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Emily 17th December 2010 06:36

''Maximalism'' for 2011
I recall a fascinating thread that was posted on this forum last year, which discussed how one retired surgeon had decided to reject modernism in home design and to create a kind of neo-Baroque environment in his home.

It was encouraging to see, but its impact was limited by its singularity.

Well, a new article at a home-decorating web site proclaims the arrival of a whole new trend in design that is of a similar nature, called "Maximalism":

Says the piece:

According to the December/January House Beautiful, Glam, like steampunk and the New Victorian, will be right on trend for 2011. And if the steampunk-types are shrugging off any minimalist influences, the glam acolytes rally against them. It's all about more, more, and more. More color, more pattern, more cultures, more...stuff. The glam style seems to be a lighthearted free-for-all with a historical bent, and with influence from some of the past century's most revered interior designers

I very much appreciate the association of this "Maximalist" style with another mode that Maureen and Tamika have discussed on this forum: Neo-Victorianism, or New Victorianism (also called "steampunk," although I prefer the Victorianism terms). And goodness, doesn't a movement that "rallies against minimalism" and wants "more, more, and more" fit in perfectly with the opulent aesthetic of plus-size beauty? The "historical bent" is also appealing.

I don't care for all of the examples that the article provides, but I do like this illustration, exemplifying the maximalist style:

The related, linked article about New Victorianism features the House Beautiful editor interviewing a number of designers, who identify Neo-Victorian and New Ruralism as two of the trends that will be dominant in 2011. When I heard the latter, I had to wonder if these don't correspond to Classic Lolita and Country Lolita, two of the historically inspired fashion styles that have been discussed on the forum in the past.

At any rate, I'd like to think that the rise of these historicist and unmistakably anti-modern styles, and in particular the "maximalist" aesthetic behind them, represents a burgeoning rejection of minimalism and the "aesthetics of guilt" that have been held over since the 20th century, and finally herald the dawning of an Aesthetic Restoration that will usher in timeless, Old World aesthetics. Certainly such a change would have to mean a renewed appreciation for the fuller female figure, with "maximalist" models taking the place of "minimalist" models (i.e., plus-size goddesses replacing straight-size androgynes).

Tamika 17th December 2010 21:22

Re: ''Maximalism'' for 2011
Thank you for such a wonderful post and interesting articles, Emily. More and more people are beginning to turn from the boring, ugly modernist styles and look to the past for beauty in design. Not only are old homes being renovated to restore their former glory, but new homes are also being built as testaments to the grandeur of the past.

The steampunk trend in design is an encouraging one. Often, a problem with designing new homes in old ways is that there are so many modern pieces of technology that have only been designed in ultra-modern ways so far. Steampunk takes these technological items and re-imagines them as they would have looked like in the Victorian era. Pieces such as this Victorian-era laptop conjure a world where even the most mundane or hi-tech of items are built in a beautiful, antique manner.

Pair that with the increasing trend towards New Victorianism in design and we're well on the path to aesthetic restoration.

HSG 30th December 2010 12:59

Re: ''Maximalism'' for 2011

Nothing could be a more propitious sign for our cause than the advent of a new movement (one doesn't wish to limit it by dubbing it a mere trend) called "Maximalism." The name perfectly expresses the aesthetic that it identifies, encapsulating it in a single word. The term also signals the antipode of this movement, minimialism--that self-abnegating aesthetic which has blighted Western culture for the better part of a century, restraining it and binding it, keeping it in check, preventing it from flowering into the fullness of its potential.

The apocalypse of 1945 shattered the cultural confidence of the Old World and left it vulnerable to hostile ideologies that libelled it with war guilt, saddling it with shame. This politics of guilt was coupled with what we have termed the aesthetics of guilt--a suppression of the traditional Faustian character of the West, the "striving after the infinite" which had impelled European culture to produce ever-more-beautiful paintings, ever-more-eloquent poetry, ever-more-imposing monuments, ever-grander cathedrals, ever nobler statues.

Indeed, it is odd to be speaking of Maximalism as a new trend at all, when one could rightly use the term "maximal" to characterize the dominant aesthetic of Western art throughout its history, right from its pre-Classical, MycenŠan origins. (What is the Iliad, after all, if not a maximal poem about an epic conflict, with larger-than-life heroes?) Maximalism, one could say, is the default aesthetic of the West, just as war was the default condition of the Classical city-states, interspersed by unnatural interludes of peace.

Maximalism reigned from the dawn of European culture right up until the Treaty of Versailles. However, the twin tragedies of the world wars (the Civil Wars of the West) produced an aesthetic coup d'Útat that displaced the Faustian tradition and ushered in the tyranny of minimalism, an alien dictatorship which has clung to power right up to the present day.

Upon the ascendancy of minimalism, instead of glorious Neo-Gothic buildings teeming with ornamental decorations, architects produced steel-and-glass boxes, as plain as they were ugly. Instead of gorgeous paintings of the luscious glory of the natural world, artists created abstract canvasses of lines or squares or random, misshapen forms. Beauty was banished, magnificence was cast out, and "guilt" and "shame" were writ large in every cultural product of the postwar period.

And as we know all too well, the collapse of the aesthetic of Maximalism was coupled with (and emblematized by) the suppression of the full-figured feminine beauty ideal. The introduction of minimalism in visual art heralded the "flappers" who brought in the first androgynous aesthetic for women, shortly after the conclusion of World War One, which toppled so many aristocratic Old World dynasties.

The latter point is especially significant, because the exact parallel of the fortunes of Maximalism with the fortunes of the aristocratic tradition of the West is not coincidental. A society built on notions of aristocracy and nobility and hierarchy will ever reach upward, will ever yearn for greatness. Its art will ever be an expression of that striving for more, for bigger, for better. By contrast, minimalism is the aesthetic of levelling, of puling democratic humility, of mass mediocrity, of cutting down to size anyone who dares to excel.

That is, after all, what the modern, androgynous aesthetic enacts on plus-size goddesses. It takes a gorgeous, full-figured woman and curbs her beauty by starving her, minimizing her femininity by decreasing her curves, dimming the light of her loveliness, literally diminishing her into a lesser state.

But it may well be that now, finally, after successive generations of levelling and mediocrity, society has at last grown exhausted with such mind-numbing, deadening minimalism. It once again yearns for more. The stranglehold of guilt that the cultural-Marxist ideologues clamped onto Western man since the war is no longer as tight as it once was. We may at last be rediscovering our Sehnsucht, our longing for more. The Faustian blood still flows in our veins, and Barbarossa is awakening from his slumber.

What a voluptuous goddess relishes "more, more, more," as the initial article expresses it--more food, more dessert, more indulgence--she is realizing her aristocratic inclinations. She is rejecting the "mind-forged manacles" of minimalism, the levelling restrictions of guilt, and is allowing her beauty to blossom to its fullest potential.

Just as we now yearn for Maximalism in the design of our domiciles, so do we long for a reemergence of Maximalism in female beauty. After long settling for half-starved, minimal expressions of attractivness, Western culture hungers once again for richer fare, for a well-fed, wide-open flowering of femininity, teeming with soft fullness, resplendent in her lavish opulence--in short, everything that Shannon Marie embodies in this, the most famous image of her career, when she was at the very peak of her lusciousness, when she was maximally gorgeous.

May 2011 at last see the triumph of Maximalism over minimalism, of beauty over guilt, and usher in the rebirth of the Faustian spirit that is innate to the Western soul.

- Beauty deserves its full portion

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