A new/old/young Sizwe: a review of the play Sizwe Banzi is Dead

 
 
 
 
It was my birthday on Saturday, so I took myself to the theatre. It was a last-minute decision after a difficult day, so I was very grateful that when I rushed in (late, puffed) and only had enough for a £10 ticket, the Young Vic staff were able to accommodate me.
As I was waiting for my late-comers’ entrance time, I had a quick run-down: a bit of the section I’d missed – a monologue from Styles about his time at the Ford factory, but nothing I couldn’t catch up on. 
 
And, it was explained to me, the crowd and entrances were segregated – we were sitting on separate bleachers.
I wasn’t shocked.
Perhaps I already knew from something I’d heard about last year’s season. Perhaps it just made sense, being that the play was portraying South African Apartheid.
 
 
 
The play
 
Sizwe Bansi is Dead was written by South Africans Athol Furgard, Winston Ntshona and John Kani, deep into Apartheid/National Party in the 1970s. First premiering in 1972, Cape Town, its first season in London (1974) won accolades and connected English audiences to the nature of apartheid (and its UK complicity – noting the presence of Barclays in the South African City skyline at Styles’ studio). It has since been performed here in 1977, 2007, 2013 and now 2014. 
 
 
The official blurb: 

It’s 1972 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and Sizwe Banzi’s passbook gives him just three days to find work. No work and he’ll be deported. That was four days ago.
So when Sizwe stumbles across a dead body with a passbook, he asks himself – does his identity card really define who he is? Could he give up his family and his name in order to survive?
 
 
 
Typically and misleadingly, Furgard is often touted as *the* writer of the play, however Ntshona and Kani are deeply entrenched in its dialogue – they played Styles and Bansi (Banzi) in the 1972/74 and 2007 seasons, and their names appearing as cameos in the play. Ntshona is the name of Buntu’s friend, and the “answering to ‘John!'” as a subordinate term was (presumably) not just about the de-nomination of Afrikans/Bantus, but also an oblique reference to Kani.  
 
 
 
Background info
Port Elizabeth, the setting for the play, is a White Area on the Eastern Cape outside the sanctioned African Reserve Areas of the Ciskei/Transkei. Highly regulated. And not to be confused with even-more regulated Port St. Johns.
 
Africans/Bantus require a permit to be in an area outside of their ‘Homeland’, or another Bantu designated work area, requiring the kind of visa the UK Home Office dreams about.
 
I am lucky to have a little knowledge of Townships, Homelands and the business of the book* thanks to some reading I had done last year1, which outlined the restrictions for working in towns like Port Elizabeth and the legalities of why the character would HAVE to go back to King William’s Town. 

Of course, I have zero understanding of the system portrayed in the play, but I got a little closer through seeing it.
 
 
This production
Sibusiso Mamba, who plays Sizwe Banzi/Robert Zwelinzima is actually adorable. He brings to the role a solid combination of solemn, awkward and honest – pathos. And this is crucial to playing a man struggling with being turned into someone he isn’t: not just his name, but someone who is twisted into dishonesty and manipulation in order to fit within the white supremacist system of Apartheid – in order to continue being something he used to be.
 
There is a section in the second half of play –  the crux of the work –  at the point in which Sizwe Bansi becomes Dead. It is where the desperation of being cut into a corner, dehumanised and bureaucratised has built to a point of such frustration, that he is willing to go to any lengths to prove that he is actually who he believes himself to be: a man.
 
The dialogue is full of tension. 

And, unfortunately, in the performance I saw, it lacked the conviction of that situation.
There is like a very good reason for this (see the next section), probably nothing to do with Sibusiso’s acting, but it was still a little disappointing.
 
Tonderai Munyevu – who I had seen recently in Zhe at the Soho Theatre – is fantastic. He’s such a bright light on the stage and brings that cheeky Southern African humour to it whilst balancing the gravitas of oppression under legislated white supremacy and poverty. I could be making this up, but I felt like he is more Styles than Buntu – more “dapper, alert, thriving’, than ‘strong, compassionate, willing’  but that’s just me projecting it onto him.
 
