The Daily Pic

09.20.13

Skinheads with a Delicate Touch

The Daily Pic: Phil Collins shows how the toughest style can clothe a heart of gold.

Phil Collins’s latest video installation at Tanya Bonakdar gallery in New York, in which he presents a fake shopping channel, gives a fascinating look at consumption and our need for potent experiences, both real and artistic. I wrote about it in the latest e-issue of Newsweek – and this still image is not from it. It’s from a  single-channel video called “The Meaning of Style” that is being projected upstairs at Bonakdar and is more traditional in its poetics. (Click on my image to watch a clip.) Over almost five minutes, Collins lets us watch a group of Malaysian skinheads who have rejected the normally Fascistic ethos of their style, opting instead for values that are much more pacific. A moment when one boy releases a flock of butterflies seems to stand for the entire group’s way of being and thinking.

For some time it has been taken as art-critical gospel that form and content make for an indissoluble package; that style always comes freighted with meaning as well as a look. This video implies that style may always have meaning, but we get to decide what it is.

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