Category Archives: Cultural HiJack

BAN!: Conspiracy in the Age of “Free Speech”

Statement: A visual hijack is when an artist uses the visual strategies of an oppressive image, or target, to re-establish new ideas that are counter or detrimental to the system that the oppressive image upholds. Part 1: Setup
      • Choosing Target
        1. 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.
        2. 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
        1. Much of their content is, definitively, oppressive to the artist.
        2. 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. breitbart drudge
      • Defining Working Systems
        1. 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).
        2. 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.
        3. 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.
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  • Magazine Building
    1. 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.

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  2. Second Prototype     – The second prototype was modified to include more text: it now included Breitbart’s   contemporary headlines. This lead to more dense text and smaller ‘packets’ of words and phrases for use, in order to disguise the headlines. The newer words allowed also for more play and topical humor, which felt easily accessible     – There were also more images, to allow for a more gentle visual experience. The title that I settled on was BAN: Breitbart American News     – Lastly, this week I finally created the BreitbartAN Facebook page which is listed on the back of the magazine, and which only has posted the screen captures of the Breitbart and Drudge Report websites.

image_6483441 (5)

    1. 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!
For Access: PROTO EDIT
  • Installation
    1. 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.
    2. 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.”
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

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        – The only people who carried it visibly, from who I noticed, were white men.
  • Conclusions
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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
    1. 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).
    2. 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.
    3. 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!
    End Notes “The Inaugural Year: Celebrate Sarah Lawrence.” Sarah Lawrence College. Accessed October 16, 2017. https://www.sarahlawrence.edu/news-events/events/2017-2018/2017-10-05-inaugural_event_cele-eid217579.html. “DRUDGE REPORT.” Wayback Machine. July 11, 2001. Accessed October 16, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20010711064315/http://www.drudgereport.com:80/. Dennett, Daniel C. “Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 48, no. 2 (Spring 1990): 127-35. Accessed October 15, 2017. doi:10.2307/430902. Dery, Mark. Flame Wars: Discovery of Cyberculture. Durham and London, UK: Duke University Press, 1994. Fairey, Shepard. “Sticker Art.” Obey Giant. May 2003. Accessed October 16, 2017. https://obeygiant.com/essays/sticker-art/. Gramsci, Antonio. “Antonio Gramsci.” In AN ANTHOLOGY OF WESTERN MARXISM, edited by Roger Gottlieb, 112-19. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1989. Nussbaum, Daniel, Joel B. Pollak, Jeff Pooro, and Neil Munro. “Breitbart News Network.” Wayback Machine. November 08, 2016. Accessed October 18, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20161108073830/http://www.breitbart.com/. Phelan, Matthew. “Building the House of Breitbart.” Jacobin Magazine. November 05, 2016. Accessed October 15, 2017. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/11/breitbart-news-drudge-alt-right-koch-trump/.  

YouTube Beauty Video: Crème de Nature

Around three years ago, I came across with series of videos on YouTube called Nature Is Speaking. These videos are voiced by famous people such as Julia Roberts, Harrison Ford, Kevin Spacey and many more, as if they are the nature itself. (I’ll put a link down below.) these videos were telling the viewer how we were destroying the nature but also reminding that mother nature has harbored way more powerful creatures than humans in the past. The video made me think what have I done in my life for nature as a product of commercial society. Of course, because I live in the boundaries of a social group and use social media, I was thought to believe that some products are better than others. In the current years, there has been a social awareness around the world for natural issues. People realize that all the harmful and chemical products they have been putting in to their bodies have a side effect. For this reason, there has been a switch from chemical to natural sources. For instance, in beauty industry while for many years in most of the creams, shampoos and other indulgences paraben was a highly used product, there is a shift to palm oil. So, in my Hijack, I wanted to hijack the promotion of this change from chemical to natural. Although I cannot deny, it is a good thing for our body, and health, I am against the publicity of these products as if it is not destroying the nature and the habitat of animals. For the first class I had a sketch of a face something similar to a face filled with worms and leaves. I was inspired by Italian painter Arcimboldo’s Spring. However, in the class discussion I heard very encouraging commentsarcimboldospring. My classmates made me realize that my draft wasn’t actually hijacking the image but almost empowering the product. Then while discussing my product in the class someone brought the idea of YouTube videos where beauty gurus (using this term loosely) review beauty products on their channels. So, for the second week, I actually created a product with food coloring, oreos and parsley trying to make it look like an “organic” product. In the cream I created, the red food-dye represents the blood of the animals that die because their habitat is destroyed. Oreos and parsley symbolizes the nature. For the design of the product, I chose simple colors white cream boxIMG_2635 with pink sticker. The name of the brand is italicized to represent the elegance of the company and put few leaves to show that it is eco-friendly. To emphasize the elegance of the company, instead of choosing an English name, I chose a French name, Crème de nature. For the video, I met with a friend of mine, Cristina, while I was introducing the cream, saying how eco-friendly it was, Cristina was putting on the cream on her body. Since the cream was red, the spectator could see the effects of the cream at that instant. So, I believe my cream does make people more aware (I hope) by using shock and disgust. When I showed my product to the class, the class mainly liked it (I hope) Angela suggested that I should also have a design for the lid of the cream as well, and have a fancy decoration for the presentation. So, for my final presentation, I brought up some glitters and a panel, that looks like mirror. creamlogo            Overall, I really had fun while doing this project. I think I really had chance to express my thoughts on industry by doing art.

