“Making things complicated is easy. Achieving simplicity is tough.” ~Bruno Munari
I am giving a talk today for a design class at UC Davis. I always love speaking to a class, to interact more with individuals (as opposed to a large group). My talks have changed a bit over time. I feel as though I am shifting into something ‘bigger’ myself. I am less interested in speaking about my work and more interested in the development of ideas. As mentioned in the title today I think I will focus on the impact of the journal on the greater scheme. How the small details of life can be worked into design. I put together a pdf format of the 100 ideas, to aid the journal work.
100 ideas pdf (the pieces are to be cut out and picked randomly.)
I bought the book Bright Minds, Beautiful Ideas and find myself eating it up like a good piece of fruit. So great. One of my favourite photos is of Rae Eames on the floor of a gallery on all fours apparently seeking out a different perspective on a piece. I smile everytime I look at it as I like to do this myself. I also find it nearly impossible not to touch a piece of art (the pull is overwhelming), and will always try when I feel no one is looking. I wish all art was interactive in this way. While I am sympathetic to the fact that human oils deteriorate things, if a painting or a sculpture begs one to touch it, isn’t that to goal of art in some way? To entice, or to seduce? I like that feeling of wanting to be immersed in something more fully.
While viewing Monet’s water lilies at the Moma, I had to fight the urge to eat the large violet and blue chunks of paint. I smiled when I learned recently that Marti Guixe created an edible installation, (the “paper” pieces on the wall were actually the hors doeuvres). i love art that has that element of surprise.
glean, v.i. & t. Gather ears of corn left by reapers, gather (such remains); strip (field etc.), thus; collect in small quantities, scrape together, (news, facts, etc.) source: the concise oxford dictionary.
This weekend I watched the film “The Gleaners and I” by french filmmaker Agnes Varda. Following her attraction to “gleaning”, Varda documents various forms of the concept from people who harvest potatoes left in the field, to a famous chef who gleans produce from the countryside, to artists, and also the homeless. It is a fascinating and sometimes strange and painful journey. (Apparently I have always been a ‘gleaner’ and didn’t even know it.) It is also a commentary on the nature of overconsumption in our culture, and asks us to question ‘what is enough?’ In the end ‘the Gleaners and I’ left me grinning, (and hungry).
wanderings and things i like…
…a hike in the california hills (adding to the seed pod collection), oak trees, yellow hills against a blue sky, the smell of bay laurel under our feet
…collecting strange large ‘nuts’ that look like chesnuts but bigger
…squash and apple soup (from the Moosewood restaurant cookbook)
…new books, 52 Projects by Jeffrey Yamaguchi, Cook Until Desired Tenderness by Cleo Papanikolas, “The Spell of the Sensuous” by David Abram
…purple potatoes and small pink turnips, which I had never eaten before, from the farmer’s market. (i roasted them with thyme)
…the local satsumas are very good right now.
…decaf cappucino’s from Pete’s
…gleaning blue things found on the street.
…looking up words in the dictionary.
Use only if it speaks to you…
viva la revolution!
(the server was down temporarily, but it is back now. hopefully.)
(p.s. For those of you who are “disappointed”, I see this as no different than what magazines like the Sun, Adbusters, and Ms. have done. Many people wrote me about using the icon, and so I have provided it for them to use.)
I received an email that really helped me to formulate my thinking on the subject of blog advertising, here is an excerpt,
“Believing that corporations need to have their presence in public life limited is perfectly compatible with working for those corporations.
You are drawing a line around a space you deemed inappropriate for corporations to inhabit. And you are not willing to move your line for money. You are also happy to work for them within what you consider appropriate boundaries. I don’t see a contradiction here. I see an issue of appropriateness and restraint, two concepts that are glaringly absent from American public discourse–or should I say from the discourse of capitalism? What is the proper role for commercialism in a culture? What are the restraints on the powerful necessary for a just society to function? I see your questioning of blog ads within this frame of thought.”
It is very important for me right now to know that I can draw a line regarding corporate advertising on blogs and still be immersed in the culture at large. Yesterday, when I was feeling discouraged a part of me thought, “if I am to take this argument to the full limit and stick to my guns, then I will not be able to make a living as an illustrator, and may have to retreat from the world completely.” Which is ridiculous, if you follow to it’s extreme you will not be able to walk down the sidewalk (given that the company who makes the sidewalk might be unethical).
What I found most important were the words “appropriateness and restraint”. I think that has been the missing thread for me in this argument (what I’ve had difficulty articulating) and is at the heart of my *grey area*. I am not about to single handedly wage a war against the world of advertising and corporate culture. As mentioned some of my favourite designers did huge advertising campaigns, (which I thought were brilliant), and I make my living working for many corporations. And in fact I actually really enjoy several tv shows (if I visit you and you have a t.v. I would enjoy watching it), and am not wholly opposed to it as a concept.
