Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Slow News Day at the End of the World: Adbusters vs The Hipsters

Apparently, the biggest enemy Adbusters has this month is the scourge of 17-year-old kids with fake glasses and lomo's.

"Hipster: The End of Western Civilization" takes anecdotal evidence to prove that some kids that hang out in dance clubs are superficial, and takes it to mean that all of youth culture is dead and decaying.

"Loosely associated with some form of creative output, they attend art parties, take lo-fi pictures with analog cameras, ride their bikes to night clubs and sweat it up at nouveau disco-coke parties. The hipster tends to religiously blog about their daily exploits, usually while leafing through generation-defining magazines like Vice, Another Magazine and Wallpaper. This cursory and stylized lifestyle has made the hipster almost universally loathed."

The article also chastises the inauthenticity of putting brakes on fixed-gear bikes. Because nothing else is happening right now? Rather than focusing on the kind of predatory absorption of youth culture that has made certain corporations rich, Adbusters wants to blame the kids for getting pulverized: all they wanted to do is go to an art party, and take some pictures of themselves having fun. And the fact that American Apparel or Urban Outfitters wants to sneak on to their Facebook accounts and appropriate what they're doing is something the hipsters are supposed to be in control of, and resisting.

According to Adbusters, hipsters are out of fucking control for daring to show and share their youth culture. They ought to be hiding in attics as the Urban Outfitters Fashion Police pass them by, lest they get dragged out and sent into a concentration camp, assigned to the labor of taking items from thrift stores, stamping a skull on them and making them into fashionable Hot Topic items.

I know why Adbusters is so defensive: because the hipster scene used to belong to the kind of hopeless, depressing vision of global annihilation that the magazine puts forward. It crushed the hope out of that scene, and now the kids want to dance like the world is ending, because: fuck it, it is.

The entire "bored" affectation is a defense mechanism against the fact that there's so much fucked up about the state of the world, whether these vapid teens know it or not. With so much guilt attached to every form of fun, every expression of youth, there's no wonder a veneer of ambivalence to that guilt is going to develop. It's either going to be that, or anxiety. Anxiety is what Adbusters thrived on in the 90's: "Go off your medications and burn down the system!"

My impression of Adbusters, by the way: "Everyone is batshit crazy because they are not spending enough time in the fucking woods! You are a fucking asshole for not spending more time in the fucking woods!"

I'm not saying the kids are alright. The drugged-up fashionistas of Williamsburg; the kids who smoke cigarettes with glazed-over eyes and talk obsessively about hair metal and make rape jokes, these kids are not OK. But these kids wouldn't be OK in the 60's, the 70's, or ever. They'd always be dicks, posers, over-cultivators of shitty cultural currency.

But to a large extent, if the rest of the kids don't seem to care too much about advertising and the subordination of youth culture to capitalism, it's because they don't give a shit. That ambivalence penetrates everything, unfortunately, but a good number of hipsters also possess the following attributes: Oversensitivity (Emo), Anger (Punk), Creative Frustration (Artscene), high anxiety (Usually, chain-smoking fashionistas).

All of these are actually evidence of giving a shit. If capitalism is constantly pulling the rug out from underneath them by making their lives into a product, they're used to it. They'll go on doing it for the same reasons kids have done what they've done forever: because it's fun, and might get them laid.

Finally, don't take me as saying the hipster scene we've got is the best youth movement. It's not. It's pretty weak, actually. But a lot of artists are working in it, and like any sane artist, you work within the culture you're given, and you hope the work transcends that.

Take an artist like Girl Talk, which is attacked in the article as "a mix that sounds like he took a hatchet to a collection of yesteryear billboard hits, from DMX to Dolly Parton, but mashed up with a jittery techno backbeat") isn't doing something interesting with our culture of information-overload, then I'll be damned. The status of this "unoriginal" culture is actually born out of the Adbusters-idealized 60's, in which artists acknowledged that technology has made everyone a producer, so now you can sit back and re-work what has already been produced. It's a fine stance.

The problem here is that Adbusters is looking at raw consumers and assuming that they are not producers, simply because we can't see people making art at a dance club.

"I take a look at one of the girls wearing a bright pink keffiyah and carrying a Polaroid camera and think, “If only we carried rocks instead of cameras, we’d look like revolutionaries.” But instead we ignore the weapons that lie at our feet – oblivious to our own impending demise."

Jesus Christ, somebody call diaryland. 1998 is calling, it wants its melodramatic apocalyptic visions back. In an article that decries nostalgia as a means of escaping superficiality, this sure does bring to mind the same, once-meaningful postures of French students in 1968. Sorry, dear writer, but that revolution ended and now has a 20-year-old child.

Youth culture is not, inherently, a resistance culture. Right now there is so much information for youth culture to process that it will inevitably be the mashup culture we see now: 90's indie rock aesthetics mixed with 60's psychedelia, 90's Nintendo Nostalgia from people with Preppy 80's V-necks and ironic mullets.

Are there no activists these days? I dunno. I just like thinking that they've figured out more pragmatic ways to get shit done. They're voting more than the precious Gen-Xers ever did. They're more likely to donate money to a cause than ever before.

So what's the big problem? Could it be that the kids are more interested in hope, and less interested in the pessimistic brainwashing provided by Adbusters, the only propaganda rag for manic-depressives?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

12 Glowing Men, Martijn Hendriks

Dutch artist Martijn Hendriks has a Web site dedicated to a 4 min excerpt of "12 Angry Men" in which rainbows inexplicably appear on the actor's skin. It is half "wtf" and half gorgeous, which makes it 100% awesome, as the real-life, grown-up art critics would say.

