This is Not an Exist: the Failures of New American Modernism and the Endgame of Late-Capitalism.


If you live in New York City, particularly below 14th Street or in Brooklyn, you’ve seen it.
If you live in Portland, OR, Austin, TX or any number of Liberal Arts or Universities-With-a-Good-Art-Program college towns you’ve seen it.
Actually, if you live in Portland you’re responsible for it and you have some explaining to do.
I’m talking about what can loosely be umbrella’d under the term Organic Modernism - a correlative sensibility of fashion and design aesthetics and lifestyle choices with a predilection for plaid, big leather boots, twee accouterments like birds, taxidermy, hewn wood furniture, filament bulbs, urban farming and pickling things; which can only be rivaled by the spectrum of Instagram filters in its desperate longing for authenticity and the nostalgia for an ever elusive mythologized moment of ‘now’ in the era of endless cyclical return.
This infantile reversion to a mythologized American ideal is one of two main strains of contemporary semiological aesthetics, the other being the hyperreal graphics of the New Aesthetic which highlight the artificiality of our current era, rather than seek to retreat from it (think the 1950’s sleekness of Lana del Ray vs. the hypercolor of Nicki Minaj if you want a soundbyte spectrum of the visuals). If you live in New York City, where much of these types of things originate, or at least where they coalesce under the scrutiny of the media, the ease with which they mingle and remix with each other bespeaks to the fact that they are born of the same impetus, and in fact have much more in common with one another than initially meets the eye.
Whereas the New Aesthetic remixes the symbols of imagery, Organic Modernism remixes the imagery of symbols - both semiotic channels spawn from the pervasive intrusion of media in our daily lives, one seeking to embrace (or at least comment on this) the other outwardly seeming to present an alternative to it.
Organic Modernism, however much it would wish otherwise, is safely ensconced within the paradigm to which it outwardly presents an alternative. Woodsmen and taxidermy do not ‘grow in Brooklyn’ and filament bulbs, while appearing to harken back to a simpler age, are in fact more wasteful and expensive than regular light bulbs (a technologic extension of their time and therefore in actuality the true tenet of Modernist ethos) - this ‘symbol’ of authenticity is a perfect microcosm of the fault at the center of this aesthetic matrix.
It is the symbolism of the real, not a natural organic extension of reality (which can be argued to have disappeared completely, but more on those psychosocial dynamics shortly) but rather the management of the symbols of authenticity, no more truly authentic than the blatant symbol management of simulacra of the New Aesthetic. It is the ‘idea’ of authenticity and reality, the presentation of it in the hyper-specification of products required for innovation in our Post-Fordist economic landscape where we no longer make ‘things’ but rather we make the ‘idea’ of things - we are not going to re-invent the axe in terms of functionality, but we can make the prettiest most expensive god damn Platonic ‘axe’ you can buy.
I grew up in Vermont chopping wood for the wood-stove in our house in the dead of winter, and I’m sorry but I would not trust anyone who needed a Wes Andersonized $300 ‘American Felling Axe’ from Best Made Company to get me through a New England winter.
I would trust them to sit in their apartment looking at that axe and taking pictures of it on Instagram, and longing for an exit to the contemporary American collective existential crisis, however.


