THE RICHEST MAN IN BROOKLYN HAS ONE PAIR OF SHOES
In the summer of 2008, i think it was august, i remember i was standing in the packed subway train somewhere around fifth avenue. I was still sweating from the gym, and I knew i looked like mess by the way guys were looking at me. I just hoped i didn’t smell.
I tried to hide my exhausted face from everyone by facing the doors and staring at the ground with my hand above my head gripping the pole, but I felt someone staring at me from behind, so i looked up.
He didn’t budge his eyes when i stared at him in the reflection of the black glass. He kept staring straight at me with a calm smile. I didn’t know why he was staring at me, and I didn’t like it. I got mad and thought of turning around then yelling, “WHAT!” But, i definitely didn’t do that, i just looked at him again to see if he was even looking at me and not the door. He was looking at me. He was looking directly in my eyes in the reflection. I lowered my head, and continued to examine a rusty screw like a work of art. Without raising my head i peeked back up at his reflection, and in the moment I remembered exactly who he was.
I became flustered and my heart rate started to increase. It was banging in my chest and it actually got a little harder to breathe. I became fidgety and glanced back at him a few times. I couldn’t help it, and he must have known somehow that i had just remembered him, because at that moment, he said my name as if it was just me and him standing alone on the speeding train.
My hand shot up to cover my mouth and to myself i said “oh. My. God.”
The memories began to flash by like the world outside the train, and my hands began to shake.
I remembered the helicopter, the penthouse, the private jet, the sex on the private jet, the dropped champagne glass and my hands in his viselike grip held above my head as he pinned me against the side of the plane with his lips… His other hand grabbing my hair and yanking down, bringing my face up as his tongue tentatively strokes my neck… and his erection pulsing against my belly.
He said, snapping me out of my trance and forcing me to turn around with an awkward smile.
I rose my hand and said, “hi” although i don’t think any words came out.
He pushed his way across the packed train hallway, and within sexonds he was so close that i could see the grey webbing of his blue eyes.
“Do you remember me?” He asked in his cool voice. “We met on the computer. On match.com. Do you remember?”
“How could i forget you.” i said in my head.
“I know we only spent a few days together, and I- I know you’ve probably met up with a lot of other matches since we separated, but, i want-”
He looked down at the ground and put his fingers through his perfect black hair, then looked back into my eyes and said, “i’ve been thinking about you. Everyday since that- that little argument we had.”
I had never seen him so flustered before, and in weird way, it was turning me on.
His eyes were looking as far into mines as they could, and in a soft voice that only i could hear, he said, “and, i think I love you.”
I didn’t know what to say.
The train came to a stop and the door opened behind me. People rushed by pushing me this way and that, but i held onto the pole and he stood like a rock in the middle of the stream of people.
My mouth was open, and i was trying to speak, but i couldn’t. I want to take one step back, watch the train doors close, and watch and him get pulled away into the dark tunnel, but i couldn’t move.
“You changed me” he said. Before you i just found girls every way I could because i wanted to use them. I wanted to live the big life and be with a different woman every noght, but after you left, i couldnt be with anyone. I just kept thinking about you. So i decided i needed to change, i decided that if i cpuldnt be woth you, i would be like you. I gave up all my unnessesary belongings, and got a normal place in brooklyn. I got a normal job of my own and stopped using my parents money, and, i- i really, really, really miss you. Do you-“
He took a deep breath. He could knew that I wasnt a girl he cpuld just pluck from the money tree, but I became calm and i decided i would at least let him say what he wanted to say.
"Do you think- that maybe i cpuld take ypu out for donner? Or coffee, coffee, jist coffee. On me.”
The train slowed down again and I saw that it was my stop.
The doors opened and the next rush of people pushed by.
I looked at him, and i remembered the argument we had. I remembered how much i really did like him, bit I also remembered how much i hated him. My hands were still shaking, and as the door began to close, i put my gym bag in it. The door reopened and I stepped out. The doors began to close, and before they closed entirely, i said “yes, i would love to.”
