The Unbearable Lightness of Paris / I Know What I Did Last Summer

Paige K. Bradley on Paris Hilton ¯\(ツ)

Paige K. Bradley, Screwed, 2017, pencil, watercolor, and pen on paper, 8 1/2 x 11".

Since I’m already screwed
Here’s a message to you
My heart’s wide open
I’m just not getting through to the lover in you
Yet I’m still hoping
That tonight, tonight, you’re gonna turn down the lights
And give me a little more room just to prove it to you

THAT’S HOW SHE PUT IT ON “SCREWED,” the eighth track of her debut album, Paris, released in August 2006. Screwed, with an open heart and hope for a little more room, that’s as much as any femme is allowed to be in this world.

Bio: She was born in the 1980s in Los Angeles to wealth and privilege. Her middle name is Whitney. Her middle name is Katharine. She went to a Catholic school on the west side, where she created problems easily compensated for with major donations while reading books under her desk instead of talking. She dropped out of high school and went to art school in a Southern California suburb. She moved to New York City and got a break from family friend Donald Trump. She has an inheritance, but it’s not as much as you think it is. She makes money just to prove that she can. Her first single was dub-inflected, but she was signed to Drake and Nicki Minaj’s label in 2013. Her upcoming debut album is titled Shareholder’s Daughter. She creates a culture around herself. Culture is held at a cool distance by her critical eye. People think she has a sex tape but she doesn’t even fuck anyone. She’s a famous entrepreneur who likes to stay indoors. Her selfies are everywhere and rarely published.

June 8, 2017:

Miss Hilton has been a lot of things to a lot of people: friend, mentor, thinspiration, whore, glamourpuss, symbol of the decline of Western Civilization, DJ (aka symbol of the decline of Western Civilization). But the thing she did best was tire out the old framework of centralized mass culture, exploiting its almighty last bits before the internet and social media—to say nothing of antisocial media—stepped in and ruined everything ☆⌒(>。<). We hear pundits bloviate on how much water it takes to produce a gallon of milk. How about all the resources it takes to produce a woman, especially a Paris?

Paris. Did she invent fame for fame’s sake—the metastasization of art for art’s sake—for an entire generation, fusing it with a colluding cis white womanhood, the branding of the self on an emerging market, the individual as microenterprise… or did she just go ahead and massage the times? Architect of now, queen of my heart—what were her materials? Her modern aristocracy was a tool to be applied, and the pressure pushed contemporary culture to a precipice, at which point Kim Kardashian had little to do except tip the boulder Paris had foreman’d up the hill, all while we thought she was fooling around and being a bad role model.

Paige K. Bradley, Past Looks, 2017, pencil, colored pencil, water-soluble crayon, and collage on paper, 8 1/2 x 11".

June 20, 2017😟:

Her primary quality is prismatic: stupidity, ease, uselessness, blondeness. In other words, an unnerving perfection. Her consciously high-pitched voice, the influential outfits—tiny bag, huge sunglasses, demure headbands over chic bobs, the monochrome track suits nowhere near the track (athleisure anyone?), flesh-toned feathered ball gowns, a committed exploration of the liminal space between dressed and undressed (leisure anyone?)—and the memorable catchphrases (“that’s hot,” “loves it”) were taken for granted as expressive of her dead ends. Look, sometimes a text gets up and performs in an ensemble fit for a stupid-spoiled-whore-with-a-video playset. Her essay becomes a look, and a magazine might call the style “Paris Hilton Meets Mike Kelley and Thinks She’s Smarter.” The difference between displays of authenticity and artificiality are negligible—two showrooms, both alike in dignity. ╰(▔∀▔)╯

June 29, 2017:

Before one can be a caricature, one must first become recognizable. In the September 2000 issue of Vanity Fair, Paris and her sister Nicky, nineteen and sixteen years old, respectively, posed for a spread by David LaChapelle, with one photo featuring Paris in her grandmother’s living room wearing a see-through mesh tank top and hot pink micromini skirt holding out her middle finger.

What’s great about the obvious is that its logic is unimpeachable.

So is being in “the right place at the right time,” as an intertitle states in Will Rebein’s compilation of archival footage, loosely resembling the meditative march of a documentary, titled Famous for Being Famous, 2015, and hosted on his Vimeo account Party Like It’s 2007. Here Paris is alternately chatting to and ignoring paparazzi—just another element in her scenery so nothing to get too distressed over, a lesson her pal Britney never learned or learned too late—mooning the microphone in promotional footage for her debut album, demonstrating the voice she uses for TV and divulging to an unknown passenger in her car that she’ll “be a little idiot… and talk like a baby” but she “always knows what’s going on.” (^_~)

July 2, 2017:

At the two-hour mark of FfBF, a Wall Street Journalist tries to pin her down and prick her hubris bubble about being one of the top five DJs in the world, which she swiftly corrects: She only ever claimed to be one of the top-five-paid DJs in the world. She didn’t mean “skillwise.” You can appreciate how numbers speak for themselves, and I can marvel about what it would be like to keep the company of people who don’t perform elaborate subterfuge to downplay their advantages. At almost two-and-a-half hours long, Rebein’s mass-produced documentary demonstrates his talent for collecting. “The more you know,” that smug, ideal phrase, is our anthem now. Newspapers and other “media” hound you with information, hordes of stranglers with something to say, regardless of your ability to do anything about or with their truths.

