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Teresa Cos

I Was There – Observations on “The Society of The Spectacle”

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“I Was There” is the first chapter of a long term (lifetime) project which explores western society and its obsession with success. I started by depicting the worlds of art, fashion and culture, where anxiety and struggle for success, together with the desperate need for recognition and approval are ubiquitous; where people live with the constant fear of being considered losers. The images have been taken in 2010 at Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice Film Festival, Milan and London Fashion Weeks, Frieze Art Fair in London and Paris Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC).

I chose these events because they are globalised examples of a bubble (for instance the art industry) that is on the verge of explosion. As wrote Jean Baudrillard: When one looks at the emptiness of current art, the only question is how much such a machine can continue to function in the absence of any new energy, in an atmosphere of critical disillusionment and commercial frenzy, and with all the players totally indifferent? If it can continue, how long will this illusionism last? A hundred years, two hundred? This society is like a vessel whose edges move ever wider apart, and in which the water never comes to the boil.

If one substitutes current art with current society the equation doesn’t really change, does it? And who are these indifferent players, if not us? I want to keep on exploring and understanding photographically the Hyper reality created by consumerism, where people aspirations are dangerously confused with the models of living that the society of the spectacle is constantly selling us and where need has become desire and admiration envy.

To me, it is fundamentally important to understand these social dynamics because, by creating the idea that through a selfish individualism everybody can finally reach extreme forms of wealth and success, one drastically contributes to the social and economic disparities in this world.



I was born and grew up in a small town called Latisana, in the North East of Italy, a one hour drive from Venice, where I ended up living for six years as an architecture student. It is thanks to architecture that I discovered photography, because it taught me to look at the world through different eyes.

After graduating in 2008, I was in the Italian team of architects and urbanists in the international table of consultation wanted by the French government to produce ideas for the future of Paris. I lived for seven months in the suburbs of the French capital, producing my first important body of work, Banlieue 08/09, that allowed me to be accepted last year onto the Photojournalism & Documentary Photography MA program at London College of Communication, where I graduated with Distinction.

I live and work in London and I am also part of the photography collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine.


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Teresa Cos

Collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine

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Against Detroit’s “industrial exoskeleton,” Resident Advisor has a new documentary short film examining Detroit’s musical revival, an electronic cultural phenomenon that brought healing and new life to a city whose economic livelihood had imploded.

The film is beautifully shot, and wisely starts with Motown and its connections to the auto industry, not simply with an out-of-context look at electronics alone. From those roots come the rich musicianship Detroit offers, a level of musicianship perhaps not generally associated with electronica. The film logically turns to the electronic revolution – and some reminders of just how fresh and modern the tracks sound, even if the, erm, fashions haven’t dated as well. This cultural invention against economic collapse seems about the most fitting picture of America in general one could find – at once cautionary tale and promising parable.

The dead husks of architecture and civic scene prove a silent, empty backdrop. And there’s a tragic side – the week in which England’s police and youths clash to destructive effect, there’s an ongoing inability to reconcile the warehouse music scene with police seeking to shut down raves, a pervasive sense of the city as failed even as the rest of the world might imagine its culture as vibrant. (Yes, I’m certain some Detroit residents are tired of being portrayed as some sort of wrecked quasi-war zone. Let me say this, instead: every major metro area in the US, and many smaller ones, has an area ravaged by economic change, just as America in general has serious challenges facing its poor and unemployed. The most dramatic images aren’t simply emblems of Detroit, but of those crises everywhere.)

But most hopeful, perhaps, is seeing a new young generation embrace accessible computer music technologies, the optimistic tick-tock of an Ableton metronome and a kid’s hands all over a Maschine drum pad controller. The early fathers of Detroit techno were able to produce a musical revolution because machines for the first time became affordable; who knows what musical imaginings these kids are cooking up in hours spent after school, or what greater focus and discipline that can give to their other work. (I can speak for myself: without music to calm me down, to give myself a center, to act as emotional and spiritual outlet, it’s hard to imagine how I ever would have done anything else.)

Detroit from above: Sensor L7 ETM+ on NASA’a Landsat satellite peers at the Motor City from space in December 2001, courtesy the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

It’s wonderful documentary making, and a great editorial contribution on Resident Advisor’s part. Now the next question: can we find a way to make this kind of music vibrancy heal our cities and communities, at a time when economies are in freefall, Americans are out of work in absurd numbers, London is setting fire to warehouses of records, and a thousand other invisible crises worldwide threaten to pull neighborhoods apart? Detroit’s music to most might be some vague recollection of now-extinct Motown or music at parties; when music lovers start to tell a richer story, maybe that role for music will be more widely appreciated.

Some of the interviewees: Brendan Gillen (Ectomorph), RJ Watkins and Henry Tyler (The New Dance Show), Jon Dixon and DJ Skurge (Underground Resistance), Josh Glazer (Urb Magazine), Luke Hess and Brian Kage (Reference), and Mike Huckaby, among others. New sounds and new names are mixed in among the older sounds and veterans. (Kudos to the crew – John Fisher was DP; Patrick Nation and Daniel Higginson produced and directed.)

Oh, and Derek Mahone, age 11. Remember that name.

Real Scenes: Detroit [Resident Advisor]

From the other side of the pond, and poignant given ongoing unrest in the UK, here’s Real Scenes: Bristol. It makes a worthy companion to the Detroit piece. As RA puts it:

The eyes of the world have turned to the UK in recent years and have found some of the most exciting, genre-defying young artists to emerge from electronic music. But while London’s scene can be fractious and hard to pin down, there seems to be something in the air in Bristol that unites its participants. Whether they’re creating dubstep, house, techno or something else entirely, the cross-pollination in Bristol is unique. In RA’s first official entry into video, we journey to Bristol to explore how the city has flourished in recent years, discovering why this small metropolis is one of the most influential electronic music outposts in the world today.

(Apologies to Bristol; I should probably wax just as poetic about your town, but happened to miss the release of the earlier film when it came out!)

Real Scenes: Bristol [Resident Advisor, July 5]


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