March 16, 2011

Rethinking the vinyl bubble

I have a confession to make: I'd been out of the designer toy loop for a while now.

I should have already suspected something was amiss when I stopped checking Vinyl Pulse as frequently as I used to, though I still make it a point to keep up with the excellent TOYSREVIL blog whenever possible.

There is a package in our study, a dust-covered plastic bag full of blind boxes that I have yet to fully unbox, limited-edition miniseries from a toy trade just a couple years(!) ago. Every time I see it I get bittersweet reminders of my heyday activity in that scene. Today I had more or less commenced my thorough de-cluttering of our study, and I still haven't unwrapped that package.

I get a similar sensation nowadays whenever I click on my Toys folder in my hard drive (yes, I have a Toys folder, shaddup), or when I see some lifestyle piece in the news about an artist in that scene like Ron English or Tara McPherson, or when I walk into one of my old alternative culture haunts and almost all the art toys are either shelf-warming or on clearance.

I do not know what to feel about the movement anymore. Naturally a part of me still regards it fondly, never mind what parts of it have irrevocably become. However the fact that I drifted from it like I did says that I've pretty much become part of the problem, a bandwagon-hopper just recovering from that one never-ending party year.

I do not mean however to liken my involvement in the art toy scene to little more than a bad hangover; I still earnestly believe in many of the aesthetics the movement tries to espouse albeit at a purely conceptual principle level.

I may not know how to customize a Munny or to design my own platform vinyl from scratch, but I still do believe that art and playfulness can intersect in some hypnotically quirky form. I still believe that a toy rabbit with a fake mustache or a cross-section of some naked lady can be artistic statements in their own right. I still revel in the twee recursive absurdity of a fat Ronald McDonald expy in toy form. And of course I still really enjoy tiny things.

I may not be an active part of the scene anymore, but I still believe that art toys can have a place in our common world.

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