In the clouds
The magnetism of the atmosphere distorts
An unprepared watch
But a prepared watch
it repels the threat
By an antimagnetic casing
That keeps the hands
Working perfectly through and through
And in the dim light
Of the night filled cockpit
The black and white dial
Is easy to see
It becomes an extension
Of the dashboard’s gauges
But turbulence rocks the cabin
Lightning flashes once, silently
Out of sync with it’s thunder
until it flashes the third time
Hitting the wing as the thunder blasts like gunshots
Followed by the scream of alarms and flashing lights
Glowing orange in billows of black smoke
The flaming wing and the black night sky
The roof torn off and the ejection
Up above the clouds
A piercing silence
And the parachute catching wind
Jerking the body up
The descending plane
The patient pilot
floating slowly down
Checking the time
And planning the next move
H&M whispered to me
I think there could be something else
Our couch in the field
Our friends dancing in the trees
The smoke over the beach
And the bed on the sand
It is quiet and slow here
And at night
The fireworks burst
over the black ocean
we dance to the music
Spinning in billowing dresses
With flares in our hands
And at the edge of the light
From the bonfire
His face calm
His lips are tender
And so are yours
A Feeling Better than Tea
I remember my mothers hands before they became aged
When a cold was a blessing
She stayed home with me,
No school, our quiet home, my favorite blanket, and my favorite book
The morning windows dark blue and green
Because of a storm that cocooned us in a dream
And my mother, before she settled next to me and read to me
Would hand me a white coffee cup wrapped in a hand towel
And bubbling with boiling water
She told me to be careful as i held it,
And with my nose so stuffed up
That a breath in would squeeze my nostrils like a swimmers nose clip
I would take the hot cup and hold it with two hands
Close to my nose
Then she would drop in
The pale orange tablet
That fizzed with tiny sparkling bubbles bouncing around
And releasing an aroma
That cleared my congestion
And gave me a feeling
That still fizzes up
Even when it’s my hand
That drops in the tablet
Unbuttoned cuffs, rolled sleeves, blazers on the backs of office chairs
Black windows, never ending emptied office nights spent designing a plan of attack that cannot fail
Red eye flights with blood red eyes and an insatiable hunger for success
Dreams in the clouds, hotel rooms, and coffee before sunlight
Waking up in the bathroom, cold water for the face, ibuprofen for the mind.
Buttoning up the best shirt, tying the best tie, putting on the best suit
The one that’s outlasted every obstacle, and won’t stop now
The new you in the mirror, the adrenaline kick, the suitcase click, the watch clasp lock,
A steady handshake, after a sleepless night and 3 more cups of coffee
Sparring with intellect and emotion in a closed room of lions
Saying the wrong thing, the right thing, and the perfect thing.
Surviving irreversible mistakes, delayed flights, angry partners, missed kids, and the dog house.
Crossing the finish line of the front door, the hug from the kids, the kiss from the one, and the meal that makes all the work worth it.
This is the fight
When the body changes
The heart remains the same
Don’t ever stop rising
Don’t ever stop trying
The office isn’t a playground
Fight for your life.
GRAFFITI TAGGING AS BRANDING:
Before graffitti became a medium for visual expression of all kinds, it was all about “tagging”. Tagging was a simple concept based in the all empowering and all american pursuit of fame.
Each graffiti artist had their own tag, in the same way every brand has it’s own logo. These artists snuck around secretly and endlessly, searching for the most lucrative spots to tag. Of course there was no money involved, but the better the placement of the tag, and the more prolific the tagger, the more fame the name garnered. It was extremely simple marketing. The more you saw a tag the more you knew it, and the cooler the spot, the more you respected it. This is exactly what branding is all about. Put your name out there and attach prestige to it. In that sense, every brand wants to become a famous artist. Yet, for some reason, every artist doesn’t want to become a brand, and this is where they have stopped advancing.
In art, nearly every notable artist has a recognizable style. A work of art can be recognized as a Picasso before his name is seen, and this is the same as a brand of clothing or a coffee shop having a product that can be recognized before the name is known. Brands take total advantage of this recognizeability. They cultivate it and cherish it, because it is what makes them unique. Then, they reproduce it; over and over and over again. They figure out exactly what it is that they stand for, what it is that people like the most, and then distill it into a foundation with a work force of thousands of people that can then cultivate and cherish it. Artists are cultivating wonderful brands with their style of work, but then, they don’t share that foubdation. It is deemed un artly to do so. So, when the artist dies, so does the continued production of their work.
