Con El Paquete Semanal

Illustration by Baimu for Yorokubo

Well, my research project on El Paquete Semanal is finally out in the world, and I’m happy people are digging into the content. I got to know EP and understand the cultural context over the course of two trips to Cuba, and really appreciate how the system has grown up under the island’s unique constraints. Take a look at the report and some more analysis from Quartz, which featured it as an “Obsession,” or Reddit, where it came up

Meanwhile, if you read Spanish, the artsy-future magazine Yorokubo hit me up for an interview, from which I nabbed the neat illustration above, as well as Cuban-ish1 site Isla Local. The work was also cited in an r/science discussion on Reddit, and caught the attention of Czech publication Technet.

Meanwhile, loads of cool folks tweeted about the project. Thanks for the support, everyone.

  1. I’m not sure where on the Granma Spectrum it falls []

Walk On Air Against Your Better Judgement: Some Epitaph.

heaney_headstone

That’s what the epitaph on legendary Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s headstone, erected recently in his home village in County Derry, advises.

The lines come from his Nobel Prize speech, delivered in 1995. He explained more:

That line is from a poem called “The Gravel Walks,” which is about heavy work—wheeling barrows of gravel—but also the paradoxical sense of lightness when you’re lifting heavy things. I like the in-betweenness of up and down, of being on the earth and of the heavens. I think that’s where poetry should dwell, between the dream world and the given world, because you don’t just want photography, and you don’t want fantasy either.

There’s more at Irish Central.

Posted in Art

Poem: Dinosaurs in the Hood

Dinosaurs in the Hood
BY DANEZ SMITH

Let’s make a movie called Dinosaurs in the Hood.
Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happyness.
There should be a scene where a little black boy is playing
with a toy dinosaur on the bus, then looks out the window
& sees the T. Rex, because there has to be a T. Rex.

Don’t let Tarantino direct this. In his version, the boy plays
with a gun, the metaphor: black boys toy with their own lives,
the foreshadow to his end, the spitting image of his father.
Fuck that, the kid has a plastic Brontosaurus or Triceratops
& this is his proof of magic or God or Santa. I want a scene

where a cop car gets pooped on by a pterodactyl, a scene
where the corner store turns into a battle ground. Don’t let
the Wayans brothers in this movie. I don’t want any racist shit
about Asian people or overused Latino stereotypes.
This movie is about a neighborhood of royal folks —

children of slaves & immigrants & addicts & exiles — saving their town
from real-ass dinosaurs. I don’t want some cheesy yet progressive
Hmong sexy hot dude hero with a funny yet strong commanding
black girl buddy-cop film. This is not a vehicle for Will Smith
& Sofia Vergara. I want grandmas on the front porch taking out raptors

with guns they hid in walls & under mattresses. I want those little spitty,
screamy dinosaurs. I want Cicely Tyson to make a speech, maybe two.
I want Viola Davis to save the city in the last scene with a black fist afro pick
through the last dinosaur’s long, cold-blood neck. But this can’t be
a black movie. This can’t be a black movie. This movie can’t be dismissed

because of its cast or its audience. This movie can’t be a metaphor
for black people & extinction. This movie can’t be about race.
This movie can’t be about black pain or cause black people pain.
This movie can’t be about a long history of having a long history with hurt.
This movie can’t be about race. Nobody can say nigga in this movie

who can’t say it to my face in public. No chicken jokes in this movie.
No bullets in the heroes. & no one kills the black boy. & no one kills
the black boy. & no one kills the black boy. Besides, the only reason
I want to make this is for that first scene anyway: the little black boy
on the bus with a toy dinosaur, his eyes wide & endless

his dreams possible, pulsing, & right there.

 

 
Source: Poetry (December 2014).

Posted in Art

Writing elsewhere: Nicolas Jaar in Flaunt

flaunt-jaar-parish

Wow, a celebrity profile!

Pick up this summer’s Flaunt, the Context issue, to read a piece I wrote on Nicolas Jaar, one of the more interesting figures in dance music today. I tried to give a sense of the big ideas Jaar’s grappling with, and his perspective as an artist.

