Tuesday, September 15, 2009

True Lies: Documenting Constructed Visions

This is a follow up to my earlier post about the artist Dash Snow. My initial assertion was that Dash's work was responsible for the propagation of a certain aesthetic which employed the visual rhetoric of "low-culture" as a means of creating a high-end aesthetic.

First I would like to distinguish this practice of aesthetic appropriation from what was referred to in an earlier blog post as "slumming." The two concepts differ in that "slumming" involves members of higher social circle partaking in "lowly" activities with those of lesser social status where as in my example, the visual language of "low-culture" is being co-opted by the makers of high-culture as a means of appealing to the elite. For the purposes of this argument my interests are aesthetic rather than social.

The second, and more important, set of issues I would like to explore are the critical ramifications that such decisions have on the way that we unpack images. Photographers like Juergen Teller (who shoots Marc Jacobs' ads) and Terry Richardson (a celebrity photographer) employ the formal qualities of post-war documentary photography. While the decision appears stylistic on the surface, their formal similarities to those images forces us to consider them the way we might documentary footage which presents and inherent danger in the context of advertising.

More on this later....in the mean time enjoy this Marc Jacob ad shot by Juergen Teller...doesn't seem to be wearing much of the clothing though.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post and I love your distinction between the appropriation of an aesthetic vs. slumming. I think that what Snow and his brethren did was popularize a sleazy, sexy, drug-addled aesthetic that may have been "low culture" (in that it deals with raw images) but is very, very hip. I think the desire to be associated with something cool is more powerful, certainly for brands like Marc Jacobs, than the desire to be seen as "high" culture (which could also be seen as stuffy and dorky). While high-fashion brands are mostly bought by super-rich people, they want to associate themselves with HIP people (which is why they dress, like, 15 year old Estonian models and Gogol Bordello, rather than all clamoring for someone like Katherine Heigl).

    Perhaps this accounts for the ongoing and inexplicable popularity of Vincent Gallo.

    Here's an ad by Terry Richardson-- note the "new luxury" -- it's not the old, boring, super-wealthy luxury, it's the new kind, which allows you to have bottle service, hot girls, fancy hats and (presumably) expensive drugs.