Artists should recognize their aesthetics, and analyze them as they analyze themselves. They should find exactly what it is that they stand for and love to create, then turn that information into a brand identity. They should identify what unique thing they bring to the world, and take ownership of it, then hire others to continue the production of it. Then, like Picasso moving from his pink to his rose period, they can move on to the creation of a new brand of art while the old brand continues to cultivate and produce it own stream of work.
This is a massive challenge for artists because it puts the entire value of a work of art on the art itself. The artist cannot sell work just because they are cool and people like them. When the work is branded and other hands cultivate it, it becomes the work that matters most. Every artist then has to make their art form the creation of a sharable foundation with a style so distinct that even hired creators can garner income by reproducing and advancing it.
In other words, if you really want to dominate the graffiti game, you need to hire more hands.
THE UTILIZATION OF CREATIVE STRATEGY IN THE CREATION OF A WORK OF ART
In advertising, the creative strategy is the solution to a business problem. It is used to maximize the efficiency and power of every creative gesture, so that maximum results can be gleaned from the least expenditure of time, money, energy, etc.. For example, if a creative team was tasked to sell the newest laundry detergent from tide, they would first figure out what problems needed to be solved. If the tide laundry detergent was a new style with a new kind of chemical added to maximize cleaning strenght, a problem would be the consumers lack of trust. They’ve never tried it before, so what if it doesn’t work as well as the normal tide laundry detergent? In this case, with the strategy acting as a solution to the problem, the strategy would be to gain the consumers trust.
From here, whatever is communicated in the advertisements will relate back to gaining the consumers trust in some way.
The other half of strategy is identifying and understanding the most profitable target market. The creative team must find out who the brand should speak to so they can make sure the strategic solution is related to a problem that that target market would have. different target groups have different problems and picking the right target group will lead to the right problem.
In the case of tide, the problem -lacking trust in their new line of detergent- leads to a target market that is concerned with having the cleanest clothes. Note that the target isn’t always a demographic (i.e. Woman ages 35-70). It can also be a psychographic (i.e. People concerned with their appearance. Like to dress nice, socialize, etc.).
In art, there is rarely an effort to identify and understand a target market, and although there is a lot of art that solves a personal problem which can then relate to the world at large, there is rarely a problem outside of oneself.
It has become common practice, and almost a ruling principle of art, that what is created must come from the artists own experiences. In other words, artists often create to solve their own problems. It is, in most cases, a cathartic activity, rather than a strategic activity. But, if the artist, famous or unknown, began to use their creative abilities in a more strategic way, they could reach and relate to wider audiences in a more potent way.
In creative writing there is an ideology that no word should ever be wasted. Every word should have a purpose, and that purpose should support what is being communicated. Like in advertising, this ideology puts an emphasis on preparation. It says, “know what you want to say with your piece before you create it, and make sure your work says it when your done. This ideology is common in other art forms as well. For example, painters, photographers, and filmmakers will decide what they want to express before they decide how they are going to express it. Pollack wanted to express his angst and anger, picasso the multidimensional and disturbing beauty of a woman, ansel adams the majesty of nature, jim jarmush the awesomeness of the everyday… and the list goes on.
What the artists doesn’t do is plan before the planning. They will plan out what they want to say and find the best way to say it, but they won’t think about what statement could be most impactful. They don’t compromise their "artistic integrity” to try and speak to a group that is outside of their comfort zone. Of course their are exceptions, but for the most part, the artist is selfish. They want to say what they want to say when they want to say it, how they want to say it and where they want to say it.
To do anything else would be seen as untrue, or would it?
At any advertising agency in america there is a bunch of different brands. Therefore, the creative will work with different products, and speak to different audiences. They will seek out problems they never knew about, and find ways to solve them in ways that make a connection with target audiences outside of their understanding. They will expand their creative reach by going outside of their personal knowledge, opinions, and passions.
It can be said that this creative reaching is the reason why most advertising is void of any emotional depth or artistic power, but that is simply bad work. There is bad art as there is bad advertising. Looking at the most powerful advertisements ever made, it becomes clear that a hillbilly from an all white farm town can make a compelling, inspiring and powerful form of communication that reaches and inner city black child with dreams of being in the NBA.
