Where multitudes are taken down only to get built up
About a week ago a retro classical inquiry popped up in the New York Times. “What Should I Wear This Fall?”, asks the headline with a straight face, tingling with wholesome 1950’s undertones.
The answer, penned by NYT’s fashion critic Vanessa Friedman, cannot seem to forego reality in the same vein.
Friedman’s text lends itself to a thesis which has been gaining traction for the past few months. The main idea is this: Personal style is back, GQ declares. Anything goes, says Vogue. You are your very own trendsetter, muses Vox.
How does this presumable stylistic wonder functions? On one hand, you may pick and choose from the infinite flow of TikTok nano-trends. On the other hand, you can decide that you’re synthesising extensive macro-trends, a manner which Friedman calls ‘The third way’. In any case, individualism is reportedly back, and oh, how lucky are we to see it. The thrill of abundance is upon us.
Or is it simply the intoxicating whiff of ideology?
Because we consistently buy stuff online, we forget how concentrated wealth is. Because we experience a deluge of content, we forget how monolithic editorial control is. Because we keep being peddled the multi-generational discourse, we forget how to talk about culture, ignoring the the fact that the boomers-to-zoomers setup meant zilch a couple of years ago, foregoing the poor explanatory power it holds.
We’re being served this façade of multitude, yet there is actually so little of everything. One designer (Gvasalia). One musician (West). One publication (Facebook Inc). One merchant (Bezos). That’s basically it. Abundance? Try indoctrination.
This faux profusion correlates with the ubiquity of one particular word: vibes. It’s no coincidence that we’ve seen this term rise to prominence around the same time of the so called ultra-individualistic style chatter. After so many vibe checks, I believe that Brandon Taylor’s excellent text from a few days ago is the one we’ve been looking for.
Taylor begins by saying it all:
Nothing is good anymore (…) The dominant aesthetic consideration of contemporary media and art is whether or not the vibes are on.
Yet, and that may be owing to the ire he confesses he got for his tweet regarding the subject, the text concludes in literal surrender:
I enjoyed this. The vibes were on. I was into it. Was it good? Probably not. Who cares. It’s mass culture, baybeeee. I mean, just say you’re vibing. Surrender to the vibes. Surrender to the indiscriminate alignment of the vibe.
Excuse my French, but fuck this.
Surrendering to the vibes as an excuse to toy with lame artefacts of mass culture might have been considered a flight course back in the midst of the last decade, around when Kanye explained that he is now “speaking in vibes”. That time is gone now. Surrendering to the vibes may only be considered a valid route when it is Don DeLillo’s sense of vibes: the rapport of and between people together. These are the resonances to take into account. Everything else should speak to us clearly, resolutely.
This is, of course, a reactionary demand.
So how do we get out of this mess?
The universe came to our aid: this summer we discovered Time Crystals.
Crystalline structures form in the physical world because, for whatever fundamental scientific reason, the atoms within them “want” to exist in certain exact points. (…) A time crystal is a new phase of matter that, simplified, would be like having a snowflake that constantly cycled back and forth between two different configurations. (…) What’s amazing about time crystals is that when they cycle back and forth between two different configurations, they don’t lose or use any energy. Time crystals can survive energy processes without falling victim to entropy.
Now, this is multitude. To a new phase of matter and a bonne rentrée.