(Disclaimer: I wish I could claim authorship to that title, but its brilliance is derived from Jules Lubbock’s The Tyranny of Taste: the Politics of Architecture and Design in Britain, 1550-1960, a rather dry read about British design during its most boring periods.)
So I set up a Pinterest. Exciting, no? My mind is spinning from all the repinning. Another social media outlet to check obsessively and another password to forget instantaneously. But with Pinterest, social media bursts through the layers of the social strata and invades the aesthetic realm (the filters of Instagram add more of a cataract feel than artistic value). Just how Facebook and Twitter are barometers of sociability, Pinterest is arguably a measure of taste—as the number of Twitter followers indicates how people feel about your abbreviated thoughts, followers on Pinterest is a commentary on your aesthetic. When you first sign up, you’re automatically assigned to follow ten people selected by Pinterest based on their high numbers of followers. Who are these people and why are they forced into my consciousness? Are they groundbreaking, aesthetes or just people who have exorbitant amounts of time to spent on the Internet? (The latter is correct.) I currently have 2 followers (only one was obligatory through friendship); meanwhile everyone with an Eames chair pictured somewhere has at least 100 (to me, an Eames chair is like a skinny tie: it demarcates taste and style, but no one who uses it for that reason knows why).
In my previous post while discussing the Stein Collection, I mentioned the role of tastemakers. I suppose it’s not fair to make grand assertions like that and then not back them up, but the Stein’s were part of an elite circle of taste and culture makers, and what they have collected survives as the defining perspective of the era, even it was not shared by the masses (this of course prompts questions about the avant garde and its place in society, but I don’t have time for that because I have pinning to do). To call this observation original, however, is an egregious inflation of my intellect; Pierre Bourdieu beat me to it with Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, his analysis of taste as a systematic weapon for the regime of the elite—its tyranny, if you will. As a free website as accessible as Google or perezhilton.com, the previous statements are probably positive reinforcement for Pinterest’s democratizing effects and my skeptical comments are becoming an overly harsh condemnation of the site. It is after all just intended as an arena to share “stuff” you find visually appealing with friends. But who can attract the most “friends” potentially shifts the power of and who is a “tastemaker,” and provides a quantifiable measure legitimizing their position—mine is 2. This is not a complaint, but an observation of the phenomenon of social media. This also may be an overestimation of the cultural influence of Pinterest, but if you are persuaded, prepare for a world of hipstered, Instagrammed, Brooklynized modernism—a place where you try to project sophistication and erudition, but never quite manage to feel clean. Think Urban Outfitters, but with some discernment. If you wish to antidote that, judge me or humor yourself: Pinterest.
Suggested wine pairing: The aforementioned hipsters drink PBR, but I would never dare go down that treacherously unappetizing road. In the interest of culinary taste, let’s refer back to the iconic purveyors of modern aesthetic taste, the French: a red Bordeaux in a fancy glass (plus a foreign language pun on this conversation!).