Saturday, 1 May 2010

The New Cosmetic Tribe

One of the most exciting elements about writing this blog is acknowledging the influence of high fashion make-up on the styling of artists in mainstream music videos.  The henna/Maori/futuristic/geometric inspired tattoos created by M.A.C Cosmetics senior artist, Chantel Miller for the Rodarte show is clearly referenced here, encouraging all to become part of the new made-up make-up 'tribe'.  The concept to which the word tribalism refers to in this case is the possession of a strong identity that separates oneself as a member of one group from the members of another, and clearly this tribal aspect to the use of cosmetics has become increasingly important in defining the unique approach to decorating the body in a more considered and crafted way.
“The idea for the tattoos stemmed from Kate and Laura’s desire to celebrate make up as art not only for the face, but also for the body in a similar way that Indian culture uses henna. They want women to look at makeup as an accessory for an outfit the way you would a bracelet or a necklace.” 
Chantel Miller.

That make up could be used as an accessory as opposed to make up as cosmetic artifice allows cosmetic application to evolve to become a true postmodernist tool for ascribing identity.  French sociologist Michel Maffesoli was perhaps the first to use the term “neotribalism” in a scholarly context, predicting that as the culture and institutions of modernism declined, societies would embrace nostalgia and look to the distant past for guidance, therefore the post-modern era would be the era of neotribalism.  Perhaps the dynamics at play here are not in a traditional context but an unexpected form of Maffesoli's neotribalism, as “modern tribes” create alternate means for satisfying social interaction and seek cosmetic markers of identification.

This isn't the most recent reference to neotribalism as a cosmetic movement within music video however, last years 'We the People' by Empire of the Sun, featured a unique presentation of a musical artist, that pre-empted the later vision provided on the catwalk.  What I find most interesting is that it is a male artist who is central to defining this look, posing new questions about identity that are refreshingly not linked to gender. 

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