The Styles section of the play was exactly what I needed on my birthday: Lots of laughter, lots of humanity, lots of cheerfulness in the face of adversity, and lots of determination.
 
The blankes/whites
Throughout the last 30 minutes of the performance, every 10 minutes or so four white, drunk, fairly-young members of the audience tramped and sloshed their way across the bench seats and out the door. Stumbling, making noise, disregarding the action on the stage and being arses. One woman falling up the stairs and clearly unable to manage anything quieter than a stage whisper when talking to the ushers.
 
When the first two left, I was confused. I thought the preview I was in was, perhaps, a rehearsal and that they were crew making changes. Then when the next person left I realised that they were just being rude. And by the time the last woman left – making the most noise, I was ropable.
 
Of course, the disturbance was not just that of individuals or the performance itself. 
 
It highlighted the disregard us blankes still have for Africans and Black British people and stories. It reminded us that, despite being at a great performance of contemporary theatre, in one of the most diverse cities in the world, racism still exists. 
Overtly. Subtly. Structurally.
Truly, Madly, Deeply.
 
Theatre-goers aren’t some special breed, inocculated against ignorance and bad behaviour. And, in true privileged style, most of us theatre-going white folk like to think we are separate from it, so we also didn’t like it when they showed us up. Me included.
 
 
And this is problematic, but it was somewhat satisfying to spy one of the girls in the foyer and express my displeasure. Not in an English, passive agressive way, but it in an overt way. As overt as her racist behaviour was. I was also slightly relieved and pleased to hear others telling her and her friends off, expressing their dissatisfaction.  It felt like maybe a step towards a desire for whiteness to not include such disgustingness. Clearly I’m still in denial.
 
 
Set for racism
The white supremacy that the characters in the play are railing against is continued in the structure of the performing of the play itself. And, given the behaviour of my four ignorant friends, here, I would suggest that it’s destructive, rather than enlightening.
 
The fact that Furgard is still touted as THE writer of the play (especially in London), rather than as one of three equal contributors is a reflection of the way in which white writers are still privileged over black ones.
 
In fact, the 2013 season of Sizwe Banzi and The Island was often touted in the liberal London press – (Time Out, The Guardian) as an Athol Furgard season. Not a Furgard, Kani and Ntshona season.
All three writers wrote both these books, by the way. And it would have been the lived experience of Ntshona and Kani that enabled Furgard to even speak of many of these actions.
 
With this production, audience segregation is the action of white supremacy and it had a racist effect. Regardless of its intention.
Back to our drunk mzungus – did it charge the conditions for racist behaviour? White supremacy as a system, causes racism. If the crowd has been mixed, or our differences not highlighted or enacted in such a way – if the system was not replicated, would these people have still done this? 
 
Probably – because they were disrespectful, drunk and consequently self-absorbed and ignorant (the breeding ground of acting out internalised racism) but I’m asking the question anyway. 
 
Because I think it’s quite important for me to remember – especially as an intelligent, politically- and racially-aware white woman – that oppression and racism (see also patriarchy/misogyny, ablism, hetero/cis-normative/homophobia) it is not about individuals and their own actions. It’s the awareness that we are a group of people who contribute and that there are systems (designed) that create and perpetuate these destructive actions and beliefs.
 
It also reminded me that it’s only the privileged who get to really fuck around with paying homage to oppressive systems in art or theatre or design. It’s only really those who have no clue who are able to cherry pick symbolism, ‘reincarnate’ or try to bring it to life – because we can all go home, tralalala and write a blog post about it instead of committing suicide or stealing a dead man’s passport to stay alive.
 
1. Bantustans – The Fragmentation of South Africa was a disturbing but enlightening publication from 1964 by Christopher R Hill and the Institute for Race Relations, London. I learned a lot about the specific policy of apartheid and the gross financial and econonomic destruction that was behind the ideology, sold as ‘solutions’ every couple of years.
The Court Theatre study guide to the play is an interesting accompanyment.

image: promo shot pinched from the Young Vic website.

