nft wars, communist buffy, tumblr folklore
off brand: may roundup
Please forgive the long period of life-tumult and writer’s block that has elapsed between my last newsletter and now. In the lulls between creative inspiration striking and because I’m finding Instagram a torturously dull platform to inhabit, I wanted to do something different today. Here’s what I’ve been consuming this May. (And yes, I will be writing again soon).
LVMH’s Bernard Arnault became the world’s richest man, briefly overtaking Jeff Bezos. Meanwhile, Kering’s Francois-Henri Pinault opened his own art gallery in Paris, and Gucci, one of Kering’s brands, made an NFT for this Christie’s sale (featuring Jenny Holzer, Nam June Paik, Urs Fischer). It also sold a digital handbag on Roblox, a game for literal children – 54% of its users are under the age of 12.
Meanwhile, in the uncanny valley, robot Ai-Da has created a series of scary, good self-portraits, as well as other paintings. They’re being exhibited at the Design Museum and they make me… uncomfortable! 🙂 “It is literally the world’s first self-portrait with no self,” her creator told The Guardian. “She has no consciousness, she is a machine.” I’m sure she’ll be making NFTs soon.
In lighter news, I feel like after months of low profile pap pictures, the lifting of lockdowns could see us leering over a new celebrity paparazzi era, and by new, I mean old. There’s something nostalgic, pre-internet, about JLo and Ben Affleck, not to mention the balcony throuple. This kind of flirtation with the long lens camera, the is-it-isn’t-it staged-ness of it all. Old school tabloid in a Hollywood Fix era.
Liberation Through Hearing, by Richard Russell of XL Records, which so far is a good look inside the (mostly male-dominated) music culture of the 90s, including the rise of The Prodigy. This is no indictment of Richard, but it’s also made me think about how a generation of gen-X men grew up idolising Malcolm McLaren, who was a maverick creative genius, sure, but also, per his ex Vivienne Westwood, someone who behaved “incredibly cruelly”. Anyway, the book is interesting, and proof that you can be surrounded by the most famous people in the world at Donatella Versace’s mansion in Milan and still feel like shit. But we knew that. There’s a pertinent page or so about him hitting 27, realising he’d stopped wearing Stüssy, needed therapy ASAP, and was trying too hard to be a Successful Grown Up. Big mood.
Olivia Rodrigo, obviously. Music to wander around the 24-hour supermarket to feeling 16 again – thanks, in part, to the Paramore influence. The video for Good 4 U – shot by Petra Collins and styled by Devon Lee Carlson – references bloody female revenge-horror Audition by Takashi Miike, in which men audition young women for the role of a wife with grizzly consequences, as well as Jennifer’s Body by Diablo Cody, which is finally getting its overdue credit. Anyway, the Tiktok teens are convinced Olivia’s album is a two-parter: Sour, side A, the heartbreak songs which are out now, to be followed by Sweet, side B, the love songs. Wait and see.
On the topic of music video cinema crossovers, and because I’ve been driving around listening to a lot of Radiohead lately (lol), a moment for Karma Police, because it’s one of my favourite videos of all time, formative, shown to me on a VHS by my dad’s best friend, a very kind man, a bassist with a voice to match, left to entertain me one rainy afternoon. The video by Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin) features Thom Yorke in the back of a womb-like, red-lined Chrysler. It was inspired by the director going to an early screening of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, falling asleep, and only remembering the opening (and closing) credits – that frenetic sequence of the road.
To Halston, where Bill Pullman, Lost Highway’s heartthrob, plays the role of the Bad Businessman in a Suit, aka Why You Should Never Sign Contracts Without Having Your Lawyer Read Them First. Halston also ends with a solo car journey, a symbolic death, soundtracked by Cocteau Twins, which are the kind of band I, too, would like to play me into the afterlife. I don’t have an enormous amount to say about Halston other than: another great red interior! Those Gae Aulenti tables! Mostly, it made me think about the narrative that people work in fashion to be changed, or to reinvent themselves. Which I don’t think is what Halston’s clothes were about at all. Still, I always used to say that fashion was an industry of people who never really fit in at school, which is a theory that explains a lot. Do I want to be changed by fashion? Did I? Once, probably. But like Richard Russell writes, that kind of performance isn’t really sustainable.
Anyway, here are two great pieces about Halston, by two of the best:
Otherwise I’ve been deep in Buffy. Repetition compulsion. I can’t help it: this show is a part of me, even though watching can be like pushing on a bruise. A moment of Buffy symbolism I never got before: in Anne, S3 E1, Buffy liberates the workers in a factory in a hell dimension where demons have enslaved humans and literally beats the bad guys up with a hammer and sickle. (PS: join a union x)
Full On, No-Stop, All Over by Matthew Smith
This new photobook on early 00s raves, edited by Davy Reed. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about rave and so much drops off after the millennium, beyond the rise of the superclubs. The original rave generation had long grown up by the early 00s, so it’s cool to see this timeframe get some attention instead of the standard Acid House obsession.
What a collab! Climax Books, Isabella Burley’s brilliant bookshop, paired up with the similarly brilliant Heaven by Marc Jacobs, which is steered by Ava Nirui, on an extremely cute tee. It sold out in two seconds, but browse the Climax selection here and follow them here.
I also bought a 1999 Miu Miu wrap-around skirt with a technical concealed pocket that was promptly lost in the post from Germany. I don’t wanna talk about it.
I really enjoyed the discussion on The Polyester Podcast with artist Grace Miceli, about youth and maturity, and the way we shared on the internet in the Tumblr days bolstered by anonymity and angst. I’ve been thinking about how my subsection of Tumblr users – white girl Virgin Suicides fourth wave Lana Del Rey Rookie magazine American Apparel Double U bodysuit girls – became adult women, and what our relationship is with sharing ourselves. Conceal and reveal. Like a magician’s assistant: a desire to be invisible and a desire to look pretty. Anyway, you only have to look as far as Olivia Rodrigo’s entire album art direction to see that this aesthetic still has a hold on culture. Or the fact that Bella Poarch – US Navy vet turned Tiktok star with 70m fans – has a new song which riffs on some decade-old Tumblr discourse. Internet folklore.
This awkward but enlightening episode of the David Zwirner podcast between Beeple, the digital artist whose NFT mega-collage unexpectedly sold at Christies for $69m (after a $100 reserve), and Zwirner-repped artist Jordan Wolfson. It’s a really funny conversation about the values (🤑) of the art world and the tensions between traditional art and digital art in light of the latter’s newfound attention (profitability).
Also, this episode of You’re Wrong About (a pod recommended to me by the one n only Olivia Singer), on the idea of “going postal” – a phrase inspired by a spate of US postal worker shootings in the 80s/90s. It’s a fascinating examination of a violent phenomenon that’s fallen out of the sphere of news and pop culture reference, one that’s not solely about workplace murder but the labour conditions that contribute to it, crises of masculinity and alienation within capitalism.
That’s all for this month. See ya soon x