To get a sense of how that’s coming through in the music he’s making, check out his page on SoundCloud. The second issuance from his DARKSIDE project is out now, so you can give that a listen, too. That’s probably my favorite work of his.

Tetsuharu Kubota shot him quite well, I think. Apparently it was a cover story, but one of four. The cover of the copy I got has Beyonce. And includes a poster! Fancy.

All Folded Pages: The Shape of Content, by Ben Shahn

All Folded Pages. Blogging the corners I’ve turned down while reading a book. It’s a fun format which I’m happy to respectfully copy. Here are a few notable passages from Ben Shahn’s The Shape of Content.

While the title would be at home in a 2013 thought leadership seminar, the topic area is on the shaping and governing of a mindset related to the appreciation and creation of good art, specifically painting, and came from a series of lectures Shahn gave at Harvard. The relationship between form and content, noncomformity, the education of an artist—all are key elements in Shahn’s talks.

The first passage is about novelty and motive as ascribed to judgement of art (p. 102).

So we have begun to accord to scientific terms and phenomena an almost mystic potency. When we read of the quaint and ancient practice, as described by Cennino Cennini, of saying specific prayers for the mixing of specific colors and paints, we are charmed and amused. But we are not at all amused by the claims to scientific potency which run along the side of our toothpaste tube, or which herald the latest hormone cream for the arresting of old age. We perceive little humor in vitamin-enriched bread; we take the idea of personal travel to the moon as a matter of course; we carefully guide our automobile toward the nearest gasoline station that happens to advertise super-octane gas, although I doubt that many of us have the slightest notion of what super-octane is—I am sure that I haven’t.

In our contemporary criticisms of art we are not unlikely to read of the time-space continuum as a property of painting at hand; we come upon such terms as entropy and complementarity; and a number of modes of painting take their names from biology or psychology. Still others take their cue from these sciences, and we have “automatic painting,” “therapeutic painting,” and the like.

I do not mean to imply that an interpretation of the sciences, or an evaluation or even a participation, is out of order in contemporary art; indeed I think all that is very much the point. But at the moment I am speaking of the present tendency of art to borrow glory and to borrow value by a purely romantic self-association with scientific terminology. And one can imagine how ill fares that kind of painting, devoted to capturing the modes of nature or to some idea of craftsmanship, in the hands of those critics who are schooled in the terminology of Biomorphism, or Geometric Expressionism, or who look upon art as compulsive or unconsciously motivated.

On complexity (p. 106):

But it is not the degree of communicability that constitutes the value of art to the public. It is its basic intent and responsibility. A work of art in which powerful compassion is innate, or which contains extraordinary revelations concerning form, or manifests brilliant thinking, however difficult its language, will serve ultimately to dignify that society in which it exists. By the same argument, a work that is tawdry and calculating in intent is not made more worthy by being easily understood. One does not judge an Einstein equation by its communicability, but by its actual content and meaning.

What lasts (p. 110)

If any single kind of value or evaluation has tended to survive the many tides and reversals of taste, belief and dogma, I imagine that value consists in some vague striving for truth. … Whatever our momentary concept of it may be, it seems as through truth itself is that objective which awakens the purest passion in man, which stimulates his mind and calls forth his heroic endeavors. It is in pursuit of truth perhaps that we are able to sacrifice present values and move on to new ones.

What I loved most were Shahn’s exhortations to younger artists, clearly the audience he was addressing. Here is his “capsule recommendation for a course of education,” which remains one of the more inspiring passages of the book (p. 113):

