✓✓ Read Receipts: Ugliness and Judgement

A photo of a 'girlfriend' pillow; a fabric square with a single arm and two breasts.
Photo by @uglydesign

The supermarket I occasionally shop at has started selling wonky products, their euphemism for the misshapen unwashed fruit and veg. I prefer these wonky products as they’re cheaper, and I really don’t mind if my potatoes are a little muddy. The hatred of the word curation. Supermarkets are one of the most viciously curated modern spaces. They employ invigilators and guards, and entire production lines exist to collect, judge, and sort the work they show. Their arbitration over beauty and taste follows interpretations of national and EU laws that loosely define the bendiness of bananas and the quantity of rat poison in Marmite. When the UK leaves the EU all of this legislation will have to be redefined, we’ll have new British standards of ugliness, of wonkiness, and tastelessness. Of course, the definition of ugliness is linked to degeneracy and inefficiency, the standards by which fascists judge people.

  • @uglydesign on Instagram. Even at the time I never understood the aesthetics of the late-90s to 2000s. Typified by the kind of Chindogu objects that you found in The Gadget Shop; everything seemed to be a gimmick and had to be designed with curves and cheap thick plastic. The prospect of the new millennium meant that everything was spray-painted in silver-effect—my first mobile phone was a silver effect Nokia 3410. It’s upsetting to think that we ought to consider these our Weimar years.
  • Perhaps they think it better for our architecture, like all our arts, to revel in the suffering and brutality of the human experience. Well, yes, life is sometimes ugly. Which is precisely why we must create all of the sublimity of which we are capable—to enthral and inspire; to counter the disappointment and harm which are bound to be part of human frailty. The Journey to Beauty by Minister for State of Transport John Hayes. For a speech on neo-gothic beauty it’s more a sub-par Futurist screed; the conrumore of baked beans agitated in motor oil. Despite this, it’s probably going to become more significant in the coming years.
  • Unlike the brutalist legacy of other European capitals, the brutalism of Paris did not manifest many cultural buildings of the city centre. A New Guide Maps the Overlooked Brutalism of Paris on Hyperallergic. For a city that has constantly reinvented itself following disasters it’s a surprise that Paris’ urban planning was so conservative following the Second World War. A self-consciously beautiful city, I wonder when people will decide that Haussman’s confrontational foundations could actually do with a makeover. Next time I get to Paris I’ll be visiting these concrete landmarks before they’re torn down.
  • Arbus had a way of making even the most ordinary people seem frightened, or uneasy, or garish, so that the line between who was a freak and who wasn’t in her work became thin. It was as though she went out with her camera looking for the unsettled, or for some way of finding or inventing a world as distant as possible from the one in which she was raised. Buy birthday present, go to morgue in the London Review of Books. While I’m familiar with Diane Arbus’ work I haven’t read much into her life which, while comfortably distanced from trouble by her parents’ wealth, according to various accounts included a life-long incestuous relationship with her brother.
  • First, they’d stand for full-frontal shots, then in profile, with sucked-in stomachs. In what amounted to report cards evaluating their figures, the silhouetted images were sent home to students’ parents, with comments from the teacher on areas that needed work. The Emperor’s New Corsets in The Baffler. A fascinating article on the Mensendieck nude photography mandated by upper class American schools until the 1960s. These photos existed at the intersection of Victorian medicine, Greek sculpture, Taylorist capitalism, patriarchal institutions, and twentieth century eugenicists. I’d heard of the practice, but never knew how formalised the process was.
  • When I ask members of the disabled community whether they have ever been compared to animals because of their disabilities, I receive a torrent of replies. I am transported to a veritable bestiary of frog legs and penguin waddles, seal limbs, and monkey arms. After the Ugly Laws in The Baffler. Sunaura Taylor writes on the legislation of ugliness, and how disability was equated with ugliness and the animalisation of disabled people. Taylor notes that at a young age they knew it was insulting, but couldn’t reconcile this with the fact they loved animals.
  • It is an insult to life itself. Hayao Miyazaki responds with utter disgust to being shown AI software that produces grotesque movements for zombie games. He recalls a friend who can now barely move his arms due to a degenerative disease, and disparages the developers for their linking of disability and horror.