Wednesday, july 24, vaporwave’s facebook fanpage announced that the genre was dead. Vaporwave -seapunk’s retro-futuristic younger brother- however, is a quite young genre, that hasn’t gotten out of internet’s obsure spheres yet and still seems like full of growing potential. By retracing what happened between vaporwave’s birth and its presumed death, NSN will try to understand what the heck is really going on.
Arca’s new mixtape is out.
Stream IRL, the movie written by Patrik Sandberg and directed by Grant Singer, starring Sky Ferreira for 24H at http://www.irlfilm.com
SS14 fashion week is just getting starterd but don’t sweat it, Nasir Mazhar already provided one of the best collections of the season.
Pictures from Opening Ceremony .
Using copyrighted imagery without a second thought, making it a piece of art as much as a fashion statement, Shanzhai Biennial attacks knockoff culture from the rear.
On a scale of relevantness, counterfeit stretches very widely. Most of time, the imitated goods in the fashion industry are designers rip-offs for customers who wish to associate themselves with a brand’s identity but do not have the financial means for it.
Another kind of niche in the knockoff market are the pun based products. Very popular because of meme culture, they represent a great embodiment of our consumer passive and our need of reappropriation.
A big part of street wear is also influenced by knockoff culture. Recently, the most obvious examples are SSUR’s Comme des Fuck Down hats, or Les Plus Dorés designer team t-shirts. Their purposes might differ from a simple nod, to an homage or a satire but all those brands are flirting with copyright infingement.
Among this wide spread phenomenon exists one entity that deserves more attention : Shanzhai Biennial.
A confusing identity
Shanzhai in Chinese refers to the act and culture of imitating brands or goods. Michael Keane, from Queensland University of Technology argues it is more an “instance of China’s emerging creative economy and an example of rapid prototyping”.
In this way, Shanzhai Biennial intentionnaly places itself at the edge of intellectual property. With no other information, one can assume that Shanzai Biennial refers to a sort of art event because of the presence of the term “Biennial” in it’s name. That’s not the case.
Shanzhai Biennial, by naming itself as such pretends/aims to be some kind of hybrid art and fashion project. Scrolling though their website, one can easily understand that it is more of an actual clothing brand.
The brand launched its first collection in September at Beijing Design week and was adverted in Modern Weekly (one of China’s biggest magazine) before any garments were actually produced. Later on, SB made it’s way to the occident with an expo at MoMa PS1 and collaborated with the Chinese conceptual artist Wu Ting Ting for a music video. Fashion, art music, the boundaries are thin and it is hard to apprehend SB’s identity.
A magnificent trio
The brand/project is the association of three artists : Avena Gallagher, Babak Radboy and Cyril Duval.
Cyril Duval is the founder of Item Idem, a website which displays art projects in the way of an e-commerce website, with the value being related to the level of concept.
Babak Radboy is the artist who directed Kanye West’s music video “Power”. He is also the head of the amazing Middle-East centered Bidoun Magazine and the Bidoun Library. Avena Gallagher has worked as a stylist for the New York Times Magazine, Nylon, V, Crash, W, Purple, and Dazed.
Babak and Cyril never denied their interest in profitable art project, in fact Babak openly told the NY Times that he wanted to be a business artist. In this aspect, Shanzhai manages to give a new breath to the constantly reconsidered link between art and fashion.
The trio works pretty well, at least judging by their first campaign and the video they released. They define SB as a “multinational brand posing as an art-project posing as an multinational brand posing as a biennial”.
Concretely, the lookbook presented at Beijing featured a palette of bright colors and classic white/grey/marine, simple cuts and expressive models, giving a Uniqlo/Benetton mashup vibe. The aim behind it is pretty clear : emphasize on the reappropriated logos.
“Ok” instead of “Ck”, “Geline” instead of “Celine”, “The South Place” instead of “The North Place” and some even more direct Apple logos as polka dots or Armani eagle with Shanzhai Biennial written around it.
The music video featuring Wu Ting Ting follows the same direction. The ambiance is a bit less bright but the whole purpose of the video is to advertise the “Head and Shouldars” dress which make Wu Ting Ting actually look like a Head and Shoulders bottle.
Everyhting about it is so obnoxious yet so attractive, striking directly at our collective unconscious and customer culture. Pushing the limits of brand culture and reappropriation, melting art, music and fashion in one same confusing block, Shanzhai Biennial might be one of the most forward thinking brand out there.