- Choosing Target
- Choosing a target requires a target that is not only choose-able but workable. There are many images and visuals that are oppressive to people, but a good target is one that is both flexible to change and iconic enough that this idea-override will be a challenge.
- For this hijack, I chose Breitbart. Breitbart is a very popular and inflammatory conservative news company run in the United States, born from Andrew Breitbart, a former journalist at the Drudge Report (Phelan, 2016). It is perhaps the face of conservative news in the US and is extremely well-known by name and persona.
- What Makes Breitbart a Good Target
- Much of their content is, definitively, oppressive to the artist.
- Follows Daniel Dennett’s Rules for Evolution (Dennett, 127) (and therefore, something that will stick around)
“Heredity or replication” (Dennett, 127)Breitbart is a very successful replicator, meaning that its single form (Breitbart news story) is both easily repeated not just in craft, but in idea and memory. There is something that sticks in one’s brain and the brain of others (Dennett, 129) to reaffirm the idea of Breitbart as a creator of conservative news. Their consistent updating also reminds us of this. The name and persona of Breitbart extend beyond the news story. If one were to say, Breitbart is going to be at the rally!, one would not presume a series of newspapers to stand up and speak. The company is an idea beyond its own function, and that idea is replicated both by its function and the function of other people.
“Variation” or “an abundance of elements” (Dennett, 127)The elements in this project included the design of Breitbart, a screen capture from Breitbart the day after the election of the 45th president of the United States (Wayback, 2016), and a screen capture of The Drudge Report on July 11th, 2001, the closest pre-9/11 capture available (Wayback, 2001). Breitbart has many words on its page, being a news company. Many of these words are topical buzzwords and naturally have their own ideas and feelings attached to them. For this project, I also used language from the Drudge Report, Breitbart’s predecessor, to increase the elements available. Drudge Report, pre-9/11, has a lot of pre-contemporary language and distinct linguistic catches that look jarring beside the more typical contemporary ones.
“Differential ‘fitness’” (Dennett, 127)Breitbart produces several articles with repetitive buzzwords to create a public reaction to an idea, using the same model of “fitness” (Dennett, 127). By recreating the same elements in varying orders with different emphasis, Breitbart employs the same system as most memes to create ‘new’ content. Therefore, the elements in Breitbart writing as well as Drudge Report headlines are already packaged and ready for remix. Using large or small quotes from the sites creates levels of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ within the paper, by splicing common ideas and repairing them with a Frankenstenian sense of culture. When placed together as a cohesive piece, it is difficult to establish one clear reality.
- Defining Working Systems
- Breitbart, as a news source, is very popular: why? - Gramsci suggests that there are two kinds of “intellectuals” (Gramsci 113), those who are naturally “organizers” (ibid) and “organically” (ibid) rise to lead people, and those who “[emerge] into history out of the preceding […] structure” (Gramsci 114). - Breitbart, ironically, is the latter spinning itself to seem the former. Unlike the classic bootstrap American narrative, Breitbart did not rise from the American public just as conservatives needed it, but was an egg waiting to hatch for many years. - Andrew Breitbart left The Drudge Report in 2005 to begin Breitbart Media (Phelan, 2016). Gaining popularity from its predecessor and from Breitbart’s reputation as a catchy journalist for Drudge Report, the news source became a household name after getting famous with their report Big Government in 2009 (Phelan, 2016).
- But why was their internet popularity so fast and effective? - Ken Layne says about Andrew Breitbart’s reporting style at Drudge Report, “just choosing links and writing a great headline and placing it on the page — is a real art form” (Phelan, 2016). - Mark Dery, a web scholar, writes that the “one-liner” is an intensely effective online format (Dery, 2). - Breitbart gained popularity because it was easy to read and was a “unique brand of lightweight, gossamer junk” (Phelan, 2016) while attacking “intellectual scaffolding” (ibid). - The same short form use of repetitive, easy to understand elements in different positions allowed for Breitbart to become one of the most iconic conservative news sources of our time. By not requiring much attention but having a high malleability, Breitbart was allowed to produce and reproduce easily. - This success gives it authority, and the authority mixed with replication causes it to “‘produce’ intellectuals” (Gramsci, 117) who, in turn, give it authority.
