Thursday, January 16, 2014

Walter Van Beirendonck Takes On Karl Lagerfeld

Cultural misappropriations seem to be a trend. Perhaps it's the ease of cross-cultural access and sharing engendered by the shrinking globe due to techno-connections. If that's the case, then this digitally-bred level of cultural appropriation--when is it simply sharing?--will most likely only grow, as will, then, the calls of misappropriation and cultural insensitivity. Recently Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck sent a "reading" directed toward Karl Lagerfeld in response to the Chanel's pre-fall 2014 collection, which included Native American/Western motif and even the use of a headdress.

Van Beirendonck's message is to "Stop Racisim!," and there is a need for concern and consideration when it comes to cultural (mis-)appropriation; however, the larger issue to me is understanding if one feather is always one too many. Putting the use of the headdress aside, would the Chanel collection be anymore less-racist? I believe that the use of the elaborate headdress is troublesome enough, but even without those pieces the Chanel collection might stand some consideration in terms of use of Native American cultural imagery; are people only upset because of the headdress? If so, that anger is a bit shortsighted in the understanding of cross-cultural image-sharing/theft/misuse/appreciation. My point is that a concern about misappropriation, particularly in fashion, is warranted, real, and necessary; however, we shouldn't let a headdress, no matter how culturally insensitive its use, become a red herring that keeps us from thinking about the larger issue of increased cultural connection, enabled by rapid tech growth and usage, in our ever-shrinking world--a world in which a young girl in Idaho might see a bindi for the first time on a famous actress in India and like it enough, feel connection enough, to try wearing one for herself despite little-to-no understanding of the history of culture connected to the symbol. Images today are increasingly decontextualized and rapidly shared with the global, fashionable, and impressionable masses.

That said, should we not also consider Walter Van Beirendonck's influences? What can we make of his own tribal-esque fashions? What is the history--past, present, future--behind such tribal-futuristic imagery, and isn't it just as important to consider? The issues spurred by cultural appropriation, and the pitfalls therein, are only going to become more complicated as our globe continues to shrink due to technological connections. Particularly in fashion, what is an integral part of one person's identity can easily and rapidly become another's adored item of cultural bricolage as they work to create their own 21C identity. As images become dislodged from context, so too do the histories and indentities associated with those images; how, if at all, might this be corrected? Is a "correction" needed, or might that only be culturally restrictive? Is all cultural appropriation bad? These are some of the challenging questions we have to start asking on a regular basis. Perhaps Van Beirendonck's feathered "GROWL" is an image that seeks to spark such dialogue and consideration.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Blurred Lines" Parody with Mod Carousel

I don’t know too much about #RobinThicke besides, mainly, the fact that he has made a major transformation since his first popular release some years back (he was more of a grungy/hippy/soul singer). However, I do know that his song “Blurred Lines” has been a hit since its release this summer. I suppose part of that success is due to the video for the track that features nude, or at least nearly naked, women marching across a screen in front of Thicke and his crew (Pharrell and T.I.). The video seemed to have sparked a slight controversy due to the blunt objectification of women, but I’m still at a loss as to why so many people were shocked or surprised by such displays; sexy women and music have been tied together since the beginning of MTV, and even before. This curious uproar aside, and I am not saying the exploitation of the female form and the messages therein are okay, I do find this parody video featuring genderbending burlesque from Mod Carousel to be a much fitter representation of the idea of “blurred lines” when it comes to matters of sex, gender, sexuality, and identity. Check it OUT!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Meeting Issei Sagawa with VICE

In this video, VICE meets with Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa. Sagawa shot a young Dutch student in Paris, 1981, and then proceeded to eat her remains. He was caught, sent back to Japan, but never punished for his crime on grounds of insanity. While the act is heinous, the mini-doc focuses mostly on Sagawa’s life in the aftermath of his transgressions. He tells his story, and you can discern the conflict raging within this individual. My favorite moment, which comes in the second part of the doc, is when a young porn actress is told of Sagawa’s past after spending a day having sex with him. She states: “I understand he is full of insecurities,” and “I think it’s selfish to let his fantasies grow so wild.” This last statement is most interesting because it begs the question of how this man is supposed to prevent his desires from overtaking him, the implication being that others could be harmed otherwise. This young women actually begins a friendship with Sagawa, which leads to some progress in the fight against his illness(?). As she says, “He’s lacking something…” and I suppose she wanted to help him find that part of himself that could possibly remedy his most grotesque urges and painful existence. As Sagawa concludes, “I don’t even know who I am…nor the meaning of my life.” This is a standard human condition, I think, and examining this particular instance and situation, with its tragic and gruesome consequences, is revealing. See for yourself.


