For Ari Marcopoulos: Not Yet, a new monograph of his work, Marcopoulos decided to hand much of the curatorial work over to friends, collaborators, and family. Photographs of 90s teen skaters picked by the book’s designer Conny Purtill sit alongside a personal selection of the 80s portraits of icons like Basquiat, KRS-One, and the Beastie Boys. Artist Paul McCarthy’s creepy mix of holes, basements, and trees is followed by cityscapes and street scenes chosen from memory by Marcopoulos’ son Ethan. Each chapter tells the story of its editor’s relationship with Marcopoulos through his work, combining to form a comprehensive study of his creative legacy.
Here he discusses why New York now is not all that different to the city he knew in the 80s, how streetwear is aligning with high fashion, and the true definition of a subculture.
Ben Perdue: What are the main differences between the youth cultures and scenes of 80s New York and the city you find yourself in now? Is it the people or the city itself that has changed most?
Ari Marcopoulos: There’s more of everything now. There’s no difference in the youth. I feel like there are more people involved in creative endeavors. But in the groups of people I hung out with there isn’t really much difference. It’s too easy to say that the Internet and handheld information devices have changed things. I feel everything has just increased: more people, more artists, more books, etc. The city has changed too, of course—now it’s a huge real estate development and a giant shopping mall. But I still love New York.
If it isn’t the Internet, what has been the biggest influence on how subcultures have evolved in New York?
I don’t know if there even is such a thing as subculture. I think if it’s a subculture—a true subculture—then we don’t really know about it. I think that subculture has been commodified. I truly don’t know what a subculture is anymore. Maybe subcultures now are terrorists? They operate under the radar. I mean, there are many groups of people doing cool shit, I’m sure—the dance choreographer Nora Chipaumire really excites me—but the high fashion brands are pretending to be subcultures now, as well.