Dandy Highwaymen

Zaheer Kazmi in 3AM Magazine:

ScreenHunter_1873 Apr. 20 17.54Refracting the exhibitionism of Charles Baudelaire’s nineteenth-century flâneur through the gaze of today’s consumer culture, Susan Buck-Morss has observed that ‘In commodity society all of us are prostitutes, selling ourselves to strangers; all of us are collectors of things.’ The figure of the flâneur, later to be theorised by Walter Benjamin, lived on in mid-twentieth century psychogeography and assimilated the practices of Baudelaire’s rarefied urban gent to those of the lower classes. The Situationist dérive – an act of unmapped urban drifting – was intended to create an alternative cartography which transcended the panoptic confines of the late modern city’s disciplining street grid where nobody could lose themselves in the crowd. A spontaneous walk off the beaten path, rejecting state-controlled urban planning, was reimagined as a crime against bourgeois convention and a gesture towards freedom.

Hiding in plain sight, unable to ever fully escape the ubiquitous reach of the city’s watchful eye, however, the flâneur was not only spectator but spectacle, a seller as well as collector of things. Often identified with dandyism, the decadent liberty of the flâneur – embodied in flamboyant ways of deportment and sartorial choices – was also a subversive expression of art and sexuality that revealed a deeper intimacy between liberty and criminality in the Western public sphere.

More here.

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