100th Post Resolution

Simply put, I am trying, with the impetus of this 100th post, to be more prolific on this blog, and to not let it sit so idle for so long in between posts. That is my 100th post resolution. 
Michael M

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Is Smithfield Still an American Company if Chinese Purchase Moves Forward?

The CEO of Smithfield Foods--mostly known for their ham, of course, and for being the world's largest pork producer--insists that the purchase of the company by Chinese firm Shuanghui International Holdings will not alter the U.S. company's products or adherence to current production standards. However, CEO Larry Pope goes even further by saying that Smithfield, even after the Chinese takeover, will still be "an American company." How so? Yes, the takeover will mean that U.S. workers at Smithfield will keep their jobs--for now--but the company will be owned by a Chinese firm, and thus will no longer be an American company; workers at Smithfield will be working for Chinese owners. To elide this fact is misleading and delusive, and it blurs the larger issue of American firms being sold off to foreign entities. While this is not anything new, and while American workers are currently employed by many global firms--the largest sector probably being that of the auto industry--we do need to be mindful of the fact that many of the countries that are able to grab up American firms would gawk at an American request to do the same in their own countries. As several Congress members have noted, one of them being Sen. Mike Johanns (R- Neb.), "Chinese regulators would laugh at you if you said, ‘Well, I'll just buy Shuanghui,’” which happens to be China's largest pork producer. Point: companies owned and controlled by countries other than the U.S.A. should not be referred to as "American companies."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"The Mightly Power"--Moriyama by Ringo Tang

Daido Moriyama is celebrating his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong. This short film by Ringo Tang, "The Mighty Power," follows Moriyama as he wonders the streets of Hong Kong, providing some fascinating insight into his processes, and his understanding of the importance and power of photography. He explains how photography, today, is much more casual and personal: more inline with his own approach as it has been documented across his career. What I enjoy the most is how Tang's film captures Moriyama as he lurks around the city of Hong Kong, experiencing his passion for life and photography in his own way. It makes me want to pick up a camera and travel--alone--into the shadows of a great city. As Moriyama says, "I love to burrow in mysterious lanes, to detect the unusual scent [...;] cities are flooded with desire." Enjoy.
Source: Nowness

Daido Moriyama: The Mighty Power on

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Drew Droege as Chloe Sevigny

It has come to my attention that Drew Droege does a wonderful job impersonating actress/designer/trendsetter Chloe Sevigny. But what has struck me, and what Droege seems to realize too, is that his depiction of Sevigny is more inspired than representational. In fact, the fake Chloe Sevigny is really her own person who just happens to have a few things in common with the real scenestanista. That is what I find so fantastic about Drew Droege's work: he has taken what was to be a parody, and elevated and molded it into its very own symbol of pretension. And I doubt the real Sevigny is as pretentious as Droege's creation; she's just fortunate to lead a very interesting life. I can't seem to get enough of Droege's character, whoever she may be. Check it out for yourself.

Daily Beast article
Drew Droege on Twitter

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pussy Riot, "Punk Prayer"

This is just another indication that the world is off-kilter. Yes, look to Russia and Mr. Putin for an example of why I can be rather pessimistic about the human condition--or that of our social structures. (I'm quite certain that in the next 5 years we will see drones flying above us, adroitly taking note and inventory of our lives.) I have personally felt and seen the continuing invasion of privacy and freedom of speech. And take note: sometimes such encroachments are clandestine. However, in the case of Pussy Riot, those tactics have been quite open and unapologetic. Members of the collective--mothers, sisters, daughters, partners, leaders, citizens--have been put on trial and face up to 7 years imprisonment for "hate crimes" against the church in Russia. Strange, at least it seems to me, since the true "hate crime" is the Russian governments forced squelching of the voices of citizens. We must hope that that attention their story is getting will help Pussy Riot escape from the clutches of a fiercely brutal and power-hungry political system. Furthermore, let their story be a warning to us all about the lengths the people-at-the-top will go to keep their privileged positions--including selling arms to a deadly regime in Syria or ebbing the human rights of its own citizens. See the video and words that started the fire below.


St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!
(end chorus)

Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners are crawling and bowing
The ghost of freedom is in heaven
Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains

The head of the KGB is their chief saint
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend the Holy
Women have to give birth and to love

Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!

St. Maria, Virgin, become a feminist
Become a feminist, Become a feminist
(end chorus)

Church praises the rotten dictators
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
In school you are going to meet with a teacher-preacher
Go to class - bring him money!

Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, you better believed in God
Belt of the Virgin is no substitute for mass-meetings
In protest of our Ever-Virgin Mary!

