18 August 2006

Voice Of "The Devil"

I haven't been writing... I've been making stuff and lifting heavy things at the park, which has a great show opening September 10 and is consistently full of heavy equipment right now.

And you know, the farther away from the Larsen conversation I get the more black and white it all seems, and the more grey or fuschia I want it to be. I have to be honest. I tried picking up the latest Morris Berman effort and had to put it down again. I can't handle all this negative capacity. I am too bone-tired at the end of the day to pound nails into coffins.

My neighbor has been watching this blog's discussion of A Nation Gone Blind and the subsequent pop culture v. art posts with interest. She's a little riled. So she wrote this guest post. I think it's a great response to Larsen's picture of the Media Aesthetic, and I think it's a great response to some of the art v. popular culture writing that's been happening on this blog and others lately. Kat is a brilliant thinker, illustrator, graphic designer, artist and comic-book artist... who really should write more but obviously is not looking for a hobby.

Take it away, Kat:

Quote taken from here

"In an odd quirk of fate, the Brillo box design itself had been generated by James Harvey, an artist of the Abstract Expressionist generation moonlighting as a graphic designer."

As Deb knows, since we live next door, I participate in creating pop culture, i try to make art, i make money in marketing and advertising. Currently I am selling plus-sized clothes to plus-sized people. I am like most creatives in the commercial
art world.

Pop culture is exactly that, popular culture. It responds to the populace. It has no other overriding purpose. Despite what folks in the ivory tower believe, including me before i had to get a job, nobody out here as a mind control ray. Nobody out here has a big meta agenda. The captains of big media and advertising are not rubbing their hands and cackling as they dream up the next big way to dumb down America.

If these people had such a great insight into mass control would they foist so many duds onto TV? I'm not talking about this from my personal assessment of the quality of TV shows. I'm talking about how many shows get cancelled before the second season. It costs millions and millions of dollars to develop a show. And networks field many shows each new season. Duds cost them significant money. And yet they have a terrible track record for picking winners.

If they knew what you wanted they would give it to you, because that's how they make money.

They don't know what you want.

This is what they do know:

If you want to reach people who will buy your widget, you have to put your widget in front of either 1. everybody and hope that you reach someone, or 2. in front of a self-selected audience that is already interested, in a general way, in your widget.

If you piss off your target audience they will turn on you. Wardrobe malfunction on MTV = AWESOME. Wardrobe malfunction at SuperBowl halftime = BOYCOTT. The perfect example of this happened in the 80's when someone at Amway started the rumor that Proctor & Gamble was a Satanic organization, and suddenly P&G was being boycotted by fundamentalists. It's a rumor that still dogs the company.

If you want people to remember you, without pissing them off, engage them. If really smart, self-aware debate engages 'em, give them that. If actual investigative reporting is their cup of tea, do that. If a reassuring routine after work is what they are looking for, then make a sit-com. If they're calamatists run some half-assed news show.

Pop culture is made by people who read and write blogs, make art, write novels and read the New Yorker, for people who don't care what art is but they sure know what they like. Most of the creators are smart, philosophical, aware, passionate and
dedicated to their art or craft. The people in the audience aren't stupid. They aren't shallow. They are strenuously anti-intellectual, and they seem to believe that anything that goes beyond general interest is elitist and should be smacked
down in the name of democracy.

America has always had an anti-intellectual strain. Oscar Wilde was concerned about it when he came to the U.S. on tour in the nineteenth century. Alexis de Tocqueville commented on it. That was long before the advent of TV.

But the U.S. also has a long tradition of thinkers and creators who have done amazing things despite our oppressive populist culture, and if you look at pop culture with a keen eye and an open mind you will find the handiwork of some great creative thinkers. Because the best people behind pop culture are the same people behind fine art and literature. They just have a different audience.?


Blogger chrisjag said...

Obviously, marketers have a different charge and audience, they have to move product. And the best way to do this is to market in a way that lands their brand in the center of that conversation that pop culture is having about itself: where is culture going, what is acceptable, what is not, etc... Conversation is success for marketers. Do artists have such a different goal? Certainly they want their artwork to be more rich than an ad, but we are not so different. In this TiVo generation, marketers now have to create content so interesting that people seek it out! True, they are usually preying on cliches and common denomenators, but this still requires a high level of sophistication. Not to expand peoples minds, but merely breaking past people's barriers is an accomplishment.

I don't mean to lower art, I aim to draw more respect to the field of advertising than Kat seems to be giving it. Creating desire is no small thing.

19 August, 2006 01:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say again? Of what exactly am I supposed to be convinced? That fine art and pop culture have basically the same value but different audiences? That the minds in advertising are just as sharp but more populist than artists? That people who prefer 'Talk to Her' to 'Pirates of the Caribbean II' are elitist? I'm not willing to concede the 60's idea that given a box of crayons everyone is an artist.

No matter the level of sophistication or accomplishment, creating desire where there is none is not what art or life is about, IMO. The Buddhists have it down. IMO.

19 August, 2006 13:29  
Blogger chrisjag said...


I overstated my point and created a misunderstanding, I take your correction. I was only trying to support Kats qualifier:

"But the U.S. also has a long tradition of thinkers and creators who have done amazing things despite our oppressive populist culture, and if you look at pop culture with a keen eye and an open mind you will find the handiwork of some great creative thinkers"

Most of my friends are in marketing, and are pretty smart-interesting people. I am not trying to equate the value of marketing to art, at all. I was simply trying to say that there is merit to marketing that shouldn't be completely overlooked.

I think I agree with you more than you think.

19 August, 2006 15:51  
Anonymous Angela Ferreira said...

Hello! Great writtings, I will visit more often...

21 August, 2006 04:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pop culture= sizzle

Fine art= steak

21 August, 2006 13:12  

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