Attend a university if you possibly can. There is no content of knowledge that is not pertinent to the work you will want to do. But before you attend a university work at something for a while. Do anything. Get a job in a potato field; or work as a grease-monkey in an auto repair shop. But if you do work in a field do not fail to observe the look and the feel of earth and of all things that you handle — yes, even potatoes! Or, in the auto shop, the smell of oil and grease and burning rubber. Paint of course, but if you have to lay aside painting for a time, continue to draw. Listen well to all conversations and be instructed by them and take all seriousness seriously. Never look down upon anything or anyone as not worthy of notice. In college or out of college, read. And form opinions! Read Sophocles and Euripides and Dante and Proust. Read everything that you can find about art except the reviews. Read the Bible; read Hume; read Pogo. Read all kinds of poetry and know many poets and many artists. Go to and art school, or two, or three, or take art courses at night if necessary. And paint and paint and draw and draw. Know all that you can, both curricular and noncurricular — mathematics and physics and economics,logic and particularly history. Know at least two languages besides your own, but anyway, know French. Look at pictures and more pictures. Look at every kind of visual symbol, every kind of emblem; do not spurn signboards of furniture drawings of this style of art or that style of art. Do not be afraid to like paintings honestly or to dislike them honestly, but if you do dislike them retain an open mind. Do not dismiss any school of art, not the Pre-Raphaelites nor the Hudson River School nor the German Genre painters. Talk and talk and sit at cafés, and listen to everything, to Brahms, to Brubeck, to the Italian hour on the radio. Listen to preachers in small town churches and in big city churches. Listen to politicians in New England town meetings and to rabble-rousers in Alabama. Even draw them. And remember that you are trying to learn to think what you want to think, that you are trying to co-ordinate mind and hand and eye. Go to all sorts of museums and galleries and to the studios of artists. Go to Paris and Madrid and Rome and Ravenna and Padua. Stand alone in Sainte Chapelle, in the Sistine Chapel, in the Church of the Carmine in Florence. Draw and draw and paint and learn to work in many media; try lithography and aquatint and silk-screen. Know all that you can about art, and by all means have opinions. Never be afraid to become embroiled in art of life or politics; never be afraid to learn to draw or paint better than you already do; and never be afraid to undertake any kind of art at all, however exalted or however common, but do it with distinction.

Creativity, and how ideas evolve

2006:

1996

19861

Well, often I did unpremeditated things in those days, as I have said. Once, from the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome, for no reason except that I had come upon a Volkswagen van full of them, I let hundreds and hundreds of tennis balls bounce one after the other to the bottom, every which way possible. Watching how they struck tiny irregularities or worn spots in the stone, and changed direction, or guessing how far across the piazza down below each one of them would go. Several of them bounced catty-corner and struck the house where John Keats died, in fact. – David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress

 

Off to 1976 we go…

  1. Approximately, as it is near the beginning, and Markson had the novel rejected 55 times before it came out in 1988. It took a while in the days before email. []

Expiration Dates for Creative Companies



A few weeks ago, my favorite music act abruptly broke up. But it wasn’t the standard faff from a band that’s released a bunch of albums and toured forever, ‘we’re having artistic difficulties’, the cover for a junkie drummer or clashing egos. The group was cautious and enigmatic in the first place, and its decision to quit further cemented the realization no one would ever know the full story. The group is called Sandwell District, and it makes deep, dark, often abrasive hypnotic techno dance music, the sort of stuff that begins going through your head after your third day trapped in a well, I’d imagine, or when you’ve spent too much time on a tilt-a-whirl. Some of us, due to genetic programming or maybe many hours of social conditioning in dark rooms listening to loud music, think better with this sort of stuff pumping. I’m one of them. And Sandwell was certainly, to me, the most expressive and aesthetic-oriented group I’ve seen in dance music in some time. It had a formed artistic ethos much like Detroit collectives Underground Resistance or groups like Drexcyia, far from the personality-driven side of the dance music world. In short, Sandwell innovated, and will, in some form or another, continue, apart or together, to make amazing, provocative music. This essay isn’t about Sandwell District, though if you want to find out more about it, its Tumblr is a good place to start , as is this piece from The Wire.

New Values
Beginning the 31st of December 2011, regular audio communication from Sandwell District will cease. All vinyl artifacts have been decommissioned. There is a possiblity of future, albeit irregular, print communications with audio accompaniment. However, details — and indeed content — is uncertain at this moment in time. The Sandwell experiment will exist through live actions — which will continue to expand into new sonic territory — in addition to audio / print installations as previously witnessed in New York, Los Angeles, Gdansk, Bialystok, Berlin and London.

Stasis is death.
See you on the other side.

So, you say, they’re breaking up, but they’re not stopping playing shows, and doing other ‘print communications with audio accompaniment’ — so what’s the big deal?