Cultural Hijack: What I Learned From my Failed Kekistan Hijack

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.
From this experience I learned that in order to visual critique and hijack coded memes and racist imagery, it must not incorporate the images. In order to hijack the meme, I must create a counter meme that educates and exposes those who use it for malicious means or figure out another way to bring hijack a coded meme.  I also learned how to use Gimp for this project and have that skill under my belt. 

It’s A Match! – Hijacking the Romanticization of Ideologies

Satya_and_Che Ayn_and_Pamela Brian_and_PeterBen_and_Bernie
A meme was the best source to visually hijack for me. In Daniel Dennett’s Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination, he writes that “in a struggle for attention, the best ideas win, according to the principle of the survival of the fittest, which ruthlessly winnows out the banal, the unimaginative, the false”. The best ideas are the most creative, pretty, and dynamic. The best ideas are also visually appealing. The best ideas are memes (sometimes). A meme is a cultural unit – or ideas that leap from brain to brain. And only the most visually enticing ones last as memorable units. I personally agree with another statement made by Dennett: “I don’t know about you, but I am not initially attracted by the idea of my brain as a sort of dung-heap in which the larvae of other people’s ideas renew themselves, before sending out copies of themselves in an informational Diaspora.”. The information in our brains is not really our own but what is adapted from units in other people’s brains. We collect the best ideas from the brains around us. Then we replicate them to sustain ideas. My visual hijack shows how we are influenced by ideologies. I used a meme as my medium in order to replicate my own message.
 
I began a campaign using one that already existed: “It’s a Match” from Tinder. There are various humorous ones like the relatable girl matching with food. My first prototype had Che Guevara with a white woman. My idea was to show that Che’s revolutionary views are idealized by young people today. The romanticization is represented by the millennial branding of Tinder. The use of the image of the white woman seemed wrong, though. After critique from our Cultural Hijack class, I figured maybe this woman wouldn’t be someone to romanticize Che. Maybe this woman would idealize someone like Ayn Rand. A Che-match would be more of someone like a Ben or a Satya. Someone a little hyper-masculine yet progressive. I decided to use Bernie Sanders in a variation of the original prototype. However, after some critique, I didn’t want to alienate and antagonize the left. I found images of Ayn Rand and Peter Thiel for more variations of the original prototype. In total there are 4 variations, but I had hoped to create more – one with Nietzsche and another with Milton Friedman.
 
My overall goal with the images was to critique the romanticization of ideologies. It is easy for people, including myself, to idealize figures and ideas. Antonio Gramsci suggests that “Each man, finally, outside his professional activity, carries on some form of intellectual activity, that is, he is a ‘philosopher,’ an artist, a man of taste, he participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring into being new modes of thought.”. Everyone can think critically about the world in whatever way they want to. But everyone is also influenced, to some extent, by organized ideas. Ideas can always be recycled, reevaluated, and replicated. Gramsci states that each person is a philosopher participating in a particular conception of the world. But what are we ultimately influenced by? Who is influencing our views?
 
