Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tasteless or Shocking: Are We Looking at the Right Thing Here? [insight]

Well there's been a HUGE outcry over the Vogue photo-shoot that featured poor citizens ('Ethnic' may be? 'Exotic'? After all, they are not poor people, but simply 'ethnic' ones) of India carrying stylized, branded, luxury items.

Here is a link to one of those articles (and pictures) for those who do not know what I'm speaking about.

And here is a link to a response to it, as given by the Vogue India editor.

At this point, I have two questions:

1- It's been a month or so now since these pictures have been out: Does anyone speak about them anymore? Or is it that the shock simply faded and the distaste turned into indifference?

2- My second question is: Are we actually looking at the right thing here? [I don't want to vent my rage towards Priya Tanna's stupid comments (she's not blond, oh no, she is simply STUPID) on how fashion is not to be taken seriously and about how fashion has nothing political about it. I wonder how is it that it can not be political when so much of the world's money is being poured into such an industry? And what does it mean when she says that the new advertising campaign is not political while at the same time, she claims that this campaign is saying that there is no distinction between rich and poor and they they can all carry fashion beautifully?]

The question is not whether the pictures themselves are tasteless. If they have aesthetic value, I guess they are not tasteless in themselves. The question is not how the pictures can be shocking either-- I mean, come on, in an India where we drive our cars and shop for a shirt at 1200 INR and still do not see a child sleeping on the road in-front of the mall, how can the juxtaposition of rich and poor be so shocking?!

What I think nobody is looking at when it comes to these pictures is that the latter with all their aesthetic value (which I grant, they do have) and their shocking potential are getting circulated and put into the public sphere, to be seen, to have a degree of visibility in magazines as well as hoardings. The question thus is: WHAT IS THIS VISIBILITY DOING?

I think this visibility is simply increasing the outright insensitivity of the Indian population to what is happening around them. What shocked me the most, and still shocks me the most about the Indian population is how a minority of clearly capitalist owners ('This is MY shit. Nobody touches it.') simply decides not to see what is happening around them. The insensitivity is flagrant, to say the least. Nobody wants to see the poverty, nobody wants to see people sleeping on the road, for the simple reason that one has a car and a flat in a respected society (with a security guard at the gate): so one does not have to see the poverty around.

My question to Priya Tanna is: Are those pictures saying that both the rich and the poor can carry fashion trends beautifully, or are they simply saying, "it's okay if there are poor people around, just keep buying and remain insensitive."

I don't think the pictures are shocking in themselves, or tasteless (that would be taking a high moral stand only for the sake of doing it) but I definitely think their entrance into the public sphere (in terms of advertisement or otherwise) is questionable for what they are doing, more than what they are.

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