When did heroin chic begin? In the early 70s with the gaunt, affected expressions of New York and London waifs? Or was it Kate Moss’ pointy shoulders and Nan Goldin’s photographs in the late 80s? I would guess that heroin chic has always been about, just never labeled. Whatever, Terry Richardson exploited our naive fascination with sleaze by photographing drugged up nymphs and getting hired by

Gucci. The mid nineties sucked. The noughties sucked. Today sucks. Our society loves nothing more than a starved wench to gawp at. Regardless, when marketing got hold of it, it really got dirty, deplorably dirty. It got the magazine gloss treatment – nothing short of an abomination, and Nan Goldin agrees. The phrase has now passed into our vernacular and out our arses. No shock. It doesn’t even register. Why don’t we give a shit about substances and conditions that send humans to rack, ruin, and flaky organs? Why are we so eager to sweep the dirt and the decay of humanity into our mainstream media? I am concerned about tweenager mags here, not vice magazine. I came to think of this because I came upon Dionisio Gonzalez’ work. I’ve never seen constructions like his before. I refer to it as Shanty-Chic, well aware of the unstomachable connotations the label might conjure and the gross misunderstandings it may unleash. Needless to say, this is art – heavily photoshopped art – and not yet usurped by the ravenous ad agencies. It’s good art, not shit art.


Dionisio is renowned in Europe and particularly his native Spain, but he hasn’t made it past the Chelsea galleries stateside. He has an impressive track history of exhibitions and collaborative activities, and spent months compiling his Favelas project back in 2003. Dionisio has the ability to manufacture the ludicrous in his modernist shanty without really jarring the viewer. This is as much an indictment of our lack of shock and egregious consumption of fake-image as it is a celebration of his visionary approach. Nonetheless, these are structures not skeletons. He and we are looking at wrecked buildings, not wrecked humans. The dilapidated facades mixed with corporate green-tinted glazing tells us its all

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false. We are not being sold an idea here, or even a pair of boxer briefs. We are being asked to look at a fiction that is depressingly plausible. Does Dionisio want us to reconcile the ingenuity of man with the wastefulness of man? The technicolour largess of these false favelas is made all the more galling because they stand below blue skies. The last time I saw a pristine sapphire sky like that was in an Indonesia Airlines advertisement. It is rare I see something new that I return to again and again, and I’ve been meaning to post about Dionisio for six months. Or maybe I just want to make this humble note before Shanty-Chic becomes a common expression amongst unscrupulous creative directors.

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