Dolce & Gabbana’s Foray into the Arena of Genderqueer


this article originally appeared at www.thisisfyf.com

The LGBT community has made enormous strides since June 28th, 1969 and with our increasing visibility and acceptance into mainstream culture has come a greater understanding of the nuances and shades of human sexuality and gender identity. Some would like a Q added on, as Queer better describes a fluid and malleable sense of self where concepts of male/female mix freely like sample scents at the Saks perfume counters.
Of note was the recent kerfuffle around Mx. Justin Vivian Bond’s profile in New York Magazine. Admittedly New York is a publication catering toward an urbane and educated readership, but this was still quite a mainstream outlet to be addressing something as niche (even in the gay community) as a type of gender fluidity that is beyond even Trans; not being born in the wrong gender, but essentially having no gender.
My own social circle casts rather a wide net: variety being the spice of life and myself being a rather curious individual who is absolutely fascinated by people. I pride myself on having friends from all walks of life, and count many persons with no self-identified gender as intimates and associates. From boys who love heels, to girls who bind, to the explosive diversity of the (often tiresomely narcissistic) Club Kid scene, I have more than a handful of people in my life who change personalities as often as they change their jeans.
In the Downtown milieu (Downtown now also includes Brooklyn) waifish androgyny is a social cultivar and there are lots of pretty boys that look like pretty girls, and vice-versa.
So it was on a lazy Sunday after a dinner party, watching movies with my friend Jess, when I was flipping through the past two issues of Vogue when I was delighted by, among other things, a series of spreads for the Fall ’11 campaign for Dolce & Gabbana.
Initially the advertisements appeared to contain the usual multitude of heroin-chic vaguely androgynous models popularized by the likes of Calvin Klein and David Sorrenti in the mid-1990’s. In my Sunday morning THC haze there seemed to be nothing innovative about some pretty girls sitting on the laps of pretty boys in fedoras and tight black pants. I can walk down the street to a bar in my neighborhood and see the same thing on any given weeknight.
Then I looked closer and was delighted to discover they were all girls.
What looked in fact like a standard issue designer spread in an over-hyped self-important glossy rag was in fact subtly inverting that tableaux to subvert traditional gender roles. Even this second cursory glance could be brushed aside by someone with no knowledge of the concept of Gender Queer (this fact in and of itself also rather subversive) as a lark ‘oh they dressed them like boys, how darling.’ But there are a good five or six of theseads, with lithe young women in men’s clothing sitting with legs splayed and aggressively grasping the waists of the models portraying the role of the traditional female. It went beyond typical androgyny to an aggressive stance and assertion of masculinity on the part of females.
And while it is true that Japanese Vogue ran a spread of Lady Gaga as a Drag King, that was an editorial choice of that particular magazine and something that was viewed as yet another piece of her Performance-Art-Fame-Machine. I’m not undermining the fact that it was actually very provocative, and one of the more interesting iterations of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, but it was not an unannounced well-manicured ad in Anna Wintour’s Bible for Bored Housewives With Aspirational Lifestyle Fantasies. The very lack of fanfare and the fact that it was in American Vogue is what I find to be the most intriguing elements of the campaign.
I mean, Marc Jacob managed to get his ad featuring two men kissing banned from Men’s Vogue, but again the very Under the Radar nature of D&G’s Fall 2011 Campaign is what I find most appealing about it. I almost missed it and only upon further reflection did I realize how it undermined traditional gender roles using a fairly standard and well accepted visual language for fashion advertisements.
Fashion, art, and culture bubbles up from the streets of New York on a regular basis, be it Hip Hop, Punk, or one of half-a-dozen iterations of one or the other (and yes, I know we stole Punk from the British but they stole Hip Hope from us, so I call even-Steven). With the increasing visibility of the Gender Queer community in mainstream culture (at least ‘New York mainstream’) perhaps gender-play is the next hot commodity in art and fashion?
A relatively safe glossy spread in Vogue may be a pebble in the pond, but every cultural ripple has to start somewhere.


The Day I Used a Woman’s Razor is the Day That May Have Changed My Life

A few weeks ago I was on vacation in the White Mountains spending a little time out of the urban sweatbox that was Brooklyn to hike, swim, and generally frolic in nature. Nature, of course being a mountain resort and a series of well maintained hiking trails.

I had my bathing suit, my phone, my wallet, ID, spare keys, and my neighbor was checking in on my rabbit every other day. I had everything I needed, however in my haste to escape the city at the height of this relentlessly oppressive onikare we call ‘July’ I had forgotten to pack a disposable razor.

Now, I am a scruffy, curly Jew-fro’d young man and I have a wealth of accoutrements to maintain my beard to an acceptable length and level of tidiness becoming with social decorum and standards of decency. We are not grizzled prospectors, it is not the 19th century, and there is no reasonable excuse to go around looking like a 49er from summer stock or a dinner theatre.

Seeing as I was out of New York and in the wild, rugged vastly uncharted summer resort town of Lincoln, New Hampshire, I thought I might be able to make it through the week without a shave – I had pruned the topiary the day before I left in anticipation of a packed schedule, but my facial hair seems to grow twice as fast as usual, and so by midweek I had the beginnings of a neck-beard and seeing as we were going out to dinner every night something had to be done if I was going to be seen in public.

I could have gone and bought a pack of safety razors, however seeing as the nearest store was a good few miles into town and I was at the vehicular mercy of others, I deigned simply to borrow a razor from one of the lady-folk in our party. It was pink, plastic and looked like a prop out of an after-school special on the miracle of ‘becoming a woman.’

I’m telling you right now, I may never go back.

Whenever I shave my neck, there is usually a nick or two that requires the application of a small square of toilet tissue. I have used this same razor THRICE (I packed in my suitcase to test my little theory) and have had nary a splotch of blood, and I’m telling you I could have shellacked my neck in after-shave and wouldn’t have felt even the slightest hints of burning.

How was the shave? My neck is doubtlessly comparable to the buttocks of a newborn baby. I have NEVER had a shave this smooth that stayed smooth for at least two days. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy shaving and the various bathroom rituals of manhood, but not having even a trace of stubble for two days is akin to splitting the atom.

Currently I am engaged in some research to determine if women’s’ razors have finer, more delicate blades (something to do with shaving legs and, most of the time, underarms) or if there is some vast conspiracy afoot to deny men the same quality of product that has been bequeathed on the XX chromosome crowd since time immemorial.

Consequently gentlemen, if you see me at Duane Reade browsing the women’s’ toiletry section, you won’t have to ask yourself why.

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