Right to Fashion, Right to Contemporaneity


I am standing in front of the movie theatre. From the façade, you cannot tell it has been closed for twenty years. I hold my hands next to my face and look inside. What I see does not quench curiosity, it increases it. A sumptuous winding staircase rises to the second floor. Some dusty closed box-office wickets. The rest in darkness. Delicate golden door frames. Everything is a la mode. A la mode de quand?

A la mode, anyway. What is produced according to mode contains a passion for fashion. It is written on the glass: “The Hustler, starring Paul Newman”. You cannot say whether it was screened last week or three decades ago. It is written on another corner with temporary colours which have lasted for years, “family section available”. It could have been easily wiped off the glass. There is nothing nostalgic in the air. Probably it is only accidental that the cinema is closed at this moment. No glass is broken, nothing destructed. When was the last time its doors opened? Sorayya roundabout, Gorgan roundabout, Namjoo roundabout. Three names for the same place.


Our most acute cultural problem is that we are not contemporary. Contemporary with whom? With when? Who determines the era? Who owns “the moment”? We are not contemporary with the world. The world is not one thing; it was an interrelated network and still is: a vibration at one end shakes another end. We say: nothing shakes us. In a good sense?


There was a time when we were westoxicated, as it were. Then we became ourselves. We had in mind to avoid the fiasco of others. We developed our own. We had no idea there were different conceptions of what fiasco is. We unified different conceptions. We were far from authenticity and wanted to return to our originality. We did not have one, we invented it.


One who tries to be contemporary, distances himself from originality. Originality is a psychological need: are needs real? One who tries to be contemporary looks simultaneously at herself and others, analyses situations comparatively. One who tries to be contemporary risks being trapped by fashion. What is fashion? The majority of those who think of the moment want to live and express themselves under the gaze of others. Is not what the majority understands of the moment, the democratic meaning of the moment? What choice other than being trapped does the one have who tries to be contemporary? He wants to be trapped. What other choice does he have apart from being democratic? The majority wants to appear unique and because of that very reason, they form a community. One who wants to be contemporary wants to be trapped. The demand of being trapped is the demand of freedom? Is freedom other than being trapped willingly? Why are we so persistent in preventing others from being trapped?


The world of culture is a network of temporalities distributed in place. The speed of time is not the same for everybody. The world is a set of temporalities. If temporalities were all the same, contemporaneity would lose its meaning. One can always turn his back to contemporaneity, to what makes an era. It is possible not to be contemporary, or else, contemporaneity would have been meaningless. Era is not the average of different temporalities of an age: it is the temporalities of those who build the world, of those whose temporality permeates others, of those who export time and make time, era and history. Being indifferent to the one who advances through the horizon is being unaware of any news. We are not contemporary with the one who makes us. We are not independent. We stand still, like a child who sits on the sidewalk to show their independence from her mother. Yet nobody turns back to console us. Then we have to run anxiously and with larger steps.


Artist is an oracle. She puts her ear on the ground. Through the realm of the sensible, she awaits the vibrations of “another” world. From the vibration of railroad tracks, she foretells the trains. She looks at the form of her life and of others. The artist considers the appearance. The era makes the appearance . The artist makes the appearance. The appearance is not necessarily a shuck. There is not always a bone there. Sometimes philosophy is a knife in the bone. Sometimes philosophy is a deep reflection on appearance.


What appears, appears in appearance. The prohibition of fashion is the prohibition of the new, of novelty and the novel. The new is not a fortunate surplus falling from heaven on the lap of the individual or the group. It is a need that a being whose being is based upon becoming cannot avoid. One who has to last gives birth. The prohibition of giving birth is stranger than any other sort of prohibition. Modernism is a right, contemporaneity is a right, fashion is a right: in the most humane sense of the word.


We are a place distinguished by its asynchrony with the world, with those who build the world. It is time that creates events. Time can be measured by them. Time is always the time between two events, between two pressings of a button of a chronometer. We turned away from events so as to stop time from passing. We have turned into a place distinguished by the fact that nothing happens there. What is ironical about this, is that time turns the face of the one who turns her face from events.


We accused fashionists of unequal distribution of temporality in space. Maybe it was us who could not accept the plurality of temporalities. We exerted justice of time; we equalized time and were trapped by place. Then we were left with a place where time passed no more: it was the victory of geography over history.


What was once fashion is now reality. The bone has absorbed the knife. Maybe we could have been more tolerant. Probably we are still capable of opening the doors of the movie theatre. There was nothing unpleasant about the cinema into which I looked. It is still a beautiful building, this is not a path, it is a right, the right to choose and not a must. The building was a sign of an amazement which is no longer a shame: it is a la mode for everybody. We did not tolerate asynchrony, an asynchrony resulting from contemporaneity, from looking at oneself, from the becoming-visible of what was always considered a weakness, a gap, a rupture. We did not tolerate that strange contradiction. Maybe it was to our benefit to shelve historicism in favour of contemporaneity. We rejected a right, the right to fashion, to resembling the Other according to my conception of her, which she cannot even think of: the unique other, the one who makes the world. The will to such resemblance is a right, although far from originality. In defending unoriginal people, there is a moral and humane pleasure which I do not forget. There is a deep pleasure in being inauthentic and choosing for yourself, a pleasure that can turn into a duty.


Clothes are many and each person has a reason for wearing or not wearing them. The one who makes the world does it in a certain way and has a reason for doing so. It is either because of his capabilities or incapability. Being contemporary with her is being contemporary with capability itself, with the ways which have made her capable.  Being contemporary is the demand of familiarisation with abilities and inabilities, the demand of learning the boundaries of contingency.


Contemporaneity: the potentials of time  subtracted from place.