Friday, June 13, 2008

What do you think of radiohead?

And also, what do you think of the culture jam movement?

Radiohead is the jam, by the way. I think. *snark muffled by sincere respect for radiohead. . .*

I've some pretty mixed feelings about adbusters, the organization who's page hosts this. Here's a documentary about them, if you're interested. . . I find it's a pretty good concise exposition, at about 40 minutes.

So here's my gripe about culture jam. Is it enough? Is it everything someone can do? Is it effective? At all?

And I confess, the cheerful font of the sticker that said "enjoy debt" on the ATM was pretty striking. But most of the work they do? Not so much. I don't think soundbites will ever be enough to convert someone away from capitalism. Without development of the ideas behind it--without an understanding of the reasons one would wish to deface ads, and background for the alternative message presented--it doesn't come to much.

Perhaps some of my resistance comes from the book culture jam, which is simply not well written, and the official adbusters website, a recently de-slickified construct full of what look exactly like ads and--paradoxically--selling their own brand ("black spot") of products. I believe them when they say they aren't in it for the money, but it feels very odd to support someone who uses the Exact methodology they're dedicated to fighting.

It's not that I don't appreciate what they're trying to do, but it's a superficial makeover. Alone, it's no more than a pitiful attempt to turn vast impressionist sweeps of advertiser's image building into a dialogue. .. but a dialogue where no one ever says anything that takes longer than those two seconds it takes you to look at an ad.

It doesn't work.

Is deconstructing and elaborately mocking adds the best way for a cultural revolutionary to spend their time?

And then comes another question: exactly what are they proposing instead? Economic suicide isn't useful for much, and to support only ethical companies, at this point, is still economic suicide for most of us. The votes of dollars will never be enough until supported by a real public discourse, and meanwhile the majority of our time and our dollars go to the enrichment of those same people we "jam." In perspective, it's like leaving informative little notes in bigoted history texts as a protest against their use in public education. . . except, following that metaphor, all the textbooks would have to be bigoted, and they would have to be most of what was available. Hmn.

I can see it as a useful tool, but only when used more substantiatively. . . in conjunction with a more substantiative discourse, and a more substantiative plan for action.

P.S. Also, everybody shout out a big happy birthday for my sisters number three and four, for birthdays yesterday and today, respectively. They rock, each in their own awesome way. :D


Darrin Stephens said...

I have to say, I've had some mixed feelings about adbusters, but I've always just looked at it as art more than anything else. Sort of shock value art, in a for us/by us artist kind of way.

Don't get me wrong, I agree that that kind of technique can be very useful, but it never really seemed to me that awareness was really the end goal, no matter what they say.

As far as culture jamming in general goes, I can't say I'm a big fan. I should also say I'm not keenly aware of the exact definition of culture jam (other than what Wikipedia told me =) Perhaps my unease is because I identify it too much with my "indie" experiences of the past, and I don't think wholesale rejection of "herd culture" is necessarily useful. Many herd items are there for good reason, as a result of many years of cultural evolution. (That being said, there are many things wrong in those systems, and putting a spotlight on the cracks, blemishes (and fully rotted structures), for all to see is an interesting part of that process of evolution; whether or not it actually works as a correcting mechanism will be determined in time).

As much as I love a good laugh and a big tub of delicious irony, it doesn't seem to me that the people who could most benefit from that sort of shock are exposed to it, or if they are, that it either has no meaning to them or a negative "those crazy kids" are at it again meaning. In my mind, this really just leaves it as an art movement that will be in art history books years from now... but who knows, maybe it will inspire more useful cultural correction mechanisms in the future...

Anonymous said...

Right, well, to get people to convert away from capitalism a better, viable alternative will have to exist and be known. To be honest, my opinion on the matter is that systems aren't so much the problem as the men who make them up.

Frankly, I am not so much concerned about corporate ethics as I am with human actions. Corporations are machines, and may as well be as sterile as the factories they build. The issue is that people do not care, they do not give but only care for themselves.

As for the method itself? Well, to me it makes a richer world(in terms of culture).

Day said...

um. . . like socialism? Never been tried, I know. . . especially successfully. . . especially by Europe, which especially doesn't use it even now.

The problem with not concerning one's self with corporate ethics is that the sterile organizations you refer to diffuse responsibility for actions, an essential component of individual ethics.

This is one of my favorite films, very well made. . .

have a look at minutes 49 through 52, if you will.

Day said...

Sorry, that was a bad link.


hmn. .
sorry, don't know how to make it more concise.

Anonymous said...

See, you agree! Europe isn't socialist, it is welfare state capitalism with some levels of interventionism and governmental control.

I don't like the Corporation that much, I would have preferred a more analytical criticism. But anyway, as for your criticism, the issue is that large non-corporate organizations can exist and do not. Large charitable donations can exist and do not. I mean, if we had charity groups opposing the excesses of corporations or people opposing bad laws or some such of that nature, their power would be blunted. What we mostly see is that people care more about themselves I think.

Also, there are link shrinkers if you want to shrink links. I have one on my firefox for immediate link shrinkage.

Day said...

I don't think the incentives are in place for charities to exist with the same power that corporations hold.

I think most people, spending virtually all of their time trying to obtain basic material security, have lost almost all sense of their own power in the world.

I also think that until public discourse-which at the moment is more television than anything else- is representative of people's actual needs, voices, and desires, (rather than of whatever most efficiently extracts money from them), that sense of individual power in the world will be crippled.