Monday, 30 August 2010

Henrik Vibskov

The Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov doesn’t like to be pigeonholed. Besides designing four collections a year for both men and women, Vibskov plays drums in the live band of electronic musician Trentemøller and is part of The Fringe Project, together with visual artist Andreas Emenius. Everything Henrik Vibskov does has only one goal: to create his own surreal universe where the sky is the limit. Vibskov, a true romantic at heart who only applied to the fashion design course at Central Saint Martins because a girl he fancied was going there, finds his inspiration in Nordic folk traditions and childhood memories of his hometown in Jutland, Denmark. But it’s never just about the clothes with Henrik Vibskov; to present his collections he creates extravagant narratives, filling catwalks with bicycles, wooden boats, shiny boobies, humongous hamster wheels and black carrots, like a little boy’s fantasy that has come to life. His style is best described as whimsical and quirky, with show titles as The Fantabulous Bicycle Music Factory (SS08), The Human Laundry Service (AW 09/10) and The Last Pier Pandemonium (SS11) that sound like Roald Dahl stories. Vibskov’s world looks like it’s made of Lego with colorful designs that sometimes seem to belong in the circus instead of on the catwalk, but they never stop being wearable, they never completely lose touch with reality.

Image: Henrik Vibskov's Big Wet Shiny Boobies collection (SS07)
Video: Henrik Vibskov's The Human Laundry Service collection (AW 09/10)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

James Franco

He can’t be serious. James Franco has recently emerged from being an actor with a cult following (with roles in television and film ranging from Freaks and Geeks to Spider-Man to Eat, Pray, Love) to an artist that counts acting among his many other interests: Franco has seemingly become a super-charged, professional dilettante. After dropping out of UCLA after his freshman year, he returned, ten years later, to finish his degree in two years before then going on to pursue degrees in, among yet others, film at NYU, writing at Columbia, and, the piece de resistance, a PhD in English at Yale. After becoming involved in the art world, he emerged as an artist in his own right and garnered a solo exhibition at the Clocktower Gallery in New York. After despairing of a career that was becoming too Hollywood mediocre, he nabbed a recurring role on General Hospital in which his role as “Franco,” an artist, was a self-proclaimed piece of performance art: “I disrupted the audience's suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn't belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas. Everyone watching would see an actor they recognized, a real person in a made-up world.” Yet, in the fulfillment of his many interests, whether it be as a student, artist or actor, Franco has combined a wandering and cryptic free spirit with a seeming need for the approval of the establishment: is Franco the embodiment of an earnest, overly scheduled, and artistically inclined “Organization Kid”? As Sam Anderson writes in his profile of Franco in New York magazine, Franco is perhaps the “world’s most ironic earnest guy.” It is never really clear whether Franco is just playing around, being played, or playing with us. In any case, at the least, this act has propelled him to even greater fame: you’ve got to fake it to make it.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The rise of the BRICs

At the beginning of the decade, just after the events of 9/11, Goldman Sachs' chief economist Jim O'Neill coined the remarkably apt acronym BRIC to describe a
group of nations that would become, in his view, the main contenders of Western economic dominance. This group consists of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), and, since the early 2000s, it has grown into a loose assembly of sorts. In 2009 and 2010, for example, the BRIC countries held their first ever summits.These summits can be conceived of as a reflection of a changing, if not already drastically altered, geopolitical landscape. Or, in the words of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the host of the 2010 summit:
"We are countries where everything happens on a large scale. We represent nearly one half of the world population, 20 per cent of its land surface and are rich in natural resources. Today, the BRICs have become essential players in major international decision-making. As such we are acutely aware of our potential as agents of change in making global governance both more transparent and democratic. This is the message Brazil offered at the second BRIC Summit, held here in Brasilia, where the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China gathered on April 15. [...] We are committed to building a joint diplomatic and creative approach with our BRIC partners in order to challenges."
How to describe this emerging landscape of power? As multi-polar? Perhaps. As multicentric? Maybe. One thing is sure, though. In the coming decades, the so-called West needs to come to terms with the economic and political rise of the BRICs. One way or another.

Illustration: courtesy

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The New Museum goes metamodern?