St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!
(end chorus)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Andrea Maestri designs--Milan

Andrea Maestri is based in Milan. This collection, a reader submission to DesignBoom, is self-produced. What I like about it is the simplicity, the playfulness, and the taboo surrounding the pieces, like with the "I love Jesus" coffee table and "Fuck You" table lamp, below. There's a "found" and "repurposed" quality in the work (although I am not certain that is what Maestri has done) I identify with and enjoy--very inspirational.
Check out more of Andrea Maestri's designs HERE.
Source: DesignBoom

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tanlines/Janet Jackson

Tanlines have recently released Mixed Emotions, and I like it for the Simon-esque qualities (Paul). It's mostly playful--or, at least, it moves a bit. Though it is not without its serious moments. A favorite cut is "All of Me." The video is nice, too. However, listening the first time to the song, I was struck by an intertextual connection between it and Janet Jackson's "Escapade." I'm not sure if it's a mood, key, or just the beats, but I feel a bond between the two works. That's what led me to watching Janet's video alongside Tanlines' song. What a marriage! The tribal qualities of Tanlines' work meshes so well with the setting of the "Escapade" video--and just wait until the dancing begins! Mute Janet and start Tanlines at about the 50second mark: then watch Janet's classic video unfold to Tanlines' catchy jangle. Yes, the official video for "All of Me" is interesting enough on its own--a sort of post-communist club reunion gone bizarre, if that's possible. But the meshing with "Escapade" brings an even bigger smile to my face. I wanna go! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kita-Kore, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan

I'm a huge fan of DIY aesthetics and practices--aesthetics meaning the way you can see so much personality and individuality that is bled into many DIY projects and pieces. There has recently been a bright spark of interest in one particular DIY and fashion sector from Tokyo. Of course, I am referring to the Kita-Kore kids in Tokyo's Koenji neighborhood. This is a much older and (maybe until recently) much less touristed section of the city--hence the possibility for start-up, and younger stores/companies being able to afford their spaces (no matter how small--and many are miniscule, yet packed with flavor). The beacon of creativity in the Koenji hood is the Kita-Kore building where one can find stacks and mazes of tiny shops that cater to the most eccentric and vibrantly styled folks who seek out what is next in fashion and design. Style Bubble posted about a trip to the district back in May 2011 in which you can get a better idea about how creatively inspirational these Kita-Kore kids/stores can be.

and HERE
and a Map HERE
also from CNN 

Friday, February 3, 2012

M.I.A. "Bad Girls"

FINALLY!!++M.I.A is BACK--but for real this time!!! This is the best video thus far: 2012. Maybe MDNA had a talk with our truffle frie eatting Sri Lankan pop-raptress. This video and song is the perfect marriage. M.I.A. has taken herself out of the box of "authenticity" and has figured out how to fully realize that which she really is: a woman with a perspective that is so very needed right now. Who that woman is has been so expertly represented in this video for "Bad Girls." M.I.A. has a unique worldview and background, but she is also a pop sensation: at last (I hope I don't speak too soon) she seems to have found the best way to balance the two sides that make her such a unique force in today's Fu*k'd up world!!!! It's so rare that I can be pulled back over into a more "mainstream" music world--but M.I.A is just the woman to do it. I just want it to work this time. Let's just hope Jay-Z doesn't get his hands on this song--PLEZZZZ! she doesn't need 'em.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yayoi Kusama with Louis Vuitton

I've posted on Yayoi Kusama in the past--I suppose I am obsessed with the obsessed (Kusama with dots). This photo I just can't get enough of. It is a still from a meeting Kusama had with Marc Jacobs of Louis Vuitton in 2006. The iconic Japanese artist will have a collaboration between herself and the brand released later this year. I am obsessing over Kusama's eyes: a noticeable spark of life, creativity, exuberance, passion--all there, and surrounded by dots. See more pics from the meeting and collaboration HERE on Tokyo Dandy. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Catherine Hyland's Adventure in a Framework of a Fairytale

Catherine Hyland took a trip to China and filmed this enchanting scene: a fantasyland left undone. I do believe that, due to the fact that this park was abandoned before being completed, it is even more enjoyable than it might have been with with strollers, balloons, and bad food & music all over the place . The moment in the short clip in which you can see folks walking on the upper-level of the "post-apocalyptic" castle is mesmerizing.

Wonderland from catherine Hyland on Vimeo.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Todd Selby films Artist, Christine Sun Kim

Todd Selby made a film featuring the artist Christine Sun Kim at work, "reclaiming sound" as her own. As she puts it, her art is her voice. Watch the film below. It is featured on NOWNESS along with more background on the project and Christine's art made with sound--the piece made in blue, via nail, paint, and sub-woofer, is brilliant.  You can also read a mini interview with Christine HERE

Todd Selby x Christine Sun Kim on