Yearly, GET ME presents her selection of today’s archetypes. But from now on, we will not keep you waiting for a whole year, as we will quarterly present the new and contemporary subcultures that stand out. They stand out by their contradictions, by their pronounced values, common behaviour or shared vision.
This time we zoom-in at the New Intellectual, represented by Connor Schumacher, the Rotterdam based American artist and performer.
The New Intellectual: While the older 20 something has a tendency to have an opinion about everything, preferably in just 140 characters maximum as Twitter instructs us, the younger 20 something is remarkably reticent about disclosing opinions. He would rather like to question everything. And so he does. Fulfilling his curiosity through studies such as philosophy, art, or linguistics, his mobile devices are slowly exchanged for novels. He deliberately chooses to read critical classics like 1984. We, older 20 ones are partying mainly in order to forget, the younger generation rather seems to want to remember. From popping XTC in dark holes with loud tunes they reclaim vinyl as never before accompanied by good conversations with red wine and coke to clear the mind. Socially aware, political- involved and serious as they are – this young intellectual kid might be our future’s hope.
Interview with the New Intellectual representative, Connor Schumacher (US), artist and performer.
How would you describe our generation? What are our characteristics?
Most distinctive about the spirit of our time, our Zeitgeist, is this idea of you can be just who we want to be. Mostly because ‘being who you want to be’ is a very different experience than knowing whom you are. Some things we just do for the idea they represent. Why are people dying their hair to pale grey, green or pink? What does that represent? And why did piercing your septum become such a big thing this year? What is the idea that sweeps across a generation?
It can’t really be that every single one of those people thought ‘I should stick a pin through my nose because that makes me something more who I really am’. Even when I had a nose ring I did it because I thought it made me something more than what I already was. It helped bringing out a part of me that I wanted to bring out. But I think we really living in a time where it's more like: ‘ I want to be this person today, I want to bring out this strength in me, or emphasize this quality’ – instead of knowing you have those qualities and being secure it them.
Some label our age-group as Generation-Sell? Is that what you are referring to?
I don’t think these titles come around for no reason. It points to the concept of you wanting to sell yourself to as many people as possible. But how are you going to attain this? You have to transform into this vulgar abstraction of what you really are. And by vulgar I mean based on the Latin root that means 'common, mass, crowd, or throng'. Vulgar as a term for mass acceptance. Something which is exactly what celebrities have done for ages. But now, with social media, it becomes more widely accepted for us as individuals to also use this behaviour.
And is it your reality as well?
It just not really true that you can sell your real self to hundreds and millions of followers on Twitter. It is not possible. Or at least, in my mind it doesn’t seem possible. I once read of an anthropologist who stressed that one human can only interact with 25 individuals on a strong level. And that makes a lot sense instinctively to me, especially moving as much as I did – from place to place – I can never hold on to what I had in those places. Maybe one person. And now living in this new place, Rotterdam, makes me free again to connect to 25 people. That is what I can hold on to. That is what my brain can handle. That is what my humanity can handle. Everything after that becomes a distortion of reality of who people think I am and what they think I do with my life.
Would you describe this time as confusing? Or is it quite clear to you?
The fact that I have some awareness of our own downfalls, I definitely find confusing. Being conscious about it, but still very much a part of it as well. That is something that really rubs my guilt the wrong way.
This philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, talks about revolutionaries in our time and how everybody wants the revolution to happen, to change the world, but no one is willing to accept the uncomfortable nature of what it will bring if it really happens. And this is where the revolution always fails.
I say all these things about selling yourself and becoming something that you are really not, and yet I have to sell myself to programmers to sell my performances, or sell myself in some really ridiculous way to get subsidy. But let’s not go there.
I want change but at the same time I want to keep my fancy and comfortable surroundings and be able to not have to farm my own food. I have lived in comfort all my life, so it will be fucking scary to think about life without those comforts.
Do I rationally think it is a good idea that everything crashes and burns and we need to find a new way to built it up? Yeah. But shit, that would be hard.