This particular lecture focused mainly on ‘taste’ and ‘class’ through means of modernism and class. We discussed key themes such as social status and consumer culture. We began by looking at Haussmann’s modern city. Haussmann used urban planning to modernise an entire city. He wanted people to thrive in the city so he ensured that what was once a cramped street, would be opened up to create a wide open space. He wanted people to explore and go to places that they usually would not dare to step foot in after the day was over. He re-created Paris on a geometric grid system. This allowed people to really understand the city as it was clear and easier to navigate around. He fully supported the idea of using phsycogeography to allow people to drift around their environment. This links to similar ideas had by The Situationist International who came up with the idea that subtle changes in the environment actually lead people to wonder their urban surroundings. In the lecture this was linked to the theory of the ‘flaneur’, a man who wonders aimlessly yet observantly within society.
This linked into the idea that since the regeneration of Paris, certain social segregation became evident. A class system soon developed and the way that people lived their lives was now somewhat dictated by where you fell in the structure of society. People began to have different tastes and lead extremely different lives. This carried on throughout generations where people soon learned what ‘their taste was’.
“Taste has nothing to do with what we are born as, taste is something that is learned” – Kay’s Catalogue Lecture
This customised social status is formed by ‘habitus’ according to French sociologist ‘Pierre Bourdieu’; this habitus refers to the social normalities that tend to set examples of behaviour and thinking within a certain social group. this supports the concept that we, as a society, can no longer decide our own tastes anymore as what we like is now decided for us. This is done through things such as media and social message.
“Taste is woven into our class system” – Grayson Perry
In modern day, our taste is almost given to us. For example, catalogues for big homeware stores such as ‘Ikea’ actually display kitchens through images in the catalogue which we as consumers will automatically desire to replicate. Other examples include ‘The Ideal Home Show’, a show which demonstrates ‘the ideal home’, our society observes this and automatically wants to recreate it for themselves as it has been deemed as acceptable, fashionable and ideal. This often has underlying factors of our desire to constantly improve as a society.
“Consumer culture publicity (advertising) suggest that we all have room for self-improvement and self expression whatever our age or class origins” – Mike Featherstone
This links with the fact that we can use taste as a method of self improvement, for example, using identity as a brand, by displaying a particular taste, others may aspire to be the same. An example of this would be with the Kardashian family. The Kardashians have a whole empire based on their own personal taste. They have used this to create a brand. They make money on how they are perceived by the public. This then, in turn, effects what the public want. They look up to the Kardashians as a respected and trusted ‘taste’; therefore this defines what we want and need to fit to a certain persona.
Although the idea of social class and structure is becoming more and more irrelevant with the modernistic and free way of thinking that the current generation posseses, the idea that you can buy into a class system still remains, with guidance and tastes still being validated through media and popular figures, there will always be some form of class structure within the world in which we live.