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An Inversion of Alchemy

"The Dark Gaze of Fashion"

Peter J. Amdam

In the year 1863, Charles Baudelaire writes in his seminal essay "The Painter of Modern Life" that "By 'modernity' I mean the ephimeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the emutable".
it would be, for us today, as it was for Baudelaire then, an easy feet to connect, or even replace, the word 'modernity'
with 'fashion'. Fashion as the ephimeral, fugitive, contingent aspect of a modernity that is in constant conflict with itself. A fashion embracing the speed and virulence of its own ruptuous changes, its turns and returns, its currencies and recurrencies, its mystifications and demystifications. its love affair with its own lustorous, smooth, attractive, fast and magical surfaces; its desire to transgress that very same notion of surfaces, to penetrate, to go beneath or beyond, to anchor itself somewhere below that very surface: the surface of the now, the surface of the new. the preverse antithetical desire of fashion to be "anti" fashion. the ever returning imagery of skeletons on the runways, the proliferation of images of death and dying.
Rei Kawakubos's garments emulating the collapse and cancerous growth of internal organs, the infamous and deeply eerie Comme Des Garcons "Lumps and Bumps" collection of spring-summer 97. or the same Kawakubo's ferocious attacks on the fabrics with scissors, literally tearing open the skin of fashion.
Martin Margiela´s exposure of threads, stitches, seems and laborious sweing techniques- stripping bare the surface of fashion, forcing it inside out. As it this panting, whispering, screaming, aappartional creature we sometimes refer to as fashion, as if the new and the now, as modernity and postmodernity, is folding its terminal condition back onto itself. Every season flags a state of revolution. When life, to borrow Hegel's phrase "endures death and maintains itself in it"...Breath. take two seconds to consider: Fashion's close attention to consumption and the destructive aspect so closely interwined with the act of consumption. it thrives on the limitidness of the limited edition. Poder: Proto-deathcore band Septic Death's first twelv-inch recording from 1984, graced by singer
Pushead's beautiful drawing of a bikini-clad model, her face a state f disfiguration. Title: "Need so much attention." It sold out fast, and its relative rarity made it, of course, even more sought after. Following its underground sucess, it was repackaged, reissued and made more widely available to an audience already contitioned, through an inverted libidinal economy. to demand death, Septic Death Re-titeled: "Now That I Got Your Attention: What Do I Do With It?" The aleatory and voiding nature of the performating calls for the attention so closely associated with fashion, without regards to fashion's possible ethicity. Beyond good and evil. It is no coincidence that, for Oscr Wilde, black was the supreme colour of modernity.
when the band Venom coined the phrase "black metal," it was a suppsedly stylistic act of hyperbolde posture. At the same time it invoked a certain semantic slippage: from "rock" to "hard rock" to "heavy metal" and then to "black metal." As geological cycle, the site of rock music, site of identity producuction and first stage of a post-Fordist economy-fueled leisure, metamorphosed from geological language to industrial alloy, then into an all consuming black hole... The ultimate metal of modernity. And by synecdoche: Fashion.

The now all to familiar story: the transubstantation of Venom's black metal into a northern, concrete, somber, serious reality. The reach beyond the figural and onto the actual, the clls for a new and , at the same time, pre-romantic heroism. A dark heroism, metal's own disconsolate experience of the ephermal, the fugitive, and the contingent runs paralell with that of fashion. the longng for a solid anchoring, for solid ground, and a return of the fled gods of the pre-Christian era. in other words; "The half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable." The extreme speed and flickering of metropolian fashion life, of speed metal. Or the droning ephemeral as material rythm, murmured cadence.

The disturbing double bind of a true metal head and a fashionista: the need to communicate roots, duration-durée and the imperative of the new. the 'now' does not exsist, neither does the 'new' - it dies the very moment it arrives. As Walter Benjamin observed in the 1930s: "For people as they are now, there is only one radical novelty - and always the same one: death."


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April 2014

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