Johanna Fateman began her 1997 fanzine, Artaud-Mania, by professing, “Dear Diary, I am writing to you because confessional writing is the self-effacing form most suited to the abject position of the fan.” Until then, the twenty-two-year-old Fateman hadn’t confessed much in her work; her earlier zines (including the series Snarla, cowritten in the early nineties with fellow high school misfit Miranda July) never had the insular or solipsistic feel typical of many of that era’s photocopied missives. What’s more, the syphilitic and schizophrenic Artaud, an enfant terrible of French arts and letters, was an unlikely idol for the feminist punk scene that Fateman had been a part of and was reacting against—post–Riot Grrrl publications that rarely ventured beyond subjects like the DIY music scene, grassroots organizing, and personal politics. Her appreciation for Artaud came through artists and writers like Nancy Spero and Kathy Acker. Like them, she was inspired by his fierce articulation of what Spero once termed a “sense of victimhood”; Fateman put it more bluntly when she wrote approvingly that Artaud was a “crazy bitch with male authority.”
Toward the end of Lewis Carroll’s endlessly unfurling saga Sylvie & Bruno, we find the duo sitting at the feet of Mein Herr, an impish fellow endowed with a giant cranium. The quirky little man regales the children with stories about life on his mysterious home planet.
“And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”
“Have you used it much?” I enquired.
“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr. “The farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.”
Among Mein Herr’s many big ideas, none is as familiar to us as the Grand Map. We use it, or a version of it, on a daily basis. With Google Street View, which allows us to traverse instantly from a schematic road map into the tumult of the road itself, we boldly zoom from the map to the territory and back. As the Herr said, “we now use the country itself as its own map.” Read More
It’s easy to overlook that Vogue, seemingly eponymous with the word fashion, debuted after Harper’s Bazaar, America’s first fashion magazine. Steeped longer in the Victorianism that defined the nineteenth century, Bazaar set about cataloguing the changes that an era of colonialism and industrialization brought to women’s dress. The original weekly (titled Harper’s Bazar) saw its first printing in November of 1867, as a slim, sixteen-page newsprint volume featuring drawings and articles on every aspect of fashion. The news item “Colors” reads more like an issue of political importance. (“Bismarck, or gold-brown, is the prevailing shade, and reappears in some guise almost every where. The new shades of green are its only formidable rivals. The deep green known as ‘Invisible,’ now called ‘Mermaid,’ is in great favor.”) An early cover from an 1868 issue shows hand-drawn hairstyles alongside paper-doll-like figures, nodding at French sophistication with hairdo trends like the “diadem of curls” and the “fleur de lis coiffure of braids.”
“Harper’s Bazaar: A Decade of Style” at the International Center of Photography catalogues the transformations that technology of a different sort wrought on women’s bodies. The collection of more than thirty images—vivid color photographs from the past decade under editor Glenda Bailey—features work by famed fashion photographers such as Patrick Demarchelier, Terry Richardson, and Peter Lindbergh, as well as art-world luminaries like Nan Goldin and Chuck Close. Read More
A basic but serviceable simile for memory is the mirror: you look into it and it shows you as you once were. Most of us recognize that the analogy is simplistic at best, and the novelist reaching into his past for material knows it better than most.
I was a fifty-year-old writer trying to breathe life into the character of a seventeen-year-old boy. It was a daunting prospect, perhaps, but I was not to be put off by the presumptuousness or difficulty of the task; after all, inventing people is what I’m (occasionally) paid to do. I naturally intended to draw on my every memory of myself as a seventeen-year-old. Like me, my protagonist would be somewhat bookish but in no way a nerd; deeply introspective but not withdrawn; a peripheral figure on the margins of the in-crowd, longing to be admitted yet vaguely contemptuous of the object of his desire; chaotically libidinous but physically uncertain of himself; and above all a strenuously ethical being, ever seeking and ever falling short of the moral high ground. He would make a rather handsome character, I thought. Read More
“Yes, there’s an elevator,” a worried guest was assured on Tuesday night in the lobby of the Ace Hotel. This was no small concern. The event she was on hand to attend, cohosted by Ari Seth Cohen and Tavi Gevinson, was located in the basement. And the crowd was largely over eighty.
The evening was a celebration of Ari Seth Cohen’s street-style blog, Advanced Style. As the name suggests, the ladies of the silver-haired set are Cohen’s muses; the site contains a mix of known fashion royalty, like Iris Apfel and Beatrix Ost, and strangers whose dashing ensembles catch the photographer’s eye. It was both disconcerting and wonderful to see the parade of extravagantly dressed grandes dames enter the aggressively hip Ace, which had been rendered especially youthful by the descent of New York Fashion Week attendees.
Fashion Week parties, as anyone can tell you, are largely about exclusion: lists, velvet ropes, and stony-faced, implacable bouncers. This one was no different, but instead of models and actresses, the women being ushered to the head of the line and pursued by photographers were white-haired, turbaned, and carrying canes. Periodically, organizers scanned the crowded hotel lobby: when they spotted a hat or a caftan, the old lady in question was whisked ceremoniously downstairs to Liberty Hall.
Readers of Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities will recall the “Collateral Campaign,” a fictional initiative to commemorate the seventieth anniversary, in 1918, of the ascent of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef to the throne. As the novel progresses, so too does the campaign: it will be a whole year of festivities, it will be The Austrian Year, The Austrian Peace Year. The planning draws in prominent personages who introduce more and more ambitious proposals; it launches scores of dinner evenings, plenipotentiary committees, and public debates.
Musil’s subject, and the admixture of sympathy and satire he brought to it, seems awfully familiar in 2011. Nowadays, we are fairly encircled by Collateral Campaigns—by artistic enterprises whose intentions, intellectual and social, are unimpeachable, yet which seem always to hover between event and discourse, between process and product. Example: the new BMW Guggenehim Lab in the East Village, which opened last month.