Hannah Arendt (The movie): A review




Last week, as I was revisiting the discussion between Melissa Harris-Perry and bell hooks at the New School*, I remembered my academic crush on The New School as a school in which a lot of my favourite thinkers, writers and artists have taught/teach and whose research I admire.

 
Which, in turn, reminded me about the Hannah Arendt film released here last year, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, and centred around her time at the New School.
 
Now, I think Hannah Arendt is amazing.
Her books The Origins of Totalitarianism and The Human Condition are crucial, her take on Rosa Luxembourg is heartwarming and my copy of The Portable Hannah Arendt is tattered with love and much use. The reports she made about the extraordinary trials in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann were so sensational and provoked vital critical thinking about genocide, sovereignty, international law and crimes against humanity.
 
She has problematic views too. Her take on the Little Rock Nine and desegregation of education the US is one I categorically reject, and her complicity in the occupation of Palestine through her work with Youth Aliya disturbs me.

Yet her complexity and her writing (as a whole) is a formidable influence on my work, thinking and inevitably on the work of people I admire, too.
 
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I approached the film. 
 
Much in the same way films about Frida Kahlo, Sylvia Plath and Truman Capote have been unsatisfying*, I didn’t want to witness a degrading, thin or limiting rendition of someone who is complex. Especially not someone who I admire and to whom I think the world needs to pay attention. 

There is always the threat that, in attempting to funnel their life into a story of 120 minutes within the genre of contemporary filmmaking , it will reduce them to an afterthought and undermine the work they’ve done. Especially as the history of mainstream cinema banks on that kind of entertaining reduction and revisionism: palatable, easily distributable and marketable.
 
As much as I enjoyed the film, sadly, I think that’s what has happened to the character of Hannah Arendt in this film.
 
Given that Arendt is a writer and theortician, I imagine it is not easy to depict this kind of life in film.  
So the obvious way through is to focus on the drama – the fracas she caused with her New Yorker report from 1961, Eichmann in Jersualem (still available on the New Yorker website!).

So the film centred around her trip to Israel for the trials, her discussions about the trials and theories of evil, justice and humanity, the writing of those articles and the aftermath of the publishing.

 
It was the beginning of discussion about the role of law, who gets to punish, about the role of media/journalism in such a massive undertaking.


And given that, I think the title should have been Hannah in Jerusalem, or something along those lines – something that was in line with the story and trajectory of the film. By its broad title, it suggests a story about her entirety, or at least the whole of her career.

The film did manage to focus a little on her relationships with students, her work with Karl Jaspers and Youth Aliya and other writers/acedemics at the time, but it primarily focused on her relationship with her bloody husband!
Just like every other biopic about women in the arts and letters.

Frida was about Diego, Sylvia was about Ted and Hannah Arendt was about Heinrich (and/or Martin Heidegger). In fact, the only recent film I have seen about an influencial woman that wasn’t about her husband, was The Iron Lady about Margaret Thatcher. Which was about her debilitating illness instead. Not to degrade that, mind, but for god’s sake can we have a film about the breadth of an intelligent woman’s life!
 
With those criticisms out of the way, I was still chuffed to see a political theorist in film –  a female academic on film*: her strong and opinionate character, the smoking (lordy – she didn’t stop!), her friendship with author Mary McCarthy and a bit of her connection with Heidegger. To see on-screen discussion of the theories of Heidegger and the difficulty in divorcing his excellent theory work from his decision to stay in the Nazi Party – that was welcome, and perpetuated in similar grey areas about Arendt and her complicity (although not necessarily teased out).





And, as I mentioned, I appreciated seeing the New School as a kind of character, too  – the subplot of their flip-flopping sycophancy and subsequent rejection of their controversial ‘prized lecturer’.  Reminiscent of the character of Harvard University in The Social Network, the university and its influence on those who influence is an interesting side-note.

