At semi-regular intervals, she spoke to save her life, or something like it.
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Which is the Ritts? Which is the Lang?
The first image is a photo of a dust bowl migrant from the depression era, taken by Dorothea Lang. The second image is from the September 9th issue of the New Yorker, from a Herb Ritts fashion photo spread. I'm sure you can tell the difference, but the audacity of this image is startling. That was the point, probably.
Through my more idealistic days in San Francisco I was very moved by Lang & Kollwitz's work, and they inspired my own printmaking. The fact that political conviction strikes me as nostalgia means I've caught the disease, too, apparently.
This disease of mediated disorientation is fully apparent in the Ritts' photo, where the models' combined ensemble, by Louis Vuitton, Junya Watanabe, Balenciaga and Dolce & Gabbana, is worth something over $10,000.
The copy reads like this: "Fashion has been looking over its shoulder again, and this season's collective gaze has landed on the 1930's, among other escapist moments. Designers have drawn from both the glitter and squalor of the age-- satin shoes and dungarees, gimlets and dry rot-- and the result is something like dust bowl glamour..."
OK, what exacty is dust bowl glamour? Something like-- gee whiz-- I wish I could suffer authentically. Or just look like I do. My stock portfolio's not worth as much, life's rough. Maybe I'll pay Watanabe a grand to give me something with holes in it, so my loss will be legitimized-- even enviable. Just like those poor people I've stepped over on my way to 5th avenue.
There is another photo in the spread-- delicious in its contradictions, but also somehow sickening. A girl's hands and legs-- that's all you really see of her-- hands crossed as if waiting, (dime a dance & nobody's even got a dime!), legs in stockings (by Fogal!) which are full of holes, one sewn up in a rough way resembling an autopsy suture with thick floss. The sequined hem of her dress shows. But the shoes-- like high heel tap-style shoes of crocodile and leopard-print pony skin tied with a satin ribbon, take center stage. At her feet a newspaper is crumpled. It reads "Extra! Chicago Clarion Stock ("Market" blocked by ankle) Crashes." It's that time again, apparently. There's no real allusion to corporate corruption, to impending war, and yet it looms in the photo, amplifying the shoes with this vertiginous sense of impending history.
The shoes, the photo-- who's fantasy is this, anyway? Suffering has some seductive power when contained in this vampiric way. This is nothing new, really-- John Galliano's "Hobo Chic" of 2000 featured models with matted hair strewn with paper, gowns ripped and decorated with junk. He claims to have been inspired by the homeless, destitute and insane which he witnessed while jogging along the Seine. These dresses-- worn by the sickening Courtney Love, among others, allude to the fin de siecle "Rag Balls" of the 19th century, where the rich would put on the "costumes" of the poor.
It's strange that we haven't moved any farther from the gala insensitivity of the Rag Ball-- and though we have more and more information-- the suffering of the world is not only on the next block, but also a mouse click away-- it seems there are now newer, more sophisticated methods of co-optation. What was once juxtaposition-- suffering and insensitivity, is now layered seamlessly over itself, so that we wonder if what's happening really is.
Next thing you know, Vogue will do a Crepes of Wrath spread, featuring party dresses, and a geezer Rumsfeld at Kate Moss' starvling tit. It's dark. Really. *Wink Wink*