The Tragically Unhip

a blog with three fingers on the pulse of uncoolness.

live in the lost February 22, 2010

Filed under: Art,Culture & Society,Manifesto — MP*erron @ 1:32 am

77 Yoko Ono Hair Pieces, Corina Kennedy

Emily Shanahan & Corina Kennedy

Liminal, fragmented, disconnected. Live in the lost sandwiches existence between the past and the present, alluding to a cultivated nostalgia that is made intelligent by distance. As a whole, the exhibition questions what it is to be present, complete, missing.

From the classical references in Shanahan’s study, to the avant-garde perdu in Kennedy’s 77 Yoko Ono Hair Pieces, the work moves through a non-linear timeline and carries into each era a notion of the fractured; many of the pieces fail to be complete in the traditional sense, and although selected pieces appear to form clusters in time, there is no overarching progression to define the experience. What then begins to appear is a hint of time – more specifically the “past” – as both here and gone, minus the measurement of how far gone, and how exactly here. The paradoxical imperative, live in the lost, becomes increasingly attainable; as the live (adjective) locates itself within that which has slipped away, it pulls the whole brouhaha within mind’s reach. And yet, the lost here is not exclusively temporal.

As one examines individual pieces, the pattern becomes prominent. Things are missing here. Limbs, faces, life – even Yoko Ono. The art, then, becomes a study of what constitutes a whole; and the question of whether life is carried on in the severed appendages teases the viewer.

Shanahan especially investigates this theme. Many of her classical inspired paintings feature statuesque figures and sculptural renditions from which key parts have been removed. Crumbled and eroded by time; or broken off by the artist? Both possibilities are entertained as one moves through the analogous representation of representation. Within this dialogue, an exploration of horror and darkness begins to emerge. The duo Head of Alexander and Head of Athena flatten and wash out once corporeal sculptures. The result: eerie and vacant glimpses into celebrated mythology. The disembodiment, then, becomes symbolic rather than incidental.

On another level, Nyx, Seer, Cupid #4 and Cupid #5 introduce a philosophical exploration of the void. Rich with dark, glossy strokes, this group of paintings pushes meaning forward from obscurity. Seer mirrors the disfiguring fear of Munch’s The Scream with blurred intentionality. Put into context by the surrounding theme of time, it gains a sickening sense of anxiety in the face of death. Paired together on a single wall, Cupid #4 and Cupid #5 enter into a charged exchange: the limbless #4 appears to emerge from a swirl of black, the headless #5 to retract into one.

Independently of these pieces, the video installation Six Minute Vanitas invites spectators to strap on headphones, turn their backs to the gallery, and meditate on death and the nature of transience. Contrary to the traditional stasis of the genre, Shanahan’s version employs technology, light play, sound and, delightfully, the human breath, to engage with the symbolism of the featured objects. A cow skull is framed by flickering candles – which are later extinguished – and adorned with plastic flowers. The limited life of the candles, imitated life of the flowers, and intimated life of the skull posits a modern eloquence in the execution of the vanitas, which is furthered by the chosen medium. And while the six minute clip suggests brevity and constraints, its cycling ad infinitum captures transience perhaps more accurately than the original model.

If Shanahan is concerned with enabling discourse between the classical and contemporary, Kennedy reconfigures the iconic. An interest in the fragmented is present alongside an investment in the effects of repetition, both acutely addressed in the aforementioned 77 Yoko Ono Hair Pieces. The sprawling arrangement is comprised of 77 black and white paintings on identical blocks of wood, forming a seemingly random pattern, the result of which is a rather arresting checkerboard portrait of that very famous hair. Individually, the pieces vary in texture, ratio, and complexity. Some are simple – nearly entirely black or white, unintriguing in their monotony. Others are complex to the point of creating optical illusions, poetic in their rendition. Together they challenge identity and the absolute, playing with the multiplicity that constitutes the individual and, cleverly, hair.

