Saturday, 26 March 2016


When I thought of pretentiousness, I thought of black rimmed or tortoise shell glasses with no/ fake lenses, the stereotypical hipster and Instagram pages filled with carefully presented avocado on toast and acai bowls. What do you think of?
Pretentious art is usually perceived as rubbish and pretentious people as assholes. There's a snobby attitude towards it as though those that aren't into pretentious things are better than those that are.
In Dan Fox's essay 'Pretentiousness,' the term is explored in positive context, highlighting that actually most of us are all pretentious in some way and that that's not a bad thing.

It begins with the definition, looking back at the origins of the word, which comes from 'the Latin prae- 'before'- and tendere, meaning to 'stretch' or 'extend'.... Think of it as holding something in front of you, like actors wearing masks in the ancient Greek theatre.' Therefore a reason for a turning up of the nose towards pretentiousness could be due to its nature of pretending because, as Dan writes, 'pretending reminds adults of childish things long put away; of imaginary friends, of the companionship found in favourite teddy bears and dolls. To pretend is to live in denial of 'real' grown-up problems. It's child's play.' But I personally see nothing wrong with this. Why leave 'child's play' to the child? (Says somebody who more than often finds themselves ignoring the grown-up situations in life)

In the book Fox covers acting, style, music and art and, in regards to dress, touches on how we use clothing as a way of fitting in or displaying a better version of ourselves based on how we want to be seen. Subculture identities 'give shelter, a sense of belonging; being someone else was a way to fantasize your exit from small-town, small-mindedness.' Does that make them, or those in general who spend time constructing their look, pretentious? 

There is the division of class. Pretentiousness is usually thought of as those aiming higher in life- like drinking finer wines to appear classier- but, as emphasized in Pulp's Common People (Rent a flat above a shop/ cut your hair and get a job/ smoke some fags and play some pool/ pretend you never went to school/ But still you'll never get it right/ 'cos when you're laid in bed at night/ watching roaches climb the wall/ if you call your dad he could stop it all), there's the act of playing 'down' too.

There's also the blending. 'Whereas the art museum that embraces pop music might just come off as a bit fusty, like watching a middle-aged uncle dance awkwardly at a wedding reception disco, the musician aspiring to make 'serious' art gets branded pretentious.' It's interesting as well as ridiculous that this is the case but Dan wisely points out that 'visual artists are the only creative workers who use the word 'art' in the title of their own profession- musicians, writers, actors, dancers, illustrators, designers; they're all artists too, but the appellation tends to get owned by visual artists. The title of 'artist' comes with it a special kind of baggage. To willfully take that on when you're something else suggests you have a high opinion of yourself, that you're worthy of being feted by one of those large museums with neo-classicial pillars outside.'

Pretension can be summed up in two ways: 'A question of optics. The pessimist sees pretension as a sham- The optimist views it as innocent, tragicomic, an excess of effort.'
Or, really, in three ways: A natural part in everyone's lives.
Actually, make that four: An integral ingredient in creativity because 'pretension is about over-reaching what you're capable of, taking the risk that you might fall flat on your face. Without people stretching themselves and- self-consciously or otherwise- risking failure, most of the major works of art, music, literature, cinema, dance, philosophy, science, clothing, design, architecture, engineering, horticulture and cuisine that we cherish would simply not exist.' 

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