- How do you hijack this? - When online, there is a sort of anonymity; personas are built on digital footprint rather than their identity. “People are judged on the content of what they say,” (Dery, 2) and who they are comes from that action. > Use the Breitbart name and likeness to create and alternate persona that reflects a facet of why it is oppressive - There are three key components to target for Breitbart: its replicability, its notoriety, and its credibility. Although I could have done a project on how the articles describe Dennett’s fitness, or a project showing the hypocrisy of promoting fringe news from a singular large company, I chose to attack the credibility.
- What defines the hijack? - For publications that were notoriously unreliable, my initial idea was simple headlines with incorrect photos. However, this evolved into a more distinguished metaphor: using the conspiracy magazine. - Conspiracy magazines are known for false, outlandish, and usually fabricated information. This seemed like the perfect reflection of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. It also enabled me to use the integrity of the Breitbart name against them. - The same brevity of headline and buzzword tactic is used in both conspiracy magazines and the Breitbart articles, but how they are judged is different. The artifice is similar, but the value is different because of reputation. - Like a news company, the magazine implies replication (multiple issues). This metaphor helps to uphold the same replicative property as Breitbart, the news company. - Because I was attacking the credibility of Breitbart, I made an active effort to use its other two major strategies in my favor, so that my piece would appear more connected to my target.
- Magazine Building
- First Prototype - Most of the work for the magazine occurred in Adobe InDesign. I used Photoshop to create backgrounds for the magazine, mimicking the spray paint design of Breitbart’s official website. The three focal colors (orange, gray, and black) were taken directly from screenshots of the website. Not having worked in InDesign prior, this was quite the adventure, but the program proved to be more friendly than unfriendly! - I deeply wanted the newspaper to be large and unruly when read, so the paper size was 11×17 inches. This proved correctly impossible to handle when printed. - Before designing the layout of the piece, I compiled several references for ‘old’ conspiracy magazines covers. Paranoia proved both the easiest to find and the best representation of a variety of covers, featuring image- and text-heavy covers. I then emulated the closely-oriented/busy layout of the covers, which felt surprisingly easy and natural. - Most limitations were in the composition of the magazine format, but the metaphor of a conspiracy magazine was a fun and easily mimicable. The limits guided the piece more than restricted it. - My original goals for this prototype were to play with the ideas of headlines from Drudge Report only, with images from public web using keywords from headlines, using only the design from the Breitbart website. - Titles for the magazine varied, trying to describe the fake authorship; options were: Breitbart American Men, Breitbart American News, and Breitbart News.
- Third Prototype/Final - The third prototype had more focus on ‘public’ interaction: I added ‘viewer of the week’ photo, a mail in portion of the magazine, and the Facebook icon that is recognizable on so many websites today. These changes work with helping the magazine to appear connected and “making the world a little smaller,” (Fairey, 3). - Again, the design was altered to make the piece more legible and move better across the page. There were plenty of other design notes after this prototype, however, they did not make the final for time issues. Still, it shows that rarely is any design perfect!
- The Inaugural Year: Celebrate Sarah Lawrence - The purpose of this event, according to the Sarah Lawrence website, was to “highlight dance, music, theatre, and writing performances and readings; science demonstrations and posters; displays by student visual artists; Sarah Lawrence programs beyond the campus; Graduate Programs; student publications; dessert reception and the opportunity to have your photo taken with our college mascot, Godric the Gyphon” (Sarah Lawrence, 2017). - The event itself was spread throughout the first two floors of the Heimbold Visual Arts Center and several outdoor staging areas. - Many alumna, board members, and donors were present as well as students to blend in with. I chose this event because not only did is present a group who was not typical to the college, but it also presented a group who was a risk for the college to interact with. These people also likely had a knowledge of what Breitbart was, and perhaps might even have an opinion on the piece.
