METAL #30

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METAL 30 | IMPERFECTION AS AN EPITOME OF BEAUTY

I wrote recently that every time one begins working on an issue of the magazine, what began as a mystery reveals itself little by little as one got closer to the press date. A blank page, the challenge of confronting that which can be both emotional and painful, begin to take shape and colour in a sort of primitive chemical transmutation where elements such as work, luck, ingenuity and persistence have combined in equal parts. The end result is not just limited to that which you can see in these pages. The result, at least for all those who have been immersed in its process of creation, is also that which cannot be seen, that which stays in the background, all that which has fallen by the wayside, the editorial discussions, those vigorous debates, the photos which have been rejected and far more that anyone who may be reading now and may have been involved in similar situations will readily recognize.

I shall say more. If the outcome of any issue is measured in terms of the internal turmoil that it has provoked, without doubt this would be a first rate number and not just in numerical terms. The best issue to date. It can’t get better. Obviously this is not the case – the best is yet to come – and indeed it may even be as imperfect as all the previous issues. But for all that, it has served to generate an interesting and enriching dialogue. I trust that the fruit of all this appears in these pages.

It could not be otherwise, when the task with which we were confronted was anything but simple: to consider something as intangible and emotional as beauty, to explore beauty and its limits. Who determines what is and what is not beauty? What invisible line divides beauty from ugliness? Can we feel attracted by an image and admire its beauty while recognizing in it concepts which have so little to do with beauty such as horror, war and mutilation? Inge Grognard, a make-up artist whose career has evolved in a manner closely linked to Belgium fashion, speaks about the work of the Irish artist, Richard Mosse. Mosse represented his country in the most recent Venice Biennale and was one of the names that appeared in the early drafts of this issue. His infrared photographs showing the Congo war go to make up an excellent collection in red and pink tones as precious and beautiful as it is frightening. Unfortunately, in the end Mosses didn’t make it through to the final version of this magazine. But everybody has their day.

For reasons different to Mosse’s photographs, the work of Asger Carslen also works at border-line territories. His manipulated photographs of unreal bodies generate astonishment and can even lead to their rejection by those who view them. Nonetheless, many of his extremely disturbing images are also possessed of a beauty that is difficult to assimilate. “Some pieces are beautiful to me, even if some people may find them repulsive”, he says. Where, then, is the limit? “I don't want to hurt anybody’s sensibilities.” Moral considerations aside, in the end, as Erwin Wurm states a few pages after Asger, “Whether something is pretty or not depends entirely on the perspective that the observer has on the subject”. The fact is that, on occasions, ones perspective ends up being limited by ones moral, social, religious and aesthetic conventions, which prevent us from going further, in order to get close to that which is free of prejudice, or to do whatever we please how so ever free and modern we think we are. This is the only way that one can understand what Rick Owens did in the last Paris Fashion Week created such a storm. “We're rejecting conventional beauty, creating our own beauty”, said the designer after the show.

Diversity, difference, risk, imperfection are words we like to relate with beauty instead of others such as stereotype, orthodoxy or canon. “Things that feel perfect tend to feel less interesting to me,” says Nick Knight, and we make his words our own. This issue doesn’t propose to be a treatise on beauty; it is merely a note among the many which could have been written. Welcome to our thirtieth issue.

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