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Coolness

Cool is a quality that can only be defined by antithesis. There is no univocal meaning for such word, being it flexible and adaptable in different contexts and social frameworks. Miles Davis postulated the “birth of cool” in 1957, while artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and writers like Glenn O’Brien or Greg Tate raised the act of “being cool” to an art form. This compilation of essays is a primer for the post-coolness reader; a manifesto for the globalized cool economics; a pathway to decode how image-based culture is built through mechanisms of generative mythmaking, self-initiated worldbuilding, and networked labor.

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Compiled by Federico Sargentone
7 Essays
Design, as we know it today, is a twentieth-century phenomenon. Admittedly, concern for the appearance of things is not new. All cultures have been concerned with making clothes, everyday objects, interiors of various spaces, whether sacred spaces, spaces of power, or private spaces, “beautiful and impressive.” The history of the applied arts is indeed long. Yet modern design emerged precisely from the revolt against the tradition of the applied arts. Even more so than the transition...
One of my concerns over the last few years is what I see as a certain fear within some domains of left thought—the fear that, because we have repudiated any normative grounds for adjudicating between arrangements of existence, we must be blind to how our actions extinguish (kill) another way of life … the question must be what arrangements of existence do we want to try to pull into place or remain in place rather than disaggregating good essences from bad essences. In other words, the...

What is an artist to do? With an understanding of how our content, identities, and influence are valuable to and instrumentalized by brands and marketers, we can find space for resistance and refusal, or we can actively engage with existing models in an effort to ameliorate them. While it might seem like the only options are to ramp up your posting with accelerationist fervor, or delete your account, there are tactics to be learned from internet trolls, the alt-right, and institutional critique that can open space for effective critique and resistance.

In 1990, George Michael released his song “Freedom ’90.” It was a time when everybody was deliriously singing along with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” or the Scorpions’ “Winds of Change,” celebrating what people thought was the final victory of liberty and democracy after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Most abysmal of all these sing-along songs was David Hasselhoff’s live rendition from on top of the Berlin Wall of “Looking for Freedom,” a song describing the trials and tribulations of a rich man’s...
At the turn of the twentieth century, Paris was the center of modernity. Everyone who was interested in modern art and culture wanted to come to Paris, namely Americans, among whom were a couple of my brothers, Leo and Michael. I joined them in 1903. Leo wanted to be an artist, and he rented a space on the ground floor on Rue de Fleurus, then number 27, as his studio. But he soon realized he wouldn’t be an artist, so he decided to collect instead. He had already acquired a number of works by...
"Identity, please!" In Europe, the past has always been much better than the present. Those who see European identity diluted, its legacy erased—public places smattered with graffiti and covered with advertising, names forgotten, classical languages unlearned, French and German replaced by broken English—are concerned that all that was ever good about Europe may be bound to transform beyond recognition. But their lament, however justifiable, disregards the fact that the meaning of...
1. Classical Music vs. Free Jazz When an adult in Berlin or Vienna wants to spend an evening with company, there are two basic options: one can have a cozy dinner with friends at a restaurant or someone’s apartment, or one can go out. The second option may not be a radical step into the unknown, as there are familiar signposts, but nevertheless, when we go out, we switch into an entirely different mode of experience. Now “going out” can mean all sorts of things: an art...
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