 

I am not sure how good a film this is if you don’t know who Hannah Arendt is.
This is a shame, because film is oftentimes an opportunity to also educate or intrigue people who may be otherwise in the dark. 
But if you do know about Arendt and her work, it is still worthwhile seeing for a kind of curiosity, fondness or revisiting her written work. And perhaps for generating resolve towards better scriptwriting about intelligent women of influence.






*when i say revisiting, i mean clapping my hands gleefully and yahooing around the house like a madwoman.

* geez – why are all these films just their names? how about ‘zapatista in surrealism’ or ‘in the blue hours’ or ‘the love of in cold blood’. OK, Im terrible with titles, but c’mon – single word names?
* How low is the bar, ladies?

Crying in exhibitions: Review of [re]locate at Bermondsey project space

I’ve seen thousands of exhibitions and some really inspiring and moving shows. I have lists of biennales, collections, artist-run things and performance showings on this blog.

The list of shows I’ve cried at is very small. It consists of  just two: Vernon Ah Kee’s this man… this woman... at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane and the new addition Tahera Aziz‘s [re]locate at bermondsey project space.

You can read about the vernon ah kee response in this post.

Background: twenty-year anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence.

Children’s deaths are never pleasant – they are a reminder about the rotten nature of humanity. And when a child’s death also exposes the cancerous way in which we protect that rottenness, it’s especially heinous.

I’m not from the UK, so my experience of this show was as an outsider who had heard only a whisper of the murder case – primarily when the killers were finally convicted not long before I arrived here. But the case and the media/culture surrounding it holds a key place in the London psyche.

The work: audio documentary
The crux of the work at the amazing Bermondsey Project Space is the audio work. It is a darkened sound space – no visual stimulus at all, but a surround-sound, multi-channel re-interpretation of the death of Stephen Lawrence.

Different characters in different sides of the room, some are more audible than others. The people at the bus stop (witnesses), the police ‘responding’ to the crime, the locals living in the area, Stephen and his friend Duwayne Brooks, people who were first on the scene and the perpetrators.

It was an intense interpretation/dramatisation/re-enactment of the events of that night, in which a young black boy was killed for his race and in which the police were responsible for the lengthy delay in bringing about justice.

As a viewer, I became a ‘witness’ to the crime with zero agency. Completely unable to change anything about the course of events playing out to my ears. Immediately I felt fear, frustration and absolute despair at the ongoing racism, violence and the negligence from the state (and their representatives).

I felt my whiteness and my complicity.
And it is painful.

The contextual imagery, timeline and books about the case shown in the second room were also really helpful for someone like me who is outside the immediate throng of the case (including the incredibly role of the Daily Mail, risking litigation and challenging the police to charge the murderers).

It’s probably not new for those who lived through it to see all the stuff. But it is still powerful.

I also felt the nature of my privilege in that case. I have the chance to view this stuff objectively, to feel the sadness, despair, rage and then walk away. It’s not my life. It’s not my (immediate) community’s life. And it’s not the kind of thing I suffer.

Despite that, it reminded me of the countless Australian death-in-custody cases, the TJ Hickey case – the frustrating and ongoing institutional racism, especially enacted on young black men in the streets across the world.

After experiencing the work, I sat for ages and watched the astounding documentary secret policeman, which exposed the phenomenal amount of institutional racism in the UK police force. It’s jaw-dropping and unsurprising at the same time. I had never seen anything like it – certainly no Australian police force, or journalist, would dig that deep or go to that length.

I left feeling completely gutted. It’s not often I leave a show like that and it felt amazing.
As a whole, it is a work that facilitates immense feelings and to that end, it is spectacular.

There are a stack of events associated with the exhibition – sadly i had to miss last night’s screening of john akomfrah‘s handsworth songs (1987), but will be there next week for the conversation on expanding the documentary from outside the field of vision.

