My wife was shocked to find fecal matter on our kitchen table. She called me over right away, and pointed to a photo:
“ENTRANCED: Gifted Montreal designers Fecal Matter admire the mastery of legendary Manfred Thierry Mugler at the official launch…”
There it was: in the Social Notes of the Weekend newspaper. Also in attendance at the launch was the Director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (hosting the event), Kim Kardashian, supermodel Tyra Banks and other representatives of the social elite of western society.
Seeing these turds was jarring. I had been happily trying to remember the lyrics of the song “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma,” when my wife summoned me.
Oh, What a Beautiful Morning
“All the sounds of the earth are like music
All the sounds of the earth are like music
The breeze is so busy it don’t miss a tree
An’ a ol’ weepin’ willer is laughin’ at me
Oh, what a beautiful Morning’
Oh, what a beautiful day.
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s goin’ my way.
Oh, what a beautiful day! “
It’s corny, no argument about that. The lyrics aren’t deep, they don’t raise any major social issues. The words reflect the carefree, self confident America of the nineteen-fifties, where everything appeared to be going its way. It was a society whose artistic theme was optimism and appreciation rather than poop.
Fecal Matter is a Montreal-based fashion duo, whose surreal and stomach-clearing creations have garnered international recognition. They’ve been featured in Vogue and other fashion journals. Artslant magazine described them as “the design provocateurs subverting fashion’s throwaway culture” who “express solidarity with other outsiders” (emphasizing their progressive credentials). In an interview they said:
“Calling our platform Fecal Matter was really a stab at the heart of the industry—showing that all of these material belongings we are all collecting and harvesting is all just shit at the end of the day.”
You don’t protest sh*t by adding to it. It’s more radical to declare “Oh, what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way.” The folksinger Phil Ochs (1940-1976) put it this way:
“In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.”
The Banality of Evil
Offensiveness is banal, not creative; crudeness is certainly not protest against the social order. It’s high fashion, as shown by the fawning socialites who celebrate Fecal Matter. It’s evil when society normalizes deviancy, shrugging its shoulders at widespread coarseness and nihilism. Fecal Matter and their sycophants are not revolutionaries or radicals stabbing at materialism and power. They are the establishment that must be overthrown. Let’s do so by following the advice of Phil Ochs, and Rodgers & Hammerstein: fight back with optimism, beauty and decency.