‘Omnipresent Layered Inherent History’, a cracking phrase if ever I saw one. I frequently used this behemoth in various college art essays. Got me bugger all in extra marks, but it made me feel pretty damn special.
Essentially it is a descriptive term referring to how elements, be they style, emotion, concept or form can be transported in ‘spirit’ from one entity to another, mostly due to proximity (spacial/cultural etc.). An example could be how a new skyscraper built in London would reflect its immediate surroundings rather more than any particular architectural style of the time. Of course this may be a fairly elementary concept, yet what I liked about the term was the Omnipresent part, that is to say that there is something that can not be created nor destroyed an is always prevalent, no matter what.
Too many times we are informed what we should no longer, wear, listen to, view or say certain things, as if ‘that’s it folks’, ‘nothing to see here’, no show. ‘Painting is dead’, ‘What not to wear’, etcetera, it’s as if there is this need for finality, an admission that what we have here is all it ever will be and thus obsolete.
Yet by stating this finality, the element is seen as finite, i.e with a start, middle and end. How can something as organic in structure as art, fashion, music ever be define in such definite terms.
My girlfriend was recently working in the rather excellent Geffrye museum in our native Smackney (ne. Hackney) . The museum ‘depicts the quintessential style of English middle-class living rooms. Its collections of furniture, textiles, paintings and decorative arts are displayed in a series of period rooms from 1600 to the present day’ . Yet many of these rooms are now so old they are in need of restoring thus in many ways the museum piece has become a museum piece. Another intriguing thing about the museum was the chance to view styles through-out the ages and see first hand the repetition of style and how nothing is really ever created or destroyed. Like a cultural bank, new styles withdraw as the old styles deposit. That’s not to say that they are not different to one another, simply they share many elements. For example a style of floral print that was very popular in the seventies and early eighties was also popular in the 1830’s and early 17th century when it was imported from China with the tea imports (the style was considered to be cheap).
The same can be said of words, the term ‘geek’, originally ‘geck’, a term of Low German/Dutch origin that dates in English to 1511. It means a fool, simpleton, or dupe. American usage (circa. 1876) adds the connotation of offensive or undesirable to the original foolish and stupid sense. It was then taken to mean ‘a sideshow performer who bites the heads off chickens or snakes’. Now of course we take it to mean ‘ a person who may be very smart yet lacks the social graces of those who are considered cool’. A pattern has definitely emerged yet depending on location and thus ‘Omnipresent Layered Inherent History’ the sort of people the term is attributed to has changed, yet not necessarily the crux of the message.
Of course things change, but my question is do they really change that much? Are we simply robbing the cultural bank and buying new things with dirty money?