Zeitgeber & Meme

Zeitgeber: a cue given by the environment to reset the internal body clock.
Meme: an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The ubiquitous Aurel Schmidt

The first time we realized that Aurel Schmidt’s media presence would be chronic was months ago. At our favourite magazine spot, amongst the numerous overdone magazines lying on the shelves, the simplicity of the June 2009 cover of Border Crossings appealed to us. A nouveau-genre smiley of half-eaten doughnuts and a bunch of cigarette butts was staring intensely. A strong media magnet was underlying the representation; a future favourite of the cultural set was hiding behind the cover.

Nowadays, it seems that one can’t go through a magazine without stumbling on the ever-present artist Aurel Schmidt. This month only, a glimpse at our favourite magazines made us feel like members of Schmidt’s fan club. Tokion, AnOther magazine and Purple all graced us with features implying the Canadian-born NY-based artist. Happily for us, we kind of like her irreverent and slightly trash media persona. Schmidt is part of something greater than the visual art field. She’s now part of our media visual culture, her opinions are valued («AnOther thing I wanted to tell you» on Spank Rock) and her persona glorified. But can we draw a line between her art and her mediated life? Not really. Her art extends from canvases to her own representation in the media culture. The interrelations between her self-representations and her art are strong. The resulting mingle leaves us mystified and unable to decide of a definite border between the art and the artist.

Although art historians would damn us for such a statement, we consider that she uses the media as a platform to perform relational art. An artist of Bourriaud’s esthétique relationelle? No! They open Indian restaurants and «double clubs», they’re not simply portrayed on glossy paper. But we strongly think that the media induces a connection between the content and the viewer in a two-sided relation of reception and retroaction. As Warhol proved decades ago and Matthieu Laurette more recently, a media sphere intervention by an artist is intrinsically linked to his art and practice. For these reasons, we can’t consider the media presence of Aurel Schmidt as a collection of simple features, but rather as an art that went from its traditional form to the street, and then, to the magazine. 

Inspired by the themes explored in her paintings, she took the street as a medium and created an in-situ installation (Deep Throat) made of empty beer cans, cigarette butts and other patterns frequent in her artworks. Purple Fashion magazine then photographed Schmidt dressed in her favourite artistic themes for their Spring-Summer 2009 issue. The spread shows a daring Schmidt in the midst of several distinctive objects recalling her art: necklaces made of doughnuts or cigarettes, beer cans, etc. This embodiment of her practice for a photo shoot is not only a fine concept, but also a statement on the inseparability of her media persona and her art. Indeed, Purple reaffirms that Schmidt’s media presence is a medium for her artistic practice. By doing so, they also imply that her body is a canvas for her artworks’ subjects and themes. 

This new signification of the artist’s body, not far from the issues tackled by the post human movement, involves that Purple’s conceives Schmidt’s body as a space of artistic significance. An assertion reinforced by Purple’s last issue (Fall-Winter 2009), where Schmidt’s tattoo (a garter snake) is analyzed through an interview with the artist.

Olivier Zahm: Are there snakes in your artworks?

Aurel Schmidt: In my older work I drew a lot of snakes.

Our answer: From the canvas, to the street. And from the magazine to her body, Aurel Schmidt’s art is multiform. Are there snakes in her artwork? Yes, whether they are drawn on paper or tattooed on her skin. 

Pictures (in order):
Purple Fashion magazine, Spring-summer 2009 - Vol. III, Issue 11
Aurel Schmidt, Burn outs, tinyvices.com
Aurel Schmidt, Deep Throat, tinyvices.com
Purple Fashion magazine, Spring-summer 2009 - Vol. III, Issue 11
Purple Fashion magazine, Fall-winter 2009 - Vol. III, Issue 12

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Visionaire magazine: a private «museum».

From Cindy Sherman and Rirkrit Tiravanija to Vanessa Beecroft and Jeff Wall, contemporary artists transformed Visionaire magazine into the flesh of art. The resulting tension between the generic magazine’s nature and its new function as a medium changed once and for all our rather fickle line drawing game; these artists made media and art become one. Along with Visionaire’s team, they scrubbed the frontiers between both spheres and ended the everlasting debate between authenticity and reproducibility. Yes, we’ve reached the Laocoön of our time. Editors act as curators, a magazine has it’s own monograph and exhibitions are being held to consecrate the object. The involvement of a self-reflexive art completely reshaped the magazine’s form and enriched the sensory experience given by the object. 

