The Pandemic Has Made a Mockery of Minimalism – The Atlantic

Posted: April 26, 2020 at 11:52 pm


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Minimalisms core and uncontroversial preaching is to think critically about whats necessary and whats not. In practice, what often results, as Chayka and other critics have noted, is a form of conspicuously inconspicuous consumption. In a 2018 passage on ambient music, the writer David Stubbs got at the elitist subtext of the orderly/disorderly design dichotomy: Wealthy Westerners still squander obscene amounts of the worlds resources, but have found stylish, discreet ways of doing so Poverty, by contrast, is a visibly maximal experience. It is shopping trolleys crammed with wretched but vital belongings which you have no place to park. As Arielle Bernstein, a daughter of refugees, put it in a 2016 Atlantic piece, For my grandparents, the question wasnt whether an item sparked joy, but whether it was necessary for their survival.

The notion of survival is now, of course, something even the wealthy are having to meditate on. Its been widely noted that overly Kondoed households may be, in the present, fend-for-yourself crisis, a bit screwed. Im not the one who threw out everything that didnt spark joy, Robert, chides a figure in a recent New Yorker cartoon. Enjoy spending the next few months rolling and unrolling your seven T-shirts. The truth is that most Kondo followers who subscribe to The New Yorker are fine: They can still send out for the things they need. But it will be telling to see, when this is all over, whether anyone ditches stocked-up canned goods on account of them not sparking joy.

While the crisis has staged the revenge of stuff, its also implemented lifestyles long glamorized as minimalist. In social isolation, many of us just do less than we once did, and some of us are clearly enjoying it. For the longest time, I have felt that theres been too much world, Olga Tokarczuk wrote in The New Yorker. Too much, too fast, too loud. So Im not experiencing any isolation trauma, and it isnt hard on me at all to not see people. I feel a twinge of this relief too, but I am not sure it is something to be proudly embraced. People for whom coronavirus isolation is relatively serene tend to be lucky enough to be able to work from home, or rich enough to not need to work at all. Theres something misanthropic in celebrating isolation when the un-isolated risk infection; it calls back to the way that self-care has been, in recent years, evangelized to endorse callousness toward others.

With any of the existential trials that isolation has placed on society, its an open question whether the habits of this moment will stick around long-term or instead inspire rebellion. Certainly right now its impossible to forget that vaunted aesthetic terms such as clean and sterile derive from highly unglamorous medical situations. Its hard to feel that hospital-like order and silence are, in themselves, values that ennoble life. Streets have now been emptied and six-foot grids have been implemented in order to guard against not just bodies but the jostle of existing in a diverse society: confrontations, connection, and accidents, happy and sad. In response, hearteningly, people are scrawling art on their blank masks and making noise out their windows. They know that one of the joys of good health is the ability to make a mess.

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The Pandemic Has Made a Mockery of Minimalism - The Atlantic

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April 26th, 2020 at 11:52 pm

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