You must go and see this work. Really.

Mostly artefacts and artifice: history in public

This week’s wrap-up stretches across museums and institutions concerned with history.

The Money Gallery: Britism Museum
The Money Gallery is a gallery that, would benefit from being properly expanded. The historical coinage/artefacts of trade are really interesting, including the chinese coins that didn’t change in 2000 years (that’s good design for you. The modern era of currency hasn’t really been explored that well and could unpack the nature of currency, value and monetary history.

The history of accounting was briefly covered with a monument to pretty much the first auditor, but could have expanded right out. Questions that could have been investigated include: How did accounting evolve? How did we, as a society, come to agree on ways of managing money? How did we establishing methods of checks and balances?
Given that money and trade and currency underpin society, British history and London as the centre of global Finance, I think it would give laymen an insight into finance and the ways in which it intersects with history, art and anthropology.

On the Road: British Library
The British Library is currently displaying the original scroll manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Toad. It’s a beautiful object that just oozes that manic style of the book and connects history, the importance of collection and the legacy of beat poetry. You couldn’t really read the words on it – with low lux protecting the manuscripts integrity making it a little difficult – but there were chunks of break-out text that reminded me of how great the book is.

The Jewellery Gallery: Victoria and Albert Museum
As a compliment to the history of trade and artefacts at the british museum, the jewellery gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum is about craftsmanship and social identity through the history of personal ornamentation. Of course it could be waaaaay bigger but, for a mostly-private collection, It is still pretty amazing.  Although it rarely changes, it is a gallery that those living in or visiting London can pop into for inspiration and a reminder of the immense wealth and power that is conveyed through bespoke jewellery.

On the street: Blue Plaques
When not popping into museums, of course you still get to experience a sense of history about London and history through the blue plaques scheme.

We walk past places where REAL SHIT HAPPENED. Yesterday I came across the old residence of Emmeline Pankhurst. Being a foreigner, Emmeline Pankhurst has, until now, been just be a name in the history books, or a link on wikipedia. Not a real person who did amazing things! Yesterday I had a moment where the history of her life and the reality of mine suddenly connected. Lineage.

In Australia, I’m removed from that. Which is exactly why colonisation works – I’m completely divorced from the immense history of the land I was raised on because my ancestors killed pretty much everyone who could have possibly passed down that history. And, because I’m from english stock and so far from the sites of my family history, the concept of being connected to history is a little foreign to me. Which is why I’m particularly enjoying the cold, dark and grey city I’m in.

she sees read

while my laptop was hanging out with virgil in purgatory, i managed to chew through a few books, unsurprisingly. [i also managed to make my own christmas cards, wrapping paper and cookies. but that’s not what i’m going to post about, obviously.]

and i just thought i’d share about these books a bit, because, as it turns out, they’re all linked in some way and all three have effected me in a profound way – existentially. the nice thing is that two of them were gifts too, which means i now have awesome mind-reading friends who know exactly what kind of garbage to put in my brain.

the trickster makes this world: how disruptive imagination creates culture  lewis hyde.



apparently there’s quite a famous book by lewis hyde called the gift. i’d not heard of it, so this author and his second big title was all new to me. i was a little dubious about that subtitle, but i peeked at the first page and was hooked from the get-go. in fact, i cheated on the book i was reading at the time – ditched it in favour of the first chapter under the covers. ooh er..

basically, hyde uses stories in mythology about various trickster characters, to show that the wiley, crafty and chaotic traits of the trickster are a vital part of society. He then matched those traits in stories/principles with the traits of the artist in modern society, as a vital trickster character that keeps everyone on their toes.

some of the other areas that i found fascinating included place of chaos/dirt/upheaval (or images thereof) in orderly society; the need for shame/shamelessness in social cohesion; and the skill of a trickster to play with perception, whilst holding the order of perception dear.

