Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nuclear Chic: New For A/W 08-09

Poor old Gordon Brown, no sooner does he go off on his joyless holidays than the upstart D. Miliband tries to a) usurp him and b) re-start the Cold War.

Now, different people have different ideas about whether confronting Russia is a good idea right at the moment, particularly given that we're already engaged in two wars, and given that we made our own declaration of independence from the moral high ground in 2003 when we (I say 'we', although really it was actually T. Blair and his conveniently nebulous chums, God and History) chose to invade Iraq illegally.

But so far, no one has drawn the obvious conclusion from Miliband's posturing, which is that he is in the pay of a shadowy secret society whose deadly aim is to provoke another Cold War purely for its own ends.

And by 'shadowy secret society' I do of course mean the Victoria and Albert Museum, and by 'its own ends' I do of course mean the viral promotion of its new September exhibition, 'Cold War Modern'.

Yes, what better way to pique the nation's interest in its latest artfest than to persuade the Foreign Secretary to go and declare war on Russia, thereby ensuring column acres of Cold War 'nostalgia' in the media? Before you know it the Daily Mail will be giving away a free cover-mounted DVD of Threads to every reader, while the Saturday Guardian will be inserting glossy wallcharts showing what to do in the event of imminent nuclear attack.

(Bored of knitting your own jumpers from leftover edamame to beat the credit crunch? Have fun with the kids this weekend by building a fallout shelter under your raised vegetable beds! Our supplement shows you how!)

The marketing geniuses at the V&A, meanwhile, are doing a sterling job of making the threat of nuclear annihilation fashionable again, primarily via the time-honoured medium of the enamel badge. For just £3 you can purchase a set of five badges that apparently 'capture the imagination of the Cold War era':

(Click for bigness.)

'The badge designs draw on images from ‘Civil Defence Handbook No.10: Advising the Householder on Protection against Nuclear Attack’,' chirps the marketing blurb, before regaining a modicum of composure and warning 'Not suitable for children under 3.'

I should say not.

Does anyone from the V&A Marketing Department - or, for that matter, David Miliband - actually remember the Cold War? I don't recall it being in any way imaginative, stylish or exciting: the adjectives that spring to mind are more along the lines of 'chilling', 'unspeakably terrifying' and 'the FOUR-MINUTE WARNING, for fuck's sake'.

Still if it comes down to it, at least the V&A shop will make a few pennies, which does make a nice neat metaphor for the ideological triumph of capitalism over communism - although perhaps not quite as much as this item does.

NEXT WEEK: Miliband declares war on France in a teaser campaign for the National Gallery's Jacques-Louis David retrospective.


Annie said...

Ooh, spooky - I am at this very moment listening to Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive, where they were just joking about how wars are just a publicity campaign for war museums.

Cannot BELIEVE those badges. What are they thinking?

patroclus said...

Gah, curse you, Iannucci, stealing my jokes!

Those badges are indeed in quite remarkably poor taste.

Bowleserised said...

The, er, on dit about Brown holidaying in the UK is that as his son has cystic fibrosis, flying isn't really an option. But Brown would not, of course, make capital off his kids, so cue acres of op-eds about "dour Brown" and his seaside holiday.

Sadly I like those designs though. Maybe I should make some stencils/wheat pastings of them and attack the Russian Embassy.

patroclus said...

Oh, I mean it when I say 'poor Gordon Brown' - I'm one of his (increasingly few) fans. When I read we were getting a prime minister who likes reading Camus and Sartre for pleasure I was very happy. Sadly nothing seems to have worked out his way.

The badges do match the colour palette of my blog quite nicely, I must say.

Bowleserised said...

I'm a fan too – oddly enough, something in Brown speaks to the dour Scottish Protestant in me. I hate the minutiae of reporting on politicians – they should let him be grumpy in peace. Churchill certainly was.

I may send him copies of The Smiling School for Calvinists and The Little Book of Calvin by Bill Duncan. I think he'd get those.

Chris said...

I happened to see 'Threads' the other week - that, at least, couldn't be accused of glamming up the cold war.

The only bit which wasn't completely bleak and terrifying was when the police force tried to get an old man to take in some folk whose homes had been melted. He wouldn't, and when they made him, kept chucking their bags out of windows. Which was about it, for laughs.

ScroobiousScrivener said...

There's a little gallery near the Guardian offices that specialises in "Soviet era art". I find this hi-larious. Also, I think I might want that Das Kapital money box.

patroclus said...

B: Me too - I've had quite enough of flashy glamour politicians after Tony.

Chris: Oh god, they showed it to us once at school and I had to sit through the whole thing with my eyes shut and my fingers in my ears. I couldn't even finish reading the plot synopsis on Wikipedia this afternoon. 'Bleak and terrifying' don't even come close. I wonder if there'd be room for it in the BBC schedule these days.

Scroobious: That Das Kapital money box makes me laugh every time I look at it. I like the way they've tried to pretend it's a 'safety box' in the main piece of blurb, as though they suddenly couldn't bring themselves to go through with the joke.

Sylvia said...

Could someone please point me in the right direction of where I can get some info about the whole issue of fuel security? And I'm a fan of Gordy too - but don't tell my husband! I know he's done some odd stuff like selling gold reserves, raid private pensions, etc., but what's the alternative?

I'll be off to the V&A to see this exhibition - remind me of my month in Leningrad in 1982 to learn Russian. The friends I met there now live in NY and despair of how we are taken in by all the propaganda thrown at us.

On a lighter note, that Armando Iannucci reminds me of my grandfather. Pity the old git never spoke like Armando......

Tim Footman said...

Would it not have made more sense to find some actual badges from the era, and reproduce them? I had a particularly groovy "NUCLEAR-FREE AMBRIDGE" number, for example.

And will the V&A be doing a range of replica duffel coats?

Boz said...

A relative working in the local council discovered a mid-80's era big red folder for local leaders on what to do in the case of a nuclear fallout. 'Die' seemed to be the main theme, it turns out. Although there was a delightful page indicating that anyone lucky enough to be behind three foot walls would have a better chance of survival.

Some witty local civic servant had scribbled in the margin "Anyone not living in one of the county's picturesque cottages is fucked."

patroclus said...

Sylvia: Seeing as I just had to look up the phrase 'fuel security' and even now I'm not sure what it means, I don't think I'm best placed to advise. But I do agree that the actual V&A exhibition itself looks pretty good (and I'm not just saying that because Statcounter tells me some of its employees have been having a look at this post - *waves at V&A employees*) Their Modernism exhibition was fantastic. It's just the badges.

Tim: Do you still have it? It might be time to dust it down and pin it on to your hemp satchel (that's a satchel made of hemp, btw, not one for carrying it around in). Although I think in the V&A's conception of it, the Cold War era ended in 1970, the year of my birth. OH YES I AM THE CHOSEN ONE, THE PEACEBRINGER.

Boz: It always struck me that in the event of nuclear war and that, dying would be infinitely 'luckier' than survival. Us poor naive humans, clinging on to the notion of survival at any cost...