Forever Young Forever?

There has been an air of the unstable in the news of late, when the reality of the unknown is no more predictable than however many live news forecasts, ticker feeds and tweets one follows. Voltaire described the unknown - plagued with doubt and delusion - as ‘not a pleasant condition’ and deemed certainty as ‘absurd’. Benjamin Franklin concurred with the French philosopher proclaiming the only certainty is that of ‘death and taxes’. Many will argue not a great deal has changed in over two centuries but what is certain is that in another two centuries time society will not only have important statements and documents to reference from our public figures of today, but a vast digital archive of their every move, gesticulation and utterance in both public and private life.
Atlantis returns to Earth on 20th July 2011
Take this week’s historic end of America’s space program - the return of Space Shuttle Atlantis dramatically leaps three decades of NASA space investigation into the unknown as well as under a new and pristine museum display case. With the lack of state funds and interest that once was for orbit technology, space has been fighting for a front row seat in the ever-changing times of the everyday and while its history may be secure it is its future that will now be in jeopardy. The live broadcasts of this last space mission - from the launch, to the docking and even to the music choice that the astronauts woke up to (cue what-older-generations-think-the-youth-are-still-listening-to, Coldplay’s Viva La Vida) - were a public display of an organisation experiencing a midlife crisis, lost of its pioneering bravado and looking to private companies for investment: both financially and in aid of a new and exciting rebrand strategy.

Commander Ferguson & his crew: coming to a Star Trek conference near you
PR is one of the most important acronyms of corporate success and has been used for the good and the ugly in equal measure throughout history. News Corporation, the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, is currently in the news for all the wrong reasons with a series of high profile and highly sensitive phone hacking cases that were illegally obtained under the pretence of investigative journalism. Controlled by eighty-year-old Rupert Murdoch and his family in what can only be described as a twenty-first century dynasty, the summoning of Murdoch senior and his son James to appear before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in London to explain their involvement in the phone hacking allegations displayed the highs and lows of the power of public relations. James’s confidence, clarity and ability to run down the clock were in contrast to his Father’s initial fragility, one-word answers and ignorance of activity outside of his own boardroom. While money could not buy the shameful assault of shaving foam on the eighty-year-old media emperor that gifted him a degree of sympathy and respect, the event only emphasised his ageing position in a company that may find itself under investigations on both sides of the Atlantic with growing doubts on what is now a tarnished brand Murdoch.
Wendi Deng Murdoch didn't need a name plate by the end of the day's proceedings
So as well as death and taxes, is the age of empirical excess and its eventual downfall another certainty? Will the fluctuating demands of society coerce the superfluous aspects of the everyday into a midlife coma or is this just a case of nothing lasts forever?
Walking, talking cliché: the ultimate midlife crisis trophy... on fake grass
I am from a generation that has benefitted from information overload, encompassing Music Television, space exploration and the age of the download, from headline news to Facebook status updates from everyone, everywhere including their pet cat: knowing how to define and place oneself through an unconscious attitude in a media-driven society that ridicules and wraps clichés in danger tape, signposted with the words ‘do not enter beyond this point’; where one can literally smell a cliché a mile away, usually coming from a heavily scented midlife crisis victim who thinks buying a second-hand Ferrari and a Thai bride are still signifiers of success and eternal youth. 
Contemporary society is conscious of the pitfalls of twenty-first century expression and is aware that the type of phone you have or who you follow on Twitter, if at all, exposes you to a series of tailored global networks that have a finite longevity due to the pace of visual and data manifestation. Naivety is no longer an excuse. Signs of generations past and present are becoming more evident, be it the end of America's chapter in space exploration or stringent media laws on privacy. The irony with the walking-talking-cliché-generation is that it thrives on a warped sense of certainty, forfeiting any respectability with a wayward determination by accumulating tokens of perverse status which in today’s society only omit the tragedy of an expiring generation whose motto is, you guessed it, that other golden cliché: you only live once.


Pageantry With Purpose

In the wake of a potentially new age of Press regulation and media practice the changing times of the everyday are fast and furious. So it is comforting to be able to look to The Crown and its ever so reliable hands of time that tick tock in military precision to the same beat today as they have in centuries past. I’ve been looking forward to today for some time since I have always tried to witness one of the country’s oldest events and responsibilities; when historical necessity meets contemporary curiosity and the British Monarchy celebrates natural conservation. I am of course talking about Swan Upping, the annual census of the swan population on the River Thames that dates from the twelfth-century when The Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans in the land to provide a food source for court banquets and feasts.
The Queen's Swan Marker, David Barber
While the Royal chefs no longer require swan on a golden plate, the duty of the Sovereign to ensure the swan population is maintained continues through the division of The Queen’s Swan Marker and Swan Uppers. Every year during the third week of July a fleet of six traditional Thames rowing skiffs embark on a five-day journey on the Thames River and row upstream from Sunbury to Abingdon in order to count young cygnets and monitor injury or disease.
Early this morning in the Royal County of Berkshire at the foothills of Windsor Castle, Eton marked the second leg of the ceremony where The Queen’s Swan Marker and Swan Uppers – in their traditional scarlet and blue uniforms respectively - begin their journey to Marlow in the flotilla adorned with Royal flags and pennants.
Swan Uppers of the Vintners' and Dyers' Livery Companies
While the sun was lacking at Eton Bridge, the splendour of the ceremony led by The Queen’s Swan Marker, David Barber, was a glorious and intimate affair witnessed by locals and a press party to a cygnet and its Mother being measured and weighed. Beautiful and necessary for swan welfare across the River Thames, Swan Upping is as intricate in skill as its style and is a wonderful example in contemporary culture of pageantry with purpose.
For further information about the role of The Queen’s Swan Marker and next year’s annual census visit The British Monarchy or download an official Swan Upping brochure here.