Hermes, Coyote, Monkey (and tripitaka), Ifa/EshuPicassoDuchamp and Cage (are all referenced as figures that simultaneous understand the lay of the status quo, respect it and yet seek to subvert or circumvent it, whilst offering it back to the quo on a gold platter, having completely reinventing the status. [And maybe because I was listening to the new Kanye album non-stop during this time, I kept imagining that Kanye West would end up in there in the future sometime.]

the actual writing flow of the book was slightly problematic, but the way he teased out his examples, and the kind of stories he chose as illustration was so good, that i could forgive the lapses in writing craft (just like you’re doing now).

there is an admirable element of playfulness about the trickster which hyde kept reiterating (and about which i have a creeping doubt that i have lost recently). it was inspiring to get a bit cheeky, a bit naughty and throw caution to the wind a little. nothing reflects a security in the order of ‘things’ than acting as though they’re not important.

the book was an excellent reminder about the role  of chaos, entropy, mishap, coincidence, serendipity and mistake in evolution, change, growth and innovation. trickster also served as an illustration of the position stories, myth, artifice, imagination and fiction have in society as a way to abide by principle and establish a code of conduct.

ISBN-13: 978-1847672254

the canon: the beautiful basics of science. natalie angier

whilst i was reading the trickster, i had an invigorating discussion about science and religion with a friend who had just finished the canon. we were the only ones in a club in stockholm, laying on a mattress and shouting over 105 rpm techno at 95dbs, debating the importance of scientific thinking and spirituality and everything in between. it was a brilliant moment in our friendship, and the momentum to read this fantastic book.

its premise is to concisely and adroitly recap the main tenets of science and scientific research, to upskill adults in the basics. especially after they have convinced themselves that they know nothing about science.

as a science writer, angier surveyed a stack of scientists and academics for their ‘top 5 things to know about your field’ type information. each chapter covers the principles of each ‘flavour’ of science, distilling the history of its knowledge and how it relates to life, the universe and everything.

scientific thinking, probabilites (maths), calibration (maths), physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, geology and astronomy are all covered – from their history to current thinking. and of course, she covers where religion and astrology clash too. in fact, sometimes her subjectivity around the subjects of religion and even intelligent design, and her outright derision at astrology show her cards a little.

in the last two years of high school, despite being a A+ english student and studying 3 languages, i decided that i wanted to be an industrial chemist. so i moved to sydney and started a science degree. turns out it was much harder than i thought: i was convinced i was a failure (thinking that 72% on an assignment was akin to disaster) and the fact that my week would start at 8am  on a monday with a mathematics class on matrices in a stuffy room, was a recipe for flunk-out. i bid science a swift adios and turned to print and art instead.

i kept a secret crush on mathematics and chemistry through those years and so reading the canon was like falling in love again. all the old lessons came flooding back, with greater links to subsequent experience or knowledge. the picture of how much everything is related scientifically was quickly seen and i just churned through the book.

thanks to a catholic education, my knowledge of the details of evolution had been a bit loose, so this book was a mind-blowing and yet super easy-to-read lesson on how far we go back (like, to the beginning of cells) and same with the big bang theory. the idea that cells’ innate mission has always been to respire, replicate, excrete, communicate and coalesce is mind-boggling to me and is influencing my next read.

i feel like i know more about science now and that i can’t hide behind the ignorance of learning it in high school – it’s part of a general knowledge and understanding about life. in the same way that i feel it’s necessary to understand concepts in philosophy, economics, politics and art in order to be a well-rounded citizen (how neo-classical of me).

and i can see why my friend gave this book to me (and six of his other friends). i feel similarly – like everyone who has let their science knowledge lapse, should pick this up and feel like they know a little more again.

in fact, it was so profound that i ended up in a two-hour conversation with a paleonto-bio-mechanic about his PhD and i held my own! yay me!