On a distant wall, AHair APart teases the memory of the hair pieces. Separate from the others, yet similar in style, this one stands a hair apart, so to speak, and yet, without the reference suggested by the previous work, entirely different, unidentifiable, mysterious. Barely resembling hair, upon closer inspection, the painting yields a humorous clue: the sweeping black is separated by what, in the hair world, is known universally as a part.

Kennedy’s paintings often take on a haunting quality that remains like an imprint upon the eye. From the first work encountered – a soft, wallpaper inspired vase whose flowers blur and bleed into the background – to the bizarre The Ambassador Inn – the exhibition literature offers another clue, and the answer it seems, is also in the wallpaper – color is muted, shaded, and layered, often having an otherworldly effect. Often the allusions in her work must be deciphered, at othertimes they seem private.

Glazed Girl is set apart from the other pieces by its ethereal eeriness and penetrating skill. At once zombie and flower child, the subject is rendered in wispy and hazy colors: across her belly stretches a gauziness that is suggestive of a womb into which we may peer, and flowers imprint a halo behind flowing hair that frames a hauntingly vacant face. In a collection of work that shows Kennedy’s skilled hand, Glazed Girl is exciting because it clearly pierces an entirely other level. This is the kind of coveted early work that will one day appear in a retrospective and garner marvel at its concentrated innocence and sophistication. Marianne Perron, 2010.

Warren G. Flowers Art Gallery, Dawson College, 4001 de Maisonneuve Ouest, through February 27.


Never Mind The Fashion Week… October 4, 2009

Filed under: City Living,Culture & Society,Fashion,Shopping — Little Evie @ 8:13 pm

Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show
Vintage wasn’t cool when I was in high school. Well, no one wore it when we actually got free dress days, unless it was Hallowe’en and someone went all-out with their ‘1960s Hippie’ costume (the only thing more embarrassing than that has got to be marketing Punk Lite to tweens). But somewhere between my ‘80s hand-me-downs and ‘90s quasi-raver gear, I had myself a nice little collection of retro clothing, all care of my auntie Elsa aka Liz Kolanksy aka ‘The Cool Aunt.’

The stand-outs included a gold evening jacket and a bright green mod mini dress that blew everyone else’s standard school dance fare (Calvin Klein Mom-cut jeans and baby tees) out of the water. Or maybe it provoked giggles. I can’t remember caring, just thinking I looked like the hot distant Brady cousin.

Manhattan VintageSo I was thrilled when some time after high school I started heading down to New York and helping out Elsa with Studio 42 and Oly’s Vintage (named after my uncle Oly, whose salon then shared a space with her shop on E. 21st) – and with the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, a yearly showcase of vintage clothing and textiles for designers and fashion fiends.

It was then and there that I…

…learned how many designers’ ‘designs’ consist of re-issued vintage pieces (often after low-balling vintage clothing dealers – it’s odd, to say the least, seeing an exact replica of a piece you sold for a mere $75 for $1,000+ apiece in Saks).

…found out cool parties and media clippings don’t pay the rent, selling alongside a designer for Imitation of Christ who had moved back in with her parents.

…marveled at interns from major fashion houses sent over to buy up vintage items from their own labels.

…realized some people’s reaction to used clothing is still a decisive, ‘Eww.’

…ran into celebs and designers, managing to remain oblivious to their identities until afterward (except maybe Patricia Field and Betsey Johnson because, well, c’mon).

…found out even celebs and designers haggle.

Victorian cape from Studio 42

Victorian cape from Studio 42

…gave some bullshit interview to a Village Voice reporter about the popularity of Victorian whites post-9/11.

…fell in love with every old timey soul living in New York, from a couple stuck in the 1800s to a gang of rockabilly kids (when I mentioned the cuteness of one of the boys, a girl from the group warned me he was an alcoholic).

…wandered around in a gaudy one-armed Miss Universe pageant gown and had it bought off my back.

…bought my first pair of (and god help the Sex and the City-ness of it all) Manolos for about $100 and learned the single upside to my giant shoe size: Lots of models have it, too, meaning I get a great selection of runway cast-offs and stylist steals.

