body and soul sold separately

Does our pop culture reinforce Western materialism by playing on commercial images which represent people as commodities, a sort of person, hyper-unrealistic, objectified, stereotyped into another object of the consumer culture spectacle.An endless process of the hollowing out of appearances, socially manufacturing that which has no value. Is it all part of a larger dynamic, something Donald Kuspit called “the unconscious terror of annihilation.” Where does this lead us? Short of withdrawing into the life of a desert hermit, there is the contradictory force of ironic social conformity to deal with where everything in our lives in simply “decorative” part of an overall addiction to variations on commercial images and our satire of, being a complicit acceptance. Are we all actors ambivalently playing out a soft-core travesty? A very brilliant piece:

Joseph Heath:I then picked up on Frank’s suggestion that the primary force driving consumerism in contemporary society is not the desire to conform, but rather the requirement that one’s consumption choices reflect one’s individuality. This aspect of consumerism is most often overlooked simply because most critics adhere to a perfectionist analysis, and therefore think that consumerism is a consequence of people having the wrong sort of values….

---Perversion was implicit in modern art from the beginning, and remains a vital factor in it today. In fact, one can regard modern art as by and large the history of the representation of perversion. What makes it innovative -- "modern" -- is its perverseness, both in attitude and form. Curiosity about perversion, supposedly the most novel, adventurous sexuality, motivates many modern artists. Certainly some of the most famous, innovative works deal with perversion, more or less openly. They also tend to be structurally perverse, at least by traditional standards. And perverse in method, if automatism is any indication. Beginning with Manet's Olympia, 1863 (for many the seminal modern picture) and jumping to Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 (another "breakthough"), and then to the dolls that Hans Bellmer made in the 1930s and the somewhat different looking but equally perverse dolls that appear in Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills, 1979 -- her later grotesquely dismembered dolls are explicitly Bellmeresque, especially when they are composites of fragments that don't add up to a complete body -- and throwing in Egon Schiele's nudes, Balthus's adolescent girls, Piero Manzoni's canned shit, and Gilbert and George's shit cookies... one realizes that many of the masterpieces of modern art depend on perversion to make their dramatic point. Read More:

…Because rebels and subversives have the ‘right’ set of values, and they are too reflexive to be duped by advertising, they are therefore thought to be incapable of promoting consumerism. But the liberal analysis reveals consumerism to be a behavior pattern, grounded in comparative preferences, not a set of values. And ‘rebel consumers’, in so far as they strive to be cool, do have comparative preferences, and so their purchasing decisions are likely to generate the type of overall pattern that was initially identified as consumerist….

---Let's go back to Manet's Olympia, the painting with which it all began, and still the most subtly perverse -- which also means anti-bourgeois, for bourgeois sex is presumably normal sex, that is, never ventures beyond the missionary position -- to grasp what's at stake in perversion, and that perverse deviation from traditional art called modern art. Why was the work so offensive -- so shocking to the bourgeois, or, as I would rather say, emotionally terrorizing? Manet himself was bourgeois, and knew the bourgeois had a perverse underside -- knew that the bourgeois male could only satisfy his sexual curiosity, that is, the full range of his sexual impulses, with a prostitute. (Apparently Manet himself was a customer, and caught the syphilis from which he died from a prostitute.) Olympia is a prostitute, and Manet's paintings of her suggest the two sides of perversion -- perversion as an attitude and perversion as a practice. --- Read More:

…What are the consequences of this analysis? First, we need seriously to rethink the standard narrative of rebellion and conformity that we have inherited from the 1960s. Much of what gets identified as rebellion is just status-seeking, and status competition is usually a negativesum
game. We also need to stop trying to assign corporations all the blame for consumerism. Consumerism is, first and foremost, a product
of consumer behavior. The idea that there is some kind of ‘them’, opposed to ‘us’, is a fiction, a part of the ‘countercultural idea’. This fiction has become so transparent in recent years it is hard to see how the pretence could become more absurd. Which is more ridiculous? Kurt Cobain on the cover of Rolling Stone, wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Corporate magazines still suck’, or Alexander McQueen, the ultimate
sartorial ‘subversive’, becoming chief designer at the House of Givenchy?…

Duchamp. Etants Donnees.---Kuspit:This is why so much modern art is kitsch -- innovative, avant-garde kitsch, no doubt, but kitsch nonetheless. All regressively desublimated art tends toward kitsch, especially anally oriented art, excrement being the ultimate kitsch. Kitsch is the most perverse, depraved, evil kind of art, as Broch suggests. Its perversity involves a kind of emotional decadence -- entropic regression, one might say. It turns the spectator into a voyeur -- Manet's Olympia certainly does this -- which is to devalue looking. It is this devaluation which makes all kitsch art evil. In voyeurism looking is unreflective, shallow, passive -- mindless observation of a hypnotic object -- which means that it has no cognitive value, that is, it no longer triggers a cognitive, evaluative process. Voyeurism is not analytic contemplation but blind fascination -- infatuation with an ingratiating fantasy. This is inseparable from the voyeur's subtle devaluation of the body (its parts and functions), which he turns into a seductive sex object, so that it is no longer the site of a person. Read More:

Is it possible to interpret these events as evidence that ‘the system’ is able to co-opt dissent? No. What it really shows is just that dissent is the system. Capitalism simply does not require hierarchy or cultural hegemony in order to function smoothly. So what can be done? A few suggestions were made earlier about policy initiatives that could be undertaken, based on the liberal critique. But within the context of a highly individualistic society, there is only so much that we can hope to accomplish…

… Only when we learn to feel comfortable, once again, wearing uniforms, will consumerism be vanquished. Of course, this is something that is extremely unlikely to occur. And so I would propose a second-best solution. If we persist in valuing individuality and non-conformity, then we must learn to stop complaining about the consequences of this decision – one of which will be that we live in a consumerist society.Read More:

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