There is no need for the artist to be restricted to personal experience. The artist has a creative gift that can be used to communicate different things to different people. Picasso was considered a prolific artist because he painted in so many different ways that a collection of all his work will seem like that of several different artists. Shakespeare was considered the greatest writer of all time because he could speak to different people in different ways. He could have a play be seen and loved by peasants and royalty. He could write cutting tragedy or drunken humor, and a list of his quotes is full of contradictions and reads like a list of quotes collected from a thousand different people because his singular voice does not exist. Like an advertising creative, he puts pure communication above personal expression, and this is what makes the ultimate artist.
The ability to speak to anyone as if you were them, and the desire to speak to everyone as if you were each of them is the sign of a truly gifted artist, and the way to become this gifted is with strategy.
By figuring out who you are talking to, and what their problem is, you can figure out a way to use your artistic abilities to solve their problem. You can find any group of people, research them, gain an understanding of them, find a problem they face, and find a solution to it.
Then, with your solution (i.e. your strategy) in place, you can find the insights into their lives -the details that are personal to them- and use them in the same way you would use your personal feelings to create your personal work. Understand the personal lives of everyone, and you can communicate to anyone. Understand your personal world alone and you can only communicate to people like you.
The next step in strategic creation, once the strategy has been identified, is the creation of the concept. If the strategy produces the statement that the work will make, the concept is the how that statement will be said. Once agin, the strategy is what you are saying, and the concept is how you are saying it.
Returning to the example of the new kind of tide detergent, where the problem was a concern for the reliability of the unproven product, the target was a group of people that want to have their clothes as clean as possible, and the strategy born from that problem and target was “gain the consumers trust”.
Once that statement has been produced, the creative finds a way to express it creatively, and that form of expression is the concept. In line with the new detergent example, if the strategy is “gain the consumers trust” a translation of this sentiment could be “get dirty” a concept that promotes dirty activities as a way to say that no matter how dirty you get, this detergent can handle it. A nearly endless amount of concepts can be gleaned from one strategy, and when a list of possible concepts has been produced, the best one will be the one that speaks to the target. With that said, if the target has been identified as people that are always concerned with having the cleanest clothes, a concept telling them to get dirty would not connect. This is where insights come in handy. Instead of creating a massive list of concepts then returning to choose the one that connects best to the target, researching and thinking deeply about the target will produce certain nuggets of information that can then be used to direct how the strategy is expressed creatively. For example, if the target loves to be the cleanest person in the room, then you have to say something that will connect with that desire to be the cleanest person in the room. An insight with this target could be that they are overly organized and deeply afraid of things descending into chaos. Another, less intimidating insight could be that the smell of fresh cloth makes them happy. Going with the second example, and combining it with the strategy, the concept could be something like “protection from the chaos”.
In every work of art ever made, there is a concept. Nothing in the world is void of a concept, but very rarely is that concept directed to achieve its maximum potential for communicational power. Most artists create within the confines of one concept for their whole life. In fact, entire movements such as the romantic movement are singular concepts. The romantic movement, in essence was simply saying life is beautiful, by expressing the wonder of nature in all of its unique glory. Monet, who loved flowers, especially water lilies, painted the beauty of life in a dreamy way, and each piece was part of a singular concept that, in essence, was saying “life is like a beautiful dream”. But, once again, these concepts were not created strategically. They were simply created, and it was the coincidentally strategic nature of the concepts that catapulted Monet and the leading romantic poets into fame. The romantic era as a solution to the problem of industrialism, while the dreamy and beautiful world of monet was intensely desired because his impressionistic style solved the problem of paintings realist losing prestige with advent of the camera. The people wanted something slightly unreal in a painting. They wanted something that gave them more than a photograph could, and Monet’s dreamy view of the world gave it to them. But, once again, Monet gave it to them by accident. Monet was a hobbyist painter that just happened to paint in a very strategic way.
Post contemporary artists should understand that the days of stumbling into a strategic form of communication is outdated. Everything created should be strategic so that each professional artist can make the biggest impact in the areas where there abilities are needed most. The professional artist must act like a firefighter, solving problems where they arise, instead of locking themselves in a room and setting it on fire, then saving themselves.
When a work of art merges a targeted strategy with a targeted insight to create a concept, it will allow the artist to consciously put them self in the position that Monet accidentally fell into.
