Younger Than Yesterday

by - October 11, 2016

You look like a movie
You sound like a song
My god this reminds me
Of when we were young
Adele - When We Were Young

Get yourself a cup of tea made from the water of the fountain of youth...

Not to brag but today's my birthday. I had planned this whole week worth of blogposts for the occasion (again, not to brag). Everything was ready, written (spoiler alert: knitted), all I needed was some pictures. However, unfortunately, my photographer (mum) got ill and the shoot we had planned was cancelled. So no pictures of me standing in a forest, sitting in a forest, hiding behind a tree (in a forest). No worries though, I'm sure we'll be rescheduling the shoot and I'll simply post my 'birthday bash extravaganza' some time later... no problemo. She said, while one single salty tear slowly makes its way down her face while she looks prolongedly in the imaginary camera with puppy eyes. No. Pro. Blemo.

Besides my mum *ahum* professional personal photographer *ahum* being taken ill, it also didn't help that there are some really big deadlines coming my way. Therewith it also also didn't really help that most of my writing was/is being rejected. IT'S A BLOODY HARD LIFE. I'VE LOST ALL SENSE OF WILL POWER TO CARRY ON. EVERYTHING'S FINE. Anyway, as I always post the best of the best, the most eloquent content on here, I thought 'why not re-use some of my bad writings for the bloggy-blog?'. Spice it up a little and we're good to go (or, in reality: translate it from Dutch to English. Spicy). Indeed, instead of birthday cake, candles, celebrations etc. etc. you get blood, sweat, tears, desperation, rejection, fear... all the good stuff, basically. So without further ado, here's Punk: Physical Fashion & Museum Commodification (working title), hope you enjoy...

Before you start reading, just a heads up (yes, this is an introduction after an introduction, what of it?): It's about fashion museology/fashion exhibitions (or at least it's supposed to be this sort of introduction to this), and the idea how the simulation of movement in (more recent) fashion exhibitions is one way or another a recognition from the museum world that clothes are something that once upon a time were attached to 'our' bodies. As Rafaelo Norogrando and Joao A. Mota have said during the second International Fashion and Design Congress (you can find a pdf online): "(...) in the history of fashion, the aspect relating to wear is often overlooked. As a result, the relationship of the object with the physical and psychosocial body does not receive a great deal in the narratives." And thus, the idea of weaving movement into the fashion exhibition is a way -from a museum perspective- to try to acknowledge/simulate the body back into the garments. In this bit I'm sort of, but not really, using the idea of 'the cycle of fashion' by Jean-Gabriel Tarde, but then instead of innovation, immitation and opposition, I say it's quite like the way subculture signs, dress, becomes part of popular signs, dress. I use the example of punk. But, as I said, they thought it was stupid/that it didn't made any sense. So yeah... that's why it's on here and not in my actual paper. You may read it now...

Punk: Physical Fashion & Museum Commodification

This year, 2016, is the 40th anniversary of the punk movement. Rumor has it that the queen has given her blessing for the occasion. Following this, Joe Corré (founder of Agent Provocateur, son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and first manager of the Sex Pistols Malcolm McLaren) has threaten to burn all his punk memorabilia. Corré explains: "The Queen giving 2016, the year of punk, her official blessing is the most frightening thing I've ever heard. Talk about alternative and punk culture being appropiated by the mainstream. Rather than a movement for change, punk has become like a fucking museum piece or a tribute act."

Dick Hebdige (media theorist and sociologist) describes in his book Subculture: The Meaning of Style this socalled appropiation from (youth) subcultures into the mainstream or popular culture. He says that this process of recuperation exists out of two parts: firstly the 'copying' of subculture symbols (clothing, music, etc.) into mass produced objects (the socalled commodity form). And secondly the redefinition of deviant behaviour within the dominant, popular culture (the socalled ideological form).

The threats Joe Corré has made, has caused quite some revolt. Not only because we're talking about an x amount of financial worth of the objects in question, but mostly because we're talking about a certain representation that the objects portray. However this representation is, according to Corré, lost because of its commodification. Punk has not only become part of popular culture, it's also been transformed into a museum artefact. When looking at the bigger picture, the same thing can be said about fashion exhibitions in museums. Whereby a moving culture is being commodified into a 'frozen' process. David Nolan (music journalist) agrees therefore with Corré: "Some people hold on to old T-shirts and posters from that era that weren't meant to last more than a week." The process of putting items, especially punk, into a museum collection can be seen as a double commodification. Marie Riegels Melchior (assistent curator Designmuseum Denmark) pleats therefore that fashion isn't art, it only gets to be seen as such because its being actively shown in (art) museums.