After creating the final drafts, I bought adhesive paper and printed them out as stickers. I handed a few to all of my friends and put some up in various places on campus. Sadly, one of the stickers I’d placed in Heimbold was taken down prior to a campus event in the space. Aa few of my stickers popped up on social media (like Snapchat) and some friends even said they’d seen them around. Overall as a hijack, I think it was a success because it had people laughing. The Bernie sticker seemed to be the most popular. My image didn’t hijack the original image (the It’s a Match meme) but it did use it as a medium for self-critique.

A Previously Invisible Lesbian Calendar

For my visual hijack I hijacked typical heteronormative pictures from the 50’s-70’s and made them queer by replacing the straight couples with lesbian couples. I choose pictures from these time periods that I thought encapsulated the time frame best. I was seeking to hijack the kinds of pictures that first come to mind when one thinks about straight couples from these time periods. I wanted to hijack these pictures because I feel as though there is little to no representation of lesbian couples especially in the 50’s and so on in the 60’s and 70’s. I think it’s very important to have representation, it’s not like lesbian couples did not exist then, but without representation and evidence we are erasing them. In the beginning of my project I was working with the famous V-Day kiss picture. I thought this was a perfect all encompassing image. I photoshopped an image of a women kissing to the original photo. Copy of df In crit, a discussion of the original picture being connected to sexual assault came up and imagine immediately became unuseable. If one person has that connotation then others will too and I do not want my hijacked imagine that is supposed to present love and celebration to be linked to sexual assault. During the same crit, the class and I brainstormed other possible ideas and from this, the idea of hijacking heteronormative pictures from the 50’s-70’s was born. A classmate also mentioned that I should check out the Sarah Lawrence College Archives for pictures of the faces that will be on the new images. I had conference with Angela the next day and we brainstormed even more and decided that I needed to look at A LOT of pictures from these time periods before I decide exactly which ones I want to hijack. From this conference the idea of a calendar was born. The symbol of the calendar is important to me. The idea of time passing and these women being there, still being here they have always been here. I love that the calendar is saying look! “Look at these couples, doing normal everyday things, they are being celebrated for being themselves.” After this conference I looked at probably a hundred different heteronormative images from the 50’s-70’s in order to get a clear picture of exactly what I wanted to hijack. I started editing prototypes to the final images. couple&bookscouple_bookscouple&booksI went to the Sarah Lawrence College Archives department and they let me look at the pictures they had from those time periods and more. I flagged the imagines I liked and they sent they to me as pdf’s a couple days later. Then I started making the calendar. I had a rough start in the beginning. I did not know exactly what I wanted the calendar to look like. I also spent a lot of time finding the dates for 1960. I wanted the calendar to hypothetically be from the year 1960. calendar_milkshake After further thought I decided I wanted the calendar to be use able. I continued editing many images in order to get the ones I liked best   After another crit in class I decided to redesign my calendar layout, and create a few more month themed imges. Ex; halloween and christmas. I included names for all the couples and the calendar itself has Christian,  Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic holidays for the year 2017-2018. I also decided to use color and picked a very distinct yellow. MarchF This is one of my finished calendar pages. I will be selling the calendars sometime in the next few weeks in Heimbold. By the middle of my project I realized that I was becoming so incredibly empowered by creating a calendar full of lesbian couples. That surprised me more than I expected. I was also surprised when I started to get better at Photoshop. And I started getting excited to edit my images and wanted to spend more and more time working with Photoshop so that my images would look better. In some of my images it is clear that the image has been messed with/edited but in others it is not as obvious. I did this purposely but also not at all. In the process of becoming better at photoshop I figured out how to blend pictures better and what tools could help camouflage the layering. But In some cases I liked how it looked when it was more obvious the picture had been messed with. Throughout the entire project I was influenced by Gramsci. He introduced the idea of hegemony, this was the first time I had heard of this concept.  “They do not know what they are doing, but they are nonetheless doing it” This quote spoke to me. It stirred up ideas of how back in these time periods it was normal to not see displays of gay and lesbian love. All of these “typical” images I hijacked were created because people thought that was how it was supposed to be, but they had no idea what they were feeding into! According to Gramsci hegemony is the only way to control an entire nation, politics is not enough. I loved the idea of how this is where we come in, to show the counter image and explain how they are brainwashed. The film “They Lived” influenced me as well, the idea that with my project I am giving people goggles to see what in the past they were not seeing. A quote of Dennett’s that stuck with me “survival of the culture is not the best of the best” this is one that reinforced my idea. Images of lesbian couples did not survive in the popular culture but that does not mean that the images that did survive are the best. This encouraged me to create the images that are the best of the best.