3. Once the concept has been created, the creative needs to find a way to execute it. This is the final step in this process of communication.
Once again, the target is a vital component, and it is a deep understanding of the target that will continue to guide the creative.
What look? What medium? What location? What language will work best to reach the target? These are not matters for the creative to create, these are matter for the creative to discover from his or her understanding of the target. Continuing on with the tide example, with a target that wants to be the cleanest person in the room, we have to project the previous questions onto them? What look will connect with them? What medium will connect with them? What language will connect with them? And, most importantly, how can we communicate the strategic concept “protection from chaos” in a way that will connect with them. In other words, how exactly are we going to say “protection from the chaos” without simply taking a piece of paper with logo on it and writing “protection from the chaos”.
In art, the execution is usually the first thing. The artists want to express something so they just express it by executing it however they want, and often, they don’t even know what exactly they’re expressing until their halfway through, and even then it can change. If the artist can take the time to craft the strategy and concept beneath the execution the execution will be much more effective. It will be like a winemaker traveling the world and learning the craft of winemaking to find the best place and way to make wine before sowing the land to grow a vineyard, compared to a winemaker that looks at the ground and starts digging. Which one do you think will produce a better wine? Of course, like monet, that winemaker could just happen to be standing on the most fertile land for growing grapes in the world, or like a really unlucky person, he or she could do all the strategic work and still come up short, but both extremes are equally unlikely.
To prove the points made in this essay I will take you, step by step, through the strategic way to create a work of art by producing the strategic underpinnings that will lead to a new work of art.
Step 1: what is the best problem?
The world is full of problems, but a really big one that most people can relate to is the fear of death.
Step 2: who is the best target?
Everyone deals with the fear of death, but the people who are closest to it are those who are most at risk of dying, so the target will be people living in impoverished areas.
Step 3: what is the best solution for the specified target?
“Everything regenerates” is a statement that could be a solution to the fear of death for just about anyone, but because those living in impoverished areas are so surrounded by decay they need the reminder more than most.
Step 4: how can the strategy be best expressed creatively?
Most people living in impoverished areas have become hardened by pain, so showing beautiful flowers decaying and re-blossoming wouldn’t communicate the strategy in the most effective way. They need something that they can relate to. An insight into the life of an impoverished person could be that they are constantly starving, and this insight, combined with the strategy produces a concept that says, “fruit and vegetables regenerate
Step 5: how can this concept be best executed?
This work of art could most likely be music, because music is something that touches everyone, but, it wouldn’t last. It would be a short 3-5 minutes that many people wouldn’t listen to unless it was being played for them. A film would be nice, but it would be extremely expensive, there would be a lot of time and energy involved as well, and there would be no guarantee that everyone would see it. A short film could be made, something modest, and it could be burned on dvds then delivered, but that would also be a lot of energy and who knows if anyone would see it. A poster or a billboard would be nice. A lot of people would see it and a lot of people would see it more than once, but billboards are expensive, and posters are a crappy quality that wouldn’t work with the concept being one that tries to avoid decay. A painting on a building would be nice. It could improve the aesthetic of a neighborhood, it would be cheap labor, and the lender of the wall, possibly a store owner, could garner respect as well as an increase in revenue because of the work. A painting on a building is best.
What will be on it? What exactly will it say?
Will it be headline driven or visually driven? Words tend to make the mind think more. Thought is where death is processed. Some people may not be able to read… Its a hard decision. Most people can read, and the visual can express the sentiment plainly so even if the words are not communicated the message can still be communicated. So the visual should be straightforward. (Small note: an unexpected headline should be paired with an expected visual and vice versa. The headline should never say exactly what the visual shows either. That is called see/say). If the visual was a skinny man in a field of fresh, plump grapes with squashed or rotten grapes all around his feet leaving visible seeds, the words could say, ”
THE SUPREME© HAMMER: HOW A CORPORATE BRAND BECAME A WORLD RENOWNED ARTIST
Like works of art, supreme products resell for more than they’re original asking price.
The supreme brand, originally a small clothing boutique making t-shirts for skaters has exploded into a mass phenomenon. It is, in every essence of the term, a lifestyle brand, and furthermore, it has done what every lifestyle brand should aim to do. Supreme the brand, has created a cultural phenomenon akin to that of the rise of the next famous art or rock superstar.
