A couple weeks ago my course leader arranged a symposium for our Fashion Spectacle class. A handful of people in various parts of the industry came and spoke with us about their exeroences. About halfway through the day he said that we would be Skyping with UAL alum Nastja Säde Rönkkö and that she had a performance piece for us.
When the Skype call started we were all shocked to see Shia LeBeouf’s face pop up on the big screen! Afterward I learned that a few people thought it must have been a video. He introduced himself and then began reading from Guy DuBord’s The Society of Spectacle. It took a couple of minutes for me to catch onto what he was reading and to get my head wrapped around what was happening. To be honest it was hard to pay attention and not immediately start texting and tweeting about it!
It was a really interesting and exciting experience. I feel lucky that I got to experience it first hand and I am very thankful to our course leader for arranging it. We’ve been talking about how spectacle is built into our society and how necessarily fashion- particularly fashion photography- fit into that. Of course Shia is not a fashion photographer, but he is the best possible person to explore this concept of spectacle with. Because he is a well known celebrity his mere presence makes him a spectacle- the media attention and his ‘antics’ make the spectacular nature of his existence even more pronounced and obvious. However, to make it more interesting, the text he was reading decries the society of spectacle that we live in and his presentation was utterly boring and void of spectacle as it were. It was early morning in LA, he was dressed very casually, drinking coffee and reading to a bunch of students a text they should have already read. The spectacle ceases to be spectacular… But then one remembers again who he is and he just keeps reading and reading and reading for ages and the whole thing circles back around to being utterly spectacular.
The whole experience is a bit of a mind bender. Is he a brilliant artist? Or is he a wannabe cavorting with great artists? We might never know, but I absolutely love participating in the conversation.