A Reworking of Aunt Jemima aunt-jemima-logo I first heard about the racist history of Aunt Jemima in Alwin Jones’ Black Life Matters lecture last year. This year, Komozi Woodward also brought up this history in his lecture. He explained that the advertising used was that of a ‘slave in a box’. After brainstorming a list of possible images, I settled on Aunt Jemima. Originally, I wanted to remove the smile and pearl earring, swap in a wig, and change the coloring of her face so it wouldn’t look so light and glowy. The lighting made her appear like she was wearing makeup. I wanted to alter the image to create one more closely aligned with the realities of slavery. My second idea was to take an image of Georgina, one of the lead characters from Get Out, and make that the new Aunt Jemima image. This option felt like the easy way out, the way to get around using Photoshop, a program I had no previous experience with, so instead I returned to my first idea. I spent hours trying to learn the tools of Photoshop and apply them to my photo. I would often try to use a tool and the result would look nothing like the tutorial I had learned it from. I emailed the image to myself but lost layers of the photo in the process. I eventually learned from a friend that I needed a flash drive and I needed to save the image as a tiff. 1 The next class was coming up quickly and I did not have an image I was satisfied with. I had a vision in my head, but I could not figure out how to make my idea appear on my computer screen. Two days before this class met again, I realized that if I were to go through with my first idea, I would be creating an image that already exists. I would be exchanging Aunt Jemima with the image of slavery that you would find in a Black history textbook. Both my original and second ideas relied on a pre-existing image. I realized my first idea was just another easy way out. At this point, I had removed the pearl earrings, and all of Aunt Jemima’s hair (in preparation for a wig). I had eased some of the ‘smile lines’ and turned the image into Black and White. I planned to leave my image as is and ask for assistance from the class. I saw the current version of my image as pure trash. In fact, I almost deleted it before class. Shockingly, I received overwhelming amounts of praise from the class, so I made some minor changes, and then decided it was final. I printed the image onto sticker paper and cut them out by hand with scissors. I then went to a few different stores including CVS, True Value Drugs, and ACME. I couldn’t find Aunt Jermima products at the first two, but I placed the stickers over the original Aunt Jermima images at ACME. Aunt Jermima’s image is on two different spots on the box of the pancake mix. My sticker was a bit too small for one of the spots but fit perfectly on the other spot. 2     I was heavily inspired by Shephard Fairey’s Sticker Art and Mark Vallen’s critique of Shephard Fairey. Although I appreciated the replicability and accessibility of stickers that Fairey described, I lost respect for him after reading Vallen’s critique. My impression was that Fairey was quite self-absorbed. Vallen described that after Fairey was busted for plagiarism of a White Panther image, Fairey made a joke about it and said “I wish all my busts ended that well” (Vallen, 6). Although Fairey alters images to create something new, he begins with a pre-existing image. Fairey for example, took an image advocating for the liberation of Puerto Rico, took in out of the context of Puerto Rico and into the context of the Obey slogan. This isn’t inherently plagiarism. This is similar to what I did in altering the image of Aunt Jemima. However, Fairey does not give credit to any of the original artists. Fairey’s view on race and graffiti culture also rubbed me the wrong way. “I was somehow convinced graffiti was something you had to be born into, like a Black or Hispanic mafia” (Fairey, 2). The use of the term mafia seems like an insult. Fairey fails to mention that graffiti is a part of Hip-Hop culture which is a piece of Black and Hispanic culture. If he is going to engage in graffiti culture, which some would argue he should not be doing at all, then he must understand where that culture comes from. Also, it makes sense that he does not feel like he will fit into this culture, because it is not his. I hijacked an image that mocked the conditions of slavery. I did not use humor in my image, because the original image used humor and it did not work. It is what made the image so offensive. Another reason I rejected my original idea was because the image of slavery is shown so often that individuals become desensitized to it. It is also not my place to put that trauma on display. Additionally, my final image, which peers described as ‘ghostly’, better communicated my message which was that individuals need to re-think the implications of Aunt Jemima. The ghostly nature drew on inspiration from Get Out, but did not steal a pre-existing image. Throughout this project, I had to figure out which of my ideas would communicate my message while maintaining originality.