- Distribution - Originally, I planned to wait at a singular table and distribute 15 printed copies of the magazine as a repeated action; however, due to how few people were in the area, I began to move throughout the event spaces and hand out papers. - A friend and photographer, Khalifah Jamison, took photos of people reading the magazine and of myself handing them out. - Surprisingly, it was very hard to wait for people to take the magazine. This was remedied with a much easier “would you like a newspaper”/”would you like a magazine.”
- Gallery - At one point, I entered Barbara Walter’s Gallery. At the suggestion of Jamison, I stood in middle of an exhibit portion so that it appeared I was there as a part of the exhibit. Many people saw me enter the gallery, however, many more did not. - I passed out several newspapers within the gallery, this time without speaking or with as few words as possible. Many people took the time to very much study and read the paper, some even looking at the art behind me for answers. Several groups of people read the paper and returned it, thinking that it was a permanent part of the exhibit.
- Reactions - Most people received the magazine with confusion. Twice, people laughed. One person rejected the magazine upon seeing the Breitbart name, but their companion took the paper. - A few people held onto the magazine, more people secretively than visibly. This leads me to believe that although they may have wanted to read it, they were ashamed of the Breitbart name. However, there were some who openly displayed the Breitbart logo as they carried it.
- Did This Work - I think so; many of the people who talked to me about the magazine asked questions such as “who did this?” and “is this real?” - The purpose was to destabilize the view of ‘credibility’ of Breitbart name and source. By making people unsure about whether Breitbart had actually published a nonsense conspiracy magazine, I feel accomplished and that my ideas translated correctly.
- SURPRISINGLY, the Facebook page backfired. - The Facebook page has had a surprising amount of interaction, but it does not seem to be anyone related to Sarah Lawrence College or from Yonkers/Bronxville area. There was one person who interacted with the page from Yonkers. - The page has been tagged in links to an actual Breitbart article. - The page has been sent message about a conservative activist in trouble.
- The messages replicated differently online versus with the magazine. - The Facebook page only had the untouched content from the Drudge Report and Breitbart, meaning that there was no hijack necessarily present. Therefore, posting it online without the finished product meant that it only replicated the Breitbart name and likeness without the critique of the final product. This was not only unintentional, but a failure to consistently represent the product cross-platform. - In this case, the Breitbart name outshone the content itself and proved too strong to feasibly hijack, and in fact hijacked the project itself.
- Although the credibility of Breitbart was put into question by this piece, the reach was small due to the print nature and the institution of Breitbart remains mostly unaffected.
- Future work
- I would like to use the growing (?) online basis to replicate the short form conspiracy publication, but instead as a consistently published online publication. This would require continuing to find new elements from Breitbart and Drudge Report as well as choosing the set for these elements (ie. parameters for what screen grabs to use).
- An alternative to creating my own conspiracy work would be to use the same growing online basis to link to screenshots of actual conspiracy news websites. Again, the Breitbart name and image have proven very strong within this project, and the continual use of this header would stand as the backbone and reference for this project.
- Lastly, perhaps the best thing to do is re-research more forms of working on removing credit from organizations or change my perspective on this project entirely. The first way is not necessarily the best way, and more reading and viewing cannot hurt!
For my hijack i attempted to subvert the 4chan meme, the Kekistan flag. The history of the meme can be found here (http://bit.ly/2xCg1Tg), but why I chose it as my target was because it used by contemporary white supremacist and new fascist movements, currently known as the “alt-right.” To rob the power of Kekistan, my hijack must undercut its replication. To do require two somewhat conflicting processes. First it would educate the vast public of its ideological associations as a dog whistle. Secondly the hijack would interfere with the meme’s replication so it would not be used again the same way a joke dies when it is told too many times badly. The latter intention was inspired by Dennet’s “Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination” and how they reproduce themselves.
The iteration I used to hijack explicitly references Nazi imagery such as the Iron Cross and the three lines. In my attempt I used learned how to Gimp, which I learned for this project, to alter the image in a variety of ways, including fusing the flag with the Nazi flag and incorporating Lisa Frank iconography into it.
Unfortunately I came across several problems in attempting to subvert it.
- The meme is steeped in a history of shitposting, so my first attempt to subvert through exaggeration, such as adding “Nazism is My Passion.” This led to an unclear message in the image, only affirming and promoting neo-Nazi idea;s for those unfamiliar with the original’s associations to Nazism.