Simply put, what is really at the heart of the matter here is I am opposed to advertising imposing itself into every aspect of our lives (not advertising itself), and a society who puts the dollar ahead of human needs, and I don’t wish to sit quitely by the sidelines while a medium that I value becomes affected. (there is a famous quote somewhere about the opposite of life not being death, but indifference.)
I am going to put this down today for a few hours and go out insearch of some new samples to add to my growing seed pod collection. There is no shortage of strange seed pods in this part of the world.
Risk everything, but don’t forget to take time to stop and notice the ground beneath your feet.
I do not feel virtuous, I feel winded. Words do hurt and I am not as thick skinned as I would like. This is not the first time I
I’d like to steer this argument away from the personal and into a general discussion about blogs and advertising. I did not use the site previously mentioned as a way to judge or attack in any way, I used it because it is the most obvious example of what we are talking about and seems to have set a precident given it’s popularity.
So I’ve learned that this is an extremely personal subject, we all have strong opinions based on our own experiences. What’s right for me may NOT be right for you. I disagree that ads and specifically blog ads do not affect our society in a negative way (and that if we “tune them out” they will not affect us.) But this is *my* opinion, I am not saying you must share that opinion.
Here are more of the reasons *I* have a problem with blog ads, (and yes, I have many of my own contridictions and hypocrises wrapped up in this, given that I am a commercial illustrator). I certainly have worked for some questionable corporations. I will say that over time I have become a LOT more discerning about work that I take on, that has evolved as the confidence has grown over the years. I am learning as I go, and there are indeed many grey areas. I actually took advertising in art school and enjoyed it quite a bit. One of my heros is Tibor Kahlman, a designer who created many intelligent ads in his lifetime, who believed that advertising should not be seperate from the human experience. A contridiction, yes. I am human after all. All of this discussion is helping me to articulate what I believe in…
Many bloggers say they will not let the ads affect the editorial content. I question this statement. How long will this last? What if Apple Computers offers someone $10,000 to have an ad on their site? Are you really going to say anything negative about Apple in your ramblings? I doubt it. So now the honesty of the writing is affected. The more ads that appear on blogs the less we will all trust in honesty of the medium as a whole.
The byproduct of this is that blogging medium is now (as with many/most others forms of media in our culture, magazines, news, film, etc.) is now *influenced/controlled* by large corporations. If you don’t know why this is a problem I highly recommend the film “the corporation”, which explains in a succinct way why most large corporations have no accountablity, and are only about the bottom line throwing public wellfare and the health of the planet to the wayside.
I am opposed to widespread advertising impacting every aspect of our existence, and even now our own bodies.
I see a vast difference in someone promoting a piece of art that they created (or a book they wrote), and someone being paid to sell ad space to corporate advertisers. (I know many of you disagree with this). I also do not agree that doing a job for a magazine or newspaper is essentially ‘taking ad money’. It has to do with the direct exchange of services, I create a work of art (which has inherent value), providing a service for my client and I receive money (value) for that. My reasons for this are largely philosophical and probably another topic altogether.
An idea that was presented to me was to take the advertisers money and give a large portion to charity, thusly transforming the negative into something positive (effectively thumbing our nose at the corporation). It seems at first glance a viable option, but as I sit with it I still have some problems. This has to do with what kind of energy I want to put out into the world, and that I choose to be accountable for all of it. I do not wish to contribute more to the rampant consumeristic culture that we already find ourselves in. And, this is entirely personal.
What if I chose certain companies (ones that I believed in) to advertise on my site? Yes, this is an option. I do like to support people whose work I value. I still have a problem with recieving money for this, once again it comes down to credibility for me. I want my readers to trust that I act not only for personal gain or monetary reward.
So what do I say to the people who tell me to ‘suck it up there’s nothing you can do about it, this is just the world we live in’? I choose to believe that I am not voiceless, and that I do have some impact on the world, and if I choose to give up on the kind of society I wish for myself and my family then something is lost. The fact is, change IS occuring. New companies and organizations are starting to look at different models for business practices, (based on the betterment of the world as opposed to the destruction of it, human needs put before money), and so I do feel hopeful. I also feel the need at times to speak out against things that I question, confident that the readers I have (intelligent, discerning souls), might want to look at them too.
I started writing a bit about how advertising erodes our visual environment, but then realized that this is quite subjective and that many may feel the same about some of the ‘guerilla art’ that I put out there. Though I will say I find most ads souless, and ugly, which causes me to worry about the visual junk we are constantly exposed to on a daily basis. Again, a personal thing.
