It has always been the way, especially after World War Two, that the UK has ridden on the coat-tails of the US. Take the TV show Friends - every character would mention the word 'like' a millions times an episode. "You know it is just so, like, amazing"... Slowly this infiltrated into the everyday English speaking in the UK. I use it, like, the whole time.
Not only does it serve as an interesting example of how America can affect British sense of identity, but also it highlights a trend to never focus on the truth of some thing, to remove oneself and create something as 'created in the image' of an original. Just look at the sentence 'I am so, like, mad'. Rather than saying I am mad, I remove myself from the true power of the word 'mad' and place a barrier between me and that feeling through the word 'like'. It sets mad up in its own world, occupying its own space rather. It can be objectified rather than the thing it should be doing which is to subjectify an experience.
Essentially it is stifled, used to diminish the sense of a real reaction, a real emotion, making me truly stand by my sense of FEELING MAD! I suggest this is a dangerous trend that has seeped into modern society from over the pond and is a poisoned ivy closing tighter and tighter around our ability to experience the real.
John Berger, in his book The Art of Seeing, wrote of the disempowerment and devaluation of art through the mass production of it. For example, once upon a time I would have had to have travelled to France to glimpse the Mona Lisa, now I can purchase a pencil with her image on it, and a rubber on the end. Berger would argue this takes away the magic and the mystery of art. I am not sure if I agree. I studied Lorenzetti's fresco on Good and Bad Government and the value and knowledge I accrued on it was nothing to the wonderment and excitement I felt when I finally saw it in person in Siena. Where I do side with Berger is on how the recreation of an image - where it is not only more readily available but actually starts becoming fodder to the actual item it is imprinted onto, the cover of a diary, a postcard, a bar of soap. Gone is the majesty and necessity of becoming completely enthralled and enveloped in an experience. Picasso's The Weeping Woman becomes a whimsy gimmick used to sell a product. Gimmick is an important word.
There is a link from what Berger says to the lack of originality nowadays. One case in point - there was a spate of television programmes a few years ago where the presenter would go around various high streets looking to recreate shops to initiate more custom. The trend to allure the public in was to facelift the shop to look more original; the bakers is made to look like an old 'farmhouse' bakery, the greengrocers becomes an old fashioned grocers where the vendors wear aprons and fruit and veg is displayed in wooden crates.
There is nothing wrong with this. After all a gimmick sells a produce and always has done. My point is everything is now created in the pseudo-image of something else. Go to a coffee shop, it is done up like a French coffee shop. In Hull. A café in fashionable Hackney represented as a simple co-operative affair - with coffee that costs the same as in Knightsbridge.
I am being flippant, however where does one find originality nowadays? Things aren't actually a village grocers or a French delicatessen, they are appearing to be this. They allow us to operate within the illusion. It is simply a illusion. Along with this, the actual true version of a French coffee shop becomes perverted. They can seem slightly dull and staid in comparison. Suddenly we begin to live within a café culture system that is a perversion slowly turning into our idea of reality.
A Westfield shopping centre is a case in point, something that is rife in America. A shopping centre is set out, some cafes with table and chairs outside the premises, one can walk through 'as if in a village', however one is NOT in a village. Slowly though this modern concept of a village becomes the actual village itself and we forget what a village actually was. We forget what the old post office was, the crappy family butchers was etc... This makes me sad.
As I perused the Cornwall Show this August and found myself desperately looking for a quaint coffee stall. I wanted hessian sack, preferable draped over an old oak barrel and served in recyclable paper cups. I wanted gluten-free cupcakes cooked by a local student from Newquay. I found none of this. The craft tent had nothing of any trend. Not a world of interiors wicker basket in site. It frustrated me. I wanted these items. I needed these items.
Then I stopped. I realised the coffee stall by the kitchen tent has been there for 10 years. Indeed the kitchen tent has been the same for 20 years. There was something refreshingly original about this. There was such a conflict within myself. I wanted these nice things and I feel this is completely valid. I like to be immersed within a concept of a product and often it is a sign of the care and quality of the output. The wrench however, for me, is not necessarily the lack of quality but more the lack of experience and how it plays to my identity. I want to revel in the ironic wonder of purchasing an old wooly hat from a craft stall and it fitting in beautifully at the ICA. This wasn't there. Everything is practical and it does what it says on the tin. The experience is direct with no dressing. The Cornwall Show was and is The Cornwall Show and I came away thanking it for that. It didn't allow me any experience of trend or a chance to post ironic pictures on Instagram (although I did take a pic with the morris dancers).
There is a fine line between drawing upon things in the past, as indeed anything creative does, and moving so much into an era where everything is a pseudo version of something else. Whoever straddles that balance remains something truly original. The perfect example I can think of is the late Amy Winehouse. She pulled off music and style of old and still kept her authenticity and wonderment of today. Amys are hard to come by but, my God, when it is done right it isn't half wonderful.