Kyle Chayka: “Marie Kondo is in a lot of danger” | Culture


American art and technology journalist Kyle Chayka, 33, studies the history of minimalism in his book want less (Gatopardo Ediciones; translation by María Antonia de Miquel) to try to understand how the teachings of a radical avant-garde movement of the 60s and 70s mutated into simple self-help recipes and a hashtags with 25 million posts on Instagram. To talk about it, she meets us at a (minimalist) hotel in Washington, from where she collaborates for publications such as New Yorker The The New York Times Magazine. This Monday he talks at the Center de Cultura Contenporània de Barcelona (CCCB) with the sociologist Liliana Arroyo about “digital abundance”.

Ask. Sculptor Donald Judd and company didn’t want to teach us the best way to organize a closet, unlike today’s minimalism gurus cuckoo.

Answer. It is paradoxical that this aesthetic revolution has been reduced to how to live and how to surround yourself with beautiful things. It was around 2015 when I realized it. The word was used for anything: hotels, bars, dry skin treatments, fashion… There, I thought, is a book.

P. Is the blame for everything Marie Kondo, Japanese guru of order?

r His figure has a lot of danger, in a way. It offers solutions that are too easy to change your life. It has been able to work for many people, but it makes them not think for themselves. He is sickly: he asks you to examine all your objects and, one by one, decide which ones are really important, to then sell you some ideal drawers to organize what you have saved from burning.

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P. In the book he tells the case of an exhibition in New York (and later in London) of the painter Agnes Martin, whose transgressive message turned a fashion brand into clothes.

r The real change came with Instagram. Suddenly, all fashion and design products had to fit into that space and that language. The square with white background.

P. “Less is more”, as the architect Mies van der Rohe used to say…

r He was the one who popularized it, but it goes back much earlier, to the austere life of monks in the Middle Ages, for example. And in the East, much further back. The process went like this: from art, to architecture, with icons like Philip Johnson’s Glass House, and from there to design, fashion, and blogs with advice on how to take back the reins of your life in this anxious time. .

The master of artistic minimalism Donald Judd, in Arizona, in an undated image.
The master of artistic minimalism Donald Judd, in Arizona, in an undated image.

P. The United States is not a particularly minimalist country.

r Here we invent the freedom to buy…

P. And to accumulate!

r It’s true, it’s in the Constitution [Risas]. That’s why this latest incarnation of minimalism hit hard in this country. People got fed up with so much junk. And then there was the crisis of 2008. That’s when we realized that our lifestyle would never be to earn more and more and consume what we wanted. Especially us, the millennials. We learned in our miserable, tiny apartments that there would always be more stuff than space.

P. Following that reasoning… What will cause the current shortage crisis?

r It is making us realize that living in the world of Amazon and having anything delivered in two days may just be another of the great contemporary hoaxes.

P. Is minimalism a thing for the rich?

r It shouldn’t, but it is. When you stop buying 70 clothes a year (which is what the average American buys) to concentrate on just five valuable pieces, you will probably be asked for a thousand bucks each, or you will buy a 60 million mansion and the empty even more, like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

P. And white? Is it a white thing?

r The idea of ​​minimalism that arises with modernity is a Western invention, although it has its roots in ancient Eastern philosophies. In the case of music, it was above all a private club of white men: La Monte Young Steve Reich, Terry Riley Philip Glass… That’s why the case of Julius Eastman, who was black and gay, is so interesting. And in the ’80s, in the New York of AIDS, he offered a very powerful, very unkind perspective. His work is being discovered in recent years.

P. It helped you always wear gray when Donald Trump, perhaps the least minimalist politician in history, won the election.

r It was my way of finding stability in a suddenly hostile environment. The Japanese have a word for that: to. In the book I say it, from the philosopher Shūzō Kuki, author of The structure of the ‘iki’ (1930): “grey can reflect the minimalist union of opposites as well as their sense of escapism”.

P. Was lockdown the ultimate minimalist experience?

r I wrote an article comparing it to sensory deprivation techniques, those water tanks where you’re suspended in the dark. He allowed us to think about what was around us. And since you could only access what you had at home, many considered the minimalist lifestyle. If you can’t go anywhere, you better not have thrown it all away. So everyone went shopping. I, without going any further, got my first TV.

P. And will the famous metaverse be minimalist?

r It will be the ultimate paradox. Nothing in the physical world. Everything in the digital. I’m pretty divided on that. And I do not understand too much the bet of Facebook [que incluye un cambio de nombre de la compañía, para pasar a llamarse Meta] I think we already live in the metaverse; we are all day in the cloud. I don’t see the interest in meeting with your co-workers in virtual reality. I hope my future goes more towards seeing my friends more often in the real world.

P. What are you working on now?

r In a book about the Internet, and how the culture of the algorithm determines us. How is Instagram changing us? Why does Tik Tok define the way we dance? How is Twitter affecting essay literature?

P. Are you on all those networks?

r I’m afraid so. I entered Tik Tok with the purpose of investigating and now I am one more victim.

P. Would you say there is a way millennialsomewhat self-centered, to write an essay?

r Social networks encourage you to share your point of view, to contribute your personal vision all the time. Suddenly, you can only write and read texts that are based on your own experience. all are memories. I enjoy it, but sometimes I wish I could just read about a topic, without the writer’s personality getting in the way. It can be exhausting. Curiously, so much personalism ends up resulting in a homogenization of style. Everything is personal essays, even when the subject is the White House.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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