We’re all saints and sinners. We were born saints, but inevitably become sinners throughout life. If you surfed the tide near San Onofre State Beach or San Juan Capistrano back in 2010 you surely attended the ministry at The Hotrod Church for Sinners. Brian Bent, then Initiator and Pastor of this congregation, is the inspiring character portrayed by subcultural pamphleteer and fashion theorist Nick Clements in The Unseen Scene, Vol. 2.
No one would dare to approach the analysis of a subject’s style in times of postmodern fashion sensibility, singling out one aspect over the whole. It should be known, that those, who wear their style consciously, almost always let it touch their entire being. These individuals create a lifestyle merging their musical roots with their taste in literature, art, architecture and their view on morale and ethics.
While committing his photographic eye and theoretical knowledge in men’s style to individuals such as Brian Bent, Nick Clements offers his readers a yet unseen frame in the archetypal iconography of male subcultures. The reference to the works of Tom Wolfe, specifically to the essayistic short The Pump House Gang, reflects his approach in researching subcultural phenomena such as the congregation of surfers near San Onofre State Beach.
He is aware that the performances of these subjects aim to incorporate the details that set them apart – i.e., if approached without the necessary preparation, there will subsist a certain renitence to share, an amount of secrecy, that only the initiated is permitted to capture or take a glimpse on.
The frantic discharge from the sea, and, in my case from the steep slopes of the snow covered Nordkette*, left us aged and abandoned Surferkinder** with the physical remembrance of the style, the “Architectural Idea”***, born out from the flow that emerges when we expose ourselves to the elements and physics of our environment. Brian Bent’s life seems to be pervaded by this flow and at some point in Nick Clements essayistic endeavor it becomes one with his deep religious belief. This all integrating approach to religiosity emanates an aura of unconventional Christianity from times, when nature and mankind stood in a closer relationship. At this point though, the thin line between biographical excerpts and hagiographic elements seems to vanish and the term Gesamtkunstwerk, used at the beginning of the pamphlet, returns camouflaged through Brian Bents musical performance at the end of the ministry. Ad the modernist approach reflected in his paintings, where the tall and slender figures riding in low tide on their kook boxes look much like Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures of walking men, and you’ll get a glimpse at the meaning of the word Gesamtkunstwerk. Not so much in the stressed Wagnerian concept, but, in my humble opinion, as a clear conglomerate of significants of an individuals subcultural lifelong project.
It’s interesting to note, that’s mostly visual artists – whose oeuvre is centered around their visual performance – that are liable to being perceived as completely amalgamated with their art. It would require further investigation on what this perception does say about our relationship to and understanding of individuals indulging exclusively in other forms of arts such as music and writing.
*mountainous freeride spot in the Tyrolean alps
**Tom Wolfe, The Pumphouse Gang, Introduction, Black Swan 1990
***Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, 1833