- The next drafts reference Lisa Frank’s colorful designs and it’s image connections to Nazi flags in order to the achieve my goals. Unfortunately, it still did not achieve the critical tone that is needed to be a hijacked. Instead the image just seemed to be another reiteration of the meme.
My collage began with a brainstorm of words and associations, held together by the single narrative of vice and virtue. Having just finished the Odyssey in my literature seminar, I was struck by the physical and psychological pleasures and seductions the narrative protagonist Odysseus had to temper himself against to make it back home after ten long years of war, and another ten years spent as a vagabond on the sea. While a handful of the seductions he has to overcome are supernatural, many of the “vices” Odysseus must ward himself against are almost impossible to overcome, simply because he is human. There were many personal lessons I could distill from reading the story of Odysseus and his battle homeward, as well as the the internal struggle that sometimes proved even harder than whatever his divine antagonists could cook up. With this in mind, I set off to make a collage to capture my interests in Greek myth, modern graphic design, vice, virtue, and the journey from adolescence into adulthood.
After brainstorming, I went in search of iconography and inspiration to guide the tone and mood of the collage. Creating a “third space” was not an easy task, and creating a specific tone and unique texture evolved constantly at every step in the collage process. Beyond just the images I selected for the collage, I had to be very careful about position and relationships. Questions such as: where do I want my audience to focus on? what elements of the collage am I naturally drawn to? what doesn’t look right? continually popped into my head. Many images or changed or discarded, and one of the hardest parts of this assignment was finding the correct typography to convey the tone I was seeking. Perusing through Google Fonts, some of there selection was either too comical or didn’t add to the atmosphere of the piece. Or worse, I would gather together a collection of fonts that practically looked the same. I found that I could spend hours browsing images and fonts online, but until I took the leap forward and threw the paint on the wall, I wouldn’t know if my design decisions would stick or not. Needless to stay, creating a collage was an exhaustive effort that felt even more meticulous than my self portrait. However, I also recognized after brainstorming that as long as I held onto the essence of my collage, the elements and imagery would naturally insert or subtract itself. The creation of the collage itself guiding my artistic selection.
There was a host of digital and graphic icons and imagery I drew inspiration from. Since Robert Rauschenberg, collage has only been aided by the advance of digital imaging and processing. While I didn’t have very many fancy applications at my hands besides Photoshop, p5.js is a very robust drawing program that allowed me to edit, translate, rotate, scale, and manipulate in many other fashions the images i inserted into my digital canvas. After creating this collage, I come away with an even greater appreciation for the subtle art of position and placement. For example, I struggled as a beginning collage artist diversifying the placement of squares which gave my collage a very rigid and structured look. I can say I spent as much time thinking about where I was going to place and translate an image on the canvas as I did coding that translation, if not more. Even still using a great deal of squares and rectangles, I think I begun to achieve some diversity and nuance in the drawing the audiences’ attention to specific portions of the collage.
If there is one part of my collage I can latch onto and say that I am happy with, I would argue I am very happy with the color scheme and palette I was able to achieve. I love working with conflicting, opposite, and opposing colors, and in my brainstorm I was latched onto the idea of a gradient. While that original gradient changed in some dimensions, I really fell in love with the background I created using a topographical map and an overlay of color. While I sometimes felt the ideas of vice and virtue I was playing with didn’t always shine through, the highly pigmented color palette and hues cinch the collage together and keep the viewer constantly searching for information and creating inferences from association.
My creation of this collage comes from my own appreciation for the story of Homer’s Odyssey, my love fro graphic design, strong color palettes, and my own musings about mortal temptation. While not directly hitting the bullseye, I think I landed somewhere close.
Once upon a time, there was a Hedgehog who wanted to go on a walk.
Why did the Hedgehog want to go on a walk? He didn’t really have a reason.
It’s just what the Hedgehog wanted to do for as long as he could remember.
And so, he set out to walk, perhaps to learn something, perhaps to find his perfect forest.
The Hedgehog first walked through the forest he grew up in.
