The word elevate keeps cropping up lately. Every ad or product seems to guarantee some divine enhancement – to your living space, your wardrobe, your skincare routine. Elevate your experience with X.

There’s a joke about the way Melbournian northsiders dress. Brunswick art kids and their daggy chic. Clothes aren’t recycled but upcycled. The aesthetic is discarded but still desirable; inconceivably sexy scum with moth-bitten holes in all the right places. You might say it’s an elevation – forgotten things lifted up to the world of tumblr-worthy street fashion.

Philip K. Dick once wrote that “the divine initially [shows] up at the trash stratum” (VALIS, 1981). The things destined to transcend spawn first in a slew of grime. We pluck them out and buff them ‘til they gleam. This implies that we lift them to our level – some many grades above the grot. No one ever wonders why we’re wading through the trash stratum to begin with.

There’s so much denial about our place here. Sidled next to High Fashion is High Art. Even practices which incorporate the dirty will polish up the edges for a spot in brightly-lit galleries. Not to name-check but Duchamp never did this. Urinals are left worn and glass shattered. As with Madeleine and Arthur, there remains a humbleness to the work. Nothing is elevated beyond its origins, because the artists recognise that any sense of supremacy is only imagined. Instead, all the forgotten, broken things are honoured as they are, gracious and modest in their tattered stature, sacred as nothing more than themselves.

Words by Kaijern Koo

Image: courtesy of the artists.