In Defense of Hipsters through Keren Cytter’s Berlin

They flicker on screen as representatives of the young and creative, the numb and self-obsessed, the philosophical and sensitive. If they were doing this in New York, the Berliners floating around in Keren Cytter’s videos would be cast as hipsters – the despised class of superficial ‘interesting’ people. In the real estate-centric logic of New York, hipsters move into ‘undesirable’ ethnic enclaves and neglected warehouse zones, opening the floodgates to generic Thai restaurants, luxury condos, Duane Reades and the destruction of a certain kind of urban purity.

Cytter’s characters look like this menace. They are fashionable in their extraordinary ordinariness, rampaging through Berlin’s streets and in their cafes, enacting the existential dramas of an artist’s idle pondering. They talk in eachothers direction, sometimes uttering the same perfectly composed lines another character spoke earlier but with different intonations and in a different context. Instead of being ironic, her hipsters inhabit the cynicism that drives irony, recycling that psychological position into a productive consideration of the conventions that lock us down. Through the hipster she is able to examine the logic upon which an alternative to what we have now can be imagined.

The protesters that have been occupying Wall Street for weeks now were first disparaged as hipsters looking for the cool new scene to contaminate, armed with homemade signs but lacking a clear, unified message. The cynical take on it all implied that the hipsters were so bored gentrifying neighborhoods they decided to de-gentrify Wall Street by occupying it. But after four weeks their action has proven to be an important platform from which to air all kinds of grievances against big banks and the government that bailed them out. The hipsters defiantly took to the streets seeking an alternative, trying to find the right poetry to voice their dissatisfaction of the righteous powers that should be protecting us. I’m down with these hipsters.

Note: Keren Cytter’s exhibition Video Art Manual is on view at Zach Feuer Gallery, New York until October 15, 2011.

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