I went into the mall today. It’s way busier than normal and full of Chanel and Oroton stalls that instantly make me want to spend lots of money and take home a pristine, shiny box. The coffee shops have rolled out their Christmas cups to add a bit of festive cheer to our landfill (who am I kidding, I get over-the-top excited about Christmas coffee cups) and the shops have huge posters exhorting us to give. It’s only the third of December, but it feels like Christmas has already been around forever, and I’m feeling a weird mix of cynicism and excitement.
A couple of days ago the lovely Romy Sai Zunde pointed me in the direction of Hans Silvester’s photos of the Surma and Mursi tribes in the L’Omo Valley on the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan. These are nomadic tribes, who express their artistic creativity by decorating their bodies with pigments made from volcanic rock, flowers, leaves, grass, shells and animal horns. The beautiful images have stuck with me: the careful, elaborate self expression, the sheer joy of such exuberant adornment, the excitement of transfiguring found objects and vegetation into precious embellishment.
Maybe they’re so haunting because it’s precisely the moment in our year when the pressure to buy things is most acute. These images are a reminder that for us, beauty, self expression (and even the idea of demonstrating love) are heavily commodified – they’re wrapped up in plastic and mediated through big brands. Brands with a high stake in our dissatisfaction with ourselves, whose sole aim is to get us to buy more stuff – expensive, shiny, enticing stuff.
Of course I like putting on a bit of my Chanel lippie (it is lovely lipstick), but I can’t help but imagine a sense of freedom in these images that’s missing as we buckle down and rack up the credit card debt in preparation for another Christmas.
P.S. Hans Silvester’s book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa would make a really lovely Christmas gift!
Spanish artist/illustrator Maria Hergueta via The Jealous Curator. I can’t even say how much I love the top image wuth the pink cheek scribble. I’m such a sucker for any kind of embroidery.
I was once talking to a guy in a bar. He said he was the editor of Zoo. I don’t know if he was or not. We were arguing over the origin of the word cock – as you would expect from the editor of Zoo. “Trust me,” he said “I know a lot about entomology.” Then he asked me if I wanted to go on a ride on his motorbike and I said no. Continue reading
A couple. A woman, leading a blind man. She looks tired, rumpled – a little bit undone. I wonder if he knows. If in his head she is the most beautiful woman in the world, that they are glorious in the morning sun, parading down platform 3 arm in arm. Because she is, because they are.
Image: Love is a Tango by Catrin Welz-Stein.
There’s a softness you find on the edge of people, like falling. In their front-up, still shiny faces – before you know better. Lips and tongues and words: it’s the edge of the world. There are monsters here, in the force of their attention, in this light underneath the neon.
Image: B. Eberhard
Oh my, I love this photo. It makes me miss summer badly. Ryan Kenny is an Australian photographer who has done shoots for i-D and Oyster, among many other high profile gigs, and you should definitely check out his dreamy photo diary. It’s Nice That writes “Ryan Kenny smashes up anti-girl power theories with his trusty camera that basically turns every girl it fires a shot at into a hilarious, roll-up smoking, rock diving, water fight starting, firework lighting girl.” Actually, I think it might be that Ryan just hangs out with fun people, because those are all things that girls actually are without being photographed, but there you go.
This embroidery is by Takashi Iwasaki. I love it’s simplicity and vibrancy and colour. In his portfolio statement, he says that most of his recent work is abstract, representing his state of mind. He says “capturing moments and sharing my visions with others have been my recent obsession and pleasure.” All I can say is thank you for sharing, and thank God for artists!