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The Esther Raushenbush Library’s Guerrilla Catalogue

FullSizeRender-6 FullSizeRender-2 FullSizeRender-3 FullSizeRender-5 For my conference project, I collected and catalogued all of the graffiti in the library. Each of these pieces was separated into one of eleven categories: Love/Sex/Relationships, Campus Life, Existentialism School & Education, Conference Work, Quotes, Drawings, Questions, Jokes, Sadness/Frustration, and Motivation. The purpose of this project was to give a critical appreciation for these small, anonymous acts of vandalism. I thought a good way to do that would be to catalogue them similarly to the library’s system. While at face value, they’re funny quips, cries of desperation and exhaustion from work, and divulged secrets are just the ramblings of twenty-something liberal arts students, I think there’s something more here. Even though they were technically defacing the library, the level of intimacy in most of these felt more like reading snippets of a diary than the words of someone with the intent to destroy property. A lot of the pieces were in conversation with each other. It seemed like an act in intimate expression, but also in bonding. I think this is one of the most special components of this project. This is a community of anonymous authors, speaking to no one or anyone, and engaging in a dialogue. Sometimes it’s witty banter, but often its words of encouragement; a number of these notes said “You can do it!”. I felt a special connection to each space. There’s also a strangeness to reading a conversation which is not logged and sort of presently happening, yet totally silent and without any sense of timing. It feels very alive and present. My intention was to connect this project back to the lessons we had learned on psychogeography, but giving people a new way of navigating the space through this alternate, guerrilla catalogue. It’s subversive and enticing, or as one anonymous author wrote “I’ve never done this before and it feels way better than I expected”. So it’s a catalogue that invites interaction and contribution. This also reminded me of the Situationists International, through the way they marked their city as a way of redefining the space. The Situationists also showed how they could challenge the dominant power structure through small acts of vandalism like this. I see a lot of similarity in these small pieces of writing challenging the power structure of the library, and its catalogue of thoughts. It subverts the nature of needing to be published in order to have a presence in the library. Ideally, the best placement for this piece would be in the library, next to the guide on the wall. Although, I didn’t notice a spatial connection between the writings and the collections of books they were near, I think placing this map next to these stacks might subtly suggest or encourage someone to write something existential near the philosophy section or something.

Conference Project Draft #1: Library Graffiti

6a00d8341c630a53ef011570e53679970c There are a number of different ways to navigate a library; the Dewey decimal system seems like an obvious universal method, if there’s a specific book you’re looking for. Or if you’re looking more for information in a more general way, the library is spatially separated into categories such as Philosophy, Religion, Anthropology, and Art History. But ultimately, the library is a catalogue of ideas. Sometimes those ideas are the end destinations for researchers with particular questions, and sometimes curious minds wander in with the goal of allowing any of the innumerable ideas fill their thoughts. Sometimes ideas are contributed by the library’s visitors, and that is what I’d like to focus this conference project on. There’s a lot of graffiti on the walls and desks, as I’m sure many of the other students who frequent the library have noticed. But it’s not graffiti like we think of it, as just names written as an attempt to say “so-and-so was here” in some sort of public, urban landscape. The graffiti in our library are uncredited ideas, existential crises, quotes. These are instances of students feeling so filled with information that they need to share it in anyway possible, or of students feeling so beaten down by heavy course loads with high expectations, looking for some sort of release from the pressures of synthesizing the brilliance of others. My goal with this project is to see what these illicit markings from students reveal about how the library environment inspires certain interactions from its visitors. I will catalogue the markings in public space and document them both spatially and categorically (I’m still working on the category system but I think it will include distinctions like ‘quotes from others’, ‘images’ and ‘questions’). This project hits on themes we’ve talked about in class, such as mapping the invisible, since the goal here is to deduce some sort of reasoning behind what inspires people to share their ideas or despair in certain areas of the library. I’ve taken a lot of this graffiti at face value and I’m wondering if more can be learned from these small rebellions. Secondly, the very act of marking up the library touches on the idea of playable landscapes which we covered through our discussions and readings on psychogeogephy.

