Cobain Could Not Escape the Monetization of Art

What we are dealing with now is not the incorporation of materials that previously seemed to possess subversive potentials, but instead, their precorporation: the pre-emptive formatting and shaping of desires, aspirations and hopes by capitalist culture. Witness, for instance, the establishment of settled 'alternative' or 'independent' cultural zones, which endlessly repeat older gestures of rebellion and contestation as if for the first time. 'Alternative' and 'independent' don't designate something outside mainstream culture; rather, they are styles, in fact the dominant styles, within the mainstream. No-one embodied (and struggled with) this deadlock more than Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. In his dreadful lassitude and objectless rage, Cobain seemed to give wearied voice to the despondency of the generation that had come after history, whose every move was anticipated, tracked, bought and sold before it had even happened. Cobain knew that he was just another piece of spectacle, that nothing runs better on MTV than a protest against MTV; knew that his every move was a cliché scripted in advance, knew that even realizing it is a cliché. The impasse that paralyzed Cobain is precisely the one that Jameson described: like postmodern culture in general, Cobain found himself in 'a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, [where] all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum'. Here, even success meant failure, since to succeed would only mean that you were the new meat on which the system could feed. But the high existential angst of Nirvana and Cobain belongs to an older moment; what succeeded them was a pastiche-rock which reproduced the forms of the past without anxiety. Cobain's death confirmed the defeat and incorporation of rock's utopian and promethean ambitions. When he died, rock was already being eclipsed by hip hop, whose global success has presupposed just the kind of precorporation by capital which I alluded to above.


Folksonomies: culture critical theory pop culture

/law, govt and politics/politics (0.701722)
/style and fashion (0.684574)
/society/unrest and war (0.671719)

Kurt Cobain (0.952041): dbpedia_resource
Existentialism (0.865426): dbpedia_resource
MTV (0.844528): dbpedia_resource
Death (0.793474): dbpedia_resource
Allusion (0.788023): dbpedia_resource
Depression (mood) (0.766004): dbpedia_resource
Capitalism (0.742812): dbpedia_resource
Postmodernism (0.738323): dbpedia_resource

 Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Fisher, Mark (2009), Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, Zero Books, Retrieved on 2024-05-07
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  • Folksonomies: critical theory