Thursday, October 04, 2007

McLaren has an audience

It's fascinating to discover that Malcolm McLaren is on the board of Philips, the auctioneers, and somehow appropriate for a man whose career has always been about extracting as much money as possible from artists' efforts.

Whne the Telegraph goes to meet him, he's obviously puffed his ego up as much as possible; he misses the point when Nigel Farndale tries a cheeky question about how posterity will view him:

[A] man obsessed by his own self-image, I suggest.

'Completely. I have always loved the idea of being someone who can disappear, of never having an identity. It was probably due to my dysfunctional childhood.'

McClaren? Disappearing? Not if he can possibly avoid it. The man is Hereford in his own constantly redrawn Mappa Mundi:
'In the art world I am a sought-after creature,' he says haughtily. 'To participate in whatever, to endorse whatever.'

Frandale does challenge McClaren's cosy self-indulgence by asking him about his and the Pistol's obsession with the swastika. McClaren's answer isn't entirely satisfactory:
I ask about the fashion, specifically the swastika T-shirt that Sid Vicious always wore, at McLaren's behest. In retrospect does he consider it to have been a gratuitous and sick provocation? 'Not at all.' Does he think he could get away with it today? 'Probably not, but back then we were still on the tip of Sixties libertarianism.'

I suppose what I am getting at is that, well, he was Jewish. Didn't he find the swastika repulsive? 'Not at all. I didn't give a damn about all that. I thought it was just great.' He didn't give a damn about the Holocaust? 'Look, sometimes a younger generation doesn't want to inherit the history of an older generation, so we wanted to appropriate the swastika for ourselves. We wanted to have a clean slate. We decided that we liked certain icons from the past and wanted to reinvent them. We were trying to mix pop culture with politics and art.'

If you believe that Sid was thinking "I shall reclaim the Swastika for myself" when he pulled on his t-shirt in the morning, you're probably beyond saving. McClaren's defence runs counter-intuitive to the whole provocative nature of punk anyway - wearing Nazi iconography as fashion wouldn't have the power to shock if you didn't accept the then-recent history of the swastika; if the idea was reclaim and reky the swastika, what was the new message it was supposed to convey?

Clearly, McClaren doesn't want to say he didn't give a damn about the holocaust; equally clearly, when set against the opportunity to make money, he wasn't that bothered. And given that he's had thirty years to think up a justification that doesn't make him seem like someone who thought the death of millions upon million was somehow ripe for an ironic reevaluation, you'd have thought he could do better than sounding like he was in Kula Shaker.

1 comment:

Neil said...

Kula Shaker, history's greatest monsters!

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