Vaquera and DIS Imagine Socialist Gossip Girl

Vaquera and DIS Imagine Socialist Gossip Girl

In a new video installation, “XOXO, Safety Net,” anti-capitalism is on everyone's lips.

In a new video installation, “XOXO, Safety Net,” anti-capitalism is on everyone's lips.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

In hindsight, Gossip Girl, the CW’s adaptation of Cecily Von Ziegesar’s seminal young-adult text, was a tragicomic parody of capitalism: the high-stakes roulette of Ivy League admissions, Dan and Jenny Humphreys’ impoverished existence in a massive Williamsburg loft, and its omniscient narrator pulling the levers of UES society like a cyborgian Oz are all now mid-2000s artifacts that we compulsively revisit as our middle class continues to erode IRL. As Jordan Barse notes in the latest edition of Civilization Newspaper, the fascination lies in both the show’s superficial qualities—the “forbidden hookups in penthouses and Miu Miu and martinis”—as well as its underlying economic fairytale, “in which money isn’t made or lost or critically examined; it just stuffs the 600-thread-count Frette Duvets.”

It’s perversely fitting, then, that 10 years later, the show is inspiring fashion agitprop in the form of “XOXO, Safety Net,” a new video series and installation by the New York art collective DIS. While one can assume that the 2009 bank bailouts favored the van der Woodsen and Waldorf families, the video imagines Serena and Blair (played by Bailey Stiles and Dese Escobar) embracing a different sort of safety net—namely, socialism—in between checking their gold Motorola phones. The installation, currently on display at SSENSE Montréal, also features an ersatz Gossip Girl cast delivering socialist wisdom like “Workers should benefit from the surplus value they create,” and “Tax income from property, not labor,” and “End inheritance, bring back the death tax.” 

The intention, according to a DIS press release, was to “reflect on the fallout from the 2008 housing collapse and financial crisis–culturally, economically, socially." To nail the Gossip-Girl-meets-Occupy-Wall-Street redux, DIS recruited Vaquera. In addition to mid-aughts glam, the multimedia installation features hyper-preppy floor-length ties and a colonial woman needlepointing the PrEP logo. Given Vaquera’s focus on cultural memory (their SS19 showing took place in a New York public school), the emergent brand is a fitting collaborator for DIS, whose mission is to use "“popular culture as a medium for the dissemination of educational content.” 

But who, exactly, is the voice of socialist Gossip Girl? That's one secret they'll never tell.

“XOXO, Safety Net” is on view until October 25th at SSENSE Montréal.

SSENSE MONTRÉAL Presents ‘XOXO, Safety Net’ by DIS

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