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Defining the style of "a decade that has not yet been named" - click opera
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Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 10:24 am
Defining the style of "a decade that has not yet been named"

It's autumn 2007. We should be getting the gist, by now, of what the style of this decade -- what the Lyon biennale is calling "a decade that has not yet been named" -- has been all about. I tend to cotton onto decades around about the eighth year. If you'll allow me to jump in a couple of months early, I'll give you my barometric reading of the noughties now. I think this decade has essentially been about the dialectic between guilt and exuberance. The polarities flicker, complementing and contradicting each other.

Basically, this flicker thing is the result of a debate we're having with ourselves about consumerism and responsibility: should we try to act responsibly and pioneer an ethical consumerism of "controlled shrinkage", or should we fiddle while Rome burns -- grabbing other people's oilfields and melting the poles in the process? Should we go the way of recycling, fair trade and organic ingredients, or the way of brash colours and drugs and hedonistic oblivion? The answer, so far this decade, is "both". Back in April I laid the style dialectic out in a piece called A conversation between Apollo and Dionysus which put the Bape-like jackets of CassettePlaya next to the controlled graphic design of magazines like Monocle and Fantastic Man.



The sort of plain designs covered in Fukasawa and Morrison's Super Normal book have their origins in the late 80s, when everything from Mac computers to Coke got rebranded as "Classic" -- the unique selling point being a fetishized reversion to a "timeless" plain vanilla form of things, an ethical investment in solid, sensible practicality. This Apollonian-Vanilla "return to simplicity and utility" (super-protestant, eco-conservative, but also a kind of ancestor worship) ties in with consumer guilt about excess -- it's the anorexic antithesis to consumerist bulimia. It reduces, slims down, strips away. It's like someone with a headache who can't stand too much noise. To the extent that guilt is very much present in our unnamed decade, Apollo-Vanilla moralism (think of Katherine Hamnett) still speaks to us. But the yin to its yang is the style being described variously as Nu-Rave or The New Ugly. For convenience, let's call it Ugly Nu-Rave.



Ugly Nu-Rave is all about brashness. It draws inspiration not from guilty, conservative 80s "classic vanilla" culture but from the acidic club culture of the early 90s. It's unapologetically ugly; beauty is just yesterday's brash energy turned tame, formulaic, canonical and predictable. If organic, ethical, conservative Apollo-Vanilla is the anti-folk movement, Ugly Nu-Rave launches, this decade, with Electroclash -- Fischerspooner, Chicks on Speed, Exchpoptrue. It's a party style, not a proddy style. It's all about embracing energy and colour, rejecting guilt. It revives the drugs-and-hedonism of early 90s acid house club culture. Of course, this can be combined with ecological awareness -- think of Paris collective Andrea Crews, who party hard but make a virtue of recycling secondhand clothes and working closely with charities like Emmaus. So Ugly Nu-Rave works well with Apollo-Vanilla.



Take graphic design. If the Apollo-Vanilla look of Monocle and Fantastic Man is rooted in Purple magazine's late-90s "return to order" (Times type and sensible layouts!), Ugly Nu-Rave worships a different ancestor in the same era: David Carson's cluttered, exuberant Raygun style. In August, Creative Review ran a feature on The New Ugly which nested the basic dialectic in the question: "Stretched type, day-glo colours and a flagrant disregard for the rules: are we witnessing a knee-jerk reaction to the slick sameness of so much design or a genuine cultural shift?"

Creative Review focuses on the controversially stretched type Mike Meiré made for his redesign of 032c magazine recently, and Meiré is an interesting case, because his Brand Eins design, earlier in the decade, very much took the tidy Times route -- he seems to have switched from Apollo-Vanilla to Ugly Nu-Rave out of sheer boredom. But if I'm right that this isn't so much an opposition as a dialectic (and-and rather than either-or), well, why not go from one to the other and back again? I'd say some of the more interesting of today's bands (Thieves Like Us, Battles, Hot Chip) are both "stretching type" and being neo-classicist. Think of the "novelty" vocals in Battles' Atlas, or think of Bjork's double whammy -- her Nu-Rave sleeve for "Volta" and her eco theme in first single "Earth Intruders".

Another example of a nice balance between Apollo-Vanilla and Ugly Nu-Rave (between responsibility and brashness) is my current favourite fashion blog, Merry Daily. Tokyo Bopper, where these bloggers work, is a shoe and fashion store in Harajuku selling hiking boots with brightly-coloured laces. They're fascinated by "classic" camping and hiking designs like rucksacks, or folk-trad designs like tartan. There's clearly a conservative-conservational, ethical and ecological message in that, but they want to be brash and colourful too -- you see that in the high-contrast colours, the laces, and in the graphic design on their style sample books; no Muji-style plain white backgrounds here! The too-conservative, ethical and ecological themes of Apollo-Vanilla are balanced by Ugly Nu-Rave's redeeming transformative power. As artist Thomas Hirschhorn puts it: "Energy, yes! Quality, no!"

43CommentReply

sarmoung
sarmoung
The Empire Never Ended
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 08:44 am (UTC)

Dead or alive?

http://www.katharinehamnett.com/Biography


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 08:56 am (UTC)

Fuck, that was Anita Roddick! Fixed!


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mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 09:17 am (UTC)

New decades don't need names any more. We're in a dyschronic era of no more eras. The 60s, 70s, 80s, and now 90s (old rave!) are pre-packaged consumer products to be consumed all at once. Once Capital has control of all space, it moves on to controlling time.

