Sounding Off..., This & That

Fragmented thoughts of the Fashion and Music Greats

On Sunday, 17th July, I attended the ‘Show and Tell: Pop Culture’ discussion, which was part of the Transmission 1, Berlin festival.  This discussion was one of the many forms of avant-garde entertainment, which made up the three-day festival that was held to launch Mercedes-Benz’s new digital interview magazine, ‘The Avant/Garde Diaries’.

I had no idea what to expect from this event but from the Transmission 1 program I gathered that it would be a talk given by Jo-Ann Furniss, Tim Blanks and Paul Morley, and these ‘high profile guests’ would ‘guide the audience through the symposium with the subject, ‘Show and Tell: Pop Culture’ and ‘give people an insight of the world of design, fashion and music.’

As I made my way to the BCC, Alexanderplatz on a rainy, dismal Sunday afternoon, I wondered if my brain could really take in any sort of ‘insight’ into, well, anything.  But the staggeringly impressive achievements of the live speakers are what kept circling around my head, giving me the strength to fight my Sunday blues.  Snippets of their CV’s read something like this-

Jo-Ann FurnissEditor-in Chief of Arena Homme + between 2004 and 2011, features contributor of Style.com, The New York Times, Dazed and Confused, The Face (one of  my favourite mags from back in the day)and Vogue Hommes.  She has also worked with brands that include Louis Vuitton, Mugler and Giles.

Tim Blanks11 seasons of covering men’s fashion week for Style.com, with a recent branch into womenswear, show critic on Canada’s iconic tv show, ‘Fashion File’.  This man has sat on the front row watching and commenting on some of my favourite designers- Alexander McQueen, Dior, Givenchy, the list goes on and enviously on.

Paul Morley- Shame on me, I had never heard of him before but I was told that he was a legendary music expert and journalist who has interviewed the famous and infamous likes (respectively) of John Lennon and Pete Doherty.

I have many thoughts on what I thought about this ‘Avant Garde’ discussion but the primary ones are-

– It carried on for two hours which was  a bit too long to be sat on a not-so comfortable chair in a hot room; and the main reason it did so was because of a GaGa fanatic, who thought he had been given the perfect platform to drone on about Gaga’s influence on Pop Culture.

– Paul Morley ‘bogarted’ the discussion, which meant that the discussion focused too much on music.  Jo-Ann had mentioned at the beginning that this was the first time she had led a discussion in this way, and at end, I wish she had taken more control, so that the audience could have had more of a fashion input from her and Tim Blanks.

During the two hours many subjects were covered, some of which were- Pop Culture: Past, Present and Future, tabloid influence in British Culture, social media and new communication technologies.  However the following viewpoints were what I found most interesting-

 Pop Culture

Paul Morley said-

  • The 50’s, 60’s and 70’s gave way to the dawn of  Pop Culture, and was about the emancipation and discovery of oneself.  Fast forward to the now and pop culture has been absorbed into the world and has been commoditized.  Facebook, Twitter and Google are all products of Pop Culture and as a result we have lost a sense of taboo.

New Information Technologies

Paul Morley said-

  • We now have easy access to information but this has taken away the fight to earn, treasure and keep that information.
  • We live in a world where we are being presented an illusion of choice, so we don’t feel we need to rebel.
  • Due to digital developments, we live in an age where we have more choice and ways to access information.  Sites like Amazon offer an, ‘if you like this, then you will like this’ service and this takes away the fun of finding out information for yourself and ultimately removes the human experience.

Jo-Ann Furniss said

  • She ‘hated‘ the ‘if you like this, then you’ll like this’ approach as one can’t ‘assume’ what a person likes based on a few preferences.

Social Media

Paul Morely said-

  • It was great that everyone can now give their opinion but the problem with that is, it takes away hierarchy and elitism.
  • New communication technologies like Facebook and Twitter encourage the compression and rupturing of the English Language, as we are compelled to reduce the expression of our thoughts to 140 words or less.

Jo-Ann Furniss agreed to the latter point saying-

  • Just saying the words, ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’, sounds like baby talk.

Kindle vs Book

Paul Morley said

  • If you remove the book, will writers still want to write for Kindle?
  • When I write, I write with a model in mind and that model is a book, I don’t want to write for Kindle.
  • I am in the process of writing a book and I really want to finish it quickly for fear that the book will no longer exist.

The Internet

Tim Blanks said-

  • The internet made him feel like he did when he was 16 years old, because when you think you are alone on a particular subject matter or view-point, you can log on and see other people who support your choice, for e.g. through a music fan page.

Tabloid influence on British Culture

Jo-Ann Furniss said-

  • Over the last 15 years there has been a steady decline in the British press due to the rise of people’s desire for gossip.
  • Bearing that in mind, maybe the Rupert Murdoch issue will do some good as it shows that we as a nation, still have our sense of morality and outrage.

Celebrity Culture- The rise of the ‘famous for being famous’ trend

Jo-Ann Furniss said-

  • I blame the Spice Girls for this as they showcased that anyone could be famous without needing to have any talent.