domestic tick tock and lifestyle blogging

PoorPolly

I’m not a giant fan of house/lifestyle blogs a lot of the time because they seem to always just read as either an enormous shopping list, or a continuous ad. Plus the way the internet makes it easy for people to show only the parts they want you to see, and in the best possible light, is kind of exhausting. It’s not that interesting to read (or look at, lets be real) perfectly arranged snapshots of a very select part of someone’s life, even if it’s very pretty. And a lot of the time it’s very, very pretty. So if I am in the mood for some quality interior porn, I usually tend to turn to tumblr or Pinterest, because every picture in the cosmos will be right there at my fingertips, without needing to filter through unnecessary crap.

However! I do have a few home blogs I really like, and you can find them in the links section to the left, but what they have in common is this very intimate approach that doesn’t try and gloss over the dirty little bits of life that we all know exist. I like when people post about things they’re actually interested in, that have relevance to their everyday lives. When Meg Zandi of the really fun Radical Possibility made a post about re-arranging her living room and put up photos of every possible furniture arrangement she was thinking about, it hit this switch in my brain where I was like Yeees, This Is What Home Blogging Should Be About – I want to get a glimpse into your real home and the real way you live your (domestic) life. The images in the r/p post, or maybe the idea behind these images, are also oddly soothing. Like there is this domestic rhythm that everyone has in their lives, and it was cool seeing a concrete demonstration of a small part of that.

The final Radical Possibility living room - isn't it it lovely though?? Also see Meg's tutorial for the HELLO here.

The final Radical Possibility living room – isn’t it it lovely though?? Also see Zandi’s tutorial for the HELLO here.

Back at uni I read this great essay called The Aesthetics of Everyday Life by Michael Owen Jones and I keep coming back to the ideas in there whenever I think about the culture of blogging, particularly home/lifestyle blogging. The text starts of by detailing the everyday, household, personal rituals of the author’s friends, Norm and Jean Smith. This elaborate, anecdotal list of their preferences was really intriguing to me and it set an atmosphere of a really tidy, calm domesticity, with a definite sense of different rhythms of living during the course of a day. This kind of thing has always appealed to me because I really enjoy the idea of people doing little things every day that create a kind of contentment – little things that enrich a person’s life. And that’s really what I’m interested in seeing in lifestyle blogs; something really personal to the author and also genuine, without ulterior aesthetic and/or commercial motives.

Michael Owen Jones goes on to say that what the Smiths do is to actually produce art, because “art consists of behaviors and products considered special that generate an appreciative, contemplative response in the recipient.” Putting aside the fact that this is a pretty limiting statement, what art consists of, according to the author, is certainly what Norm and Jean do, and what most people do as well, whether they’re trained artists or not, just by making sensory-based decisions daily – what colour to wear, what food to eat for lunch, how to arrange their living space etc. It’s a very democratic viewpoint – everything is worthy of notice and aesthetic appreciation, even the everyday things we choose to do (and sometimes don’t even think about while doing them) because they make us feel more content. I like when a blog becomes an archive of these small decisions on the blogger’s part, particularly because a lot of it is so glamourised and magaziney instead.

The author goes on to state that “most folk-art belongs to ordinary day-to-day experiences.” The assumption being, of course, is that ‘real’ art is removed from, or above ordinary day-to-day experiences, which is not something I personally agree with.  However, even though what Norm and Jean do every day can be read as art in this way, I’m guessing few people would actually do so. The essay does pose the view, though, that Norm and Jean have achieved “formal perfection.” That is, they have succeeded in being able to create things every day based on sensory and aesthetic decisions that give them satisfaction and enrich their lives. And also probably prompt compliments by other people, meaning Norm and Jean’s (and Ms. Zandi’s etc) creations are also appreciated by others.  And that’s really nice imo. A life doesn’t have to be airbrushed and hidden behind screens – there can be something good and interesting in even the most mundane things, or to be honest, in even in the most nasty little stains (there is a lot of those in my own life, but yeah I can see why people don’t blog about them).

P.S. If you are interested in reading this essay, you can find it in the book Self-Taught Art: The Culture and Aesthetics in American Vernacular Art edited by Charles Russel. The google books preview unfortunately doesn’t have those pages available for viewing, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find this book in your local library, uni library, or even on Amazon if you’re in a buying mood.

fitting perfectly

My favourite tumblr atm:

thingfittingperfectlytumblrhttp://thingsfittingperfectlyintothings.tumblr.com/

Also, this is unrelated, but it made me sick to my stomach – if you can, please sign this petition to save the life of a service dog:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/590/736/158/save-dutch-the-service-dog/

And for your reblogging needs if you want to help spread the word.

the weight of the things we own

Wedding Shower, 1951. LIFE Magazine. Photo by: Nina Leen

Wedding Shower, 1951. LIFE Magazine. Photo by: Nina Leen

There’s been this wave of photography and art work chronicling people’s possessions on the internet for a while now. From the anxiety inducing The Burning House, where people say that in a fire they’d save pens and their Moleskines over passports or family photos, to the shame inducing What The World Eats photo-set. From long-term fashion missions, like achieving the life affirming french capsule wardrobe of your dreams, to the slightly inexplicable, but still pretty, All I Own, where several Swedish students are photographed with all their possessions stacked in precarious piles next to them. From what I can see, it’s not even the artist, Sannah Kvist, that frames this work in such a political way (SWEDISH STUDENTS SHOW US HOW TO LIVE WITH LESS), but the legions of internetters who are obsessed with the ideas around documenting your possessions, putting them on display and that being a way of somehow finding out what is important.

