Simon Pope on Fri, 20 Feb 1998 21:05:30 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> This is London

The Futile Style of London
at I/O/D website

This is London.

- Josh Precocious small boy steps, jet-lagged,from Club Class. Inch-thick
soles of Airwalk gleaming white as the black run at St. Anton.
Droors-brand army surplus combat trousers and North Face puffa indicating
an intention to do business on and off piste.  Self-contained under hood
and high-TOG breathable future fabric. Self-reliance velcroed tightly into
place, an outward manifestation of the prep-school motto - "You are alone.
Trust no-one. " It's been a good year for Josh what with him starting-up
WEBCOM.NET.  Da= d would be proud. Those wild years at university seemed
distant. Saving trees (Dreads! what was he thinking of?) and sleeping with
that gi= rl whose dad was a NUM rep (fatal mistake! Don't sleep with the
enemy!). The one great thing about this business at this moment in time is
that yo= u can take what used to have cultural credence and sell it on to
the world and his personal assistant. Slow it down, scratch it in that at
way that reminds other people of Bronx-bound trains and Futura 2000 graff.
Put so= me loops over it, something with a big beat for stomping kids
kinda like ear= ly Beastie Boys. Add some titles in fake-fucked Courier,
sim-printer-misfeeds and mid-frame hair-in-the-gate film-stutter to deny
all digital process and complete the whole Radical lo-fi feel. And so Josh
extends the business enterprise of his dad's generation into the 90's.
Globe-trotting 007 execs dreaming of Suzie Wong extended by transnational
gottabe Goldies dreaming of Jackie Chan flicks. Where Josh'= s dad's
business was built on international trade in fossil fuels Josh mak= es his
wedge from the trade in cultural currency. It's high tide in the UK f= or
pseudo-Japanese, infantilised graphics: flat colour, highly delineated,
softly curved outlines, (perfect for Freehand and Illustrator), and
moving-in with Takishi was a stroke of genius for getting it real. A tap
into the mainline of a totally obverse cultural resource.  It's hard work
fronting the business and trying to deal with a relationship which demand
s parity on every level. Maybe it's the single sex school's fault but too
late to undo the conditioning.  "Some other culture's have just got it
right.  Thousands of years of people knowing their place and still having
the coolest gadgets."

- Justin Josh's co-director is the bread head. Justin used to be an
account manager up West with one of the big-noise, big-budget agencies.
Eight years living a one man yuppie revival in the pristine post-Lloyds
white tower would have tipped a more scrupulous man over the edge. Walking
monochrome corridors,scoping for black-clad door-whores for a moments
abrasion can seem futile , but leaving this cathedral dedicated to the
power of spectacle would invoke an immediate 'access denied' in the
four-star staff canteen. Each day necessitated more urgent solutions to
the problem . How to squeeze into the half-lined, pleated and turned-up, 2
button, slim lapelled Agnes B? It was obvious that the countdown had
begun. Ground-zero approached fast, like a student out of the School of
Hypermedia Research with an assignment to deliver and a liberty to take.
Why not steal a few clients for yourself and make a go of it? Everyday
could be casual Friday. Imagine: wearing post-rave leisure wear to WORK.
Cool. The two of them came together with the intention of first cajoling
then melding a band of like-minded individualists into a 'design
collective'. In vogue during the summer of '96 and into the first half of
'97, this notion that a loose association of college friends could turn
into an international ad/pr/design agency for the kids appealed to
everyone from TV post-production drones to fully indoctrinated Royal
College post-graduates. Treat the office as a club, bedroom, chill-out and
war-zo ne and still make a healthy profit from the communication needs of
the world= s more obnoxious business ventures. The best of both worlds:
the arrogance of the college leaver with financial rewards of the
superannuated D&AD conformist. For those that were stylistically
disadvantaged by the Eighties, a period of grace was declared in '97 where
transition from besuited thirtysomething to crophaired young Turk in
only-available-in-New-York Nikes was made possible without anyone openly
laughing in your face. The decision to move over to post-rave conformity
had an unbearable inevitability about it, and the signs of final
transformation, the Roni Size CD on repeat play in the studio, would be
accompanied by the first self-reflective draw on some spliff AT WORK.
Crossover achieved. Adolescence recovered. Keeping the memories of this
journey through to the other side alive is important. Not, as you may
expect so that the feeling of achievement migh t bolster an otherwise over
inflated ego, but because clients love it. They troop-into your studio,
(still unhappily besuited) and, faced with the ha ze of smoke and the
background sounds of ambient darkside hardstep, feel like they've entered
the den of iniquity that they always suspected lay behind every art
student's bedroom door. This is somewhere they've never been before. Yes,
they've had the holidays to Thailand, Phuket, Bali. OK, so they've visited
friends in Hong Kong - and since handover, Singapore; and they've watched
Trainspotting and even read the book that time, but while they were at Uni
they couldn't get close. With eyes on an MBA at Yale and an internship
with ANZ there was no way that the risk was going to be worth it.  So
they're in their mid-thirties and now they can actually BUY into this
stuff. "I've got the brains, you've got the looks. Lets make lots of
money." as one of Justin's favourite songs would have it. For brains they
turned to Andy. 