The New Museum goes metamodern?
Eu desejo o seu desejo / I Wish Your Wish (2003) is installed in the lobby gallery as part of the exhibition "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other". Visitors are invited to select ribbons printed with a wish to tie around their wrists. When the ribbon falls off, tradition has it that one's wish will be fulfilled. Visitors may write another wish and place it in the empty hole. This work of art is based on a similar practice that takes place at the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (Our Lord of the Good End) in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
Image: Rivane Neuschwander, I wish your wish (2003). Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

Monday, 16 August 2010


“To engage with CocoRosie requires absolute suspension of disbelief”, The Guardian once wrote about the sister-duo CocoRosie. Anyone who has been to one of their live shows or has seen The Eternal Children, a documentary on the so-called freak folk movement made by Dutch filmmaker David Kleijwegt, knows exactly what The Guardian is talking about. Bianca and Sierra Casady live in a dream world, populated by elves, unicorns, fairies and other dreamlike creatures. This can be tiring at times and I learned the hard way that you’d best restrict yourself to the records and not visit live shows. But when you do succeed in suspending that disbelief, when you get past all that gibberish about elves and whatnot, CocoRosie can be magical. With their junk-shop kiddie instruments, the angelic voice of Sierra and the childlike squealing of Bianca CocoRosie creates her own nursery rhymes, blending hip hop and opera along the way. And although they might seem innocent, their songs are anything but. Heart wrenching is the duet Beautiful Boyz with Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons: Born illegitimately / To a whore, most likely / He became an orphan / Oh what a lovely orphan he was / Sent to the reformatory / Ten years old, was his first glory / Got caught stealing from a nun / Now his love story had begun. True, at times CocoRosie seems too gimmicky, too ironic, to the point where it almost gets cringeworthy, but in the end their enthusiasm prevails. CocoRosie may not make you believe in fairy tales in the end, but you’ve got to appreciate them for trying. And who knows, they might make you wonder if, just if...

video: CocoRosie's first single Rainbowarriors from their third album The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The wondrous post of Anis Shivani

Anis Shivani. Very keen critic or very angry (or disappointed, or hurt, or 'misunderstood') author? You decide. At least his damning critique of pomo writing is very, very funny. Read for example what he has to say about celebrated poet John Ashbery:
More responsible than anyone else for turning late twentieth-century American poetry into a hermetic, self-enclosed, utterly private affair. Displays sophomoric lust to encode postmodern alienation into form that embodies the supposed chaos of the mind. (...) Ran away with postmodern irony, eccentricized it to the point of meaninglessness. Now we have no working definition of irony anymore--thanks, John Ashbery! (...) Among the writers listed here, I want to like him the most--it's too bad he's been a parody of himself for so long.

Friday, 13 August 2010


Quirky is a word that critics apply to American ‘indie’ movies with a tiresome predictability – indeed, it sometimes seems to be treated as synonymous with the contemporary American independent film landscape as a whole. However, while it certainly can be used merely as a tedious buzzword, I would also argue that – properly defined – it may also be the best shorthand we have for one observable strand of recent American film – specifically: the sorts of comedies and comedy-dramas conjured up by names such as Wes Anderson, Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Jared Hess, Alexander Payne, David O. Russell, Miranda July, and so on. I have recently published an article in the new Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism which lays out in detail my interpretation of the term; what follows is a condensation and reformulation of a few of the arguments that I make in greater detail in that piece.

Quirky is a sensibility that can be recognised most easily by its tone, which we might broadly describe as walking a tightrope between a cynically ‘detached’ irony and an emotionally ‘engaged’ sincerity. This tone is created in a number of ways.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Selja Kameric (1)

It is difficult to describe what Selja Kameric’s work is about. It is about an international conflict (the Balkan wars). It is about the decline of a city (Sarajevo). It is about ethnic cleansing (of Bosnian-Herzegovians). It is about longing for a past that is lost (a culture's, a city's, the artist's). It is about the emancipation of a young girl (the artist herself). Kameric's work is political. But it is also personal. However, one would be mistaken to call the political personal and vice-versa.

One might be tempted to argue it is about deconstruction. Works such as
EU/Others (2000) and Bosnian Girl (2003), which examine the relationship between representation and subjectivity, would certainly vindicate such an assertion. But then one might also suggest it is about reconstruction. The piece Dream House (2002), for instance, situates a refugee camp within parameters that place it beyond its conventional confines. The camp’s spacetime transits from sunset into sunrise, transforms from desolate desert to desirable beach. The work thus constructs the impossible possibility of an elsewhere beyond the now-here.

