July 25, 2021

Does the ugly win? | Culture

Does the ugly win? | Culture


Beyond the impossible toupee and long ties that occupy the White House, or the robotic movements lacking any rhythm or grace of Theresa May on the stage of the convention of the tories, the news that arrives from the other catwalks, those of fashion, confirm the success of a feist trend. The most cited examples by the specialized press to illustrate this new wave are orthopedic air sandals and impossible plastic clogs turned into an exclusive object of desire. To that are added delirious overlays and garments that in general boast of the challenge posed to the tempered and content good taste.

Faced with this new fury, the "ironic" comment that underlies the items considered ugly is emphasized: it is the provocation or transgression that is never outside the fashion with which it is simultaneously a matter of making a difference, and of entering into harmony with a trend. The truth is that as far as fashion is concerned, the ugly and funny Today, it can become beautiful and boring tomorrow. "It takes time and you have to have patience, but today the broken jeans seem normal as the silhouettes oversize", writes the fashion critic of The Washington Post, Robin Givahn. "It's an aesthetic provocation. A touch of attention. The idea is to cause some agitation in those who look at you and leave you scratching your head. "

The exhibition Camp: Notes on Fashion that the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of New York has scheduled for May seems to affect the current crush, if not for the strictly ugly, yes of course for an exaggerated aesthetic, deliriously dramatized and brazen. The text with which Susan Sontag was unveiled in 1964, Notes on Camp, is the starting point of this exhibition that aims to illustrate the power of this "sensitivity" in the universe of past and present fashion. "Camp is a way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon," Sontag wrote, to emphasize that its essence is "love for the unnatural: for artifice and exaggeration." It is not difficult to identify the echo of the artificial and the exaggerated with the present moment, in fact one of the upward trends that stands out Trendhunter company is the "Mainstream campy", Which is defined as a mixture of aesthetic subversion and kitsch. Andrew Bolton, the curator of the Metropolitan exhibition -made in collaboration with Gucci and his current creative director, Alessandro Michele, absolute king of baroque phagocyte 21st century- has underlined how timely this project is in view of political and cultural news .

Sculpture by Damien Hirst in Venice, in April 2017.
Sculpture by Damien Hirst in Venice, in April 2017. AFP

And it is precisely in these two fields, in politics and culture, where the French poet and critic Annie Le Brun concentrates to denounce, in her recently published essay in Spanish What is priceless (Cabaret Voltaire), "an afterthought of the world that progresses without realizing it". The accumulation and the enormous waste that are generated are at the base of the propagation of the ugly, according to Le Brun. Mass tourism – "people are no longer traveling selfies"-, the contradictory idea of ​​luxury stores in airports, or the obsession with stylized bodies in gyms – "everything is overacting beauty until the caricature" -, are samples of the rampant and destructive homogenization that revolts the essayist. "Just as the Soviet regime tried to model sensibilities through realist socialist art, it seems that neoliberalism has found its equivalent in a certain contemporary art whose energy happens to establish the realm of what I would call the globalist realism", writes. The continuous creation of value without wealth that characterizes the financial markets has been transferred to the field of art, where meaning is emptied into exhibitions promoted by large museums and foundations, claims Le Brun, in a constant "looting-plagiarism of the history of art" where nothing exists if it is not increased from twenty to fifty times. " Feel the feeling about everything else – "the sensation, in addition, has no more measure than the sensational" – and the uniqueness or distinction "consists in paying the luxury of betting on all the contradictions". Gone are the popular arts and traditions that according to Le Brun "have constituted the most formidable barrier against ugliness for centuries," phagocized today by the market giants as well.

Today, ugliness is treated in a "positive, naturalized or even banal way," says Gretchen E. Henderson in her study.

How much has our conception of the ugly changed? In Ugliness, a cultural history (Turner) the American academic Gretchen E. Henderson approaches the subject trying to put aside the aesthetic considerations, and delving into the cultural meaning of the ugly, in its social dimension. Taste can be fluctuating, but the rejection of what is left out, of what produces displeasure or fright is always the same. "As the meaning of ugly changes and transcends limits, it can be said that it breaks the boundary between we Y they", writes. "Historically the qualifier has crossed borders of race, gender, disability, age and other categories of difference, which simplifies a person who is afraid, grouped as ugly amid different social tensions." It is not clear to Henderson that the current stage is a golden age of ugliness. "The rise of nationalist movements entangles politics with the aesthetics of certain groups that are classified as ugly, increasing the fear they generate, creating racial stereotypes and making certain groups vulnerable," he explains in a telephone conversation. "Beauty is not the opposite of ugliness, that binomial is not such and only separates us." The recovery or inclusion of the ugly or rather the singular is one of the trends that Henderson emphasizes, citing as examples a conservation society of ugly animals (they also deserve someone to defend their cause). "The ugly is based on the physical world but it is still conceptual -ambiguous and adaptable- and capable of modifying anything that seems to be appropriated: a song ugly, a building ugly, an idea ugly or a woman ugly. Ugliness is relational. " And as he warns in his book, today with increasing frequency it is treated in a "positive, naturalized or even banal" way.

Umberto Eco argued that the ugliness is "unpredictable" and "it offers an infinite range of possibilities". It is therefore necessary to be attentive and seek some consolation in the reflection of the Danish artist Asger Jorn: "A time without ugliness would be a time without progress"

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