Minimalism on my mind

I must have been sucked in, at one time or another, every single trend that’s haunted the Internet since 2009 (random date, but I have a vague feeling that was when I started my first blog on Blogger—my daughter was then two years old). I’ve done the natural living, the resurgence of handmade (sewing, knitting, etc.), the gluten-free and Paleo diets, and now minimalism. I don’t even know who I am anymore. Is that what Internet does to us: makes us lose any authentic individuality we might have had? Or we do that any way, even without help from social media? Maybe a discussion we can have another time.

All these lifestyle trends have a laudable core philosophy which often appeals to the part of me that is stressed, isolated, insecure, and always overexposed to social media. But when the main message is about resisting blind consumerism and unhealthy lifestyles and finding what’s of real value, I cannot but appreciate. Until it all becomes too rigid, too exclusivist, and I see myself in the people who take it all too seriously. At that point all is left of the good intentions I had started with is nothing but guilt-dictated behaviors. That’s when I usually disengage.

My latest thing is minimalism. I thoroughly enjoyed this article in The Financial Diet, “Minimalism: another boring product wealthy people can buy,” by Chelsea Fagan)—it’s a fun read.

But I do disagree. I mean, not entirely, because no doubt minimalism can be all that (elitist, obnoxious, etc). But it is also something else, to me: a mental exercise that helps reduce anxiety. It suits me, because my brain functions best when free of noise, clutter, and excessive stimulation. It’s not something that I particularly appreciate about myself, since I feel a creative temperament should thrive on an accumulation of diverse stimuli from the environment, people, etc. But maybe that’s just a stereotype too.

My minimalism right now is a large wardrobe filled with monochrome clothes with interesting silhouettes but minimal froufrou. I like minimalist design in everyday objects too, although sometimes that makes them less utilitarian, and that is just stupid (I want buttons on my TV, please, and spelled out menus on my software interfaces! Ugh!).

It’s not like I don’t see the beauty in detail and decoration, but that has been done in the past, and it has been done very well. Maybe minimalism is just an expression of a desire for change. Because, of course, minimalism is not new. It has reached mainstream now, which means that it might actually be toward the end of its life. In art, minimalism as a trend was born at the beginning of the twentieth century. I’ll always think of Constantin Brancusi’s art, today turned into mainstream jewelry by designers like Sophie Buhai, often without as much as a mention of the influence (ex. SB Totem Sculpture, which copies the iconic shape of Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column; not to speak of the SB egg pendant vs. Constantin Brancusi’s The Beginning of the World, only one of his many egg-shaped sculptures). Sorry for the little rant, but it has been bugging me for a while.

Minimalism might be attractive to me because it is more cerebral than ornate or realistic art. Literary minimalism is something I aspire to in my work too. (I found this old New York Times article a good introduction to literary minimalism.) I like short sentences, fragmented narratives, scarcity of description. I think unadorned, simple prose can be the most effective and beautiful. But at the same time, not easy to do. Which is fine, since I like projects anyway better than shiny, ready-finished products, and minimalism, with clothes or with words, is nothing if not a really promising project.