Well, I know we haven’t seen the last of Sandwell.

But what if we built our creative businesses, our design studios, our content companies, our  journalist’s collectives, with a set of time-based values?

What if businesses had an expiration date?

Obviously, this repels much of the capitalist ideal. Once the company reaches its peak, then is the time when it’s ripest for squeezing, a milking of profits that can continue, managed well, for some years.

If the participants were to agree to pack it in, and go their separate ways, after, say, three years, it would give no hope for investment, no hope for mechanisms of control that come with outside funding.

The best potential test case for this is a small design studio, with 3-5 partners. It is stated at the outset that this is a transient endeavor, meant to last three years, then everyone is released, the property liquidated, business cards tossed into the trash, web presence turned off.

Needless to say, it wouldn’t work as well with businesses based on making artisanal salami or high-grade thermocouples.

In the Wire story, one member of Sandwell, Karl O’Connor, says, ‘As we everything I have been involved with, it’s about creating situations – some you go with, an dsome you abort. We hate this whole ’20 years of so-and-so label’ or ’40 years of that label’. We know when things need to be killed or moved on.’

The ‘we know’ comes with a feeling of creative completeness, but a stated end point would set that feeling in stone, and force an arc higher and brighter than otherwise.

I often am able to connect the dots between people who have bonds to specific companies at specific periods, that is, they all worked at Company X during its heyday, and they all went on to places or things much more interesting than you would expect, given their relative lack of experience prior to Company X. There are a lot of factors at play here, like where Company X was in its life cycle already, or where the winds of novelty were blowing in its industry at the time, or the sort of work they were able to do  while together. But I believe companies with a stated half-life and a strong mission at the outset will create cadres of exceptional people.

Meat Sweats #1 arrives

Friend Krista Freibaum sent over her latest project, Meat Sweats, a Newspaper Club-stylee compendium of illustrations and comics themed around rad flesh.

Everyone’s got a page, with front and back cover from Anthony Sperduti. I enjoyed David Shamoon‘s history of drinkable meat and Zoe Turnbull‘s meditation on how her Brussels Griffon would taste. I’d reckon the latter would be stringy and probably best in a stew.

They’re Tumbrling around the web at meatsweatszine.com, though, format-wise, the mag itself is a sort of paper Tumblr. I’ve got an extra copy. Shout in the comments with your nastiest meat story and I’ll send it your way.

 

Posted in Art

We’re coming through the window: Most Contagious 2010

Most Contagious 2010.

Hello and welcome to Most Contagious 2010: a free round-up of the biggest global trends, technologies, and campaigns of the year, pulled together by Contagious Magazine, the advertising industry’s monitor of creativity and innovation. This year’s Most Contagious is supported by our friends at Yahoo!
A round-up of the global trends, technologies, and campaigns of the year from Contagious Magazine, an early warning system for the advertising industry. This year’s Most Contagious
is supported by Yahoo!

Please enjoy; it’s a true labor of love. Thanks to all of you for supporting us this year, and every year, to make Contagious as successful (and fun) as it has been. More end-of-year stuff to come, provided I complete a big stack of work.

Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop

I caught a screening of Exit Through The Gift Shop, Banksy’s feature-length film, last night, and, like most things related to the mysterious artist, it manages to zig around expectations and get to mind-twisting territory quickly.

There are probably a few spoilers in here, or not. Read at your peril.

Plot-wise, the movie mostly stars a Frenchman named Thierry Guetta. Thierry becomes obsessed with chronicling things via video, and fixates on street artists, adoring of the danger and spontaneity.

Thierry is clearly obsessed and mentally unbalanced, but in that endearing Man On Wire, French way. His marriage miraculously stays intact while he follows Shepherd Fairey across the globe, plowing through thousands of tapes–ostensibly, to the artists, for a documentary–which fill dozens and dozens of boxes in his house.

