White Rage, Notes on Copenhagen Photo Festival

I guess that most of the women and men my age was at some point in their life interested in “fashion”. Runways, models, photos and designer clothes – because of the huge pressure that was pushed by the industry to crate a new generation of consumers and “wannabe consumers”. Teenage dreamers who will follow trends and trendsetters, their main task was (and still is) to support the elusive feeling of exclusivity. Which wouldn’t be possible to achieve without the mass of people who cannot afford the thing that they desire. This leads me to that I never got over my “interest in fashion”. I follow, I read, I absorb all the nonsense bullshit created by fashion industry. But I cannot help it, I love references and primarily I love the artistic aspect of it. I admire craftsmanship of tailoring and how it is just another venue of human self-expression.

But let’s be real I do not follow @diet_prada on Instagram because of all the magniloquent qualities described above. @diet_prada is run by a group of designers who share a common love for fashion, and art. And these are one of the reasons why I check up on this account daily. But one of the other reasons is because I love drama and @diet_prada delivers. The account found its niche taking part in the culture of “calling out”. Bluntly exposing designers who shamelessly copy other designers or artists, companies who take advantage of little knows artists for their benefit or influencers who sell engross bought merchandise form china and sell it in USA with a tenfold increase in price.

Recently they “called out” a popular singer Taylor Swift for her quite not subtle video published during the pride month. @diet_prada has engaged their followers in a poll, asking if the pop stars new video including some LGBTQ movements most popular mainstream icons is a reach for “pride clickbait”. The video was portraying a singer living in a rainbow village filled with LGBTQs fiercest pop icons. With every trailer inside representing different color of the pride flag. Life in the village seems to be glorious and filled with fun loving spirit. The only thing that seems to be interfering with the idyllic state is a group of toothless, long haired, skinny, wrinkly, raggedy-looking white people protesting being gay in the middle of the beautiful village. Further @diet_prada has published a comment from their reader that was stating:

“God Taylor Swift you were SO. CLOSE. The enemy isn’t poor rural whites in the trailer park that YOU took over. The enemy is the people in power. The men in suits in the conference rooms and the men in robes behind the pulpit preaching and legislating hate”.

“….I am so disappointed in the people who took part in the overt classism of this video.”

That point was important. The imagery of the working-class people from rural area’s in this clip is degrading. They are illiterate, they are ridiculous in their truck caps.  Is representation of recognizable LGBTQ representatives important? Yes. Is it more important than real political and policies that are aimed to hit the poorest (including LGBTQ community)? No. Is it more important than classists oppression? No.

The title of the song is “You Need to Calm Down”. “You Need to Calm Down” is patronizing. The video and the message are patronizing, here you have a blond millionaire entertainer with other wealthy recognizable characters who are telling the group of poorly dressed people to “Calm Down”. How ignorant and basic. Well how dare they spill their “not-chilness” all over this filled with color which happened to be filled with tenants who are leading stars of mainstream LGBTQ community.

Watching this situation unravel made me think about Copenhagen Photo Festival that I attended in June. The picture painted in Taylor Swift made me think of one of the main festival’s exhibition’s “White Rage” by Espen Rasmussen. Which was placed by the festivals center in Refshaløen in at least 3 containers which were functioning as an exhibition space and outside photo stands. Rasmussen wide shot photos depicted people throughout Europe, Russia and USA who are engaging in some sorts of neo-Nazi movements. My judgement of this exhibition is not based in the esthetics of the content. Yes, I didn’t find the composition of Rasmussen’s photos interesting, neither the colors nor light. They didn’t present artistic value to me; some may argue that documentary photography doesn’t have to be groundbreaking in matter of artistic value. I would agree If the topic documented was so attention grasping that would distract me completely from judging the lack of visual appeal.

From the exhibition’s description “White Rage” was supposed to show this terrifying vision of a white supremacy groups making their way out to the mainstream. But the only thing I could see was lonely, low-income people desperately looking for a way to give significance to their livelihood struggle. They are hooligans, local threat or criminals. But photos which were supposed to show this raise of something horrible were showing something sad and mostly pathetic. As a viewer I could only see sad and desperate people, silly even and naïve in their conviction that they are on some important crusade.

There were intimate photos from a wedding party of one of the leaders of Russians white supremacy gang. Him and his wife dressed in 50/50 polyester viscose clothes having a grill somewhere on the outskirts of a city in a garden. A scene so well known to me from Poland, working class people eating grilled meat, drinking vodka with soda served on an oilcloth with a floral pattern.

Another photo depicting a radical right-wing supporter from Norway sitting in his empty house in a full wood paneled room watching a TV. The TV was standing on a chair and except the lazy boy that the (“dangerous”) portrayed man was sitting in there was no other furniture. If anything, these pictures are supposed to evoke a feeling of superiority towards these people. It seemed almost like a cabinet of curiosities where the viewers could have looked at the typical “rednecks” living in poor conditions somewhere in deep south of USA and feel a warm confirmation that they are superior to them.

What other point has an exhibition with no real artistic value and a topic so meaningless and futile that leaves most of the viewers either outraged by the visible classicism or indifferent.

One tip: If you want to make a photographical exhibition about racism on the rise include photos of politicians who are always opting for legislature which is criminalizing immigration and people who constantly are taking advantage of illegal immigrant work.

Or is it much easier to show people who are uneducated who visibly struggle financially and show them as inherently bad people?