it ain't easy being Green(ie)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Aspiring Dead Rock Stars

How to Succeed on Bedford When You Still Have a Pulse

So, I live in Brooklyn, now a while ago this would mean one kind of stereotype (perhaps the same one tragically employed by the domino's "Brooklyn style pizza" commercial (a kind of Italian-American/mafia/caustic cabbie world of incomprehensible thick accents and violence). But these days Brooklyn congers up new and different images. Hipsters, modern day dandies in "designer vintage" and American Apparel.
Now, admittedly i don't live in Williamsburg, the mecca of hipster nirvana (mixing religious metaphors, meh). I live in Park Slope, which has its own specific images, which I can discuss at an other time, but still I see the hipsters here, and really they're spreading to all parts of the city and even the globe. but as for the hipster image, I have noted a trend that I think goes to the very heart of the style. It strikes me that all of these people from the trust-funders to the the truly broke are all, at the very core of their persona aspiring to be dead rock stars. And by this i mean that so much of the ideology of hipster-dom is intense identification with the musician as martyr. A natural reaction to the idea that for a musician to truly be great he must expire at the exact peak of his creative prowess, and that one must be consumed by your work, in a profoundly literal sense.
Now, I'm not saying that everyone who walks the blocks of Bedford Ave. is profoundly suicidal or self-destructively reckless (though an argument could be made for the later). I think the problem is a much more subconscious one. There isn't an active seeking out the tools of a literal self-immolation but there is a lot of emotional pathology that push the hipster towards decisions that promote a metaphysically consuming life. They set up the emotional dominoes without realizing what they are aiming at. For some the target is honest (though, at times, motivationally tainted) suicide, though for most it is the self destruction of excess, whether drugs/alcohol/ or lust. To be honest though I don't believe that many reach their marks and it is far too early to tell what the entire cultural significance of this movement will be. But for the musicians of Williamsburg there is a clear, if only semi-conscious obsession with death.
Though it is not just the musicians who fall prey to the archetype of artistic martyr. The idea works on many levels of the creative society of Williamsburg. there are legions of aspiring writers who pulverize themselves with liquor, desperate emulations of Bukowski and Fitzgerald, as if it were a novel (pun intended) idea. And the artists, painters, sculptors and photographers who all appear to be scheduling their gallery openings for the day after their funerals. Not to mention dozens of other scensters, promoters, and hangers-on who wait for death like evangelicals wait for the rapture, but who don't much consider what merits they should become famous for.
Not to say this is a bad thing. So much of New York's greatest cultural moments in the arts came when the specter of death was so close it could be tasted. But these specters, the crime and violence of the 70's, war of the 60's, and the AIDS crisis of the 80's were real, and very truthfully dangerous. The specter that haunts New York today is a phantom created out of the collective breath of entire enclaves of hipsters and wannabes that have so much faith in their martyr complex they are willing to invent their own death.
Ss the hipsters learn to come to terms with their future and start to turn into their own version of yuppies, (and move down here to Park Slope to raise kids and dogs) they may finally see their specter for what it is. A fear that having a pulse mean more then having talent.