Psychogeography of Historians

Today the Historians walked around the campus, from spaces around Heimbold to Marshall Field to the space near Tweed. As we walked, we discussed the unique histories of the buildings and the landscapes. We walked around Heimbold, considering what materials we would use for our sculpture. A few methods of traversing the campus that utilize its history (which we haven’t tried yet, but will potentially) -Finding a map of the school in the archives from several decades ago, and visiting various places on the map which have since moved, then re-imagining those spaces in their former glory. For example, the Pub has gone through several transformations before it became what we know today, such as the nurse’s office. -Talking to neighbors from Hill who have lived in the apartment building before it was student housing, and asking them how they traversed the campus. -Looking at William VanDoozer Lawrence’s plans for developing the town and visiting and reimagining the sites as he must have seen them.

Historians: Invisible Histories

Picture-16 (Pictured above: Inspirational piece by Monica Canilao) Today our group brainstormed on-site, about how we could apply our role as “historians” to the area next to Marshall Field. Though we’re still in the drafting phase, we cobbled together a few ideas from each member to come up with bones of our collaborative sculpture. Essentially, we would like to create a house-type structure which explores and pays homage excluded histories; narratives which are invisible from Bronxville’s manicured facade. While we are still not settled on whether this means private histories from a personal point of view, or an approach which regards class boundaries we see in Bronxville, we are certain that we want this project to feel like a welcoming celebration of unheard voices. The goal is to create an interactive house/hut-like structure which welcomes people inside and allows them to take or contribute to the structure. We see this as a challenge to the close-off, private properties in Bronxville, whose beauty can be admired from afar but never shared. So in a way, we see just the act of creating a space which invites one and all to share and take and contribute as a subversive creation to its environment.

Final Project – Feminist Ad Bust

January 15, 2015 caroline1 I wanted my final project during my intersession to address social issues that are relevant to me. My plan was to use an existing advertisement, paint it white, and then add text directly onto it. I decided to return to my initial idea of creating a billboard which advertised compliments that aren’t about physical appearance. I felt this is increasingly necessary especially in this area, given the number of times I was cat called in this neighborhood while I was here. The inspiration for this piece came from a post I read on angryasianfeminist. I decided to springboard off of this post, and add my own compliments, make it public and add a bit of humor. I brainstormed on compliments for awhile. Some of the rejected included things like “There’s no need for TV when you’re around” and “You’re the reason Kanye has self esteem issues” (I thought that might sound like bullying Kanye, rather than just being like ‘you’re so flawless’). I left two bullet points at the end open so that passersby could add on their own. I noticed that someone added “I LOVE YOU” when I went back to check (ironically on Valentine’s day). It’s a silly addition, not one I would have added, but I like that someone ws inspired enough to participate. The response online has been incredible. A photographer from the Philadelphia area snapped it and his photo was pretty popular on tumblr, gaining about 4,000 notes (‘notes’ indicate when another blogger has favorited or reblogged the original post/photo). I posted a similar photo and it got about 178,000 notes and counting. Even though this is dry data and doesn’t describe any impact the art may have had on these bloggers, it’s at least an easy way to numerically represent that a large number of people have appreciated the work enough to share it. My friends have even mentioned how they saw pictures of this piece popping up around various corners of the web. Suffice to say, the photo of this piece and its share-ability on the web is more important than the actual piece itself because it was able to reach more people. Overall, I consider this project a success. I was thrilled by the way the piece came out, inviting humor yet still attempting to challenge serious issues around catcalling. The fact that it went viral is a pretty clear indication that people want to see work that speaks to real issues. I think about that a lot when I think about the success of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh with her “Stop Telling Women to Smile”. Her project was incredible, combining street art and powerful messages about women reclaiming their agency in public spaces. Her work is obviously great, but I think the response to her work is the strength of the project. It felt almost like women had been waiting for someone to say this, so when Tatyana spoke the message people immediately rallied behind the project. I’m not suggesting my piece is anywhere near as good as Tatyana’s campaign, but I think the responses to our messages show how eager people are to see art that addresses these larger social concerns about the treatment of women.

