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17 May 2010

Coachella as seen by Hedi Slimane

I’ll admit it. I’m not that into rock festivals. The crowds, the terrible sound, the lack of intimate connection with the music on display. That said the Coachella photographs from the diary of French fashion designer Hedi Slimane make it look pretty awesome, certainly even more stylish and enchanting than the event itself (which I did, in fact, attend earlier this month). His book Rock Diary (which is apparently out-of-print) comes highly recommended. A few more Coachella images from his diary appear after the jump.

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8 September 2009

These Are Powers offer no easy answers

thesearepowers1
Click above for larger sized image.

One reason I stopped being a full-time music writer is that I hate feeling compelled to write about what I’m hearing when language fails to do justice to the sound. It should also go without saying that, at times, what one sees at a concert actually seems even more important than the music.

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Along those lines, I hope to write more in this space about synesthesia in the arts…

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But, huh, now I’m starting to write checks that I cannot possibly cash. All I want to do right now is give you a brief introduction to an amazing new(ish) band I saw at a free show under an uncompleted stretch of Manhattan’s High Line Park this past Saturday. I’m not so much interested in what I might say about them but I do like my pictures.

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11 August 2009

Responsibility is my albatross

Seriously though. It is. The same can not be said about the San Francisco band Girls if their latest video is anything to go by.

And I love them for it. My previously established band crush continues. I am reminded of visits to friends in unfamiliar cities; of idealized staycations; of taking pleasure in your friends & what’s around you.

I clicked around some more online and found some older videos by them. These ones are a bit more homemade than the already homemade aesthetic of their more recent vids. I’ll admit that, by comparison, they are somewhat pitiful. In an awesome way — all of them suffused with that same California mood & California light. But still. Sort of pitifulawesome. After the jump, more of these halcyon days & halcyon ways.

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11 May 2009

Costume colors & a patterning that defiles the mind with loveliness (aka Bedazzle me now baby)

How to Blow up Two Heads at Once (Ladies) (2006)

How to Blow up Two Heads at Once (Ladies) (2006)

Generally when I dress I cut a rather shabby shape — old clothes, sometimes ill-fit. At best I’ve been complimented on my uniformity of dress. (In college, I wore white t-shirts and jeans with a ritualistic rigor; more recently I’ve become fond of black denim and button up shirts topped by a Filson vest that looks like it was cut from a single piece of thick, Beuys-like felt.)

No matter my personal style I can’t fight the allure of beautiful clothes; nor the sense that the last twenty odd years have seen a repeated incursion of art makers who use them as their medium of choice; nor the observation that, no matter what subculture these artists emerge from, my favorites seem to tropism toward the same aesthetic: psychedelic colors explode the eyes’ capacity to order what they see, a patchwork aesthetic that baffles even the thrift-store trained mind.

I’m speaking here of the gay Australian-British icon Leigh Bowery; the proto-indie, American collective Forcefield; the African-British, institutionally-approved Yinka Shonibare MBE (MBE!); and, most recently anointed, the Midwestern dancer and professor Nick Cave. (Visualizations, which I’ll try to prioritize over explication, come after the jump.)

This art world meme I’d like to delineate draws an odd narrative. The crossing of geographical and sociological boundaries makes no sense. However, the psychographic implications — to borrow my favorite term from the advertising & branding trades — are another thing, entirely. I’m hoping this short jaunt will draw some conclusions about that shared mentalities of the practitioners, tying this all together with a neat little bow. (Like a drawstring on the back of a dress, like a particularly eccentric cravat.)

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30 April 2009

Lives in Pictures

sartorialist

(All photographs in this post via The Sartorialist)

I saw a this blog post the other day that seemed to summarize three abiding interests of mine all at once — death, style, and the inability to articulate important things. It opens:

    My Father passed away last week.

I won’t try to write about what he meant to me, because I am not a good enough writer to express that level of sentiment.

This appeared on The Sartorialist, a blog about fashionable people captured in situ on various city streets — in Melbourne, Milan, Paris, New York. Not the first place you’d expect to read about death but there it was.

I have been thinking about dead fathers a lot recently — as well as about elder parents in general, the difficulty of losing these people. My friends & I are all getting to that age or, rather, the people who raised us are. And then The Call comes. With stunning regularity nowadays. Without rhyme or reason. “It’s not like they were 80.” “But she was fine just last week.” “You saw what in the hospital?”

But the thing is, that’s not what is said in these circumstances. I backtrack. “Was it unexpected?” I check in. “Are you okay?” I struggle. “— — —” As if anything will help…

How are we supposed to talk about these things?

I appreciate how the post I quoted opens with a powerfully inarticulate one-two punch. It’s a tough thing to acknowledge that you don’t really know what to say, and it is a brave and revealing thing to say it artlessly. I’m reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein…

    What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

Wittgenstein puts everything in such poetic terms. But even better is the courage to stumble, then try to say something anyway. It’s more vulnerable, more human, less self-conscious, and I appreciated that.

Of course, also, there was the simple nostalgic act of posting old pictures. (Accompanying the post is a series of images from 1964-65 of the author’s dad — a writer/producer/director for television — on location, in many of the same cities where The Sartorialist finds his subjects.) They’re well curated, of course. And the context add depth to the entire enterprise. It turned the blogger’s obsession with style into a kind of reflection on where he came from.

This is how I got here.

I won’t claim to say I noticed a difference in the pictures that have come in the aftermath. But that’s not how we benefit from experience is it? It’s not an all-at-once thing. The skill of seeing things, really seeing things, accretes over time, like lines around the eyes. The Sartorialist is a casual master at showing how pictures can speak more clearly than language ever does.

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