Looks like I’m heading down again this year for Oct. 8 and 9, hopefully after developing a strategy for keeping myself from spending the last of my life savings on a Victorian cape or Chanel twin set (though it’s hard not to kick yourself for passing up a gorgeous 1940s dress for $100 only to find a look-a-like for the same price at H&M).

I wonder what it’ll be like this year, if it’ll be full of Mad Men fans looking for hot Joan-style dresses. Or Rachel Zoe wannabes hunting for peasant pieces to put under ‘stylist’s own’ in the fashion spread credits. Hipster kids, burlesque performers, bargain hunters and incognito millionaires. I doubt I’ll even want to hit Century 21 when I’m done.


Hipster Ads: They’ve Gotten Sooo Commercial September 9, 2009

Filed under: Advertising,Hipster Culture,Music — Little Evie @ 1:47 pm

Indie twosome Slow Club came to town the other week. I didn’t attend the show (I was out of the country and also, I hate music), but had I gone I’m not sure I could have restrained myself from yelling: ‘Play the Ritz Crackers song! Do it! Crackers! Yeah everyone, par-ty down!’

It’s not what you think. I’m not about to ream out some hard-working musicians trying to get noticed and pay their rent, and honestly, I’m just as likely as the next idiot to Google ‘need know song mac ad.’ It’s just that I’ve noticed a certain kind of music making its way into ads for everyday products. And a certain type of pale, thin, messy-haired person. And a certain kind of rough-edged font that tries not to smack of effort. And a certain type of aftereffect that bleaches everything out to the point where it looks like the sky’s painted pastel, and those skinny, beat-up jeans are practically acid washed.

Take this ad for Miracle Whip. Its approach seems eerily close to The Onion’s mock advertisement for extreeeme saltines, now with skinny rebellious spokespeople.

Say whaaat? In yo’ face, mayonnaise! I think we can safely say that that was the most embarrassing blip of all those people’s careers – the models, the editor, the marketing team, the voice guy, and of course the lady at the end who seems to equate her choice of condiment with some sort of new civil rights movement.

But even that’s just a tad too edgy to be considered a hipster commercial. Hipster commercials are about hanging with your friends and wearing vintage ‘pieces’ paired with American Apparel basics. About acting like kids (because hey, why not?) while a lilting soundtrack serenades you over to the product, about which you comment, ‘Oh that old thing? Yeah, pretty good. I’m not going to turn this into a bro-style beer commercial or anything and start humping legs, but yeah, I’ll buy it. Whatever. At least until everyone else starts buying it.’

Here’s a car commercial that fits the bill. Could that couple be any prettier or more in love? They are so pretty and so in love I want to fling myself over their balcony out of shame. They’re probably going to some cool Scandanavian festival I’ve never even heard of.

This Jetta one is pretty good, too, if only because you can picture the pitch meeting so clearly: ‘It’s about a young couple exploring the neighbourhood they’re gentrifying from the safety of their vehicle (not that there’s anything wrong with it).’

Here’s an ad for gum that combines a pretty person who works from home as a graphic designer with adorable Asian-style animation (uh… maybe a bit too Asian. Pause it at 0:12 and let me know) – the kind of cutesy art this Demetri Martin-looking dude probably puts in mismatched frames and hangs alongside a real taxidermied squirrel.

And the coup de grace: lil’ hipsters. Here’s the aforementioned Ritz Crackers* commercial, which isn’t terribly obnoxious but does present me with a conundrum – the song is actually quite nice, but now it’s tainted by cracker crumbs. Then again, would I have ever even heard it had it not been used by Ritz? (Remember, I hate music.) Also, how am I supposed to live my life when these two eight-year-olds are clearly cooler than me?

Truly bittersweet. After all, they’re co-opting whimsy and whatever the real inspiration was behind all those songs.

On the other hand… Hey there, hipster friends who make non-threatening music and/or work in marketing – Good for you! What with your jobs and your clients and stuff. There’s nothing like staying one step ahead of the game and turning a disadvantage, e.g. being inexperienced or the youngest person in the office, into a forte, e.g. knowing what the kids think is ‘cool.’ No, not that. Or that. You can’t define it… you just know.