I keep meaning to write a post about how no one makes representations of the future any more (while there were tons in the seventies), but it involves research, and I'm supposed to be at work.


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ex_newironsh15
chris
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)

what about V for Vendetta? (s for strawman) or that one about the babies not being born


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 09:22 am (UTC)

Nu-rave is just a blip. I don't think anyone's going to look back and see it as a defining style of the noughties, except insofar as it's yet another micro-retro-trend in a decade of micro-retro-trends.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 09:27 am (UTC)
oh sry I thought this was Blue States Lose!

HIPSTER CRAP, NO! QUALITY, YES!




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(Anonymous)
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 09:50 am (UTC)

Somewhat good news from Tokyo: color is back. Every women's magazine - whether high-fashion Ginza or low-fashion Spring or office-fashion JJ - is pushing colored tights. SPUR's issue this month is "Us Fashion People Are Everything But Black." CanCam is gaga over this somewhat radioactive hue of Royal Blue. Things aren't even aggressive Nu Rave color - just color. The pale, lets-empathize-and-be-boring MUJI palette has apparently bored everyone. The streets aren't glowing yet, but it seems like a good direction.

Marxy


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 09:56 am (UTC)

About time too. I'm throwing my Nu-Rave hat in the air as we speak!


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niddrie_edge
niddrie_edge
raymond
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC)
are dungarees back yet?

Oh no, whats all this about?
As soon as everyone drops black I start striding out with pride.
Why follow?
In a league table of cultural influences, where IS fashion?

On a tangent I watched the Captain Beefheart Letterman interviews on Youtube last night.
Old Don reminded me of how much colour meant to his music in his description of Ice Cream For Crow. As he describes you know the moon at night and the ice cream for, you know ..crow, throwing in some jibes about Ray Gun and his jelliebeans ans asks Letterman, "Yeah?" and Letterman says, "Yeah!" and Beefheart looks, smirks and says "Yeah?!"


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cperko1
the ice gnome
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 02:00 pm (UTC)

i've been calling it neon vomit. in a good way?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)

vomit. in a good way?

Nice high rising terminal there!


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)

Isn't Apollo-Vanilla and Ugly Nu-Rave just another iteration of neoclassical or high modernist or minimalist or brutalist structure vs. rococo or baroque or googie or beaux-arts or nouveau or psychedelic or raver romanticism?

I think the answer to that depends on what the meaning of the word "isn't" isn't.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)

We need clothes with neon lights attached to them before we can really get Ugly Nu-Rave going, Momus. I think the obvious problem is that technology hasn't yet caught up with what the fashion of the noughties ought to be. That's why the decade hasn't defined itself yet.

It's the old "Hey, where are all the flying cars?" mentality. We're waiting for the future around which we had prepared all of our emerging trends. That's why we're standing around confused right now. The future hasn't caught up with our concepts. The future, in other words, is a slow piece of shit.

-Max


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
ex_newironsh15
chris
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)

Just as long as we don't see neon flowers or peace sign necklaces I think we'll be okay


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)



As for peace signs, pay a visit to my old high school and there will be dozens of Beatles loving hippies obsessed with "free hugs" and throwing the peace sign any chance they get.


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niddrie_edge
niddrie_edge
raymond
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)

Seriously..is this the most uncomfortable decade for shoes since the 70s?


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)

The Daily Mail was blaming it on Bowie and Bolan. I´m not even kidding.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand


(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand



microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC)

Do you associate ugly with cheap quality? As in price vs quality and good design vs ugly design (price vs good design and quality vs ugly design)?


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)

1. The beauty of binaries: Rocker or mod? Heater-up or cooler-down? Force or precision? Dogs or cats? I'm probably the former but realise that heat overheated and cool overcooled lose usefulness.

2. I like the Zeroes, it sounds a New York punk band, but people find it negative! (No imagination). Noughties is too 'naughty nineties'. Soon into early Teenies (not in a sexual sense, of course), and we'll look back and say 'Who are we kidding, we just sat at laptops'.

3. I don't know about your photos at all. The Zeroes culture in the UK has been monochrome, the death of trainers (hurrah), running eyeshadow, no razors. I quite liked it, the colour=cheerfulness thing is for art students who switch to graphics. That is their pole position. Mine=the glum should sort it out, not blame culture. It's not responsible for you, not your morality guide, and hasn't been since De Profundis, or was it de Sade..


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uberdionysus
uberdionysus
Troy Swain: Black Box Miasma
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)

Don't forget the ultra-bright, ultra-ugly Saturday-morning-cartoons-on-sugar-and-acid aesthetic of Paperrad and the rest of the Fort Thunder crew. They've been reveling in that "colorful barf" aesthetic for over a decade now and deserve a lot of the credit. (And K48 deserves some credit as well. They were concurrent with Electroclash and well immersed in fashion.)


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akabe
akabe
alin huma
Fri, Sep. 28th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)

>>jackets of CassettePlaya next to the controlled graphic design of magazines like Monocle and Fantastic Man.

i'm not too convinced about these examples. isn't this basically just say Wild & Lethal Trash vs. purple mag - as 90s stuff as you get save the internet revolution. if anything to me the 0s have been about the further 'molecularization' of already chopped-up 90s things, increased non-commitment etc on one end , conglomeration of capital and stuff at the other. very little formal changes as such , maybe a couple of endearingly naive attempts neo-hippy, emo-rock etc


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