CollectibleDRY 10 – Vanitas | With two covers: Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Leomie Anderson
CollectibleDRY 10 – Vanitas | Never mind the Devil and the darkest forces that condition our inner choices, today we live in a world that is both threatening and insecure. Yet, as far as our historical memory can recall, humanity has come through worse moments of horror, moral void, and abjection shared by, or thrust upon, the majority of peoples. Industrial and social revolutions and then technology, which makes everything easier and accessible, have changed production relationships, raising the level of general wellbeing but leaving behind a large part of the world that is still suffering, despite the vast means at the disposal of the few.
But everything has never revolved around the Self as it does at present. The goal of many is to realize themselves and their personal ambitions, and to put themselves in the spotlight – especially if they are without qualities – sometimes to the point of becoming a profession. The artist Andy Warhol is quoted as saying “In the future, everyone will be world- famous for 15 minutes” – a phrase so symbolic that it was engraved on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1970. In today’s society, taking the fast lane to fame appears to be a must for everyone. Andy’s prophetic statement has virtually become an imperative. * Social networks, in particular, have successfully appealed to the weaknesses of young and old alike, enveloping them in a world that celebrates the cult of the “beautiful, rich and famous” and “everything now”, and projecting them into a future where standing out is the only thing that counts. But, perhaps, in the end all that will remain of those fleeting 15 minutes of fame is a handful of dust…
Individualism is the new religion, the opium of peoples. It is easy to go beyond the bounds of the acceptable when it comes to vanity. In mythology, Narcissus becomes slave to his beauty, which first makes the person who loves him suffer and later is the cause of his death. Narcissus is not only punished by the gods for his vanity, but above all because he is condemned to love only himself and his own beauty. His self-referentiality is his condemnation.
This issue explores the different aspects of the desire to stand out, a powerful theme and potential carrier of bad attitudes that will infect the next generations. It can be done playfully, by choosing an eye- catching dress and makeup that makes you look special, or through self-analysis, as in the works of artists past and present. For example, Lucy McRae, world-renowned Australian sci-fi artist, filmmaker and inventor, who turns her body into an innovative laboratory. Her work speculates on the future of human existence by exploring the limits of the body, beauty, biotechnology and the self. Lucy uses art as a mechanism to signal and provoke our ideologies and ethics about who we are and where we are headed. We, on the other hand, simply reflect on the symbolic aspects of looking at yourself in the mirror, of a hidden or luxurious beauty that is revealed beneath the reflecting surface through the contrast between new and old: these aspects are examined by a philosopher and a historian of ancient art. The auctioning by Sotheby’s of the contents of the houses that belonged to Pierre Bergé, the on-and-off lover of Yves Saint Laurent and co-founder of the iconic designer’s fashion empire, reveals the dedication of a “passionate” collector, the kind that are no more. The extraordinary quality and rarity of the pieces in his collection give it a remarkable finesse. From Vanitas, 1955, by Buffet, dedicated and presented as a personal gift to Bergé and then hidden so as not to hurt Saint Laurent’s feelings, to the accumulation of memento mori from Yves’ death onwards. They represent reflections on human affairs, on transience and, perhaps, on a success that was difficult to repeat.
Who more than an actor represents going beyond yourself? Oliver Jackson-Cohen, son of the famous fashion designer Betty Jackson, says that acting is a “daunting path and being an actor is a rollercoaster of emotions”. Billy Howle devotes a lot of time to photography, and confesses: “I’m starting to question that myself, and my interest lies much more in the desire to help other people”. Stars of films and popular Netflix series, they are not afraid to reveal their weaknesses, despite their good looks and celebrity. We also visit Sicily and Fausto Puglisi, who retraces his story and rediscovers his roots in women who are strong and proud of it, and in the slow but intense crafting of well- made things by artisans of savoir faire. Dressing heedless of gender is also an act of vanity: If I know a suit looks good on a guy, and I’m a woman, why can’t I dress that way too? This choice is not new, but why can’t it become the rule now… and vice versa? Before a concert Emma Ruth Rundle gave in London, we had an in-depth conversation with her about the open and personal nature of her songwriting, and how her visual art entwines with her musical output. What could be more vain than the colour pink? Especially when it is like the tentacles of a jellyfish… One of the seven deadly sins, pride can be placed on a level with vanity, while one of the ten commandments is “Love thy neighbour as thyself”. So loving means not letting yourself go, but respecting yourself and knowing your own worth. It is using yourself as a reference to recognize what is different about the Other and to appreciate it. Even if, for vanity’s sake, we are prepared to give up our freedom and we want to be tagged, linked and shared, and to share all our personal moments. This means that we don’t know where to draw the line and we don’t even recognize the limit of offence: what is acceptable to us, must also be liked by others. And lately we have witnessed some of the most grotesque and unjustifiable exaggerations. Precisely in the name of vanity and self-promotion.
* One of the most recent adaptations of Warhol’s maxim is attributed to the American philosopher David Weinberger, and certainly renders the abnormal abuse of blogging and social networking: “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 people”, which is also cited as “On the internet, everyone will be famous for 15 people”. But how about: In the future everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes?
Note that the two covers of issue 10 will be selected at random when ordered.