Theirry’s camera eventually, after much pursuit, intercepts Banksy, and several close scrapes bring the two together, as friends. Theirry gets comfortable in Banksy’s inner sanctum. Only in this short section do we get to see the artist working; otherwise he narrates in hood, face obscured, with robo voice. Scenes from his studio are really interesting; at one point he takes Theirry to his attic and shows him boxes of £10 bills, with Lady Di’s face printed on them, and explains how they printed £1,000,000 worth and have been passing them to vendors at festivals.1

At various points in the film, the question of whether Thierry is real or not came to mind. It seemed, thematically, that his obsession with videotaping everything melds perfectly with the themes of surveillance and voyeurism prevailing in Banksy’s work. But the dating of the footage appears to have been too elaborate to fake. Fairey looks younger, wearing baggy, of-the-era late ’90s clothes in footage purported to be from that era. Speaking with a few people more familiar than I, it’s true, he’s a real guy. Guetta’s character, though, is so surreal and outlandishly appropriate to the subject matter, that what happens next is completely conceptually seamless to the point where the rational mind rebels.

Banksy asks Theirry to show him his film, Life Remote Control, and, surprise, the final product of his insanity and obsession is intolerable. You can watch a few bits of it here.

So Banksy decides to make the movie about Thierry, and, in the meanwhiles, tells Thierry, who has been experimenting with stickers and wheatpasting, to do an art show–and Thierry dubs himself Mr. Brainwash.

Given this mandate by his hero, Thierry can’t help but make it massive: he puts his life in hock (supposedly) and hires a team to create art (a style-less mish-mash of Fairey, Banksy and Andy Warhol) and leverages endorsements from Fairey and Banksy to get the punters (Fairey calls them suckers, which is maybe more appropriate) out and buying.

And they do. His Life is Beautiful show sells a million dollars in product and runs for months (I wasn’t able to independently verify
this). Theirry is an art star, and has had a subsequent show here in New York in February.

And there we have it. But what do we have? Well, the great street art swindle. Like John Lydon said, ‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’

The Sex Pistols did it first. The KLF wrote The Manual on how to do it. Now Banksy is doing it: creating a story to spur demand, lending authority to it in a rapidly popularizing subculture, satisfying the hunger and laughing while everyone eats it up.

It is almost a performance edition of the piece pictured above.

Thierry’s the ultimate idolator, a King Toy of the graf world, but in an endearing, ‘let me hold the ladder and learn to do it’ savant-ish sense rather than cynical or ill-meaning way.

In him, Banksy has a tool to make us aware of our desire to belong and understand, nudging him forward, enabling his rise, only to gloat over the result. The art fans, clad in Ed Hardy, lined the sidewalk to see Life is Beautiful and take home a piece. But once everyone catches on to the gag, what happens to the work? And Thierry’s (clearly unbalanced) ego? If Banksy was affiliated, does that mean it has value (in an artistic or financial sense)?

Banksy is certainly a fascinating character, and this film will raise more interesting discussion on the nature of art in our times. But as opposed to his pieces on the wall in Gaza, indicting a system of oppression and bringing power and hope and positive messages to the world, and the Disneyland incident (which is explained in harrowing detail in the film) it feels like there’s been a turn in Banksy’s work toward the cynical.

Here, in helping make Mr. Brainwash into something of a star, he’s turned to lampooning the general public, ordinary people whose minds have been opened to the sort of surprise and wonder great street art fosters.

The film is out April 16 in the States, and if you’re interested in the culture of street art and image-making in cultural affairs I’d recommend you seek it out.

Animal New York has a post revealing some Fairey admissions, and that throws up a few good rumors and explanations about Theirry owning property and having family connections that let him do legal graffiti. It’s worth a look.

  1. I think this is a crime, counterfeiting, and admitting to it on film, with the evidence, would be trouble, at least in law-abiding Britain. Which makes me think its not entirely true. []

An update from Caroll Taveras

Photographer Caroll Taveras emailed the other day with some end-of-project news from her Photo Studio project, which you may remember from our visit this winter. Selections are online, and there’s a book in the works, and, according to Caroll, she’s going to be bringing cheap (but great!) portraiture to more cities. Stay tuned!

(ps., turns out, as you can see above, I made the website, alongside Stefan Ruiz, a photographer and briefly creative director of the iconic magazine Colors.)

