It takes a lot of confidence to be this ridiculous.
Term is now over in Cambridge and I’m sitting here in London, typing this up, before I give this old laptop to my younger brother. What a term it has been! I’ve been busy; I haven’t stopped, and I’ve met some VERY interesting people this term. It’s all made me appreciate where I am in life right now.
The LEGEND that is Vivienne Westwood came to town this week. Sitting in a row of seats in the Chemistry department, in a packed lecture theatre, we waited for almost an hour as, for whatever reason, Dame Westwood and two other speakers rolled in ‘fashionably’ late. A small-ish old lady with blonde/ white hair, all in black, a cap that said something like ‘badass’ on it, and some crazy high boots took her seat in front of us all. She had made it clear that she did not want ANY photos taken (I asked in advance) and she wasn’t there to talk about fashion either. The Cambridge Dialectic society’s last talk of the term offered a few answers to the question of ‘the role of the art lover in addressing the issues of the twenty-first century’ and what a discussion it was. Quite frankly, I (and I’m sure I was not alone) was there to see Viv so let’s forget about the other two speakers for now. One showed us a video but I really didn’t ‘get it’ and the other speaker annoyed me the minute she brushed off my comments about socialism, art, and individuality. I’ve got to say though, Viv was most certainly BADASS.
She sat there cool as a cucumber, with no notes and no time to apologise. She is very passionate about the environment and sustainability and launched straight in with telling us that we’re all gonna die soon and it’s our own fault because we’ve given the world just ten years before the effects of global warming become truly irrevocable. She was very sure that the human race had destroyed itself with greed and consumer culture. Her words were harrowing but I loved how unapologetic she was – she’s achieved enough to not give a fuck about things that do not interest her. Viv hated the fact that art had become elitist; she despised the mainstream, abstract art that people could not connect with, and people who didn’t think that thinking about the future was necessary. She liked mentioning (briefly) her MUCH younger husband.
When it came to questions and answers I went straight in for the kill – taking careful note of what she’d been saying throughout I sort of think she’s a bit of a socialist and she didn’t disagree with me. She said that capitalism had destroyed the world and it was time for a new system. She said that our free market economy and this ‘dog eat dog’ attitude that we have built our ‘First world’ on have left the earth in turmoil and the majority of people living on it in a perpetual state of poverty. She said that by nature we are ‘social’ beings and it’s just common sense to note that working together is better than working divided. She wasn’t very keen to answer questions about fashion but she did say that she ended up in fashion by ‘accident’ – I hear these kinds of stories a lot.
I’d like to just address the flippant comment of one of the speakers though – this creative something or other from some creative something or other. I asked Viv if she was advocating a move to socialism, and she said that it can’t be as bad as what we’ve already tried. This other lady said ‘I don’t think it’s about replacing one system with another system. we shouldn’t get bogged down with ideology. The problem with socialism is that the individual becomes less important than the group identity’. I found this frustrating coming from somebody who considered themselves a creative. I strongly believe that we are all part of several communities – most importantly the international community – but this does not for one minute mean you are no longer an individual. I don’t believe in cults and anyone who knows me knows that I am ALL for individuality. But this misc0nception of individuality meaning a compulsory ‘me me me’ attitude sucks. That’s why art, to many, might seem like an alien, poncy concept, for pretentious twats from the upper and middle classes (Not saying everyone in the upper and middle classes are pretentious twats of course). So many amazing pieces have come from the era of failed socialist revolutions in (Eastern) Europe. Vivienne did air her annoyance over art being stuck in the class system that we in Britian still cling to. Art and creativity should not be saved for some. Not at all. It should and it can be enjoyed by all.
Interestingly, one girl in the audience stated the obvious and asked the panel’s opinion on the commercialization and bastardization of art. They all said that it is truly a minority that make art for the sake of money and nothing else – but that’s why they are famous I suppose. I still believe that the vast majority of artists do it for the sake of art – art for art’s sake and all of that.
The talk was bloody interesting and I’m now ging to follow the work of Cool Earth and revive the little eco-warrior that used to reside inside my heart. I really do love rainforests. It’s easy to become lazy but we shouldn’t. Viv said that the world has never looked so ‘ugly and badly dressed’. That is because greed and selfishness are not attractive.
I don’t know if we really only have ten years to fix what we as the human race have done to the planet… and eachother… but I do urge you to stop for a moment and think long and hard about what you can do to make your life, and in turn maybe someone else’s, a little better. I’d hate to think, like Viv does, that we’re quickly becoming an endangered species at our own hands.
Whilst you think on that, I’m off to bed. Early start tomorrow.
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