Point Of Purchase

More than just a clever acronym, Richard Phillip's latest exhibition opening in The Hamptons over the weekend spans more than ten years of artmaking-meets-artist brand success. Point of Purchase celebrates the artist's collaborative career with popular culture and his intentions of reintroducing his saturated and sensual imagery back into the commercial space that they were once inspired by. Phillips has brilliantly balanced gallery and non-gallery production, adding clients such as Jimmy Choo, MAC Cosmetics, Visionaire and even popular American teen drama series Gossip Girl (Scout - below) to his creative repertoire. 2011 has seen the artist exhibit in London (Most Wanted, White Cube Hoxton Square March 2011 ) Hong Kong and the Venice Biennale with a press pleasing motion portrait, Lindsay Lohan (Commercial Break, May 2011).
Scout (Prop Art), 2010 - Art Production Fund
John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller presents Phillip's commercial interventions from 1999 to 2011 at this bookstore gallery outpost in East Hampton through to 8th August 2011. For those of you heading to The Hamptons this summer be sure to check it out - click here fore more details about the exhibition.
Visionaire #31 Blue Poster, 2000 - Visionaire
Point of Purchase
John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller
87 Newtown Lane
East Hampton
NY 11937


Pop Charts

Continuing his recent penchant for the Californian lifestyle of sun, style and skate with the rerelease of customised designs for Supreme skateboards (Summer Supreme, June 2011) Damien Hirst has also designed the artwork for this year's much anticipated album, I’m With You, from Los Angeles rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers due for release on 30th August.
The artist’s signature pharmaceutical aesthetic of a fly atop a pill joins the innovative, provocative and controversial imagery of the music industry’s collaborative history with global artists from Andy Warhol to Takashi Murakami, to create iconic album art that attributes to popular culture as well as the origins of aspirational lifestyle on an international scale. In the age of the download there is no doubt Hirst’s involvement with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers will reignite the physicality between music and consumer, as well the air-guitar-playing art collector. Here’s a look at the powerful collaborations between music and art from the charts past and present…
Andy Warhol - The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground

Andy Warhol - Emotions in Motions, Billy Squier

Andy Warhol - Love You Love, The Rolling Stones

Andy Warhol - Aretha, Aretha Franklin

Robert Rauschenberg - Speaking in Tongues, Talking Heads

Hiroshi Sugimoto - No Line On The Horizon, U2

Peter Blake - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles

Jenny Saville - The Holy Bible, Manic Street Preachers

Richard Prince - Sonic Nurse, Sonic Youth

Julian Opie - Blur: The Best Of, Blur

Banksy - Think Tank, Blur

Takashi Murakami - Graduation, Kanye West

KAWS - 808s & Heartbreak, Kanye West

George Condo - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West

Shepard Fairey - Mothership, Led Zeppelin


Jungle City Update

After last year's hugely successful Elephant Parade in London, Elephant Family are now fervently counting down to this summer's exciting programme in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Jungle City event will celebrate creative talent in Scotland, England and the rest of the world, bringing artists, designers and celebrities - Emma Bridgewater, Professor Gordon Murray, Marc Quinn and Harvey Nichols to name a few - together to produce one hundred and thirty life size sculptures of some of the planet's most endangered species.
Below are a few photos from the Jungle City London artist studio where elephants, tigers, orangutans, crocodiles and hornbills are being transformed into wild designs of the imagination with the hope of raising £1 million for their survival around the world. For those of you planning to be in Edinburgh this summer, Jungle City will launch on 16th August at the Royal Botanic Gardens to coincide with the city's world famous Fringe Festival, followed by a series of interventions across Edinburgh's streets, institutions and public spaces from 6th September that will include my very own design Tribal Tigris (Urban Jungle, May 2011).

Visit the official website for Elephant Family here to learn more about their international effort of protecting endangered elephants and conserving their natural habitats across Asia. View one of the organisation's awareness videos below that describes the threats on forests that are being drastically minimised by human activity through force and conflict. If this barbaric behaviour continues the world's Asian Elephant population will frighteningly disappear altogether within thirty years.

Follow this project and many more @JMVELARDI throughout the summer!