The familiar trees were as beautiful as ever, but the Hedgehog kept walking anyway.
The old forest gave way to a new one, filled with trees the Hedgehog has never seen before.
This forest seemed so big, and so amazing.
But it was not quite what the Hedgehog hoped it would be.
So the Hedgehog decided to keep walking.
Soon, the Hedgehog found himself in a yet another forest.
“The trees in this forest are similar to the trees back at home,” the Hedgehog thought.
Would this be a good place for the Hedgehog to be?
Only time will tell.
This is a small planet, filled only with places the Hedgehog is familiar with.
The Forest Planet is divided into three parts, each populated by beautiful trees from every forest the Hedgehog has seen. As the Hedgehog continues to walk in search of something, this small planet is there to keep all the memories of every forest he has seen.
When the Hedgehog revisits one of those places on the Forest Planet, he recalls a familiar thought he had while he lived there, familiar sounds of each forest play, and out in the distance, the fog seems to form a mirage that makes the forest seem even closer to reality than it already is.
While this project does not share a lot thematically with Richard Hamilton’s work, his collages were my main inspiration. I really enjoyed the way “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” blends together textures and cutouts of various objects and people to create a very coherent room.
In my collage, I tried to achieve a similar effect by combining colored polygons that make up the world with various images to create the little planet.
I really enjoyed creating the polygons that make up the planet and the sky. To make it easier to visualize the parts, I created a small tool that showed me the necessary x and y coordinates to make the shape fit what I have in mind.
My favorite part, however, was creating the sky.
I’m very pleased with how this effect turned out, and I hope I will be able to use it in the future. To create it, I found a picture of a landscape, and used actual colors from it. I made each polygon of the sky slightly transparent, so that color from the one behind it bled through. I also made each polygon “rough” to give the sky a bit of a handmade feeling, as if I cut out a bunch of pieces of colored paper to create the sky.
When I began working on this assignment, I wanted to create a dynamic and interactive image that reflected a part of my personality while taking inspiration from Paul Klee. I noticed that in Klee’s self-portrait, his face is divided into geometric pieces of different shapes and colors. In my self portrait, I tried to echo that fragmentation using the arc() function. I created a face of different colors out of quarter circles. The division of a face into four sections seems to allude to facets of one’s personality by depicting them abstractly. I made the eyes with ellipses and then used a rectangles to form the neck and the mouth. The mouth is divided horizontally into two separate rectangles, which is an allusion to the way that Klee divided his own mouth into two tiny rectangles.Initially, I considered creating a few sets of palettes out of chosen colors to depict different moods and emotions, but decided to experiment with randomness instead after considering the tedium of compiling upwards of twenty variables for different colors in the different palettes. Instead, I declared six random color variables and assigned them to different shapes. All the shapes are different colors except for the facial features. I wanted to keep the facial features one color to keep them somewhat stable throughout the iterations of the image. I used the mousePressed() function to reassign those variables to different random colors. I was pleasantly surprised by the interesting palettes the random color variables created. I wasn’t expecting the image’s colors to look as cohesive as frequently as they do. For this post, I took about thirty screenshots and included my favorite ones. The colors definitely work to affect the mood and personality of the face. To me, the quarter circles represent different areas of my psyche circling through different processes and emotions as the colors change. I’m glad that I chose not to use preset palettes for different moods, because I think that ultimately would have led to simpler expressions of emotions (a blue palette for sadness, a red palette for anger, etc.) In reality, human beings don’t usually experience one emotion at a time – we experience multiple emotions across an array of actions and reactions. After speaking with Angela in conference, I decided to further diversify the expressions of the iterations by adding randomness to the dimensions of the mouth and eyes. I made a few more variables for width and height of the eye ellipses so that the eyes could change expressions. The mouth was a little more tricky, because the usual rectMode controls the upper left corner of the rectangle along with the width and the height, which meant that the left hand mouth rectangle didn’t stay aligned with the center of the image and connected to the other mouth rectangle. I changed to the rectMode(CORNERS), which controls the upper left hand corner and the opposite lower right hand corner. This allowed me to keep the inner side of both rectangles at the same x value throughout the iterations.