Now, what’s the goal of the rhextortionist? Let’s just look at the facts. When someone prevents you from saying P on the grounds that someone else might interpret it as meaning Q, you haven’t been prevented from saying Q. You’ve been prevented from saying P. A realist has to assume that the goal, therefore, is to prevent people from saying P. Further, we should ask: would the rhextortionist ever be satisfied by a superficial recasting of your statement? You rephrase P as P*, which means pretty much the same thing as P but is harder to interpret as Q. But now the rhextortionist says: “P* could easily be interpreted as P. And we now know that P is a dog whistle for Q. So you want to be really careful about saying P*.” The treadmill never ends; symbolic power can always be continuously redshifted as the universe of unspeakable objects relentlessly expands.
Rhextortion should be thought of within a broader picture of linguistic voodoo, and within a broader system of interpretive freedom in which the ability to appear to demonstrate that words mean something other than what they obviously mean confers both virtue and power.
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A common strategy deployed in the creation of a “look” is to place ordinary or banal objects into unfamiliar, arresting, and contradictory contexts, thereby altering their meaning. A look is not necessarily connected to its price: Prada can make plastic sheeting worth just a few dollars look “expensive.” Similarly, a cut-crystal sequined ball gown worth tens of thousands of dollars can still look “cheap.” In the late 80s, Prada pioneered cycling cheap materials into mainstream luxury items – most famously through the transformation of common black nylon into an “expensive” bag. By juxtapo-sing the glossy fabric against dimpled leather, its meaning was destabilized, creating a space where Prada alone could dictate value. When Mrs. Prada describes fashion as “instant language,” she is pointing to the power of context and timing to generate new cultural and commercial values.
LAPARELLI: "Prada is a really good example of a combi-nation of elegance and tackiness. We have moved in directions that were really unexpected for OMA, in terms of materials or lighting, and so on. We have begun to actually give value to things not because of their aesthetic value, but because of what they represent symbolically. Now, you’re looking at a particular material, but as soon as you charge it with a new meaning, it becomes something completely different. You could say the same thing about the gold leaf used at the Prada Foundation. It looks extremely luxurious, but if you take its cost per square meter, it’s a lot less than any kind of marble or stone, even most paints. The beautiful thing about Prada, and fashion in general, is that we learn to move through the symbolic meaning of materials in a very agile way."
KOOLHAAS: "I think “trendy” is quite a denigrating term today. There are very few people who would admit to following trends or taking them seriously. But at the same time, we live in an incredibly fast-moving and chaotic civilization, so I don’t see trends so much as constant, but rather as morphing alternations between different urgencies and different mini-ideologies. Whether you want to or not, for me, it’s very intellectually important to take trends seriously and find a res-ponse to them."