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Better than hip

BlackBook magazine seeks to elevate the pop-cultural conversation to a higher level.


[hipster culture] A beautiful celebrity face on a glossy cover. Advertising, advertising, advertising. Headlines, text. Advertising, advertising, advertising. The BlackBook is the fashion magazine that, according to Narvesen's website, caters to "the multi-intense and multicultural audience". A real hipster product?

Many will probably think just that. But what makes a hipster prefer BlackBook over Vogue, Elle and so on? The BlackBook can be reminiscent of other fashion magazines. Otherwise, most things are different, at least if we are to believe chief editor Aaron Hicklin: "The BlackBook is a unique hybrid, a fashion magazine with a literary soul."

Strong names

It is BlackBooks literary soul Hicklin now wants to see. The book The Revolution Will Be Accessorized consists of 26 texts from the magazine's first ten years. Since its inception in 1996, several well-known authors have been interviewed, contributed with essays, articles, short stories. I mention: Douglas Coupland, Naomi Klein, Alain de Botton, DBC Pierre, Irvine Welsh, William T. Vollmann.

Finally, someone will definitely exclaim, the lyrics come into their own. No photographs. No logos. Finally, hipster's worst enemies can read DBC Pierre's portrayal of Armenia without having to deal with half-naked anorectics and fast cars side by side and side down. Hicklin's book screens readers. Here, "the serious" should be able to concentrate on words and sentences.

But is it possible to free the literary soul from the grip of the commercial magazine pages? No, the book is not to be regarded as a "pure" literary publication. The book is rather to be regarded as a literary defense for BlackBook's hybrid project. A project that is not only fashion and literature, but also pop culture and ideology criticism. You read that right: Criticism of ideology. Hicklin & co have again and again tried to elevate the pop culture conversation to a higher level of reflection.

Is this an important book? Syllabus for those of us who are eager to participate in the debate about the so-called hipster culture? Yes, it can look like this. At least here on the mountain. Everyone and everyone recently seemed to be preoccupied with the critic sociologist Håkon Larsen made in the Aftenposten July 25. Larsen conducted an analysis of the TV program Store Studio. He claimed that program managers Per Sundnes, Hans Olav Brenner and Anne Sandvik Lindmo have reduced the culture "to an arena for self-promotion and profit maximization".

Free flow, in other words. Store Studio broadcasts a market liberal and egocentric worldview. "I register that Håkon Larsen, like many others in Norway, suffers from hipster anxiety," replied the TV program's head of security, Helle Vaagland. And she added, "We do not necessarily do that."

The editorial "we"

One should note the last sentence. Vaagland's editorial "we" are untouched by the cultural anxiety that has plagued our country. The editorial "we" take no note, it is enough to "register" that the sociologist and "very many others" have been infected by

cultural influenza. No one but "we" understands that "we" are by sense and collection. "We" must keep up with the times, "we" want to be present, here and now.

Let us dwell on this "here and now." What does it mean to "keep up with the times"? Who is taking on this task? A fashion magazine like BlackBook is incapable of putting the spirit of the times on hold. But one should not ignore the fact that the opposite is the case – that the spirit of the times puts the fashion magazine on concept, that the spirit of the times asks questions and interprets one fashion phenomenon after another.

How to make life under late capitalism as livable as possible? Can you like clothes, shoes and hairstyles – and at the same time be sure that you are within the realm of critical reason?

Something to learn

After studying the first reactions to Håkon Larsen's post, I have been strengthened in the belief that both the one and the other have something to learn from the American hybrid BlackBook. One can learn something about the products of the spirit of the times: Anxiety, schizophrenia, late capitalist neuroses.

Unlike Store Studio's security manager, BlackBook's editor chooses to take the products seriously. As a retrained Kierkegaardian, he links anxiety to issues of economic responsibility and political freedom. The editor opens doors to a world where advertising is not a necessary evil that one closes one's eyes to – in the editor's world, advertising is a necessary evil that says something about a historical situation. Yes, advertising is a necessary evil one is forced to study, forced to take a stand on.

Not to understand that all the texts in The Revolution Will Be Accessorized are part of this "big project". Here is also nonsense and aunt, seemingly innocent kneeling for the market forces, hipster flirting at idle. However, the critical texts appear as anxious attempts to draw attention to "the new counterculture", a culture that transcends the narrow confines of hipster culture. "You can make models look like Che Guevara, or you can try to talk about Marxism in the BlackBook," says Naomi Klein in a conversation with Douglas Coupland. "Hey, Doug, I think we're part of the problem.

The critical gaze of Marxism

It's part of the story that Coupland is actually trying to talk about Marxism in the BlackBook. According to Coupland, Marxism still plays an important role. Marxism is a sign, it is able to take a critical look at the capital that defines our time. The brief statement makes Naomi Klein shrug her shoulders. After all, the conversation is initiated by BlackBook!

Coupland asks: "What percentage of the magazine's readers will learn from the report?" Klein: «4,5 percent. And what do you think? ” Coupland: “Maybe 1,5 percent. But it is still more than zero percent. " So true so true. Over to Store Studio. n


The Revolution Will Be


BlackBook Presents Dispatches from the New Counterculture

Harper Perennial (2006)

215 pages

Reviewed by Leif Høghaug

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