Ornament for Serious Purpose: Mina Loy and Gaudy Consumer Culture
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Mina Loy’s work explores the gaudiness of consumer culture in its spectacle, extravagance and underlying falsity. “Giovanni Franchi,” “Three Moments in Paris” and “Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots” question the perceptive powers and autonomy of Baudelaire’s flâneur when applied particularly to the modern female subject. Moreover, “Hot Cross Bum” explores the excess involved in consumer extravagance, while “Feminist Manifesto” uses that extravagance to re-appropriate advertising towards Loy’s own ends. Throughout, consumer culture is seen as a false veneer; ultimately, however, Loy admits the paradoxical reality of this false consumer culture, and its real implications on modern life in “On Third Avenue” and “Mass Production on 14th Street.” Consequently, Loy gives a nuanced and sophisticated critique and exploration of consumer culture, and can be connected to theorists of spectacle like Guy Debord, of advertising like T.J. Jackson Lears, and to Baudrillard’s hyperreality.