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VERENA DENGLER – Radical Chic

„It is as if one's nerve endings were on red alert to the most intimate nuances of status. Deny it if you want to! Nevertheless, it runs through every soul here. It is the matter of the marvelous contradictions on all sides.“ Radical Chic, Tom Wolfe, p. 8

In this lab-zone we want to examine different relations between fashion, art and politics existing in the contemporary field and where some of their elements might come from.

In his 1970 essay „Radical Chic“ Tom Wolfe satirically describes a dinner party at composer Leonard Bernstein's house in New York hosted as a fundraising event for the Black Panther Party depicting a fashionable engagement with radical politics and the mannerisms of the „high society“.

(the text can be read here: http://nymag.com/news/features/46170/ )

quotes:

„One rule is that nostalgie de la boue – i.e., the styles of romantic, raw-vital, Low Rent primitives – are good; and middle class, whether black or white, is bad. Therefore, Radical Chic invariably favors radicals who seem primitive, exotic, and romantic, such as the grape workers, who are not merely radical and „of the soil“ but also Latin; the Panthers, with their leather pieces, Afros, shades, and shoot-outs; and the Red Indians, who, of course, had always seemed primitive, exotic, and romantic.“ p.35

„From the beginning it was pointless to argue about the sincerity of Radical Chic. Unquestionably the basic impulse „red diaper“ or otherwise was sincere. But, as in most human endeavors focused upon an ideal, there seemed to be some double-track thinking going on. On the first track – well, one does have a sincere concern for the poor und the underprivileged and an honest outrage against discrimination. One's heart does cry out – quite spontaneously! - upon hearing how the police have dealt with the Panthers, (…) On the other hand – on the second track in one's mind, that is – one also has a sincere concern for maintaining a proper East Side life-style in New York Society. And this concern is just as sincere as the first, and just as deep“ p. 35

In 2015, a themepark by British artist Banksy called „Dismaland“ was running for several weeks in a derelict lido of an English coastal town- “the UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction”- is advertised as „entry-level anarchism“ and „an escape from mindless escapism“.

It showcases works by Damien Hirst, David Shrigley, Jenny Holzer among others. There are remote control refugee boats and a „painting of children throwing coloured rocks and shoes with ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the background depicted as the Joker from Batman.“

We would like to look at the formal elements of this kind of fairground radicalism (trash, street art, etc..) as (or if?) opposed to the ways in which certain artists today (e.g. those attached with the „post-internet“ label) employ ‘the language and glossy aesthetics of hypercapitalism.’ We will investigate if these formal strategies are a reaction to an idea of the artist being an outsider and where we can alternatively position ourselves. (Normcore – Hipster-bashing – Retro Futurism?)

We will have screenings, readings and discussions with the aim of also including local histories (Swiss anarchism, anti-authoritarianism) which could result in a performative group project. Being particularly anarchist is not a requirement.

 
 

  

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