In May 2010, I went to Melbourne for a week, to speak at the Emerging Writers Festival, and to launch my zine about the 80s revival, From a Mess to the Masses. Typically, I left the actual printing of the zines until the last possible moment, which meant that the photocopying was done in a bit of a rush.
In my haste, I made 100 unnecessary copies of one of the pages. This particular layout featured a list of significant artefacts from the 80s revival, 2000-2010, including La Roux's self-titled debut, Calvin Harris's 'Acceptable in the 80s', and Kanye West's 'Stronger'. Halfway down the page was an image of the rapper taken from the song's futuristic video.
Not wanting to waste paper, I resolved to do something with these excess pages. So, after I'd finished assembling the zines, I took a pair of scissors to them, cut out 100 small portraits of Kanye West, and spread them out across the carpet in my hotel room. The next day, I went to a charity shop in Brunswick and bought an old blue vest.
Back at the hotel, I pinned the Kanyes onto it in a neat pattern, and hung it in the wardrobe.
Over the next couple of days, my friend Emma and I put quite a lot of thought and discussion into the best place to exhibit the Kanye Vest. We had in mind an art-crime of some kind - gluing the thing onto a wall, or draping it over a 19th century bronze statue of a governor of Victoria somewhere. In the end, though, I simply left it in the wardrobe. I checked out of my room, left my suitcase with the hotel staff, and raced down to Melbourne Town Hall to take part in a debate.
When it was over, I went back to the hotel to get my bag. The receptionist had The Kanye Vest hanging on a hook behind the desk. "Did you leave this in your room?" she asked me.
As I looked at the Kanyes in their neat rows, I couldn't help but think of a line from 'Stronger' - one of many in which the rapper's philosophy of self-realisation and self-expression above all is promoted. "There's a thousand yous, there's only one of me". "Well Mr West", I thought to myself, "it seems the reverse is now true".
I stared at it for a moment more, with what I hoped was a look of mild surprise on my face, and said, "I've never seen that before in my life".
"The east shall shake the west awake"
James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
"Wake up Mr West!"
Bernie Mac, dialogue from Kanye West's 'The College Dropout'
Learn more about the philosophy of self-realisation and self-expression.
Learn more about the decline of the vest