Here's the link: 12 Glowing Men

c/o deliciousghost.

Lorie Novak

Lorie Novak, "Midnight Swim," 1990

Lorie Novak is another photographer who works with "photographs-of-photographs," this time by projecting slides onto nightime landscapes and photographing the results.

Lorie Novak, "In Flames," 1991

c/o Shoot!

Monday, July 28, 2008


Photographer and Graffiti artist JR has figured out a unique and beautiful way of combing his work: Take portraits, print those portraits into enormous posters, place those posters in unique settings, and then photograph the posters.

With so much work dependant on "sampling" or re-appropriation of images, which is respectable in its own right, it's nice to see a completely original take on street art that isn't just Banksy-lite.

According to the Web site, JR's next project involves traveling to Africa to photograph and interview women in combat zones. He'll be pasting their portraits and stories in other areas of the world. That sounds really quite fantastic.

c/o the wooster collective

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's Japanese Photography Day!

I really love these half-submerged shots by Asako Narahashi, from her series "Half Awake and Half Asleep in the Water." Found via Shoot!

Trying to find more info on her, I uncovered a few other great photographers from Japan. Like Miwako Iga's "Madame Cucumber" series with posed dolls:

Or Lieko Shiga, who photographs in the Netherlands, and took a series of photos with people outside some London apartments. Photographed using a black cloth and intense lighting, the effect looks a bit spooky:

Both of those c/o the Asian Photography Blog.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Stills from Co-Ed Secrets," Eryk Salvaggio, 2008

"Co-Ed Secrets" is a 1940's film reel that was sold to be shown at "Stag Parties." The original is available over at the Prelinger Archive, and consists of women in giant underwear (no nudity whatsoever) spanking each other with ping-pong paddles and/or tickling each other during what must have been framed as a sorority hazing.

I made these using the VLC media player, which now allows you to play any film clip you want in ASCII mode, though it's more like ANSI.

It also looks significantly dirtier in this format than it actually is.

Art for Beaches

Theo Jansen builds giant, wind-powered animals that he releases, sometimes in herds, onto beaches.

If you don't quite understand how awesome this is, just imagine hanging out on a beach while this thing passes by:

Got this care of Cracked, which has a pretty awesome list of Art that can kill you.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Banksy ID'd

The Daily Mail claims to have uncovered who Banksy is: a middle-class (and now middle-aged) art school student.


The Lace Fence Paradox

A surprisingly simple idea for functional design is this lace fence by the Dutch designers, Demakersvan.

Kind of attractive on its own, but in practice, looks like a damaged fence. This is one of those situations where design aesthetics and design purpose seem to conflict: This thing only looks bad "in the wild" because of crappy, damaged fences, while isolated from that context, it looks really interesting and cool.

Friday, July 11, 2008


D.Billy is a Washington, D.C. Brooklyn-based artist who uses balloons, electrical tape and other party goods to do a kind of graffiti that is rather harmless but completely amusing.

Thanks Laura, who got it c/o And I Am Not Lying

The "Terrible Ideas in New Media" File

Apparently, a time-traveler from 1996 has stumbled into our modern era, and they are doing what everybody did in the 1990's: A hot new internet startup! Based on "Virtual Reality!"

Wired reports on a company called Vivaty Scenes. The marketing pitch seems to be something like this:

"Hey, why surf YouTube or Facebook when you can load up another application and take charge of a (3D!) avatar that you can surf YouTube or Facebook with? As an added bonus, your instant messenger friends can also load up this program to talk to you via instant messenger (wow!) while you look at a Sims 2 clone of them with clothing that may or may not, in the future, be assigned to them by corporate sponsors.

It's gonna be awesome, especially because it takes cues from the MyCoke social network and expands on them."

Remember the MyCoke social network? No, because no one does. Except 9-year-olds. Who abandoned it.

Anyway, if you want to live life as it was lived back when you were totally excited about the Sneaker Pimps, you can check out Vivaty which, by the way, has a totally meaningless and unpronounceable name.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pulse, by Markus Kison

"Pulse" is a visualization of emotional states as described by personal sites. As keywords for certain emotions come up, a computer scans the site and adjusts the sculpture accordingly. As a result, it seems the sculpture changes shape every time it finds new information. Video below.

Kison's Web site for the project is here. c/o Computerlove.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Guy Maddin is not married to Madonna.

I've been a fan of Guy Maddin's work since I saw The Saddest Music in the World, a film which is part David Lynch, part Kids in the Hall doing a parody of David Lynch and part McSweeney's Melodrama.

I regret to say, though, that I thought the picture was a fluke result of Madonna's boy-toy director, Guy Richie.

Guy Richie is not Guy Maddin. Guy Maddin is awesome, and makes documentaries about Winnipeg that are kind of full of half-lies, and he made this video, Sombra Dolorosa, which is only 4 minutes long (7 minutes in France, according to IMDB).

For four minutes, you could just watch the damn thing, so I'm not gonna explain it beyond repeating: part David Lynch, part Kids in the Hall doing a parody of David Lynch and part McSweeney's Melodrama.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Richard Galpin's "Peeled Photographs"

Richard Galpin just came to my attention thanks to the wonderful Wrong Distance blog.

Galpin's "Peeled Photographs," like the ones you see here, are actually photographs with most of the pictures scraped off. The result is skeletal, abstract images that look more like paintings or illustrations.