On Imperial Phases

The imperial phase of an artist is when they can seemingly do no wrong.

Whether it’s “10,000 hours” at work or just hitting the zeitgeist square on the nose, the assumption is the audience is fully invested in your success.

As far as I’m aware the name was given for the Pet Shop Boys’ run from 1986-1988 or more explicitly inside the brackets of the singles “It’s A Sin” to “Heart”.

But what other worlds does this apply to? Sports is relatively easy. We call them dynasties and can chart their zenith based on dominance (I was lucky to grow up in suburban Detroit as a basketball fan). What about architecture as defined by buildings, Fashion defined by seasons, and of course filmmakers (Spike Lee 1989-1992).

The problem with imperial phases is that they seek perfection which isn’t in sync with the realities of art. They’re also obsessed with success, which in retrospect doesn’t only account for an artists’ best work (my favorite Lee film is from 1995). Some of the greatest talents of any industry don’t apply because they never stop being great (Rei Kawakubo springs to mind).

Am now curious how we can look at imperial phases in our own lives. Or perhaps better, jettison the concept completely in favor of the long but craggy trend line that is reality.

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