The making of a superstar is far more than hard work. It is about branding. Notice, if you will, how nearly every massively famous artist is both talented and beautiful, intensely creative and intensely alluring. There are very few art superstars, especially in our Instagram and snap chat era, that are respected solely for their work. They, like successful lifestyle brands, have become cultural phenomenon. They are like angels amongst mortals, people who are honored like gods because they seem so unexplainable that they must be from a higher plane. Of course, those beliefs are not even remotely true. All people are just people, but, the cultivation of that phenomenal otherworldly effect is what drives sales, in art and advertising alike.
(Image of supreme hammer)
The supreme hammer is, to begin with, a wildly overpriced hammer that is not purchased to do hammering. In fact, because it is made by a fashionable clothing brand, it’s purpose is to express the consumers values. It is valuable more for what it stands for than what it does. This makes it very similar to a work of art. For example, there are probably more supreme hammers being hung on walls than used to hammer nails, in the same way that here are probably more paintings of pencils hung on walls than used to write with.
This similarity between the supreme hammer and a work of art goes beyond the use of the individual product. It says that branded item can become a work of art, but more importantly it says that a brand can be an artist,
When jean michel basquiat rose to fame, like most artists that become cultural phenomenons, everything he touched turned to gold; literally! anything that had even the slightest marking made by jean michel basquiat immediately became a work of art, and therefore an item with a price tag. For example, from a show in which his notebooks were separated and exhibited, page by page, there was a page that simple had the word art written on it. My memory might trick me, but I beleive there was also an empty page set in a frame and hung on the wall as well. And, even if that was a false memory, it would have fit in the exhibit! This is not an atrocity against art, in fact it is a massive statement on the artists as a brand. In other words, just like supreme -which can put its logo on anything and immediately sell it for eight times the expected price and count on its resale value to skyrocket once it is no longer in stock- jean michel basquiat is such a cultural phenomenon that people want a piece of him as much as they want a piece of his work. This is truly masterful branding at its best.
So, what does it mean when a clothing brand sells a hammer for $290? It means that commercialism has become art. The supreme hammer is cool, not because it can probably hammer a mean nail real good, but because, like a work of art it stands for something. The supreme hammer fits into the branding of supreme. It is an aggressive tool, that, in a lot of movies that the supreme audience watches, is used to bash heads in, never take no for an answer, and do what you want, instead of what your told. In essence it is the skater mentality expressed through a tool. It is, in every way, a work of art, and it is, in every way, a commercial product. Even the photo of the hammer would be cool to buy and hang on the wall because it is the meaning behind the product that matters, not just the product, and it is the meaning behind the brand that matters, not just the brand.
Really, this hammer is saying to us (or really banging on our heads trying to wake us up and tell us) that the future art star doesn’t need a singular body. The days when the next new phenomenon was a rags to riches personal hero may be diverted. The next art world darling might not be a cool cigarette smoking rebel. It might be a corporation of hundreds of cool cigarette smoking rebels, which, by all accounts, would be a lot cooler.
CONCEPTUAL ART: WHAT IS IT AND WHY IS IT THE FIRST KISS BETWEEN THE ADVERTISING WORLD AND THE ART WORLD?
Conceptual art creates a system that can be recreated by anyone with the adequate supplies. The art is in the idea, so the artist creates a blueprint that allows for the work to be reproduced by anyone. This is how a “big idea” works in advertising. Look at iconic campaigns such as absolut’s noun varying blueprint. All you do is take the word absolut and put a noun after it, then voila, you have another extension of the ad. But, as you may notice, there is a difference between the conceptual artist that creates a work of art with a framework of instructions for the reproduction of his/her work, and the advertising agency that produces a big idea with a framework of instructions for the reproduction of it’s campaign. This difference is that the advertising agency has created a blueprint that allows for novelty with every reproduction, and the conceptual artist has created a work that does not. In conceptual art the idea is what matters most, so the same idea is reproduced without any differenciations. For example, with joseph kosuths one and three chairs (see image and text) there is a set of instructions for the reproduction of the work. The kind of chair will change, the photo of the chair will change, but the photo of the chair will always be a photo of the chair against the wall as it is in the real chair next to it. Here, even the slight nuances of change that occur do not advance the idea in any way. For example, the absolut campaign has been reproduced for decades, and every reproduction has it’s own unique value. This means that if absolut leaves that advertising agency that created the idea, and then goes to another agency and tells them to keep reproducing the campaign, the new agency can create their own versions of the campaign without going against the blueprint that was created by the previous agency. If gallery A shows jospeph kosuths one and three chairs, and then gallery B shows jospeph kosuths one and three chairs, gallery B cannot create their own version of the work of art without going against Jospeph Kosuths original blueprint. But, what if a work of conceptual art could? What if a work of conceptual art could be reproduced by and endless number of galleries in a way that made each reproduction unique while still communicating the same message? How would this be done?