And that’s where Visionaire proves that we were wrong. Mea Culpa. Our judgement was distorted by our fear of networks and dematerialized medias. Like all the coated paper junkies out there, we were afraid that our beloved magazines would disappear only to be replaced by screens, interfaces and impersonal megabits. But Visionaire embraces its materiality and emerges as the antithesis of those trends. Is contemporary art the future of magazines? A future made of sensual materiality and pleasure-giving forms? Is art the way to highlight what the magazine has always been in an embryonic form, i.e. an object of aesthetic experiences? Long before the word «magazine» was created, similar publications were named «Museums». It’s a powerful semantic sign that the self-proclaimed «Visionaire» accomplishes the underlying intentions of magazines, what they were always meant to be. 

Editor’s note: This post is inspired by the copyrighted theoretical essay «Magazine Visionaire : de la récurrence singulière et des multiples insolites. De media à medium de l’art.» (Visionaire magazine: the singular recurrence of unusual multiples. From media to medium of art.) All rights reserved to Zeitgeber & Meme’s editor-at-large. ©

Pictures: The Wall Street Journal ©

Monday, 21 December 2009

Fashion as art. Art as fashion: Border crossing

What happens when the fashion image becomes tableau-photography and contemporary art stages designers’ clothes? Both realities mingle. Merge. “Undecidability” emerges, leaving us speechless. The nature of the depiction is indefinable. The difference between the image of fashion and art becomes elusive. In the photographs of Glen Luchford and Izima Kaoru, narratives tell a story through a single frame. They both create a tale of fashion, violence, murder and elliptically connoted sexuality. A tale that takes place in the spectator’s reception and subjectivity rather then in the interiority of the frame’s limits. At the very most, the composition induces a series of iconographic signs guiding our interpretation, but questions remain unanswered. Here, no photo stories spreading across pages but only a minimal narrative. Luchford’s woman wears Prada. Kaoru’s woman wears Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. Between the two photographers, who’s exhibiting in galleries and who’s creating commercial fashion campaigns? Glen Luchford creates fashion images in the way of Gregory Crewdson, Deborah Mesa-Pelly and Sam Taylor-Wood. Izima Kaoru pays tribute to “the device in fashion photography of pairing ideas of cultural and commercial beauty with abject social narratives”[1]. Two statements whose only sources are literally in the captions.

[1] Charlotte COTTON, «Once upon a time» in The photograph as contemporary art, London, Thames & Hudson, 2009, p.69
Pictures (in order):
Izima Kaoru, Landscapes with a Corpse (41), Hasegawa Kyoko wears Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche 2003, 2005
Glen Luchford, Spring/Summer Prada Campaign 1997, Dye destruction print, 36.5 x 51 cm

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Remake: Sean & John and the inverted symmetry

When we saw the pictures of the too-hip-it-hurts couple du jour by Terry Richardson for the last edition of the biannual cultural bible, we were simply blown away by the excellence of the intrinsic photographic qualities. Composition, lighting, framing and even the subtle colour palette all worked together to create a great moment in the art of image making. The portfolio in itself is a tour de force, but when we stumbled across the remake of the famous foetus-like picture of John & Yoko by Annie Leibovitz we just fell once again for the genius of both Purple and Richardson. Re-enactment is a common strategy in contemporary photography. Richard Avedon did it’s own version of Munkacsi. Melvin Sokolsky fashioned it’s own interpretation of Velasquez’s legendary Las Meninas. But this time, ramifications are complex, plural and multidisciplinary in scope. Questions emerge from the choices made by the photographer and the creative direction. The iconography of the picture connects the figure of Sean to the one of his mother. Is there a connection between the mother and son that goes further than the composition? Why is he playing the role of his mother? Is it personality and spirit related?

Our guess? Pictures might be symmetrically inverted in composition, but the ins and outs remain unchanged. The figure of the woman stays the dominant one regardless of the positioning of the bodies. John Lennon looks emotionally fragile and reliant to his wife Yoko, placed higher in the composition and tenderly «looking after» her soul mate. In the re-enactment, Charlotte Kemp is now the woman perched higher and looking at Sean Lennon who’s waiting for the expected kiss. Kemp might be reproducing the positioning of the father, but she looks nothing like him in essence. She’s the femme fatale, the dominant persona of the picture. 

