably one of the best ways to clear time & space for making art - and arguably much more viable than traditional art routes of MFAs, teaching jobs, writing and so on. 

Go talk to Benedict Singleton (a design strategist) as one example.

3. Some firms to look at

Here are some actual companies who offer jobs in this space:i) Traditional futures firmsFocused on consumer trends, rather than being the leaders at technology trends, geopolitical futures, or fashion trends_Future Foundation_The Future Laboratory

ii) Fashion forecasting_WGSN (the big guns, industry behemoths)_Editd (more of a tech start-up)

iii) Trends editorialCompanies taking the most journalistic approach to trends._Protein_Stylus (ex-WGSN founders)

iv) Ad agency landEach of the big ad agency groups has some kind of trends unit, e.g._Lowe Counsel (within Mullen Lowe Group, within Interpublic_Landor (within WPP)_Sparks & Honey (within Omnicom)

Scott Changeist notes: “doesn’t seem like you have to have too much of a background to get into those places/roles, just know people and be able to emulate others doing same work”

v) Stand alone agenciesVariously in this brand-y, innovation-y, qualitative kind of consumer space._Dragon Rouge_Flamingo   and many more.

4. How to get a job with these firms

  • Write 3 decent blog posts about consumer trends issues, and publish them somewhere like Medium (more business-y than Tumblr)
  • Acquire some points of view on brands, contemporary trends, and consumer needs
  • Contact named individuals at these agencies (research directors, not HR) asking if they offer internships and explaining (i) why you’re interested in them and (ii) why you’re awesome
  • If they say they’re not doing internships, ask to meet them for a get-to-know-you coffee anyway, and mine them for information about where you should be applying
  • Refuse any internships that aren’t paid (it’s against the law)

Internships will turn into paid jobs about half the time, as a rule of thumb. Key thing is never to wait for advertised job postings but be proactive.Good luck.

If, after all this, you’re still interested in working in this field?

Avatar
Avatar
chrismenning

Be careful.

The zeitgeistiness can be alluring, and then managing to make some correct predictions and rake in bajillions of hits can be reassuring, but if one day the capitalism of it all makes you feel hollow and cynical, I’m afraid there’s no coming back. It’s quite possible that you’ll look back on your 20s, see it for the wild ride that it was, but then find that almost none of it is remotely applicable to the jobs available to you in your 30s. You might as well have been a warp drive consultant in another galaxy for all anyone else is concerned. They’ll have no idea what you’re talking about, and be stunned and confused that the jobs you’ve had are actually jobs that exist. I’m not saying that will happen to you. But it can. And it does.

Avatar

This is now giving ME career-fear.

Which I think is probably healthy. Where I am in a market research context is going a couple of ways.

On the one hand we're talking a lot internally about the importance of design as a terrain we have to compete on. It's a form of premiumisation. Other innovation agencies do work which isn't markedly superior insight- or content-wise, but that looks very polished. In terms of the kung fu of making ideas real inside client companies, that matters. So it's about looking more 'consultancy' and more design-centric.

On the other hand, research like any other industry faces commoditisation: the move from new, bespoke and expensive to mass market, automated and cheap. Clients are increasingly buying platforms & tools rather than insight consultancy, taking both social media and cocreation research methods in house. They're also working off thinner data and less research full stop.

How do you design and sustain a successful career in these conditions, when the only constant is change? Same as ever: connections, advocates, portfolio and results. Still. It can be daunting. Chris's point about 'being legible' is important.

Anonymous asked:

I've been thinking seriously lately about getting into trend forecasting, specifically with regard to emerging net culture and larger pop culturism. The only TF company I know like this is k-hole who brought normcore to popularity so I was wondering if you knew other similar TF companies or how to get into the industry? Thanks! I wanna make the zeitgeist my life.

Right.

First thing you need to know is that K-Hole aren’t a real trends agency but rather conceptual art. Or, um, well, they weren’t a real trends agency. Now they might be. It’s kind of complicated. 

But basically whilst they’re awesome, they are also very special snowflake and not actually a firm you can join.In this post I’ll outline how you can actually build a career in this space from a mostly-London perspective. 

Many thanks to Scott Smith of Changeist who has provided 90% of the intel. (Though I’m not sure you can work for him either, he’s very boutique.)

