In 1970 Jean Baudrillard wrote that humans try to achieve happiness through consuming goods and showed the difference between the artificial and real needs, the boundaries between which are rubbed off by the power of media and advertising. For a moment we may think that being under constant pressure of commercials, unable to distinguish between the beautiful picture on the bright magazine pages and the real thing, we are turned to passive consumers. However, Baurdillard says that consumerism creates a whole social network and us, humans, choose to be a part of this network. Think about it this way – you enter your instagram account and scroll down the suggested posts and the feed flashes with photos of sand beaches in distant islands, expensive cars, bags worth several thousands dollars, spacious flats with a view. If you are lucky enough to be unaffected by the luxury image you will close the app, if you are a bon vivant or you just crave for luxury life like the protagonist of the American Tragedy
you will keep on browsing the images of beautiful life. Luxury has always been something separating the social classes and the luxury objects have always been produced to grant its owners feelings of uniqueness, singularity and good taste. As the word has been applied more and more often it has been often misused or underestimated. The exhibition “What is luxury?” (25 April – 27 September 2015) in Victoria and Albert museum in London has provided a fresh and truthful perspective on the meaning of luxury in the modern days.
The exhibition explores various dimensions of luxury and pays considerable attention to the way luxury objects are made: the time requiered to polish the skills of the craftmaker and to actually produce the objects, the materials used for its production and the difficulty to gain these materials. “What is luxury?” is divided into 2 parts, each of which in its turn separated into other subsections. The first part which I paid more attention to consisted of:
– Passion – Exclusivity – Innovation – Extraordinary – Non-essential -precision – Investment – Pleasure – Preciousness – Expertise – Opulence –
The second part was:
– Skill – Memory – Authenticity – Resource – Legacy – Journey – Privacy – Access –
I have picked my favourite and most impactful pieces.
Fragile Future Concrete Chandelier
The Chandelier is a hybrid of nature objects and technology which enabled the authors to create small lamps from dandelion seeds and LED lights. Imagine the time and accuracy required to handpick the particles of flowers and arrange them in real-size dandelions and you will understand the real value and excluisivity of the object.
I call this work art within art. The physical form of this object is a monkey covered with crystals sitting on a golden chest -the unique crystals are applied on the monkey be hand and present a high value on their own. The dual meaning of the object is the monkey either stealing the golden chest or protecting it from the others. It made me ask myself a question – if I possessed a significant amount of money, would I share it?
The saddle placed on top of an elephant was used in ceremonies for the royalties in India has been a symbol of luxury and the access to this item was limited to the upper class. Although the item itself was made from expensive precious materials, the symbolism of the object played a no less important role in elevating the craving for saddle by general public.
A SPACE FOR TIME
A Rematerialisation of Systems, Body I and Body II
El Ultimo Grito
The second part of the exhibiton felt even more unique and unusual. Few of us would name ‘time’ as an object of luxury, however, time and space are the resources that became scarce in the hectic lifestyle of city dwellers. The glass bodies represent transparent space – the revealing lives that we lead. Although, the complex forms and the links of the glass bodies set limits to this transparency.
The end of exhibition wonders what luxury will be in future? What materials, resources and skills will be considered exclusive and will increase in value?