Today we're going to talk about who you are.
And as you're reading this on a blog, this is more about you than you might think.
Human identity, for the net-using generation, is a creative and selective process like and unlike other forms of 'art-making' people have historically dabbled in. By art making here, I'm going to be referring to a ton of different human endeavors, which can be encompassed by the idea of PUBLICATION.
We'll start with travel and authoring, and with bicycles. Imagine you're virtually kicking around NYC, checking out BikeSnobNYC's latest post incriminating and deriding fixed-gear culture. Said post picks on fixie rider, architect, and general fashonista John Prolly. Prolly's just started representing his new fixie crew, which means he published a series of photos more or less typified by this one:
Now, there's a whole ton going on here, all of it amazing, most of it covered by Bikesnob in his original post
But my main interest here is that this photo, which is being seen at this very moment by thousands of rabid bicyclists either in or out of a slim subculture, is a great example of identity by authorship. By the power of his image, prolly becomes seen by thousands as the consummate geeky/ironic fixed gear jokester that is either portrayed or satired in this picture. I say either because after a certain level of removal (say logging on from SLC, having never even been to Brooklyn) the icon and the individual become the same. Thus net prolly and real John (Prolly) Watson become one. His publication, through the internet, becomes a version of reality.
WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?
Fairly good question. Prolly, and by extension the larger world of fixed-gear hipsterism, and by larger extension hipsterism in general, which is to say those privileged and savvy and caring enough to use the internet daily in any form (whew!), are actually a very good example of image and culture in general. Because, considering the pictures, Prolly actually rides a real bike in the real world. it just translates so tastily into the aesthetic/authored experience that is the internet. Thus people (you and I) are able to create a reality virtually that enhances and idealizes our real selves.
Much in the same way that the art world is grounded in reality yet unrealistic vis-a-vis the real world. Check it out:
The Guggenheim in Bilbao, an international bastion to western art and culture, has only the most cursory of connections to Spain, let alone the Basque region within which it resides. Better, think of Dubai, UAE, where billions of international dollars are being spent on a cultural and touristic network that not only attempts to erase any sense of local culture, but actually creates its own physical space out of the water:
This is the same country that had little or no urban infrastructure 65 years ago. The money makers of Dubai are using their desert environment as a tabula rasa, much in the same way that Russian Constructivists reduced their visual expression back to the black square, or Futurists wanted to burn down museums and start over. But in the case of Dubai or the Bilbao museum the use of art isn't nearly so progressive or radical. More accurately, art has moved to the international space because it provides a clean white institutional ground from which excitement can be generated and money can be made. This has been the nature of museums since the European Enlightenment.
In our modern context, the blank slate of space, whether digital (Prolly), international (Dubai and Bilbao), or simply f*cking empty (Dubai) has become a ground upon which new capitals of money or just plain excitement can be cultivated. It seems to generate naturally into a pattern of consumption: New artists from Pakistan or Iran travel all around the world, from biennale to biennale, becoming the next hot item, the next $100 million Damien Hirst , while Prolly and his friends inadvertently move a bicycling subculture towards a 'look' that one can buy. None of these artists are at fault, it's simply how we do here in the late capitalistic model.
But here's the thing: just because the blank space gets subsumed into advertising and money doesn't mean it isn't a beautiful and glorious thing for us to play with. Our internet identities are crafted compilations of our interests; in the same way we can connect specifically with ideas and people we like, Bikesnob and Prolly being a great example of this functionality. The attention they can generate specifically towards their subculture can transcend branding and advertising, it can create a common ground for ideas and relationships. Need an example more... important than bicycling? Try Stuff White People Like an anonymous and hilarious blog that pokes fun at yuppie/hipster people in general and racializes the views, creating some great conversation in the comments section. People run up and down eachother's cyber-pages, trying to decypher who's coming from where, and sometimes even make a friend or two. Primarily, it gets people thinking.
So my idea is: extend yourself into that space, learn a lot about the world around you, and make it a little more colorful as you go.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The Blank Space
Today we're going to talk about who you are.
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