Purple re-enacts a picture, inverts the bodies’ position and keeps the gender-related roles intact. A three steps reconstruction-deconstruction process that reaffirms why Purple Fashion and Terry Richardson are the vanguards of contemporary photography, publishing and fashion.             

Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp, portrait by Terry Richardson, Purple Fashion FW09, p.106
Sean wears a shirt by Hermes and pants and bowtie Turnbull and Asser
All rights reserved
- © -
John Lennon & Yoko Ono, portrait by Annie Leibovitz, Rolling Stone magazine
All rights reserved

- © -

Monday, 14 December 2009

Z&M hearts Fantastic Man’s recommendations

We read a lot of fashion magazines, and rare are the occasions where we’re totally astonished by a feature or a section. By photographs and graphic design. Yes. By the «10 hottest trends of the season». Not really. But then comes the magazine that makes you wrong. We just got our hands on the latest issue of Fantastic Man and we’re astounded by the overall quality of the publication. Not only the photographs, the design and the layouts are remarkable, but the writing is witty, clever and sharp. Our favourite section? The Recommendations for this season. The autumn-winter 09 issue recommends Shooting Gloves, a Personal Assistant, Absence, K-Y JELLY and the use of the word «LIKE», etc. All recommendations are made by personalities, from a fashion correspondent to a professor of linguistics. Here at Z&M, we’re thinking about applying all the recommendations to our lives and wait for enlightenment. In the mean time, follow Fantastic Man’s daily recommendation on the magazine’s website.

Contemporary Fashion Archive - CFA

The contemporary fashion archive is an essential tool for scholars, students or fashion-theory aficionados researching the fashion field. Supported by institutions like Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, this international project offers several sources on an array of subjects, from fashion design to magazines and exhibitions. Looking for an exhibition on the Antwerp school held four years ago or for the name of an obscure magazine seen the last time you were in Berlin? CFA is there for you. Since nothing is perfect, CFA interrupted its activities 2 years ago. Anyhow, consider this comprehensive website as a 5 years capsule of our fashion culture. The now closed temporality and the end of the relentless evolution of what used to be CFA should not be considered as unconstructive realities. 5 years of fashion are now sealed and made freely available. A representation of fashion is now disconnected from its flux and ready for dissection, analysis and dissertation.

Contemporary Fashion Archive
All rights reserved
- © -

Sunday, 13 December 2009


What's the issue with men who carry a bag? It seems that outside major fashion capitals, a man with a bag is perceived as emasculated. And I’m not talking about messenger bags. Those are apparently obeying the rules of the stereotyped masculinity. I personally own a black leather weekender by Rudsak and each time I walk around the city, people stare at me like I’m some sort of alien. Even my friends refer to it as a purse. Not so long ago I was reading this amazing post by Garance Doré on the frustration of being fashionable and stylish when living outside of a fashion capital. The long time Parisian citizen was asking herself if the reality of her teenage years was still going strong in provincial towns. Based on my own experience, I would answer yes. And I would add that the phenomenon is worst when it comes to men. I live in a town with two types of men. The pointy leather shoes/pink tie/purple shirt/black & white-stripped pants type and the cargo pants/rock band t-shirt/cap/skater shoes type. Should I try to fit in the mould? Or should I walk with my head high when carrying my oversized leather bag? Or should I avoid asking myself these questions. Anyway, I’m tired of explaining to everybody that there is an elsewhere, a place where men with bags are not stared at like surreal personas. Very soon, I’ll fill my bag with all I have and escape this clusterfuck.

All rights reserved
- © -

Oxford blue shirt by Our Legacy

Our Legacy – Oxford blue shirt

I went to Rooney, my favourite shop in Montreal, and I just bought the most perfect shirt one could wear. First, if you’re a gentleman (or a British school boy), oxford blue is an essential colour to have in your closet. It’s subtle, classic, and anyway, basic colours on high-quality fabrics are the foundations of a great wardrobe. Second, this shirt is lavish (and the fabric feels so nice). When I wear it, I feel invincible. The shape fits perfectly, some buttons are elegantly placed around the collar and the back pleat is inverted. I get comments on these clever details each time I wear it.