Why do I love Paris? Because she doesn’t tell, she just shows (up). Rebein doesn’t film, doesn’t add to the pile or ply us with promises of bringing us inside the story, instead he edits down, thank god.
\( ̄▽ ̄)/

July 3, 2017:

Can a person come preloaded, like a gun? Or is that just destiny, like blonde hair and blue eyes? Duchamp in this corner with the Readymade, and in the other biology’s double helix. There’s the name, the bullet, the meaning hopefully already capped a priori, the better to explode later. You might be forgiven for thinking there’s anything in this world besides dads and names, or a lack thereof. ε=ε=ε=ε=┌(; ̄▽ ̄)┘

July 15, 2017:

Naturally we have arrived at Trump 凸( ̄ヘ ̄), or, to be more specific, Ivanka (/Ω\). Some think we need to open a line of communication with her, or make her see the error of her ways, a kind of proactive networking that adheres to an oddly traditional notion that the way to get to a Man is via the Woman, forever standing right behind him and wielding influence from the shadows. Our handwringing over Ivanka shows how little we like to admit that the white woman in particular has always been a creature of collusion, cutting deals and splitting differences, always standing by, ready and willing, waiting for her time to shine.

Though Paris has been mum for the most part in politics, save for a memorable dig at John McCain during the 2008 election cycle and a catchy bid at the presidency herself (which, in hindsight, seems more reasonable than the reality afforded us now), the Hiltons, and the Clintons, have been mixing it up with the Trump clan since at least the 1990s, with Paris signing to DT’s modeling agency in New York circa 2000, when she was nineteen. Ivanka has a philosophy; Paris has a lot of perfumes. Ivanka hangs around in the White House cabinet and avoids prosecution while Paris flies to her DJ residency in Ibiza. Neither of these people could be said to be helping, but surely shameless self-promotion is less pernicious than self-promotion in a feminist sheath, or as public policy. Paris works a room, Ivanka has a pathological need to own it, just like her father. #ParisForPresident? Sure, because America, like every other dream, has to end sometime. ┐( ̄ヘ ̄)┌


A pit stop to talk about color. Purple is a neutral, if you’re royalty, and I propose that pink is the color of complicity. Pink, like the tones of a white woman’s skin, allows one to slip and slide through without attracting suspicion. You can do anything (to anyone) in the camouflage of dumb. But if the lights are off, so are the bets.

Paige K. Bradley, Architect of Now, Queen of My Heart, 2017, pencil, colored pencil, pen, watercolor, and collage on paper,  11 x 8 1/2".

August 2, 2017:

The most remarkable thing about the infamous 1 Night in Paris sex tape featuring her—because it wasn’t hers, it was actually (¬_¬) his—is how boring it is, though the seconds-long intro dedicating the tape to 9/11 is quite striking. Paris would have never signed off on something as dull and humorless as this hour-long snoozer. She was embarrassed by the release, I hope chiefly because of the tragically bad lighting. (That night vision!) The illuminated ones drive a context and train of baggage all their own, selectively leaking their contents in print, online, all across your timeline. She was being fucked, and she got screwed (out of her rightful cut from the original distribution deal), noting, as she said on her track five years later: “I could be the perfect girl for you to ruin.” Alas, nothing seems to ruin a woman, with a dad behind her, who wants to lean in, hard.

August 3, 2017:

The lover in you, already screwed.

August 4, 2017:

Paris rode her reputation hard in and out of the news cycle. In case you haven’t noticed yet, she’s totally back.

But wasn’t gossip the forerunner of news and institutional media? The infamous woman is a necessary trope in any village, and a scandal-maker may have once been begrudged the respect that the reporter demands for himself now. The journalist’s “BREAKING” was once just another woman found broken (っ˘̩╭╮˘̩)っ. You may as well take her seriously, as much as we would any other all-consuming joke. Surely by now we’ve learned to read backwards, from the spoiler to foreshadow, or from now until history. And all along the way is a trail of people watching themselves being looked at, to which Paris would probably say “Duh.”
乁( • Ω •乁)

Paige K. Bradley is an associate editor of Artforum.