Authenticity. Within the beautiful mess of our globalized world we are unavoidably surrounded by an immeasurable number of vastly intertwined cultures of near and far, past and present, fusions and appropriations. In it ‘authenticity’ is being used all around us (in Wester rhetoric at least), and I am endlessly baffled by how differently we all understand this singe word, how its influences cultural production, audience perception, and the way we navigate within society. So I focused my research on it.
Take a painter for example. Consider, how you may label him/her authentic, based on their ability to convey honesty and truthfulness, through creating uniqueness by their power of creativity. Consider then again a dish prepared exactly as it was by your great-grandmother, the list of ingredients passed down through the generations, an authentic meal, as far as it is true to its original, right? Or the performance of a traditional folk song accompanied by musicians on instruments of the time – is that not authentic?
But what happens if the painter uses stencils, prints, mechanical modes of reproduction? When work of art is used to create another? What if you serve your great-grandmothers recipe with a side dish traditional to a culture half was across the world, a dish she could not have known about, let alone serving it with, does that ruin the authenticity of your meal? What if the folk song is performed in jeans and t-shirts?
Can authenticity mean creativity and being true to an original at the same time? Does your interpretation of authenticity influence how you view art? How you understand culture? How you interpret and judge other people?
The fact is, that there are many definitions, many approaches, but no precise measurements for any of them. Next time, however, when you hear “wow, this is so authentic”, consider the cultural context of the subject of praise, consider its origin, the myriad ways in which it can exist, what it may mean to people of different cultures and backgrounds, from different times. Perhaps it will open you up towards new interpretations of the cultures, the people, the behaviors around you.
Want to dive into some definitions and concepts? Google “authenticity” in combination with any of the following: Eminem, hip hop, heritage, tourism, objective, first/second/third person. Enjoy!
As my body works. I’m beginning a project which involves a long time fascination of mine: thinking about how our day-to-day activities influence how our bodies develop, feel and look. Scars, visual reminders etched in skin mapping out the lives we’ve led; our muscles adapting to new constraints we put them under, pain us and allow us to develop new layers of muscle memory, perform tasks of all scale with growing perfection. I invite you to consider how your jobs and responsibilities have left temporary and permanent marks on your body. If you’d like to participate in the project write to me about how you find your own body has changed from the works you do or did, and attach a picture to illustrate.
Thanks Chad for filling my first two month in #823 with good food and great conversations! Enjoy the new place (hi Mark & Ben)! Nate & Felix, it’s been years since you introduced me to the listserve, I hope you’re still reading, because I’ve been wanting to send you this virtual hug through the inboxes of 22429 strangers ever since!
Thank you for reading, it’s been an honor writing to you all,
between Nagykovácsi, Rotterdam and Brooklyn