Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Standing In The Shadows

I've just finishing reading yet another biography of the late style icon and muse, Isabella Blow.
During her lifetime, Blow received little serious recognition or money. Now she's dead, three biographies have been published and there's talk of a feature film. Still, her real achievements are under-estimated, perhaps because the products of her imagination were largely realised by others and we were all too easily distracted by her short, intense life. Even she herself used to ask, "What is it that I do?"
She was a catalyst, whose indefinable occupation was not just that of muse but of of an impresario of ideas. She was often the first to recognise an individual's talent and help them find an outlet for it, usually by connecting it with like-minded others and nurturing it with her own inspired input. The reputations and relationships she helped create became fashion revolutions.
In much the same way as the influence of punk and the Sex Pistols would have been a lot less without the Situationist-like, media-savvy marketing of Malcolm McLaren, the upset caused by the induction of the late Alexander McQueen into the ranks Parisian haute couture designers would have been a deal more muted without Blow.
McQueen was well-rewarded. Blow wasn't. "The role of a muse is changing," she observed. "Traditionally, we haven't been paid, but as Bryan Ferry once said to me, one should be paid for ideas as well as the physical manifestation of them. If Alexander uses some of my ideas in his show, and he has, I don't get paid; he does."
Several years ago, I met someone who turned my life and my career upside down. Without their ideas, I would have had much less success and found none of the courage necessary to create it in the way I have outside the traditional commercial and institutional gallery system – a novel, even dangerous notion just half a decade ago. He, not I, was the architect who first devised (as far back as 1996) how an artist might achieve a serious reputation – and significant sales – using the web. His blueprint was intricate, somewhat mind-boggling and the product of unarguable genius.
I have always wanted to write about him but he has forbidden it. Maybe the time has come to do it anyway – and to beg his forgiveness afterwards. Apart from wanting to give credit where it's due, I think it's important to identify such truly gifted, original imaginations to a wider audience. Like Isabella Blow and possibly even the egotistical McLaren, they might not fully understand what it is they do, but whether muse, mentor, or manipulator (and they're often all of these, as well as being a little mad), they're responsible for re-conceiving and revolutionising societies and cultures in fundamental, irreversible ways.
The past year has taught me that a life, even when fully lived, is too short. It can also be too soon forgotten. Having lost our oral traditions, our culture's memories are keyed to material evidence, to things, and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to sustain recognition of those 'originals' whose greatest ideas reside in the accomplishments of others. Nevertheless, those of us who have been lucky enough to have been around them – and more, who have derived substantial benefit as a result – have an obligation to try. Especially while they're still alive.


José Luis Moreno-Ruiz said...

I like and love your Porn.
It's sweet and brave and daredevil!

Annie Paul said...

Can't wait to hear more about this person Hazel, yes, you need to talk about him, how intriguing! so he had this idea of how one might reinscribe an artistic practice outside the conventional conduits using the internet? and pretty early in the day too because you've been doing this for a while.

sounds extraordinary...