Dolce far niente


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Posted by HSG on February 23, 2005 at 04:57:16:

In Reply to: Re: Mk One, Orientalism, Kate Dillon..... posted by Melanie W. on February 22, 2005 at 01:20:55:


The comparison between Mode and Orientalist art is novel, but withstands scrutiny.

Both exude a palpable atmosphere of "La dolce vita"--or, as Mode termed it, "The Pleasure Zone." They endeavour to create oases of contentment and delight as respites from the brutal realities of the here-and-now.

Furthermore, both Orientalist art and early issues of Mode prominently feature exotic landscapes and faraway locales. This technique of "geographical displacement," of removing readers from their everyday surroundings and revealing to them new worlds that are richer and more vibrant than their own, is more than escapism (although it is that as well). It is a way of introducing the viewer to unfamiliar cultures with aesthetic values (and other values) that differ dramatically from those that they know.

For Mode, that meant helping readers realize that the thin-supremacist world around them is not an inevitable state of affairs, but merely an isolated cultural phenomenon, and that other parts of the globe view feminine beauty very differently.

(The technique more commonly used here, of "time displacement"--i.e., of contrasting the aesthetic values of the modern world with those of every era prior to our own--operates along similar principles.)

So yes, it is fair to say that Orientalist art and Mode sought to create similar effects.

And let's not forget their most important likeness of all--i.e., their common preference for timeless femininity.

William Clarke Wontner (1857-1930), The Persian Girl:

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