We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“Had McQueen’s life been recorded in a measured and appropriate way, it would have retained some dignity. As it is, we’ve had to consider the silhouette of trousers as though it ranks with the irrigation of Sudan or a cure for cancer. And that just makes him look a complete prat.”

George Pitcher, writing about the fashion industry in the light of the death of 40-year-old designer Alexander McQueen. Much of what Mr Pitcher writes in this piece also applies, in my view, to parts of the architecture and “modern” art establishment. However, at least the fashion industry operates mostly in a free(ish) market. If we don’t like its products, then we don’t have to buy them. When a tax-funded body pays for some freakish statue, for example, it is not quite the same thing.

6 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Jackie

    No, McQueen didn’t cure cancer – neither did the Beatles, George Best, or many other public figures who did something ordinary in an extraordinary way. A bloody good entrepreneur who came from an unremarkable background, went from awkward fat kid to renowned artist who was adept at sticking two fingers up at the snobbish industry that was forced to acknowledge his skill, talent, and innovative work – hard to be anything but sad about his demise. The world could use more grafters and wealth creators, not to mention odds-defying spirits.

    Despite his avowed anarchism, he was a statist. Luckily he lived like a capitalist.

  • Civilisation often yields more state funded art. The reverse is not so true.

  • I don’t see where your parallel with architecture comes in.

    Architects are not glorified seamstresses – or no more than civil engineers, bridge designers, surgeons etc- but usually with added responsibility (in the eyes of the Law, too) of a legal entity commanding and managing the rest of the building and engineering trades on a project.

    If taxpayers pay for a public building, like a railroad station or a courthouse through government bureaucrats – is that an architect’s fault? You can debate pros and cons of a particular building as a member of collectively paying Client – but do it within the merits of a project, not some irrelevant speculation on architects’ personal qualities.

    Taxpayer funds are getting wasted all over – but I don’t see anybody criticizing the way energy contractors, for instance, blow hundreds of millions of dollars. Or military contractors (I have some inside information on that), or enumerable government agencies, or FEMA, or Army Corps of Engineers, etc etc. On the contrary, architectural practice makes it very easy to account for all the funds – and architectural fees on a public project usually come up as the smallest expense – when you compare it to the cost of unionized contractors’ labor.

    Also, architects are not just handed public projects – they compete for it, in transparent and multi-step process that usually involves members of the public in a judging role. Yes, sometimes there are bribes or under-the-table game of connections – but no more than in any other manufacturing industry fighting for their brad and butter – real industry, per Mr. Pitcher’s terminology.

    I am saying this as someone who participated in design of at least 5 courthouses and one Juvenile Detention center in US -I know it from the inside.

    Oh, and I do know a little fashion industry madness, too: I went to FIT for 3 years.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I don’t see where your parallel with architecture comes in.

    The parallel is with those “celeb” architects (think Richard Rogers) who, despite some genuinely impressive accomplishments, also benefit from a self-regarding establishment with its pet designers, etc.

  • Well, why not? If the accomplishments are real, a little marketing hype doesn’t hurt.

    The job and responsibilities of contemporary architect are orders of magnitude higher than some empty-suit trousers designer’s, forgive the pun. Parallel fails.

  • Ernie G

    I went to the linked column and learned that one of his major accomplishments was that according to a TV interview of a fashionista “‘He changed the silhouette of trousers forever,’ she replied earnestly, her voice almost breaking with emotion. ”

    This sartorial breakthrough was the development of the “builder’s bottom.” Not knowing what that was, I went to Google and found that had introduced to Great Britain what we in the States have long associated with appliance repair: the buttcrack.

    Sadly, he died before he could have received his Nobel Prize. It has been awarded for less.