|Barbara Kruger Untitled (I shop therefore I am) (1987)|
Barbara Kruger's appropriation of René Descartes' maxim "I think, therefore I am"(Cogito, ergo sum) is searingly funny and poignant when "I shop therefore I am" becomes a commentary about the commodification of culture. Ironically, her artwork which is the byproduct of her philosophical critique is worth a tremendous amount of money itself.
I love Kruger's work because it makes you take a long hard look at the underpinnings of what drives culture, and what motivates us to do what we do, and think what we think.
This particular work Untitled (I shop therefore I am) always makes me think about my own buying patterns as a consumer, and it makes me think about the consumer goods that I fetishize, and how so much of that is culturally conditioned. Take for instance makeup, skincare products, Tom Ford reading glasses, or Marc Jacobs wallets and purses (my personal favorites). There is no question that I could live without those things, and thankfully I don't have to. However, we are often unconsciously driven to crave things that we don't yet have, and nearly as quickly as we acquire them we lose interest in them and obsess about the "next thing." Seasonal collections support this fickle consumerism, and we buy into the construct. Madison Avenue banks on our willingness to stay on this expensive joy ride- which we willingly do!
While I long ago realized that I don't define my worth by the acquisition of the latest Collection, I likewise realize that I all too easily succumb to wanting things that I don't yet have. There is a reason, after all, that I have so many lipsticks and blushes that are variations on the same shade of pink. Subtle distinctions are made: this one has a satin finish, this one has a touch of lavender, this one has pink pearl etc. Then there are infinite ways to justify the necessity of extravagant purchases: this is from the Chanel Summer Collection (including the much dreaded letters- LE), these were from Sephora's Friends & Family Sale, these couldn't be resisted because of double or triple points on my Barneys or Nordstrom card.... There is also the lure of the GWP- even if it isn't a particularly good gift- it can make an otherwise rational person buy unneeded things indiscriminately in order to make the minimum purchase price. I'm not talking about Barneys gift bags that are worth their weight in gold- I'm talking about the run-of-the-mill gifts that get stuffed in a drawer along with the things that you didn't need or want so that you could get the gift in the first place.
Don't get me wrong, I am hardly declaring a personal war, or even a moratorium on makeup consumption- I am just trying to be a little bit more discriminating and mindful of what I am purchasing. I have a sizable stash of makeup, and trust me there are plenty of things that I still haven't gotten around to using yet (and that's not including backups). However this motivation to "collect" is simultaneously at odds with my pragmatic nature and the overarching desire to only have what I need and use. I don't expect this contradiction to resolve itself because truth be told I am a makeup magpie and I like bringing those pretty shiny baubles back to my nest to look at and play with. However, there is a tipping point: there is a balance that must be struck- a delicate equilibrium that must strictly be adhered to- otherwise chaos will ensue. There is a point where you simply have too much- a point where just one more Glossimer or serum takes you from Collector to Hoarder. I am still in the category of the former, rather than the latter- but the line is much finer than it actually appears the closer you get to it. At a certain point it is a distinction without difference. So beauty blogger or not, I am making a concerted effort to buy consciously rather than impulsively. Weighing, for instance, whether this eyeshadow is different enough from what I already have to be a worthwhile purchase. I do not equate this with deprivation, but instead I see this as a way to make each purchase a more meaningful one. One in which I select things that I really love, rather than things that I feel I should just buy because they are limited edition and will likely sell out quickly. That simply is not a good enough reason to buy a lipstick shade that is unflattering on you-- even if it is the it color of the season.
I still want to be in makeup nirvana I just don't want the frenzy of acquisition to infect my enjoyment of makeup or to cause me to buy things that I ultimately won't use because they weren't well-reasoned purchases in the first place. I want to be as rational about my makeup purchases as I am in all of the other aspects of my life as a consumer. After all, makeup costs money and lots of makeup costs lots of money. So while I am not imposing a ban on makeup consumption- I am going to make a real effort to not only buy what I will covet, but what I will actually use.
This is not an indictment of my own spending habits, but instead it is intended as a wake-up call. This is a simple plea to have my rational self take the wheel before I toss down my credit card- because the makeup magpie in me is impetuous and impractical, and generally likes to take charge in the face of so many shiny pretty things. It is she who is solely responsible for the size of my stash!
What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself similarly inclined to buy things that you don't really need or want? Do you have lots of things that you don't use in your stash? What solutions have you come up with? Do tell!
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