So why did I choose to write about this? I feel compelled to save a medium that I believe is for all of us from being de-valued. I realize that this is a HUGE undertaking, and that maybe this is not what people want. So I will do what I need to do for myself in this arena. I am putting up an icon that reads, “this is an ad free blog”, mainly because i would like people to know that when I recommend a site it is because I genuinely like it. With the popularity of blog ads I now feel it has become necessary to state this publicly.
As always I am learning with/from you. Thank you for your words.
A recent phenomenon in the blog world has caused me to look at my own beliefs on some things. Art, commerce, and the proliferation of advertising in our culture. When popular blogger Dooce started putting ads on her site to support her family I began to look at the greater implications of this, how does this affect me? what is the bigger picture here? I am still ruminating on the topic, so bear with me. As you know I have a tendency to not be overtly political in my ramblings here, but I feel this topic directly affects the future of this medium and my place in it. The question is where are we headed?
At first I found myself a bit torn. I am an artist. And while I do make a living with my art, it could be considered by many a rather meager existence at times. As those of you who are self employed will know it is far from financially secure, prone to wild fluctuations, fits and spurts, many nailbiting days spent wondering if there will be enough to pay the bills. Yes it’s true. I put work and energy out into the universe and sometimes it pays off and other times it doesn’t. Put together two people who are artists (neither with a regular income) and the tension is amplified. I am not complaining, this is the life I chose, and the one that fulfills me and I wouldn’t/can’t/choose not to do anything else.
So when I read that Dooce and her husband were able to pay for all of their expenses, (mortgage, bills, etc.) from the ads on her site I thought, “wow, good for her. This is what we all strive for. She is a great writer, and it’s wonderful that she has found a way to make a living with her writing.”
But is it? What is the greater cost?
As a blogger who has over time established a somewhat regular audience, I have been approached by many companies asking to advertise on my site, and in some cases endorse their products through my writing. I have always had a policy to not do anything that goes against my own beliefs, that goes for this site but also illustration work, (all illustrators face a moral dilemma at some point in their careers.) And so I would not advertise nor endorse any product or company that I do not fully believe in. But even then I struggle with advertising in general.
As a member of a culture that is so laden with advertising I become easily winded, oversaturated, numb to it all. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find any public space WITHOUT some form of advertising. One of the benefits of moving to the country many years ago was that I was not exposed to advertising on a daily basis, (no billboards, tv), I felt empowered being able to choose an alternative to the one that was being forced onto me. Being thrown back into the civilized world again I feel disturbed by how our culture seems to just accept it at every turn and doesn’t question the fact that we are being bombarded constantly. One grocery store I was in recently has televisions throughout the store selling products in every aisle! As one who was weaned on television at a young age, this is too much even for me. As a visual artist I am constantly tuned into the world around me, noticing details, pulling things out of the chaos to use. I have a hard time and resent being told what to look at as I walk through my day.
And so I make choices to not partake in a world that is about selling, (to me being exposed to advertising on a regular basis is the equivalent of emotional junk food and I truly care about my body, so there is an emotional cost to me). I shop at the local co-op, I only read the occasional magazine, don’t watch t.v., etc. When I first started on the web so many years ago (there were no images then only text), I was so excited about this new medium that was created by everyone, for the first time it was an even playing field. The average person had to potential to reach as many people as the large corporation. It was not so much about selling as it was about information, sharing, expressing. And in some ways it still is like that. But if I am making the choice to not clutter my mind with the chaos that is advertising, (as I choose not to put junk food into my body), then I must cut down on the sites that are saturated with it.
If I am to speak frankly here, I am saddened when I go to a site of an artist or a blogger I admire and they have ads on their site. I feel a loss of respect. When companies have approached me for the same thing I admit to a moment of “it might make my life easier, I could focus on my personal work more, finish that manuscript”, yes I could.
But I ask again, what is the greater cost? When do we put our human needs before those of the corporations?
the need to experience the world on our own, directly
the need to make decisions based on what WE feel, not what someone tells us is good
the need to trust that what we are reading is based on the true feelings of the writer (I have lost this trust in the last few years, it is widely know in the world of editorial writing that advertisers will pull an ad if an editorial piece conflicts with what they are selling and that magazines cater to this. In my own experience I learned that the colors a magazine prints with are determined by the highest paying advertisers, thus affecting my illustrations.)
the need to express ourselves
the need to live in a world based on integrity and genuine human interaction
I am still left with some questions on this subject, (would I feel differently if I had another mouth to feed as Dooce does? In it’s own way promoting as an illustrator is a form of advertising, is it any different? I “advertise” my own books on my site and would like them to sell so i can eat…) But for now I will put this out there. I’m sure you will have some interesting opinions on the matter.