ISBN-13: 978-0571239726

basic writings. martin heidegger

i stopped and started with this one. i got distracted by shiny pop non-fiction. but now that i’ve read both of the previous books, i feel like my take on heidegger is going to actually be better prepared. especially after reading about molecular biology and the big bang (which trace the history of the life, the universe and everything, back to the beginning – before there was even ‘let there be light’). After reading about these things, i keep asking myself ‘why did life begin? – what is the purpose of Being..

heidegger’s big area of questioning/interrogation/query (words which he unpacks as a sign of being) is about Being, with his famous work Being and Time (Zeit und Sein). It is the very capital-B being and different from existence and the nature of being. So far, he’s primarily interested in the meaning of Being, and not necessarily the purpose, or the drive behind it. But i’m only a little of the way through so far.

thanks to the simplicity of the english language, there are a lot of being/Being/beings in the text, which are translations from Dasein, Dass-Sein, Was-Sein and Da-Sein. All different relationships to Sein ( the action of being).

heidegger unpacks his questions in a very methodical way, and makes a lot of references to other sciences that tackle existential concepts (which is why i feel like reading The Canon has unexpectedly augmented my understanding of Being and Time). It has been quite interesting to see the history of his thinking around it and the critical ‘evolution’ of such ideas throughout philosophy and ontological research.

on a more egocentric level, are there levels or classifications or even species of Being? what does the Being of an artist translate to and is it fundamentally different to the Being an accountant? or does it follow biological framework – that the Being of a vertebrate is different to the Being of an invertebrate, but has mutual elements of Being, both being from the animal kingdom and eurakyrotic domain. Or is there just one type of Being?

ISBN-13: 978-0061627019

images: all images from amazon.co.uk

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hipsters v2.0

mayhem posted a link on facebook last week to an interesting article about hipsters
i have spent time scoffing at the hipsters, whilst feeling that somehow i was getting old and out of the loop. and yet, at the same time (especially after this honda jazz ad) had quiet feelings of shame about my own apparent hipster qualities – see the references to penguin classics, free trade and 200gsm.
since then i’ve oscillated back and forth again between compassion and absolute derision for the hipster thang.



hipster

hipster

hipsters

hipster

knowledge, taste and aesthetic value

these are some of the qualities of the hipster. the true hipster.
and yes, i must accept that these are qualities that i actually support, quite like in others and sometimes in myself. the search for knowledge through reading (and the interwebs), shared knowledge, touchy-feely allegiance to the less-rational and a love of art, ethics and politics are all sexy. the dandy and the fop are back in form, as is androgeny, giving us some slight relief from the male = macho, female = t&a. and colour is a thing again. all of these, i concur, are actually pretty cool.

cool for the sake of it

and yet, last week i found myself in a nightclub in mitte* – one full of hipster types – who all displayed the very worst qualities of the sub-culture: completely self-centered, focusing only on their appearance to others, insular and talking all the way through some cracking dj sets. some were so busy flaying their hair across their oversized glasses and dancing to get attention that they completely missed the rhythm of the music. this from the curmudgeonly gen-x/y type in black who danced next to the decks for 3 hours straight.

*ahem. for those that care, it was ‘cos trevor jackson AND erol alkan were playing. for €12. it was brilliant!

the romantics

what i’ve noticed, though, is that all these qualities are that which typify the romantic era of cultural history too. that well-dressed chap, lord byron and his poetry reading, love-letter writing, mincing, curvacious dandy-types were all the rage and helped veer culture slightly away from the rigid rationalist industrialists for a while. veronica kent often speaks about a neo-romanticism in art, and although i’m not a fan of the pyramid/hypercolour aesthetic aspect of the art being seen at the moment, i agree with her.

check out these v1.0 fucking hipsters

hipsters at trust
Hipsters at Trust

hipster
Hipster
hipsters
Hipsters reading Penguin classics

hipster
Hipster 2

granted, these are just half-thoughts, but if it’s even a little bit true, it’s going to be interesting to watch the neo-realist courbet/manet types coming through in the next 20 years.

hipster 2.0 images from look at this fucking hipster
hipster 1.0 images from the alte nationalgalerie, berlin

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx