Monday 5 May 2014

Everything is amazing and still I'm not happy

Recently Pippin Barr blogged I feel I have photographed every quaint thing in my neighbourhood of Sliema. As a recent entrant to the world of Instagram, it's a feeling I sympathise with. Few experiences have so sharpened the way I look at the world, and yet paradoxically made it less enjoyable.*

Something about what Pippin wrote chimed in my head with the recent explosion of the term normcore. The phrase has memed to mean "people who dress in a bland, schlumpy, kind of Seinfeldian way". It was first used by trendspotting company K-Hole (who, apparently, are "interested in art but their art context has more to do with the—trending now!—ongoing integration of the thinking creative class into the art world, which has made itself into a hospitable environment and market for experimental thought of all forms, from poetry to PDFs") in a report launched at the Serpentine and MOMA's PS1.

You can download the report from the K-Hole website. It's a bit bullshit, like so many of these things are, but it does capture a feeling in the zeitgeist (remember that word?) that they dub 'Mass Indie'. Youth is no longer an age, but a state of mind. And the state of mind is troubled, because the young are spending all their time proving that they're special snowflakes - so special, that when you put us all together, we look like a snowstorm. A zillion for-all-intents-and-purposes identical flakes milling around; our preoccupation with specialness has become an homogenising force.

Normcore is a defense against Mass Indie.

If the rule is Think Different, being seen as normal is the scariest thing. (It means being returned to your boring suburban roots, being turned back into a pumpkin, exposed as unexceptional.) Which paradoxically makes normalcy ripe for the Mass Indie ├╝berelites to adopt as their own, confirming their status by showing how disposable the trappings of uniqueness are. The most different thing to do is to reject being different all together. When the fringes get more and more crowded, Mass Indie turns toward the middle. Having mastered difference, the truly cool attempt to master sameness.

And beyond this yet again, normcore is about belonging. Once, K-Hole argue, we were born into communities and had to find our individuality. Now we're born into individuality and have to find our community. (I know, I know, pampered Western perspective.) "In Normcore," the company writes, "one does not pretend to be above the indignity of belonging."

After that, the report deteriorates. But still I feel like they've captured something. Specialness is being sucked out of the world, perhaps simply because we're so viciously, neuron-jerkingly alert to it. On the internet, everything is amazing - briefly, blurring-togetherly. So what will will be the Instagram of normcore?

*I will continue, however, to fight to the death for your right to see things by taking photos. Especially in art galleries.

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