rebel

The Exploitation of Frida

One day in the late 1940’s you find yourself wandering around Coyoacán, Mexico and stop by at La Casa Azul where the rebellious painter lived and ask her: Frida, my dear,  what do you want to be remembered by after you are no longer living on Earth? What do you think the answer would be? I have a couple of versions on my mind, they are all connected with freedom and free love, determination, passion and obsession with life with all of its epic, exciting, moments, but also the inevitable downfalls, pain, sickness and sleepless nights. 

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I am happy that the legendary artist is getting more popular than ever, social media created an important passage for new generations towards her art, words and thoughts about honest love and intimate suffering. The aftermath is amazing, even though Frida passed away 63 years ago, her image and spirit are present while she’s considered as a role model and inspiration to girls and women (and some boys and men, because why not?) of all profiles, especially the underprivileged, misunderstood ones.

Commodification as a norm

Every medal comes with two sides, and the thing that is happening with Frida’s persona, just  like with many other important figures who represent resistance to the system of exploitation, is that they are all being turned into something completely opposite, they’re becoming objects of advertising propaganda. Just think of the irony of Che Guevara, the best example of modern era’s distortion of values – his face selling T-shirts, travel agency deals, coffee mugs, key chains, door mats, towels… There’s even a ‘Che chic’ expression for a fashion inspired by the great revolutionary’s image! The real person and the idea behind is lost, irrelevant, to a great number of people his face is merely a caricature, a pop art commodity.

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To answer the question from the  beginning of the post, I’m positive that Frida Kahlo would never accept the role of a commercialized poster girl, a capitalist icon connected to various products in most ridiculous ways. The last example I saw today, the one that ‘triggered’ me to write this down was a billboard presenting a young model wearing Frida inspired traditional Tehuana like dress with a flower crown and a parrot sitting on her hand, all very rich, colourful, with a big white 10 % SALE banner screaming from the top right corner. Naturally, there is no manifest mention of Frida, but the resemblance is uncanny. Oh, and when I zoomed in towards the bottom right corner of the image, I could finally see it is a commercial for a newly opened furniture store. What is the connection? What do Frida’s face, style and that poor parrot have to do with the new sofa or a lamp they would like you to buy? I have no idea, I’m pretty sure that the ad creators are equally clueless.  That’s the idea, to keep everything floating on the surface, as soon as you dig deeper, try to find any meaning, there’s a dead-end.

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Fake feminism

In Frida’s case the story is even more complicated because it all has a lot to do with commercialization of feminism and empower yourself ads. Empower yourself by buying our shoes, empower yourself by getting that perfume in a drugstore near you, empower yourself by choosing hair extensions from our salon, empower yourself… Ok, just stop for a second there and let me unnecessary analyse it. What does it mean exactly –  if I buy a T-shirt from a brand that currently doesn’t have the ’empower’ or ’embrace your beauty’ campaign going on, am I degrading my self – worth? And what about next month, when the brand I bought the shirt from turns to a different, for example ‘YOLO!’ campaign style while the others begin to embrace the ‘love yourself, be unique, but look just like everyone else while wearing our clothes’ mantra? Damn, it’ s like you can never win and reach 100 % on the empoweredness scale. Should I worry about it, probably not, but I do sometimes. I feel like I have to. Would Frida care? I think not, she would just continue marching on using her talent as a weapon of mass destruction in fighting every stereotype there is on her way to immortality.

Wearing Frida or Che’s face on your shirt is not really a problem, the question is: Do you know who those people are, how they lived and what they stand for? Or are you just wearing it because you like the colors and it looks kind of cool and edgy while their polished images are somewhat familiar and also you saw someone wearing it on a Instagram photo just the other day? If the answer to the second question is yes, take the shirt off and do some research.

Now I need to chill, hand me that Pepsi, Kendall! Cheers!

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The ‘Enfant Terrible’

About a week ago, a gun that Paul Verlaine used to shoot his lover Arthur Rimbaud was sold for 434 500 €. The story that led to one of the most famous love quarrels of the art world developed something like this (at least this is the version I’ve came across many times): on the morning of the 10th of July 1873 Verlaine bought the gun in Brussels with one goal on his mind – to end the passionate, but highly dysfunctional relationship with his 18-year-old teenage prodigy lover.

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The vagabond, tortured genius, a rebel, tragically lost and unadjusted, and to complete the cliché – died too soon. This is our hero – Arthur Rimbaud, the one that never grow up, but wrote better than anyone while it seemed like he’s not even trying. He probably wasn’t, it was a matter of true talent, just like when Bob Dylan described his 60s songwriting skills as something that simply came to him, he can’t completely grasp it or reproduce it, and just like the rest of us, now can  only admire it.

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This is the hotel where on the 10th of July 1873 P. Verlaine wounded  A. Rimbaud by a gunshot

Rimbaud didn’t die from the bullet coming from that famous  gun, during a drunk, probably absinthe induced fight in a hotel room, Verlaine fired two bullets at him with only one hitting him in the wrist. Nothing serious, especially for their bohemian, crazy, poetic, drunk standards, but Rimbaud got scared, called the police and Verlaine ended up serving a two-year sentence of hard labour. Apparently, Verlaine was feeling anxious and suicidal because he couldn’t get rid of his companion and wanted to move back to his wife and children, which obviously didn’t sound like an acceptable plan to Rimbaud.

Ever since the roots of my different interests were formed I created a firm connection between the two rebels I liked, although they were different and separated far away in time – Rimbaud and Sid Vicious. The latter I don’t appreciate through music as much as I did in my ‘formative’ years, but more because of his true punk attitude, although, lets face it – he was a junkie and an idiot.

Still, up to this day as a small, careless homage I wear a cheap locker pendant around my neck, just like I did for the last 8, 9, 10 years. During those early highschool years, Sid was to me an ‘ideal’ image of a fucked up friend/boyfriend who I could love only because I have never met him or had a chance to do so. Otherwise, things would’ve been different, needless to say (no pun intended).  When I grew up a bit I realized that having a Sid & Nancy relationship is not something I strive for (visual aspects aside), getting stabbed to death in a hotel in weird circumstances, even if it’s the cult Hotel Chelsea, is not at all attractive or glamorous. The edge, rebellious attitude and rejection of the rules of society and imposed authority are the traits that are still and always will be stuck with me.

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This also reminded me of a story when Patti Smith explained Arthur Rimbaud was kind of like her boyfriend when she was young because of so much time they’ve spent together. Their relationship obviously payed off and brought a lot to her unique expression, and Patti wasn’t alone of course – it wouldn’t be a real post without mentioning  an impressive list of musicians, writers, cultural  heroes who were directly inspired by Rimbaud’s surrealistic poetry: Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Picasso, Vladimir Nabokov, Richey Edwards, Jack Kerouac….

What would have happened if he didn’t stop writing at the age of only 21? Maybe that’s where the magic came from – a sudden, intensive and mysterious explosion that will continue to inspire generation after generation of those who love to play with words in their own way. The imaginary old, long bearded Rimbaud would be sitting in a rocking chair at some point of his long life and say something like: ‘I don’t know how I did it or where it came from, it just happened and I was a lucky, reckless bastard who had the privilege to let those verses out, save them on paper and put my signature underneath.’

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