-Andy Andy is bright enough and could easily be several rungs up the
ladder in the City fixing Tokyo Marine's corporate intranet or holding the
hand of floor traders as they try to comprehend the inanity of their
everyday lives whilst squinting at the harsh pink and blue representations
of Tiger economies crashing, HEY LOOK! right there, on their screens. He
knows his TCP from his IP, his NLMs from his AUTOEXEC.NCFs. WEBCOM.NET
would have a severely limited skillset had Andy not been delivered with a
2:1 after going full term at Kings. Server-side backend UNIX flavoured
mindfuck gives most Web designers instant impotence and an overweening
self-doubt. Not good for business let alone personal development. So all
the black arts of CGI and increasingly Java are left to Andy.  In most
cultural and technological shifts, people like Andy aren't the public face
of the industry. Now is no exception. They are in no way 'cool'. They like
the same music as their older brothers and dress in whatever is on the
floor and smells least like chip fat or the sweet, baked bean sweat of
teen-boys bedrooms. When this cycle of boom and bust is long forgotten,
Andy will still have his head down and know the worth of a good PING
program. Enough of Andy

Night time. Brewer Street. Soho. London. Rain on the narrow streets. Every
surface appears as oil. Neon lights, peepshow pinks and reds fracture the
taxi window. Hot ciabatta breath spills steam. Moist hearts onto dank
glass. Adam drops his ennui-laden shoulders inside his Le Mans inspired
jacket and stares that blank Directors stare through fixed-focus eyes. In
his dreams: the plastic grey rear seat, piped with red, takes a hint from
last years Helmut Lang and bucks the trend, preferring camel as the new
black. Transformed by force of will into soft calfskin. Puckered and
buttoned in tasteful restraint against the lard-arse behind the dry clean
only Comme des Garcon poly mix sta-press. A Saint, a double-Oh-seven.
Black leather double breasted three-quarter length coat could conceal an
Uzi. Could conceal the palmtop-remote-control-video-conference-web-phone.
 A silent warrior-monk tooled-up with yet-to-be-fulfilled potential.
Wardour Street. Soho. London. This Director's Cut commands a cross-fade,
covetously, into the parallel world of film and video, where warp-driven,
powder-fuelled lunches thrive on THAT tale of kilos of columbian biked fr
om pillar to Post. Here's the potential to let your career fly like Tom
Cruise in that Apple ad for Mission Impossible - through the loser-debris
of misplaced zeal and missed Playstation R&D opportunities.  Tumbling
throug h three-sixty to avoid the rotor blade of JeansCorp sanctioned
Shockwave fun, whilst behind you, beneath you and all around, the flak
ricochets fr om off of shattered WebSite dreams. Feel the cold burn of
inhaled ROM fumes - the exhaust of trashed graphics enthusiasts, blasted
like so many particles, calculated and rendered in full 72 mil resolution
by Silicon Graphics workstations. The beads of sweat form on Adam's
artfully concealed but receding hairline, mirroring the grey rain as it
slides asthmatically down the mildewed taxi window. Every journey home has
been like this recently. A video tape plays and rewinds, caught in a
frenzied loop, wearing his patience thin. Every drop-out amplified . Each
iteration reinforcing the feeling that trust has been misplaced. That
saving your best work for your highest profile client has not paid off. 
Art & Business. Like grape and grain. Start out on one. Don't finish on
the other. And the aural signs are starting to show. The upspeak. Blurted
out, too late for modification into much-respected Albarn mockney. Four
long years from version 3 thru 6, slowly losing a grip on the point of it
all. A time for change. Maybe reinvention is the only solution. Notting
Hill. London. Home. Flipping his last ten pence piece, the severed
monarch's head floats, goading, and mocking his situation. Only one thing
left to do: just fucking phone Justin... 

Simon Pope 19/02/98

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