(pps. In other eminent Brooklynite news, Jim Hanas, my predecessor at Creativity/AdCritic, has a nifty full-pager explaining why you’ll never be famous in the Post today. The story is based on a talk Jim recently gave at his lecture series, Adult Ed, which I have shamefully yet to attend. Congrats, Jim–if they didn’t tell you about the perks, by dint of the Post filing you in the Opinion/Op-Ed columnist bin you’ve earned a one-year trial membership to the John Birch Society and a 2010 copy of G. Gordon Liddy’s ‘Stacked and Packed’ calendar.1

  1. I kid, but while working on the desk at the Post I got into a protracted phone conversation with one of Liddy’s radio producers that called for some esoteric sports stats and he sent an autographed, dedicated copy of the calendar to me at the paper in thanks. I put it in my mail cubby to take home later, as I was due at the bar that night and didn’t have safe transport, but the next day it was gone. []

Augmented Reality: More than a Fad

As we approached our CaT: Creativity and Technology event last week (which went swimmingly, thanks for asking) I began to think more and more about the prevalance of augmented reality in the panels and presentations that we were putting on. AR, along with data visualization, was one of the day’s most discussed topics; at least four of the presenters on the agenda spoke of the technique.

We had a few practitioners together, so I wanted to ask them what I’m sure many attendees were thinking: Is this a fad, or what? I’ve seen the rumblings and mutterings to the same effect, and a post today by Iain at Crackunit is prompting even more debate.

While I’m in general tilting toward the cynical side when I see a tool get hyped quickly, I’m pretty confident as we extend the size and strength of mobile data networks, get larger screens at home and become more comfortable interacting with webcams that we’ll see applications of Augmented Reality move away from cool visuals and into a realm of great utility. Already, mobile apps like Wikitude are making use of the technology but once data streams there get larger expect even better stuff. (Tangentially, I talked with the creators of a bunch of apps for a recent Creativity story.)

Obviously, as in everything, advertising professionals stand a good chance of ravaging the practice, but I don’t think that’ll matter. Even if they do, useful, interesting applications stand stock apart from tawdry gags. The USPS box simulator Tait mentions from AKQA is a good example of this and the Ikea example below it is great and traditional as well.

My.IKEA from Robin Westergren on Vimeo.

But what are they keys to deeply significant AR projects, other than a growing infrastructure of fast mobile connectivity, increase in display size and webcam adoption?

  • Coordination with product/package design across multiple areas to create unique activators: Consider being able to pullall the Kraft products from your cupboard, place them with their tags facing the webcam and then seeing the different hot meals you could combine them to make. The sort of heavy interplay across multiple product lines that’s necessary for this to be good won’t come from a one-off project, though.
  • Dynamic, rapid interplay with other backend parts on the visualization tip: Wieden + Kennedy did a virtual Easter Egg hunt in its office with Photosynth and Google Street View’s just introduced Smart Navigation. Both services are good at imitating 3D-like experiences from flat images. I can’t imagine we’re far from finding a bridge. Imagine going to Disneyland or a National Park and being able to bring your trail map to a viewer location and pop out an AR map to note landmarks and see what you’re in for. This won’t work, though, unless the stuff in back comes together seamlessly.
  • Useful and compelling content and interactions: This last one may be the most obvious but it’s also the most important. Any Crystal Pepsi/Pet Rock scenario begins with people thinking of the AR applications as tired and a waste of time, developing a resistance to the technology and ignoring it. There are already a few barriers to engagement, namely the amount of time and technology it takes to fire up the interaction. As those come down, you’ve got to make sure what’s on the other end counts.

Wikipedia has an exciting list of potential AR stuff (such as, when projectors get really cheap, you can do cool stuff like this: “Any physical device currently produced to assist in data-oriented tasks (such as the clock, radio, PC, arrival/departure board at an airport, stock ticker, PDA, PMP, informational posters/fliers/billboards, in-car navigation systems, etc. could be replaced by virtual devices that cost nothing to produce aside from the cost of writing the software.”)

Thinking AR stuff will quickly go away or decline in quality is a normal cynical reaction (and one I had at first), but it doesn’t seem like, in this case, it will. Advertisers will certainly make thorough use of the novelty and entertainment aspects, but the rate of innovation inside the AR community will allow more and more meaningful interactions should brands choose to dedicate resources to well-thought-out projects.

