Greek Sculptures and Prada Mannequins

2023-05-20 • aesthetics

I was in a coffee shop in Hayes Valley, fiddling with the yellow dude on Google Earth, imagining what it would be like to live in Kazakhstan, slouched asymmetrically over my laptop, when I noticed an extremely jacked man ordering a bagel. His traps were a perfectly proportioned triangle, bulging behind his neck, and his spine was straight out of an anatomy textbook, perfectly curved. Immediately I became very aware of my own mangled fascia, feeling how misaligned and out of shape my traps were, and then picking myself up, mimicking the jacked man's posture as best I could. This all happened thoughtlessly. It felt like he transmitted his posture to me.

A lot of our learning and development happens through mimicry. I feel like psychologists say this. Back in middle school I was mimicking the Sleepy Kid archetype. The Sleepy Kid thinks being tired is cool. What's not cool: school, learning, authority, discipline. And so all these are rejected by slouching onto your desk, cheek resting on your arms, hood up, passing the day in a hazy fantasy of being somewhere else.

I don't know why I thought this was cool. That's an investigation for another time. But I know I don't want to be the Sleepy Kid anymore. I'd rather be the jacked guy. Maybe not in all aspects, but at least posturally.

A few weeks later I went to the Uffizi gallery in Florence. The gallery is full of jacked guys with noble sentiments and flawless biomechanics:

I had another transmission experience, where I saw this dude's (Caesar or something, idk) bulging oblique and became painfully aware of my lack of oblique:

I honestly didn't even know there was a muscle there. But I am now doing bicycle kicks with the expression of calm determination (an expression also mimicked from Greek sculpture). My nervous system has been told: "this is beauty, shape up". Or, if beauty is subjective: "you find this beautiful, shape up".

It makes me wonder: was cultural education a conscious function of art in Greek society? You scout the noblest people and carve them into stone, so their appearance, feeling, and stories are preserved and transmitted to the rest of your society, who will mime what that society deems as "best".

What a culture chooses to capture and glorify represents its tastes. What are our tastes today? In high fashion, I find many Sleepy Kids. All the designer mannequins are slouched. Here's a mannequin from a Prada store in Rome:

I must admit, she does look cool. Part of my palette is still modern and sleepy. But I will concede that it's bad for her health. If she had a cigarette, maybe she'd look even cooler. Some of the other mannequins had cigarettes. But that's even worse for your health.

Our tastes are unhealthy. What we glorify is unhealthy. I would not want my kids to mimic a Prada model. If I'm not jacked by then (God willing), and cannot be their role model, their bedroom will be full of Greek sculptures to mimic.

Why have we gone from glorifying perfect health to glorifying aesthetic sickness? I don't know, but I'm fascinated with the question. Have we grown tired of balance?

This is the Balenciaga "T-shirt shirt". It cost $1300:

Have we grown tired of beauty?