Someone once said that confidence has no budget. It can be deployed with a single word or gesture. It transforms experience, not unlike a caption transforms an image. The best captions can be moved from one picture to another. Their traction is timeliness, timing is everything. Just as a commercial image arrests a certain conversation happening in the public sphere, its textual foil needs a distinct rhythm but a matched tempo. To be in-time means to get old just as quickly, to age with the moment’s passing—like a pop song might, like the best singles often do.
Timelessness on the other hand makes itself relevant by hedging on the opposite: an exteriority to time or popular taste, to the architecture of period. And can we imagine anything right now as hopelessly démodé as any kind of exteriority? That’s another era. In culture, there is no dignity in abstaining from a conversation anymore, any conversation really. There is only prudishness.
Conversations might be key here somehow, or, to describe it more generally, maybe it’s a certain promiscuity we’re talking about. Some say we’re living in the age of promiscuous collaborations in hip-hop, for example. Everyone is working with everyone, and its degree zero seems to be the emergence of the networked single. This is a song, oftentimes accompanied by a music video, in which four or more performers appear, each contributing to a plurality of vocal styles that—seemingly in spite of themselves—hold together as some kind of textured whole. It’s this latitude of difference that makes cohesion possible; it’s this that fills the sails.
Everyone seems to want to talk about networks these days. I’d like to talk about momentum and its articulation. How does one articulate a style that produces its own motion, that moves through culture by way of a self-sustained and generative force? To remain at the center of a conversation, one can’t really stand still. Ratcheting up the tempo of production is one way forward. Another might be slowing down, always working, but slower.
Speed itself has now become a certain style. Maybe we already felt this, years ago, even if we’re saying it just now. But what, then, did we really learn about ourselves that we didn’t already know? Let’s talk about energy. Walk down Hudson Street, or into a fashionable West Village restaurant. Take in the scene: the fabrics, the patterns. Today everything will feel at odds, random, clashing—tough combinations of material, mixed prints, rounded peplums over squares, stripes with circles—and somehow, all curiously pleasing.