Rohrer’s repped? A watershed moment for games and ads?

I was quite surprised yesterday when my colleague Ann Christine Diaz told me about a story she was working on—Jason Rohrer, renowned champion of the indie videogame movement, signed to be repped by a commercial production company.

In this case, Rohrer’s one of three big new hires by Tool of North America, which traditionally represents TV commercial directors, but is making a foray, along with most anyone in the space concerned with keeping the doors open, into digital creation.

Rohrer’s a very interesting guy, who’s cited by many as one of the top game developers working today, especially among the indie/artsy set (he was also honored as part of this year’s Creativity 50–and that’s no small beer). Esquire magazine had a great story recently about his commitment to craft as well as honorable ideals concerning our relationship with nature and the advancement of an equitable and responsible society. (To be succinct, he’s something of an ascetic who fought to preserve his family’s yard as a meadow, eats vegan food and doesn’t refrigerate anything.) He’s got the values I wouldn’t have thought to be attracted to working in advertising.

‘Ho ho,’ you say, ‘This is interesting, another artist brought under the spell of the wicked advertising industry. How soon we’ll be seeing him leave, jaded, when his true genius is squandered.’ And you’re right to think that way–it’s a bit like Thoreau writing Quaker Oats spots for Wilford Brimley.

Continue reading “Rohrer’s repped? A watershed moment for games and ads?”

Kickstart My ♡

I ran into an old pal of mine from Flavorpill, Yancey Strickler, last year at an entrepreneurs meetup. I was there researching a story but he had was looking for practical intel for a new venture. We caught up later and he told me about the site he and his partner were working on; It sounded promising then, and I’m pleased to say it launched last week: it’s called Kickstarter, and has a noble aim.

The site is modeled around people outlining creative projects, setting funding goals, and then soliciting pledges from fans to help them create. As the process evolves, fundees give their fans exclusive content in the form of updates, behind-the-scenes peeks and general bonus bits. When the project reaches its funding goal in the allotted time, then fans have to pony up what they promised. The site’s got some great backers, smarts coming from the likes of Waxy.org’s Andy Baio, and an Internet full of folks yearning to make things and help others in the process.

When I initially grabbed beers with Yancey and his partner Perry Chen I dug the idea; I’d just read Kevin Kelly’s Long Tail-informed essay “1,000 True Fans” and realized creators have lots of latitude to reach myriad potential enthusiasts on the web to sustain their efforts. Kickstarter seemed like it’d not only create a platform for those ideas, but also serve as the carrot to keep people focused on their creative goals. (After all, knowing someone you’ve never met in Phoenix pledged $20 and wants to read stuff you cut from your screenplay or video updates on how your harmonica practice is going is a pretty good carrot to keep you from drifting to another thing.)

So far, there are some interesting projects going, from indie games to an amazing-sounding, massive crossword puzzle.

Yancey’s got invites if you’ve got something brewing and like their infrastructure. I’m sure if you ask nicely on Twitter he’ll help you take the first step to working up the wherewithall to making your pet project a reality.

The Transformative Power of Art, Pt. 239

the Glue Society's pigeon at Pulse
the Glue Society

Every once in a while you pop your head up from the daily slog and rise above the goblins of self-indulgence and negativity and fractiousness and see with crystal clarity, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool.’

Yesterday was one of those days.

I went to an early press preview of the Pulse art show with the express purpose of seeing a unique statue and writing a story about it.

Sure, the story’s just a humble few lines, but there was no need for me to do anything other than convey the facts: pigeon, man, statue, art fair, funny. An honest job, decently done. But it gives me pleasure to think of the time I spent putting this story together, and hopefully that’s conveyed. Briefly, this is something I struggled with: is it more accurate to say this is a statue of a man defecating on the head of a pigeon or of a pigeon with a man defecating on its head? Think about it.

I can say quite confidently that were fate to have brought me to the show this morning with a budget of $40k and a suitable foyer or other entranceway needing of adornment I could see no greater way to immediately communicate my worldview than this piece of contemporary art. Perhaps, one fine day, it could be mine.