Malcolm Mclaren, Situationist, Bon Vivant Ringmaster Extrodinaire
In my world I absolutely adore context. Context is the mysterious confluence of forces and people that create the culture and all the shiny happy things that make existence worthwhile. My view of the world believes that the confluence of scenes, influential people and subcultures created everything good on the consumable planet and corporate megopolies, greed and indifference created everything bad...I sound like a borderline commie. Trust me this is not the case as the shades of grey come in battleship, tope, graphite, ashphalt and on and on. Malcolm Mclaren died this week and he was one of these social pivots. Mclaren was a musical and visual spike in the cultural tapestry that created the aesthetic storm that drove my identity in the 1980s. Mclaren's life spanned a period of radical social shifts and he was a locus of that energy that drove the avant garde of the 1980s. I don't want to overstate things but if the confluence of music modernism, fashion antifashion and New York City mean anything to you then you were touched by Mclaren.
One of the infuences in Mclarens life was the "Situationist International". This group explored the connections between capitalism, mass media and empowerment (I grabbed the quote from Wikipedia):
"They fought against the main obstacle on the fulfillment of such superior passional living, identified by them in advanced capitalism. Their theoretical work peaked on the highly influential book The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord. Debord argued in 1967 that spectacular features like mass media and advertising have a central role in an advanced capitalist society, which is to show a fake reality in order to mask the real capitalist degradation of human life. To overthrow such a system, the Situationist International supported the May '68 revolts, and asked the workers to occupy the factories and to run them with direct democracy, through workers' councils composed by instantly revocable delegates."
Malcolm came from Schmata. His Jewish mother remarried and with Macolm's step father ran a clothing factory in Londons East End. He grew up around clothing. Mclaren was a supreme dandy celebrating beautiful things, clothing and tailoring and destroying those same values in spectacular fashion. His own clothing creations with his gf Westwood are legendary. Punk Rock would probably not have been as influential without Mclaren and the Sex Pistols and the excellence of his branding. His life is a story of puddle jumping from now famous cultural inflences like Deborah Harry and Westwood. The agendas of cultural terrorism by radical groups like King Mob in England all contributed to Mclaren's genius but he was a lense for all that unfocused cultural energy. As predicted by the politics of the movement itself...all that radicalized spectacle of Mclaren et al has become reified events of mass culture, a mere chimera of politics now all empty style! Check out this great rememberance by Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls...http://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/index.php/2010/04/12/new-york-dolls-sylvain-sylvain-remembers-malcolm-mclaren/