* On a side note, I wonder what’s happened to Ritz’s sales. Those things have got to be swimming in trans fats, right?


From firings to hirings that should occur merely to fire me July 10, 2009

Filed under: Manifesto,Work — Meagan Burbidge @ 6:03 pm

Dear Sir or Madam,


I am writing you this particular letter in response to your particular job posting because the futile caliber of my previous cover letters has proved itself to be insuperable and has thusly resulted in the following paragraphs.


I have spent over a year applying to literally thousands of employment opportunities (that never initially articulate the necessity for one to work without their clothing), with the information (concomitant with a positive, outgoing and homogeneous comportment) as follows:


i) I attended courses and was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; an institution considered, by some, to be as laudable as various Ivy League institutions, yet about as meritorious as a PhD from the Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in conjunction with my current circumstances.

ii) With over ten years in the workforce, I have the ability to speak clearly and politely to customers and clients, answer telephones and cashier with kindness and enthusiasm, multitask, and alphebetize.

iii) In regards to my technological capabilities, I have the capacity to read, write, type, answer more than one telephone line, use Microsoft Office applications (including Word, Excel, Outlook, Entourage, PowerPoint, Access, and Solitaire), and Adobe Creative Suite (including Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, FinalCut Pro, InDesign and GoLive), make a copy, fax a document and file.

iv) I can also take notes, schedule a flight with one airline and arrange a connecting flight with a completely different airline to whichever destination one is so inclined to arrive at, schedule multiple meetings and various appointments in the same day or specified time frame, order lunches, order dinners, make reservations, pick up or send out items requiring laundering, pick up caffeinated or acai-infused beverages, withstand the not-so-sunny disposition of others, refrain from the use of Facebook in the span of a traditional or nontraditional workday, manage a bank account, set up a new bank account, place phone calls to individuals one may desire to speak with and subsequently transfer the line over to an entirely different telephone, decipher semi-legible handwriting, play a mediocre rendition of Chopin’s Prelude in Eb minor on the piano, recite countless lines from a collection of Audrey Hepburn films, and prepare a lovely bed of field greens in sauce vinaigrette with haricots vert and goat cheese timbales.


This is most likely not the most opportune time to apologize for the substance of this letter. However, the prefatory phrase “In this economy…” has grown simply ineffectual in terms of remedial justifications. At the very least, if you have happened to reach this point of such detrital, ill-advised rancor, I have accomplished a brief, yet unexpected juxtaposition to the four hundred or more letters that undoubtedly mirror what I should have sent you, as I vacuously relish in the gratification of having for one day earned your disregard in contrast to merely obtaining it.


Thank you so much for any time you may have spent on this and I will be certain to prepare any fast foods or coffees with the best of care should we ever meet in the future.


Warm Regards and Best Wishes in your search for a truly applicable applicant,
Meagan Burbidge


Poison Pen Letter to a Barbecue June 12, 2009

Filed under: Advertising,Etiquette,Manifesto,Signage — Tragically Unhip Staff @ 2:53 pm


Picture 3


Dear Weber® Q® 140 Outdoor Electric Grill’s advertising agency,


Thank you so much for ripping off the logo created for The Tragically Unhip by totally awesome graphic designer Laura F. Cline in August 2008.  Now that your billboards are all over Manhattan and your GIF ads are being e-blasted into the inboxes of all Flavorpill subscribers, you should have been raising our profile as the little blog that could, but instead we seem to have gone as an uncredited source of your design team’s inspiration. I hope that you’ve at least shared our URL around your impossibly sleek and modern SoHo digs so that the account managers and marketing team could read and benefit from our unhip humour. But should ever you require the services of a few brilliant, tongue-in-cheek writers, do inquire within.