Similarly, one may feel Kameric’s work is concerned with the past. After all, many of her works address traumas and memories. Yet one cannot but feel it is equally preoccupied with the future. In
Red (2008) Kameric seeks to trace what is lost. She traces marks on red brick walls left by explosive devices. In Green (2007) she tries to find expressions of what cannot be expressed. She photographs names carved in

Monday, 9 August 2010

New Romanticism

The world must be romanticized. In this way its original meaning will be rediscovered. To romanticize is nothing but a qualitative heightening. In this process the lower self becomes identified with a better self. (...) Insofar as I present the commonplace with significance, the ordinary with mystery, the familiar with the seemliness of the unfamiliar and the finite with the semblance of the infinite, I romanticize it. Novalis
These lines were long suppressed by the paradigms of modernity; ignored by discourses dominated by the postmodern. Yet over the last decade or so they have gradually begun to reappear. In the early 2000s they were anxiously uttered at art shows in Berlin and London; they were nervously repeated in polemical pamphlets and papers in New York; they were hesitantly replicated in Frieze, cautiously copied in the FAZ, the Observer, and The New Yorker. But by 2005, they had recurred so frequently, and so widely, that the tone with which they were re-iterated had become more confident. When, later that year, they were reprinted in Hans Hollein’s catalogue Ideal Worlds: New Romanticism in Contemporary Art, they were expressed with such conviction that there could be no further doubt about it: a novel sense of the Romantic had emerged.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


Fashion is mostly an endless repetition of something you already have seen before. Season after season trends are recycled to awaken a new desire within the consumer, making fashion the ultimate post-modern expression. But every now and then someone tries to escape this endless cycle of repetitiveness. Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte have tried to do so ever since they presented their first collection in the spring of 2005 in New York. In their parent’s garden house in Pasadena, California, the self-taught Mulleavy sisters first started creating dresses for their Barbie dolls, and even though Rodarte is now one of the most anticipated shows of the New York fashion week, Kate and Laura Mulleavy never really escaped that doll-like dream world. Their intricately and obsessively handcrafted designs show an otherworldly desire. Even though the Rodarte girl – she is always a girl, never a woman - is more than equipped to deal with reality in her spiked and studded heels, her camouflage body art and her tribal dresses, she above all projects a childlike naivety. A naivety that is corrupted and innocent at once, whether it is the Japanese horror goth from their Fall/Winter 2008 collection, the post apocalyptic warrior negotiating between culture and nature from their Spring/Summer 2010 collection or the ethereal Mexican sleepwalkers from the troubled border town of Ciudad Juárez represented in their Fall/Winter 2010 collection.

Image: Daria Werbowy in Rodarte SS10 photographed by David Sims and styled by Grace Coddington for Vogue US March 2010

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Herzog & de Meuron (1)

Contemporary architectural practices do not seem to fit yesteryear’s conceptuali-zations of the modern and the postmodern. Whereas modern architecture (1920s-1960s) was dedicated to the possibility of utopia and the ideal of universal progress, postmodern architecture (1970s onwards) either lost all confidence in societal change, or didn’t feel the need to adhere to a wider social agenda. If modern architects had some kind of ‘positive orientation’ towards the future, postmodern architects are condemned, in the words of Lyotard, ‘to undertake a series of minor modifications in a space inherited from modernity’. The difference between the modernist and postmodernist attitude towards built space can thus be best described in terms of opposition. Previously, we used the notions of ‘modern enthusiasm’ and ‘postmodern irony’ as a shorthand to these, more or less, opposing positions.

In recent years, however, these comfortable definitions and familiar periodizations have become worn out up to the point where they seem to have lost all relevance for contemporary architectural practices. For one, as we previously suggested, it is hard to miss the return to commitment. While contemporary architects increasingly go back to the Future in terms of their attitude, they almost always express this rather metamodern enthusiasm by means of more or less postmodern styles...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Strategies of the metamodern

The modern is associated with politics as diverse as utopism, formalism, functionalism, seriality, art for art’s sake, the flaneur, syntaxis, restless-ness, alienation, streams of consciousness, the cinematic apparatus, cubism, Reason, trauma, mass production, and schizophrenia. The postmodern tends to be associated with strategies as varied as dystopism, late capitalist flexibilisation, the ‘end of history’, formalism, différance, relativism, irony, pastiche, the waning of affect, consumption, multi-culturalism, deconstruction, poststructuralism, cyberspace, virtualisation, pluralism, parataxis, the ‘unrepresentable’, and interesse. The French cultural philosopher Jacques Rancière has further suggested that both signify a democratisation of the relationship between the sayable and the visible.

Now, the metamodern too is expressed through a variety of mind-sets, practices, art forms, media and genres. Certainly, it has been expressed most visibly...