According to Colin McDowell (fashion journalist and academic) a clothing item is there to protect the body. If that's succeeded, everything that proceeds is fashion. Garments reflect the different functions and needs of the body. When a dress is being made, it's made to fit a body. Clothing is not only draped around the body, but is also a way to identify that body. McDowell: "Once everyone in society wears clothes, how one dresses becomes a form of projection and differentiation. (...) Clothes do not simply conceal the body: they alter it. (...) clother become part of our personalities (...)." Clothing is something that sits close to the body. It literally and figuratively moves with you. This idea is also being reflected by Claire Wilcox (head curator fashion V&A Museum London): "Clothes are the shorthand for being human." This 'closeness' is one of the benefits of exhibiting fashion in museums. You don't have to know much about it to understand it. Fashion is therefore very accessible.

However it's not the question whether fashion does or does not belong in a museum. The question is: what role does fashion fulfill in a museum? In the case of the punk memorabilia it's not only the body that's being removed from the garments, but mostly the symbolic, representational value of the garments are being subverted. It's not literally turned into a commodity form whereby the single becomes triple and counting, but the single is being interpreted and made part of and frozen as an ideological form. The ideological form hereby not only accepting the 'deviant behaviour' but also glorifying it, making it part of a museum collection. Fashion isn't perhaps art, but within the walls of a museum it sure can be. As Ad de Jong (professor Dutch cultural history) has stated in Vitrines Vol Verhalen (translated: Showcases Full of Stories), objects that are being made part of a museum collection is only the beginning of its meaning-making process within those walls. De Jong: "These objects [in museum collections] point to something outside themselves." I agree with Joe Corré that these thoughts goes against the initial ideology of the punk movement. However this subvertion of representation isn't only punk-related. Or a good reason to simply burn it all.

Please remember that this is firstly a rejected piece and secondly that this is therefore not further developed (in thought or in the way it's been transcribed). Anway, I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt. Joe Corré said he would 'burn it all' in November, do you think he will proceed? Why would/wouldn't he? In the BBC article David Nolan says that what Corré is doing is brilliant: "If he's going to upset the sort of people who get upset over this sort of thing, great. I wouldn't be surprised if all this is exposed as a stunt - a way to rouse people's anger. If that's the case, it's even better." Do you agree with Nolan? I personally am in a dilemma. On the one hand I believe it's important to try to keep (and present) the physical objects that the punk movement has created. As said: as a representation of something that goes beyond the physical object and touches on the ideology, going against the grain-mentality. Which I believe is an important something to keep and cherish (that's also to say: a lot of movements are now only based online. There's nothing solid to show. I wouldn't say that that's necessarily a bad thing or not, but it undermines and actually underlines the power of an object). On the other hand I agree with the idea that the meaning, that what it represents, has been lost due to the signs of it being made part of the mainstream (without the ideology attached to it). However, in its new environment, it can (and often is) presented with the ideology attached to it. Perhaps reintroducing the meaning -as the body- back into the objects. Not as a showpiece but as a story. So is this a good enough reason to let it all just burn? I personally don't think so, but I can see it being a 'punk paradox' and appreciate the message. Again, what do you think?


Sources: 1 / 2 / And: Subculture: The Meaning of Style by D. Hebdige, Fashion and Museums: Theory and Practice by M. Riegels Melchior and B. Svensson (ed.), The Anatomy of Fashion: Why We Dress The Way We Do by C. McDowell, Vitrines Vol Verhalen: Museumcollecties als bron voor cultuurgeschiedenis by A. de Jong

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  1. Love the photos and I totally agree with you. I love the way your write by the way!!
    Kinga x

    1. Thank you, thank you and thank you! I wasn't fishing for compliments, but thank you, that's kind of you to say (I might e-mail them your response so they'll reconsider their opinion about my writing). ;)


  2. Wonderful and perfect! I follow you blog, please follow me too.