Interview with Philadelphia Street Artist

12 January 2015 Before I set out to design and install my interactive art piece, I considered the importance of hearing about Philadelphia’s street art scene from an active participant. I managed to get in touch with a local street artist, who agreed to an interview if they could maintain anonymity. This artist uses found materials to create text pieces, that they then screw onto signposts. I had seen these pieces as well as text-based stickers by the same artist around Philadelphia on many occasions. The artist also has a bit of an internet presence. Since some of his pieces directly address the audience (the audience being pedestrians who happen to walk past it), I thought this person would be a good example of creating work that inspires interaction.   Here are some of the artist’s thoughts on street art, interactive art, and documentation: Why do you share your art on the streets? I get a thrill from the whole process of producing and installing the work, so that’s the selfish reason. But I also do it because I want people to actually be looking around them as they walk around the city. I want to produce something that catches your eye so that after you leave it behind, you’re starting to look for more things to catch your eye and snap you out of the everyday. Why anonymously? Well there’s the law, for one, and just the general sense that some people might judge me harshly for putting up street art. It’s easier to not deal with that. I know anonymous street artists who work for the government, or as teachers, or in finance, or in other fields where a morals clause in their contracts might mean that they could be fired for doing street art. So anonymity provides some protection and separation from a private life. But I think more importantly it’s more fun for the viewer if the artist is anonymous. It creates mystery. Fans are curious. Why does that artist do what they do? A nice side benefit is honest feedback. I’ve had conversations with people who don’t know who they are talking to, and we’ll start discussing my artwork, but they’ll think they are just talking to some random person on the street, or a new drinking buddy at an art opening, but instead they’ll be telling the artist exactly what they really think. Most importantly though is the mystery that comes with anonymity. It provides artistic freedom and excites fans.   What’s an ideal reaction you’d hope to illicit from your work? What the hell? This is terrible/evil/hilarious/eyeopening! I could do this. Hell, I could do better. I will do better. Is street art really this easy?   Is there anyone in particular you’re trying to reach? When I started, I was trying to reach people already in the street art community. I felt that Philly street art could be so much better, and so I was trying to inspire local artists to try different and better things. My work was a challenge to mediocre street art to improve. Now, it’s 80% that, and 20% geared towards anyone willing to notice it and think differently about their day or their surroundings.   How important is documentation to you? When I started, I documented 95% of what I did. It was essential to my practice. I was trying to create a street art persona online without producing amazing work or doing very much of it. My theory was that good documentation and social media marketing would make up for sub-par art. I was right. Now, I don’t document as much of my work myself, but I make sure to do as much of it as I can in places where I believe it will be documented by others. I recognize that internet visibility matters, and documentation is very important to day.   Is having a web presence important for street artists? Why or why not? A web presence isn’t essential to street art, but it is essential to street artists. What I mean is, to do street art in its purest form doesn’t require a web presence, but to use street art as a means for promoting your own art career requires a web presence, and these days, most street artists use their outdoor work as a way to get into galleries and museums rather than as a rejection of those systems.   Are you inspired by other texts artists? Other street artists? I steal my words from other text artists, and I find other street artists equally inspiring and revolting. In the few years I’ve been active, I’ve seen the Philadelphia scene mature slightly, and that’s inspiring.   What made you decide to start putting up your work? A frustration with the trappings of the mainstream artworld and general scenesterism have crept into street art, an artform intended to be anonymous and free.

