The Dandyism of Contempt
The Dandyism of Contempt
Camden Town Unlimited, 15 Camden High Street, London, NW1
Thursday 20th January 2011 from 6pm
The Dandyism of Contempt is a performance art event curated by Vanessa Mitter and Joshua Y’Barbo with performances by: Mark McGowan, Brian ‘Dawn’ Chalkley, Jack Catling, The Skinjobs, Nicola Ruben Montini, Robin Bale, Douglas Park, Adham Faramawy, Alec Dunnachie, Pauline A. Amos, John Wild, James Gardiner, Kiki Taira, Lennie Lee, Frog Morris, Karl Weill and Edward Cotterill.
Who is the dandy? What is dandyism? He is an ambiguous figure, both insider and outsider. He hides in the shadows, only to come out to play and be admired at his best. Finally, he disappears into oblivion. ‘Cynicism’, claimed the Victorian novelist George Meredith is ‘intellectual dandyism’. According to Giorgio Agamben, Beau Brummell, the great Regency dandy ‘can claim as his own discovery the introduction of chance into the artwork so widely practiced in contemporary art’.
Provocation is his raison d’être. The dandy is dedicated primarily to an image of originality through ‘the abolition of any subjectivity from his own person’ . There is an implicit contradiction in this stance. ‘The dandy, after all, longs to recreate himself as an emblem of complete originality’ (Agamben).
Nevertheless, if the dandy had one genius, it was to be the first true performer of the self. The construction of himself was his greatest work of art. As Balzac wrote in his Treatise on Elegant Living, ‘making himself a dandy, man becomes a piece of boudoir furniture, an extremely ingenuous mannequin’. The dandy requires an audience in order to exist. ‘As the work of art must destroy and alienate itself to become an absolute commodity, so the dandy-artist must become a living corpse, constantly tending toward an other, a creature essentially nonhuman and antihuman’ (Agamben).
The artists in this performance event, although diverse, all share the dandy’s contempt for the prosaic, the mundane, the humdrum. There are elements of chance, although these are as well rehearsed as the elusive but exacting criteria of how to tie a cravat, Beau Brummell style. The figure of the dandy may belong to the past but the traces of his complex disregard and simultaneous adherence to a set of self imposed rules can be found in many of the performances in this show.
The Performance Event is on January 20th 2011 and performances will take place at Camden Town Unlimited starting from 6pm onwards.