I love this shirt so much that I thought of adopting a radical and systematic style, so that I could wear it every single day. This style would be composed of A.P.C New Standard Jeans with rolled cuffs, a navy blue wool sweater, Rachel Comey’s Uncle Dan shoes and, of course, the Our Legacy oxford blue shirt.

If models wear only black all the time, I shouldn’t feel afraid to try the experiment. What do you think?

Ciel Variable 83

Are you magazine obsessed? Are you art-driven? If you’re aware that there’s a gap between Visionaire and Chatelaine, that a magazine is sometime an object of analysis that contains the imaged substance of an avant-garde world. If you’re aware that a magazine may be an embryo of the future advancements in our way to create and to make images, then CV83 is a must. This issue of Ciel Variable is largely dedicated to the influence of both art and artists on the visual aspect of magazines. From auto reflexive creations to artistic post-interventions, the mingling between art and magazines creates the most extensive source of artistic expression of our century. With this in mind, art historians and people in general are more than welcome to see what’s beyond the glossy paper.

With artworks by Hans-Peter Feldman, Christian Boltanski, Michael Snow, Ron Terada and essays by Adam Carr, Zoë Tousignant and others.

Hans-Peter Feldman

Hans-Peter Feldman

Saturday, 12 December 2009

L’art contemporain: de la réminiscence du sacré et des reliques

La sécularisation des sociétés occidentales, fruit d’un processus social qui repoussera la sphère religieuse jusqu’aux confins de l’existence privée, de l’individu, a limité l’expression d’une certaine religiosité dans l’espace commun. Nul doute que notre monde laïcisé s’est constitué sur le rejet de la transcendance d’un ordre religieux dans ses institutions, au profit d’un rapport au monde basé sur l’individu. Parallèlement, l’instigation des valeurs humanistes, des droits de l’homme et de l’égalité en réels systèmes régissant l’organisation sociale ainsi que l’échec des grandes idéologies politiques ont confiné le domaine de la croyance à un réceptacle miniaturisé. Cette conjoncture a permis à l’art contemporain d’investir le domaine de la religiosité et du sacré, d’une manière jusqu’alors inconnue de la sphère artistique. L’art, dans un contexte où les dieux du passé ont disparu, a réussi à «fonder une démarche artistique sur le sacré[1]». Parce que si la société moderne s’est séparée de son assujettissement par la religion, elle «ne s’est pas libérée d’un besoin de religiosité ni d’une conception transcendantale de l’art[2]». La sacralisation de l’art contemporain est accompagnée d’une multitude de caractéristiques propres au domaine de la religion, dont notamment, les reliques. Comment est-il possible d’interpréter cette réminiscence des reliques en art, dernière apologie des incidences d’une sacralité propre à l’esthétique de l’art contemporain? Bref, de quelle manière ce retournement esthétique s’est-il opéré?

Olga Berluti

Being a high-end shoemaker is not the only peculiarity of Olga Berluti. Heir to a century-old tradition of making perfect hand-made shoes for the top-tier, she is world-renown for her sophisticated yet authentic tastes. In a time of instability, this unique woman embodies quality, prosperity and sustainability. She's perfectly in tune with the reassuring concept of timelessness. And above all? She's the most discreet woman of the fashion industry. A refreshing counterbalance to a world filled with utterly self-centered egos.

Fashion is cathartic

La narrativité en art contemporain sous l’angle des récits antimoraux. L’antimoral ne réfère pas à une conception moralisatrice des thèmes et ne se veut pas une critique des narrations mises en image dans la photographie de mode. Il ne s’agit pas ici de juger ce qui est moral de ce qui est amoral, mais bien de circonscrire une tendance à utiliser des scénarios basés sur la violence, la coercition, la maladie mentale, la dépendance, l’abus et l’horreur.

Une mise en contexte sur le zeitgeist de notre époque, qui dans le champ des arts visuels inclut une propension pour les sujets abjects, est essentielle pour comprendre l’environnement créatif dans lequel les récits antimoraux émergent. Une trame permet de voir le glissement entre la suggestion d’un récit à connotations violentes vers la monstration simple de l’horreur. Évidemment, la logique commerciale de la mode ne pouvant être inconsidérée, l’image de mode réussi à combiner deux apparentes contradictions, le récit antimoral et l’objet à beauté commerciale. Mais quel est l’impact de ces nouvelles manières de présenter la mode sur la construction du féminin?




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