Revolution Recovery – site visit & response piece

January 10, 2015 gene_smirnov_grid_rr_2 Today, my partner and I conducted a site visit to RAIR (Recycled Artists in Residency) located at the Philadelphia-based recycling plant Revolution Recovery. Revolution Recovery is an environmentally-friendly, sustainability-focused trash sorting center. Their main clients are predominantly large scale corporate and industrial projects that need to dispose of massive amounts of waste. The recycling center was approached by artist Billy Dufala, half of the art duo The Dufala Brothers and a former member of the popular band Man Man. Dufala proposed a partnership between the recycling center and artists who might want to use the material waste for sculptures and projects. Avi Golen, a co-founder of Revolution Recovery, was for the idea and thus RAIR was formed. RAIR invites artists from across the US to pick through the trash and the materials that are dumped at the recycling plant to create art projects that raise awareness about sustainability. While touring the facility and the artists’ studios, I got a sense of the social and environmental importance (and relative ease) of sourcing art materials from the trash. Dufala and Golen spoke at length about the kinds of incredible objects they’ve pulled from the trash: everything from expensive boots still in the box, a cheetah pelt, an actual shark fetus in a jar, and miles of christmas lights. trash The exhibitions RAIR puts on have included massive trash-sourced sculptures, Rube Goldberg contraptions, trash-bowling and much more. Currently, they’re in the selection process for their next batch of residents. In terms of my own project, I was inspired to appropriate trashed material for a public art project. I came across a peg-board which, though dirty, seemed like it had the potential to be turned into a fun game. I went to a hardware store and bought bolts. I cleaned and modified the pegboard in a small way, added a marker on a string, and created a fun little ‘connect the dots’ game. pegboard I was delighted by the fast response! Just hours after I installed it, people were drawing on the pegboard. To me, this was a success because it accomplished three of my goals: Create a piece which inspires people to directly interact with their environment in a positive way. Use recycled material (a la RAIR and Revolution Recovery) Create something which is accessible to a broad audience, that was not necessarily expecting to see art. So now that I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned from my site visit and my interview with a local Philadelphian street artist, I’d like to create a larger piece which addresses more important social concerns. This next project will probably play off of my initial inspirations. tumblr_nic1rsAkfV1qdozlyo1_1280

Urban Interventions: Brainstorm

This project will be carried out in Philadelphia. My goal is to create a piece of public art that encourages public interaction. I let a few people in the art scene here know that I’m looking for walls or spaces for intervention. While I wait for possible leads, I’ve started the brainstorm process for projects which would not require an approval process. This way, if I’m not able to coordinate a space in the short time allotted for this project, I am able to carry on with other ideas. The majority of these ideas are short-term interventions, and include adding a suggestion box to a public space (such as an unmaintained bus stop). Responses could be reviewed and sent to a community council member. Another idea would be replacing advertisements on the public transportation system (Septa) with art, quotes, history lessons; content that is based on improving the visual environment and passenger’s experience, and does not ask its audience for money as advertisements do. Potential ad takeovers could include short lessons such as game theory, why/how to encrypt data, or perhaps even riddles, brain teasers or philosophical questions. The goal would be to show that one’s time on the train doesn’t have to feel like time wasted, rather, it could be a space for contemplation. Another idea for a temporary ad replacement would be a list of compliments that are not about one’s looks. Multiple artists over the last few years have done a fantastic job of drawing attention to the issue of catcalling women, such as Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” street campaign, Hannah Price’s portraits of catcallers, or Rob Bliss’ video “10 Hours of Walking Around NYC as a Woman”. These projects are all highly effective in highlighting how these supposed compliments are a degrading action that make women feel vulnerable and reduce people to objects of physical desire on the street. If the counter argument (as flawed as it is) is that there is there is positive intention in paying someone a compliment, I thought a positive extension of this existing work would be to provide a list entitled “Compliments That Aren’t About Looks”. The list would include quotes like “You have a beautiful perspective on the world/humanity/etc”, “You have an incredible sense of humor,” “I wish more people thought the way you did about ____”, and so on. The purpose of placing this within the context of an advertisement space on public transportation is because a lot of these types of catcalling issues occur in these small-quartered, public spaces. Thus, this placement would connect with one facet of the target-audience who should think twice before they address a stranger about their looks. All of these ideas are attempts to reimagine existing public space as a place for audience engagement. Candy Chang, an artist, designer and urban planner, is an inspiration for this project as she uses her art to achieve this type of public engagement in a very direct way. A few of her more notable projects include painting an outdoor wall with the words “Before I Die….” then leaving a number of spaces for pedestrians to fill in the blank. Her indoor work has included projects such as confession booths, where audience members are able to anonymously write a confession on a provided card, which is then hung on a wall with other confessions as an exhibit. What I like about Candy’s projects is that they involve direct interaction between the audience and the art, and this allows the audience to take away a sense of self-importance from the work. One of my favorite projects that I completed last semester (Fall 2014) for Angela’s Remix the City course involved this same sort of direct connection with the work: I replaced an advertisement on the Metro-North train with an email address in order to provide people with a space to be heard. I was both surprised by the amount of positive feedback the sign received, and was encouraged to do more projects which gave people a space to feel heard. That’s where I am in the brainstorm process, more posts to come!