Purple Magazine
— S/S 2009 issue 11


People are saying that this is the end. They say it’s the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, and certainly the worst since the Great Depression. I have to confess that when it all began to unfold I started to panic. I relived all the difficult periods this magazine went through — and survived. Still, I was hit hard by the shock, the speed, and the seeming violence of the current crisis, especially since nearly everyone was predicting that even worse times were bound to come. 

Panic is nothing new to us. We live and work in a culture of panic. I’m part of the generation the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk calls “the children of catastrophe,” people who have persuaded themselves that their strength, their ideas, and even their style come from their ability to adapt to catastrophe of one kind or another, and that their power to survive has become more vivid — more real — since, let’s say, around 1977, after the failure of the concepts of freedom and change of the ’70s. The alternative world of art and fashion became a kind of bubble that has developed a pragmatic but aesthetic relationship with the idea of catastrophe. 

It’s as if, on a deeper level, there’s a secret accord, a hidden harmony between modernism’s avant-garde, underground culture, and art in general, with this civilization of panic. We assume that it’s artists of all stripes, and not just radical artists, who are immunized or otherwise protected from the constant, visible fear instilled by the culture of chaos and its most radical arms of communication, the tabloid media and the spokespeople of violent radical conservatism. For me, art has always been about experiencing this panic at an extreme level and then reinterpreting it for its creative potential. Not only do artists reveal the lies, distortions, and manipulations that fuel the culture of panic, they look for the beauty that resides
in the consciousness of fear and chaos.

In this issue Glenn O’Brien interviews a master survivor of panic, Robert Longo; and Dash Snow and I interview AA Bronson, the sole surviving member of the art group General Idea, whose two other co-founders died from AIDS. Add to this Bernard-Henri Lévy’s participation: the thoughts of a person who has continuously confronted war, civil violence, terrorism, and injustice from the position of a critical-thinking Leftist. Also a story by David Lynch, a different kind of terror expert, where he captures an abstract nightmare related in its style to the culture of panic.

Now when I hear people talking about the current economic and social crisis, I think of the opportunity for aesthetic change it brings. When they speak of difficult situations, I think of creativity and art. When I listen to talk about essentials, authenticity, and the true meaning of luxury, I only hear empty words. Let’s face it: this latest global disaster is also a collective artifice. And though it has dramatically affected people’s lives, and will certainly continue to do so, it was no accident, nor something that fell from the sky, but the result of a worn-out, dysfunctional, and perverted system deeply in need of radical change.

What’s the role of an independent magazine like Purple in the world’s fragile balance of art and commerce? It isn’t to mask fraud with beautiful and dreamy fashion, captivating spectacles, or dramatic art. We don’t need false optimism, imaginary worlds, or virtual realities. No, what we need is to preserve a notion of beauty, but not one of a beauty that exists in dreams or artifice. Yes, we’ll continue to retouch pictures. But I believe that a magazine like Purple Fashion can help to rescue beauty from the clutches of catastrophe and make life something other than a series of missed opportunities. This has always been our ambition. 

All the people we interview, photograph, or invite to participate in our magazine are among those who oppose the new global panic. They strive for coherence in their lives. No matter what age they are, if they’re very young or much older, they don’t waste the opportunities given to them in life. This is the ultimate beauty.

To be fully alive you have to assert yourself, otherwise life passes you by. Every instant should breathe life, as in an organic synthesis, lifting us up, giving us unflagging energy. Our experiences, our problems, our ideas, and even our obsessions, mean something only if we are fully alive.


[Table of contents]

S/S 2009 issue 11

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