Edited by: Pratyusha Gupta
Humans are inclined to make up heroes. The allure of an epitome of something, or someone, is a tradition passed down centuries– we like to idealize, to reach through our imagination where reality might lack. Right from war generals to great artists, or from Greek Mythologies to political campaign agendas, we have a tendency to draw up distinctions between people merited in whatever criterion we deem most valued at the time- wealth or wisdom, courage or beauty, skill or divinity and the common, the me and you, the anonymous banter around what the eminent inspire. We form cultures around these narrations, and the inspired narratives serve as a much-needed escape from the mundanity of our own lives. Arguably though, we live in a slightly more complicated world now with the advent of technology challenging our previously ascribed notions around privacy – that’s why, celebrities. And scrolling through X or Tumblr or Instagram after (during?) classes. This lays the foundation of a multimillion-dollar industry, of Media, Advertisement, Hollywood, Film, Art and by extension all the categories drawn up to sustain it- ranging from award shows such as the Oscars and the Grammys, Reality television, Late Night Shows, to Interviews with puppies. You get to pick.
Obviously, the traditional mindset of viewing certain aspects of celebrity is constantly being challenged due to not only the obscureness of facts and data that we collect from their lives through increased access to different SNS, but also how they’re tokenized by labels and contracts and producers to curate a persona. Now more than ever a pattern is emerging of building a brand out of a personality, with several celebrities not only venturing into their own lines of business but also anchoring themselves in certain subcultures and aesthetics to ascertain a public image, ones that most people in the particular domain find themselves queuing behind.
Recently, these boundaries of privacy have become increasingly blurry- especially since the ascent of a video recording, allowing for what Joe Sabia, creator of the infamous 73 Questions with Vogue series, calls a rare glimpse into their unfiltered minds. This isn’t a contemporary phenomenon by any measure– Mrs. Kennedy with her famous Jackie’s White House Restoration Project, was one of the earliest connoisseurs in this field with her 60-minute talk show outlining the American Culture incorporated within her home. Here, the viewer is almost equated to a personal guest, and she’s seen expertly breaking the fourth wall while taking centre stage, which is unsurprising considering almost 56 million people tuned in. This was also closer to when Americans and Russians put up exhibitions in each other’s countries as a way of arguing over Capitalist and Communist systems and therefore the personal luxury outlook played a role, even politically, in supporting the capitalistic doctrines. In the larger scale of events that this inspired though, several successors followed suit- not just with Shelter magazines focusing on decor but through shows such as MTV Cribs, Selling Sunset and broader themes of this being followed even in shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
This intimacy is really tied into the crafting of a home obviously, a space that is private by definition, also allows for the display of personal, private emotions. Obviously, as consumers, we’re instantly hooked- to shows like this or Open Door by Architectural Digest–which has earned the reputation of being the New Vogue and earns tens of millions of views on the daily. Each object in the background emanates a certain importance in connection with the person’s lifestyle- and by questioning each choice, we get room for reflecting on our own personal sense of belonging and gauge what would probably work best for us, especially after being exposed to so many ideas at length.This also ties into our perception of beauty and luxury- the rich and the famous easily take their place as almost a standard for the general population to aspire to. Obviously, this upper class is always regurgitating ideas to make the dissimilarity more obvious, leading to a constant change in desired attributes of beauty and it becoming an industry one almost has to keep up with. Nevertheless, most trends that have arisen recently seem to be a negotiation between these two varied classes- a compromise between principles of practicality and affordability as well as the niche and personal outlook that the famous seek. One of the most common examples of a methodology emerging from this exchange would be Modernist architecture, back in the ’60s, with its sleek white walls and wooden designs, mixing the subtlety of textures with whites, browns, and blacks- almost what is associated with the Old Money aesthetic today. An interesting phenomenon to note is also just how the rich are able to reclaim the public for themselves through symbols such as private spas, or in-house grocery stores and how ultimately watching this privilege leads to our own conflicts with class. As environmental psychologist Adeola Enigbokan accurately points out “The interest in looking at pictures of home design goes beyond escapism. It touches on people’s experiences of immigration and asylum, exclusion because of gender or sexual identity, rising and falling in class, fear of living alone for the first time after a divorce, and so on.”
I, also, just think that the reason for this fascination is that we love to collect tokens of everyday life. A corn stool. The sun draped on olive green sheets. Vinyl Records arranged alphabetically in a thrifted cabinet. No windows in a bedroom to sleep in till late. The area designated in the backyard where the dog goes to piss. A general argument about our lifestyle is that we are losing touch with reality, that we feel less connected to each other as a result of our schedules and cycles and how increasingly private we are allowed, or even forced to be– leisure is quite literally a luxury and time is one of the biggest resources of the working class. Finding a faint recognition within ourselves and others through watching (or making!) these videos, through an exploration of the prosaic, is something I’ve at least come to enjoy, and I think feeds our innate desires of being known and recognised– on both ends, the curator and the viewer.