Simon Evans; Everything I have; 2008

Simon Evans; Everything I have; 2008

There are also more diaristic projects, such as Simon Evans’ Everything I have and Kate Bingman Burt’s Daily Drawings of each of her purchases made over a number of years. And there are also more socially thoughtful art projects, without the internet gleam of a life on show, like photographer JeongMee Yoon’s Pink and Blue Project.

The Pink Project - Jiyeon and Her Pink Things, Light jet Print, 2007

JeongMee Yoon; The Pink Project – Jiyeon and Her Pink Things;  2007

I can’t quite put my finger on what it is exactly that’s going on here, but I feel like something’s bubbling just under the surface with this trend. Is it a trend? Obviously we all need certain things to survive (and that number is technically very small, unless you want to not only survive, but survive in relative comfort) and obviously we must all give thought to the things we need and what needs to be replaced or mended or bought, BUT is this something that we need to focus so much public energy on? I do admit that I find most of it really interesting, and I guess in 200 years it will be really good for some nice historian to get a picture of how a certain section of earth’s society lived in the 21st century, but what is the point of it all though… Is it just a comforting thing? Like a crisp list made in your brand-new diary, or a nicely arranged pantry. Is it all just a sensory thing?

When these projects cross a line between ‘satisfying list’ and end up in ‘curated’ territory, that’s when I start to feel a bit over it. There is something both comforting and alarming about these kinds of cleverly arranged sets of the objects we keep around us. I love a good solid photo of some things organised in order of descending size, or perhaps in a nice even sided square, but I can’t shake the feeling that there is a whiff of vanity and pointlessness about it all.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is that a lot of these curated collections of the items we possess, are usually accompanied by an undercurrent of understanding that it is better to own a few things, of great quality or great importance, rather than fill our lives with the detritus of capitalism. I think that most of these subtle messages are really pretentious. If I want a million things in my home by god I will have them if I can.

I remember once talking to a friend of mine about clothes and she said of her sister that she always goes for quality over quantity, but that she herself always goes for the opposite – three cheap tank tops over one expensive one (of course in this conversation the expensive clothes referred to came from Glassons, so it’s not like we were even talking about a difference between that and a couture hand-beaded gown). I found that so refreshing at the time, because all we ever hear is the exact opposite. Buy this ~investment piece and you’ll be happy. OH YA this million dollar bag is an investment. It’ll last my entire life~~~

Even discounting whether this is true or not (because I somehow doubt a bag made of the thin,~buttery leathers in use today would ever last someone an entire lifetime, and even if it did, that they would like that exact bag in that exact colour and style every single moment of their perfect lives until they croaked on their walnut investment piece bed) it’s still such a call to consumerism. Thinking of buying less to such a ‘perfected’ degree is still just thinking about buying with a more sanctimonious name. Sometimes I feel like this neurotic tide towards minimalism and simpler living and a capsule wardrobe etc. is not that minimalist, or even as genuine as it pretends to be, simply because of the thought processes it requires and the sway and weight it places on people’s minds. If your brain is so full of whirling thoughts on whether this or that object fits in better in your curated life (not to even mention your curated internet/blog life), how truly free are you of the weight of your possessions?

spooky halloween stories

This Halloween eve, please enjoy one of the creepiest stories you are ever likely to read – The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins.

“I don’t like to look out of the windows even – there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.”

D:

Also! The Gutenberg Project is such an awesome resource, so here is a link to another fun haunted house story, The Haunted Hotel, by Wilkie Collins.

~enjoy~

footsteps, balloons, boxes, maps, screens, friends

Very late to the party as usual, but here is a link anyway, because I spent last night reading all the parts of the story and having a coronary at any sudden little noise inside the house and out:

http://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/k8ktr/footsteps/

horrorI love the haunted house genre, and even though this series doesn’t fall into that as neatly as some other stories, I still thought the way he managed to get across the feeling of a home being invaded by something unseen and horrific was so cool. My favourite part is definitely Boxes, because I haven’t read anything that has creeped me out more in such a long time. There’s like a true feeling of dread in that one, which is quite hard to experience genuinely when you read lots of horror.

I love how unknown he kept the antagonist! And I loved the friendship between the two boys, even though some of the dialogue would never have been spoken by a 6 year old child. If it was a kids movie (obviously without such a terrifying plot), it would have fit right into the long list of movies and TV shows that showcase American suburbia and American middle-class summertime adventures, much longed for by yours truly as a child, as talked about here.

There are quite a few ~internet horror stories that I love, and there is a post brewing about one of them, which is a really cool epistolary story, and if anyone is reading this, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, but this series deserved a post of it’s own.