NORMCORE is not what you think – even less what you wear

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Back in time people were born as part of a community, and they had to search for their individuality - today, people are born as individuals, and have to find their community

by João Paulo Cavalcanti translated by José Osmar

The term NORMCORE, created by BOX1824 in association with K-Hole, was presented and discussed in more than 5.000 articles and news published by big names of world media like The Guardian, New York Mag, The Atlantic, Vogue, Vanity Fair, etc. Following the international example, Brazilian media also gave the concept a bite. A good number of celebrities were called to try and explain the NORMCORE phenomenon, from Jerry Seinfeld to Barack Obama. But one of the major achievements to this term was surely being almost chosen as 2014 word of the year by Oxford English Dictionary’s famous contest Word of the Year. A year has passed from the NORMCORE hype now, and this cultural NOTION was little comprehended. Some vehicles are already predicting its death in favor of a new aesthetic movement. Although said article is based on the new work of the co-creators of the term, I, having participated in the creation of the concept, can certainly say these vehicles did not understand the term at all!

Gathering the perspectives of most articles about it to get to a common ground, we can say: NORMCORE is to be normal. More objectively, to be NORMCORE is to dress normal, and act in a normal way. All of this, of course, minutiously planned, like the old metrosexual hair – perfectly messy to the last millimeter. It seems now the new generation is pursuing the “normal to the last millimeter” as a protest. They want to pass unnoticed, so they can become infiltrated observers, looking for the perfect scene to reveal their audacity and their other identities. NORMCORE is about this – and before I’m asked to explain better, I say beforehand: NORMCORE is not a THEORY, nor a MOVEMENT. Above all, it is a NOTION.

If you don’t know what a NOTION is, imagine the feeling you have regarding immortality pills, robotics, spatial exploration, or electric cars. We don’t know exactly what to think about this real revolutions happening throughout the world, but we have an empathy feeling towards it, and a subtle opinion about these things humans are toying with. That is a NOTION, empathizing with a topic so our feelings and thoughts can comprehend it without necessarily understanding it rationally. The concept of NOTION was proposed by sociologist Michel Maffesoli to replace the idea of THEORY. According to him, we don’t have the time density necessary to come up with theories about things, only to create notions. And it’s good that way – every social theory created today needs to be revised in a short time span to be updated with our new comprehension about things. Concluding, NORMCORE is not a generational theory, not a flag, nor a large scale cultural phenomenon. NORMCORE is, above all, a NOTION.

A new notion of freedom

mochila normcore

In october 2013, we presented the report YOUTH MODE: A REPORT ON FREEDOM, a collaboration between BOX1824 and New York Contemporary Art and Culture Collective K-HOLE. It was released in the event 89+, organized by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets in the new ward of Serpentine Gallery during the project Frieze Marathon, which is traditionally held by the gallery during Frieze Fair. In this edition, the event focused on presenting to the global community the works of the new generation of artists and aspiring artists born after 1989.

For that occasion, our idea was to do what we (BOX1824) and New York Collective (K-Hole) make best – a trend analysis piece. We thought interesting to study the very generation that would be present in the event, giving the global art community a work that reflects upon the condition and evolution of today’s young generation.

Follow through by media was intense. I don’t know exactly what triggered it. Maybe stating the new “cool is to be normal”, or that it was the end of the road for the HIPSTER movement and the search for differentiation, in response to the “MASS INDIE” movement. Maybe it was this apocalyptic tone american media always liked. After all, the culture of the Phoenix always lives and is reborn from consuming itself in the fire of the capital.

Apart from the simplifications of media comments, I think the art piece we made was culturally eloquent, and we were able, in fact, to capture the structural (or destabilizing) spirit of this new generational wave. Phrases like the following lead the way in the puzzle of new global culture:

“In the past, people were born in a community, then had to search for their individuality. Today, people are born as individuals, then have to search for their communities.”

The moment we get freedom, what do we do with it? Today, the leading path is not anymore the fight for liberations, done by the youth revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, but a fight for “discovery” of the self. Discovering oneself seems to be a noble and true purpose. But it also seems as the only alternative while the ghost of our better version haunts us in the mirrors of social media. The enemy can be outside, but the war now is fought inside.

No, Jerry Seinfeld is not NORMCORE

jerry seinfield

No, NORMCORE is not a movement, nor its most representative icon is Jerry Seinfeld. As representative as any other, one example of NORMCORE icon calls itself, fairly, Ikon. Nico the Ikon. Can you see the GAME? Niko is one of the young representatives of this notion. There is no better term to describe what is NORMCORE. NORMCORE is a notion, remember?

So, Nico is a nice young man, creative and independent, and has an eyebrow comb on the pocket. He seems to float above the order of american culture as someone who strolls in a supermarket inside a shopping cart, pushed by their friends. Sheer fun. Not only in the sense of joy, but mainly in the sense of diversity. This is the GAME. The NORMCORE game is the game of metamorphosys.

NORMCORE is about someone protected inside their center shield, camouflaged in the normality bonanza; not sustained by a lost persons’ inertia, but instead by the mastery of someone who has the map of the world – or thinks so (and what difference does it make?). A map held by someone so insightful and lettered about today’s aesthetic varieties that they prefer to stay “erased”, as they decide what will be their most efficient or fun expression for this night or tomorrow afternoon. NORMCORE is always preparing itself for its next move. NORMCORE is the possibility of an invisible module that allows extravagant, or militant, or sailing expressions to be placed whenever they are needed or least expected.

NORMCORE is undefined experimental sexuality. It is the possibility of having any kind of experience, without the fear of sticking with a definition, just because it can be broken in the next breakfast. Who did you sleep with tonight? A good answer could be ‘with myself’, but the question is under the sheets, and now it is too late , you can go back home.

In truth, these words are essentially right. We are approaching an aesthetic collapse, where the EQUALITY realm is newer and more interesting than the realm of DIFFERENCE. The real expression of NORMCORE, though, rather than a new trend, is a new way of operating the global culture, done by a very selected group. A group that already is admired, perceived, and soon will be influencing your habits in the closest youtube channel.
NORMCORE is not what you are. Even less, it’s not what you wear. Before all of this, NORMCORE is what you can be, disguised as what you surely never was.

I’m giving this warning because that is my job. It is not a danger warning though. It’s rather a joy warning. A new liberty warning. After all it is the theme of our prestigious report – YOUTHMODE: a report on freedom. I give this warning so you who, just like me, is dizzyingly sprinting towards death, can live happier the days that lead us to the “great transcendence” Let all beings be happy, joyful. If NORMCORE is not a ship leading us to pleasure and contentedness, what else would worth being? This is the game. Enjoylove! And lovejoy!

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