Yours respectfully,


The Tragically Unhip


Picture 4


Hipster Pick-Up Lines: Get Laid Faster Than a Bike Courier on Blow May 19, 2009

Filed under: Booze,Dating,Hipster Culture,How-To,Sex — Little Evie @ 12:03 pm

A few months back I Facebook-asked the coolest people I know for their best hipster pick-up lines. They were to be collected and printed in a once-promising magazine, and they were… only the article managed to land in a sea of silicone boobs and Simple Plan quotes. I can pretty much guarantee that not a single Tragically Unhip reader will ever lay eyes on the issue, except perhaps as a grotesque joke.


So here they are – plus a few that were too good to print – in all their apathetic glory. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!



  • Wanna go on a post-date?
  • Is that a pair of vintage Ray Bans in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
  • Ever heard of Williamsburg? I named it.
  • I’d like to have you on vinyl.
  • What’s your gear ratio?
  • Hi. I play harmonica in Arcade Fire. Wanna fuck?
  • Did you know that PBR actually stands for ‘Pretty Big Rod’?
  • Lemme add my app to your dashboard. If you know what I mean.
  • You would totally make it into Vice’s page of Do’s.
  • Seriously baby, I’ll take you out as soon as this check clears from my parents.
  • Are those Nudie Limited Edition Masa Japan jeans from outer space? Because your ass is out of this world.
  • Want to start a wolf-, fox- or crystal-related band together?
  • You’ve got bike courier eyes.
  • I like you so much, you make me want to update my Facebook status to In a Relationship.
  • Wanna meet my Cobrasnake?
  • I want to have a Casual Encounter with you. Don’t make me have to write a Missed Connection.
  • I only look asexual.
  • Boy: Hey, do you have any pretentious avant-garde photographer in you?  Girl: Er, no.  Boy: Want some?
  • Can you program my iPhone’s GPS with your bed’s location?
  • Yeah, I was kind of a big deal at last year’s Expozine…
  • Hey, haven’t we had sex in the bathroom at Green Room before?
  • You look familiar; didn’t I see you writhing around on the filthy floor of a L.E.S. dive bar on Last Night’s Party?
  • I’d like to see your ‘deep v’ — and I’m not talking about your American Apparel tee.
  • Want to come over and meet my cats, Harmony and Korine?
  • Looking at you, I’d swear I had ‘sexy lenses’ in my glasses… but I remembered these glasses don’t have lenses, they’re just for show.
  • Hey good to see you! Let’s go for breakfast at some overpriced breakfast joint that will refuse to put butter on my toast and most likely fuck up the bacon! It’s 2pm and breakfast time has just started! Uh… I’ll just circle around this parking lot while you change…. really? You like that? Ok…. I’ll just circle around while you put on cooler shoes, like mine. [Waiting outside] Maybe I’ll listen to Illo’s new song…


  • … did I mention I’ve got coke?


(Thanks to Nat Hutchens, Cindy Lou, Bobby Steez, Ms. Dawe, Mr. Lam and Mr. Curry and anyone else who contributed. Illustration c/o David Shaw)


Maybe I lied, but it was to protect you. May 13, 2009

Filed under: Booze,Dating — Laurin McNiff @ 8:38 am

Last night was spent in the comfort of my apartment, throwing what I like to call a Facebook Party, where my friend Helen and I drink 40s and update each other on our iTunes shuffle selections. For months I’ve heard people talk about OkCupid; we even wrote about it here. But for the life of me, I couldn’t understand a) why the site was organized by what seemed to be a blind person,  b) why the questions appeared to have been written by a mentally challenged, fetal alcohol syndrome-affected monkey, and c) why OkCupid seemed to actually WORK for some people.


Helen and I had already covered the basics of why women can be evil — settling for completely dissatisfying relationships, Coors 40s versus Ballantine debates, and discussing whether or not she would have a mental breakdown at work the next day — so we needed something else to entertain us. Being someone who routinely takes one for the team, either by choice or by natural selection, I was happy to oblige. I must have stared at the OkCupid profile screen for a good hour, sifting through completely inane, irrelevant questions such as “How many times a day do you brush your teeth?” and “How important is cuddling after sex?” until I finally caved in. I had to join this site; I wanted a social experiment.


The result led to this full OkCupid profile. Please enjoy the music while your party is being reached.



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