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Culture

No More Rebels Without a Cause at German Exhibition

What are young people like nowadays? What makes them tick? An exhibition in the German city of Frankfurt sheds light on the jaded fashionistas of today who simply refuse to grow up.

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Joao Onofre's "Casting" (2000) is part of the exhibit

Rebels without a cause are definitely out. According to the curators of "The Youth of Today" -- an ongoing exhibition at the Schrin Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, featuring 160 diverse works of art by 50 international artists -- teenagers have long lost their status as outsiders. The clash of generations seems, at first sight, at least, to be no longer an important issue.

Becoming like your own parents doesn't seem like such a horrible nightmare any more, while rebellious urges similar to those of the mythologized generation of 1968 appear more and more like a historical curiosity. Heavy resistance is seen as pointless, because all the symbols of rebellious teenage behavior have been long deconstructed and absorbed by pop culture.

Die Jugend von Heute

A revolutionary in the shape of a wax figure in a glass cage: "Che" by Gavin Turk

According to curator Matthias Urlich, the goal of the exhibition is not to create a new uniform category to describe youth culture.

"Instead of offering still another category after the 'Golf Generation' and the 'Reform Generation,' the exhibition is mainly concerned with tracing the connections and inconsistencies within the worlds of young people and opening heterogeneous ways into adulthood from there," Urlich said. "Both the subjects and the aesthetics of the works presented reflect the wide range of options informing the way today's young people feel."

A questio n of copyright?

Die Jugend von Heute

Youth culture today revolves around consumption and virtual, mediated worlds

If there are any remnants of protest left among the young people today, it is usually an "introverted private matter," which happens behind closed doors. The contemporary techno scene is a case in point.

Youth culture today can also be seen as a system, which has paradoxically integrated change as its stabilizing factor. Fashion trends and new technologies, which are voraciously consumed by young people, simply feed into the needs of the capitalist market. Young people are always expected to serve a certain profile, as shown, for example, by the empty repetitions in "Casting" -- a video project by a young Portuguese artist Joao Onofre.

The exhibition also explores the way in which the body becomes a venue for hidden societal conflicts. The visual code of Turkish girls wearing a headscarf, for instance, is used for the "sexualization of the political condition and politicization of the sexual condition." Which is why, at some point, somebody is bound to ask the question: "Who do young people belong to? Who has the copyright to youth?"

The post-adolesce n t thirtysomethi n gs

Die Jugend von Heute

Laureen Greenfield, "Girl Culture" (2002)

The youth scene, which has been dominated since 1990s by electronic music, makes it quite obvious that the boundaries of so-called youth keep getting extended. It's not that hard to find 30-year-olds who are still dressing up young, living with roommates, and working as interns instead of pursuing steady jobs. You can also easily spot 40 year-olds clubbing all night long along with the new kids on the block. To grow up fully is becoming increasingly difficult. The sentence passed on popular culture today may read that "turning 30 is no longer cutting the invisible umbilical chord of our youth."

Although young people nowadays increasingly populate transitional spaces, such as vacation spots, airports or shopping malls, the "traditional" city takes up a central role in the exhibition as a stage on which various scenes, sounds and styles come into contact.

Exhibition visitors may be relieved to find that in this urban space young people are attributed residual traces of consciousness. Whether it's through graffiti or parkour -- an extreme sport, which is a mixture between skateboard acrobatics and spiderman animation -- young people of today can be treated again as subjects and not merely consumers or regurgitators of cultural clichés.

"The Youth of Today" will ru n i n Fra n kfurt u n til Ju n e 25

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