1. Trend forecasting is often not called trend forecasting

‘Trends’ and ‘cool hunting’ were buzzwords in the 1990s, but the rise of the internet made knowing what denim brands were hot in Tokyo less of a leverageable advantage.

“Innovation” is the present buzzword - “innovation agencies” and “innovation consultancies” are one place you find this type of work. “Brand consultancies” and “brand strategy” firms are another - and the cool (expensive) end of qualitative market research (or “consumer research”) a third. 

2. Accept that what you’re doing is capitalism

Companies don’t hire you because you are especially zeitgeisty. They hire you because you can guide them to make more money - either by making products that are more relevant to consumers’ lives, or communicating (marketing) those products more effectively.“Here is a cool thing going on in culture” is not valuable business advice. “You should do X because of Y cool thing going on in culture, and you’ll achieve result Z” is.

Accept that what you’re doing is business consultancy and read up on competitive advantage, branding, positioning and so on. Ultimately it’s knowing this stuff that makes you better at trends consultancy - not just developing some terrifically expensive intuition about brands... *cough Cayce Pollard*

2a. You can still make K-Hole style conceptual art about capitalism and brands

You just won’t be doing it as your main job. Or getting paid for it  - a girl can’t eat Fast Company articles or Tumblr likes, more’s the pity.

In fact, making pretty decent money in this industry and then going freelance as a consultant is probably one of the best ways to clear time & space for making art - and arguably much more viable than traditional art routes of MFAs, teaching jobs, writing and so on. 

Go talk to Benedict Singleton (a design strategist) as one example.

3. Some firms to look at

Here are some actual companies who offer jobs in this space:i) Traditional futures firmsFocused on consumer trends, rather than being the leaders at technology trends, geopolitical futures, or fashion trends_Future Foundation_The Future Laboratory

ii) Fashion forecasting_WGSN (the big guns, industry behemoths)_Editd (more of a tech start-up)

iii) Trends editorialCompanies taking the most journalistic approach to trends._Protein_Stylus (ex-WGSN founders)

iv) Ad agency landEach of the big ad agency groups has some kind of trends unit, e.g._Lowe Counsel (within Mullen Lowe Group, within Interpublic_Landor (within WPP)_Sparks & Honey (within Omnicom)

Scott Changeist notes: “doesn't seem like you have to have too much of a background to get into those places/roles, just know people and be able to emulate others doing same work”

v) Stand alone agenciesVariously in this brand-y, innovation-y, qualitative kind of consumer space._Dragon Rouge_Flamingo   and many more.

4. How to get a job with these firms

  • Write 3 decent blog posts about consumer trends issues, and publish them somewhere like Medium (more business-y than Tumblr)
  • Acquire some points of view on brands, contemporary trends, and consumer needs
  • Contact named individuals at these agencies (research directors, not HR) asking if they offer internships and explaining (i) why you’re interested in them and (ii) why you’re awesome
  • If they say they’re not doing internships, ask to meet them for a get-to-know-you coffee anyway, and mine them for information about where you should be applying
  • Refuse any internships that aren’t paid (it’s against the law)

Internships will turn into paid jobs about half the time, as a rule of thumb. Key thing is never to wait for advertised job postings but be proactive.Good luck.

If, after all this, you’re still interested in working in this field?

Anonymous asked:

What should I ask you?

Something surprising and challenging enough that I wonder who you are.

What the Rise of the Couture Body Means for Fashion by Veronique Hyland @veroniquean NYMag, 5 May 2015 "Skin-baring on the red carpet is now dominating even supposedly fashion-focused events like the Met Gala or the CFDA Awards. We've officially entered a realm that you might call post-fashion. The body is the new outfit. The gym is the new atelier. Curves and indentations that were once sculpted by corsetry, boning, panniers, strategic padding, or even, more recently, Spanx are now squarely in evidence. Where celebrities once relied on the darting hands of petits mains fitting them, designers' clever tricks of tailoring, stylists' concerted applications of double-stick tape, they now turn to personal trainers (and maybe, in some cases, plastic surgeons) to design their bodies. And they're, in some sense, wearing their bodies just as much as they are wearing fashion [...] Of course, bodies have always been subject to trends — look at the waifish '90s, or the hard-bodied Fonda '80s. But the ideal body type right now is a particularly tricky feat of engineering — simultaneously curvy and toned, voluptuous and meager — the Protestant work ethic writ onto flesh. Effortless is no longer the goal — now, a body has to look like the product of work."

Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake and dress them in warm clothes again. How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running until they forget that they are horses. It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere, it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio, how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple to slice into pieces. Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that means we’re inconsolable. Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us. These, our bodies, possessed by light. Tell me we’ll never get used to it.

“Scheherazade”, Richard Siken (via naranzarian) Tell me we'll never get used to it. Richard Siken breaks my damn heart. PS he has a new poetry collection out - only his second, 'War of the Foxes' published 28 April from Copper Canyon Press. In her introduction to Crush, his first volume of poetry, Louise Gluck hails the "cumulative, driving, apocalyptic power, [and] purgatorial recklessness" of Siken's poems. "Books of this kind dream big...They restore to poetry that sense of crucial moment and crucial utterance which may indeed be the great genius of the form."

WE ARE OVERTAKEN BY EVENTS A round-up of talks, art events & experimental electronic music in London over the next couple of months. Aka Hautepop's Attempt To Avert Complete Failure In Keeping Track of Things And Actually Have A Social Life. Friends, if you are doing a Thing and I should know about it, please let me know. * TONIGHT 16 May 19.30 Trace Bodies, ICA bar Caspar Heinemann (@angstravaganza) & some other people in a group performance which "looks at affective online alienation in relation to corporeality and identity production and consumption." Sold out but Caspar says come along anyway, apparently... TONIGHT 16 May 19.30 Ezra Sound single launch, Power Lunches, Kingsland Road. Thom Dinsdale @thomdinsdale aka Sweet Breads is playing. TOMORROW Sunday 17 May, 18.50, Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay, ICA "The first film to trace the origins of industrial music, taking you on a journey through the crumbling industrial cities of Europe to America’s thriving avant-garde scene". This showing may be sold out (IDK) but there are others until 21 May. People who wear black are obligated to attend. THURS 21 May, 19.30, Kate Bornstein in conversation with Roz Kaveney, Hackney Attic Performance-artist-theorist-gender-activist Kate Bornstein does her thing. Facebook is saying sold out but I've just bought a ticket (£10) off the Picture House website, so... SAT 23 May, late, KAOS presents Orphx, Electrowerkz Horrible industrial techno. Who wants to come? Tickets here (£15) THUR 28 May onward, FIELD: Violescence / Forays, The Hospital Club WC2H, FREE "Violescence is a continuation of FIELD’s ongoing exploration of new formats and platforms for digital art including immersive virtual reality experiences connected to sculpture, photography and video manipulated with visual effects, the blend between physical and digital environments and identities." Private view 28 May, artist's talk Sat 30 May. FRI 29 - SUN 31 May, #FOMO series of talks at ICA Lots of good things here, including: FRI 29 May, 17.00 - Judy Wajcman, Olia Lialina and Karen Archey, SOLD OUT SAT 30 May, 14.00 - Tony Prescott, ZENO the robot, Eleanor Saitta, £10 SUN 31 May, 12.00 - Yuri Pattison, McKenzie Wark, £10 SUN 31 May, 15.00 - Helen Hester, FOMO Panel chaired by Hito Steyerl, SOLD OUT SAT 30 May, 11-17.00, Walk the Peckham coal line, Bussey Building, Copeland Park SE15, FREE In Peckham's inexorable gentrification apparently entails pitching for its own version of the High Line, Manhattan's (admittedly gorgeous) elevated railway-park. On 30 May you can walk the 1km route. WED 10 June, 20.00, Holly Herndon at XOYO, EC2A Electronic music artist Holly H. live, promoting her new album Platform. First saw her at Brighton Digital Festival & she is amaze. Tickets £13, here. WED 17 June, 18.30, Technofeminism Now, ICA, £7 "Panel discussion chaired by Helen Hester revisiting the contributions of technofeminism, in light of recent developments in leftist critical thinking. This marks the English language publication of the transfeminist collective Laboria Cuboniks’s Xenofeminism: a Politics for Alienation (2015)."