One simple, obvious explanation comes to mind: originality doesn’t pay. We’re trapped in a cultural loop because the markets demand it. If people chose to consume new, original content, then mainstream artists would create new, original content. Since consumers are only willing to collectively shell out billions of their hard-earned dollars for yet another CGI-drenched sequel or generic earworm, the corporations that run the entertainment industry only invest money in the artists who produce CGI-drenched sequels and generic earworms.
[...] I was happy for Jacqui, but the video disturbed me deeply. I found it pernicious and thought about it for days. The message was benign — technology connects you to the world — but I couldn’t shake the subtext: that if Google and Instagram had an ideal user, it might be a creative person who could not, would not, leave her home.
When we over-index on documenting our lives, or infuse it with the aesthetic of cinema, scoring the climaxes, editing out the in-betweens that make up a life, we risk inverting its utility. Instead of being an existential hedge against dying, it becomes one against living. We end up believing things about our former selves that weren’t quite true, or doing it for the gram, or missing a hike before it’s even over. In our search for meaning we obscure it.
Yet the public sphere of social media reproduces the aristocratic model. Kim Kardashian appears on your Instagram feed just as Louis XIV would have appeared at court festivities, representing no people, only the sovereign’s own power, measured today in clicks and followers.
Those who view “real life” as distinct from images and who interpret their month-long social media cleanse as a way to return to “reality” might prefer to believe that forms of experience that are not documented visually or that do not adhere to a predetermined aesthetic or a mediated narrative are the “truth.” They may claim that images are “fake” or argue that people who seem to photograph everything are living fake lives. They might suggest that experiences contrived to produce photogenic images are false, an “as-if” experience, LARPing in the pejorative sense. But it may be that the life they are describing — a way of being in the world that is untouched by performativity and projection — would itself require a LARP in order to be realized.
What magazines want today is the latest, the exclusive. It’s a shame that magazines have lost the authority they once had. They’ve stopped being useful. In fashion we are always trying to make people buy something they don’t need. We don’t need any more bags, shirts or shoes. So we cajole, bully or encourage people into continue buying. I know glossy magazines are meant to be aspirational, but why not be both useful and aspirational? That’s the kind of fashion magazine I’d like to see.
And this, I believe, is what many people want from art right now: a wild live experience; that can’t be sold, or captured on Instagram; that’s neither careful nor polite; that can go very wrong.