This would allow the artist to produce multiple works art out of one idea. To do this, the idea must first be very, very big. Jospeph Kosuth did approach this grandness when he began to take the idea behind one and three chairs and reproduce it with different material. One in five clocks was a work that followed. Then, he began to stretch the idea. He created “box, cube, empty, clear, glass” which took five identical hollow glass boxes and wrote different labels on them. He stretched this idea a little further when he produced the similar label on glass format on identical sheets of glass, where the labels became farther reaching than the obvious associations like glass or sheet. One was labelled with “described”.
These works did not allow anyone else to add to them, but they make a clear statement that they could be added to. For example, by taking a sheet of glass and writing a word that could be associated with that sheet of glass, kosuths work has been expanded in the exact same way that absolut vodka campaign was and still is expanded. The only difference is that Kosuth’s “big idea”, his conceptual sheet glass campaign was never expanded by anyone unless it was kosuth himself. So why wasn’t Kosuths work expanded and reproduced for decades like the absolut vodka campaign?
Kosuth, and contemporary artists like him create work that serves a singular philosophical purpose. They work the mind of the consumer in a very profound way, and that is all. An advertisiement, especially one from a big idea, works the mind in a very shallow way, bit on top of working the mind, it makes money. Every new ad from the absolut campaign can reach a new demographic or interest an old audience in a new way, and that interest becomes mass consumption that then leads to corporate profits. It creates more money for employees and more jobs for the people.
Advertising has a reputation for being shallow and manipulative. Its main objective is to sell, and so, as many people may think, it cannot merge with high art that aims to enlighten. But, advertising doesnt have to remain shallow. An ad campaign could be as a deep as a jospeh kosuth masterpiece, while selling. As the nearly endless unique reproduction opportunities in kosuths glass sheet work has shown us, a work of art can be as big and campaignable as an iconic ad campaign. And, as we know from the conceptual, idea driven nature of the absolute vodka campaign, a great ad campaign carries and idea in the same way a work of conceptual art does.
A work can be reproduced without the initial creator, and it can be reproduced in a novel way, without changing the initial structure. This is what conceptual art and advertising have in common. It is the first kiss true between the two worlds because it is a connection that can bring the two worlds closer together.
SANTI SAUCEDO - Santi Saucedo is a gifted designer with an education in art and a firm understanding of what it takes to flourish in the advertising world. He is a senior creative at Iris Worldwide in Atlanta, working on brands such as Reebok, Porsche, and Lamborghini. He was a part of the team that created the award winning super bowl Jeep spot, “Portraits”. His most recent production was a Reebok campaign celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Allen Iverson’s signature shoe The Question, where artists from all over America, ranging from burgeoning graffiti artists to world famous tattooists, were found and hired by him to create original works of art that honored the iconic shoe. This extensive interview is a rare look into the mind of Santi, an experienced ad man with a true appreciation for art.
ANSWER: So the barriers of approval are kind of there. It’s not to limit creativity, but for example it’s to make the work more thoughtful. So we could crank out an instagram (Reebok) J.J. Watt within the day, but its ultimately better if you have kind of like rhyme and reason, so j.j. Watt he can blast out stuff on his Instagram kind anytime he wants I mean he’s got like 17 million followers, uhm, so, so that’s covered, but if you’re gonna hire an agency to put stuff out, generally people want a strategy of what are we putting out, why are we putting it out, uhm, a content calender, like when are we going to deploy it so it has relevant impact, you know like, if they don’t have like, currently the j.j. ones (shoes) are sold out. So we can’t hype this shoe up anymore now, because it’s like, it’s just a waste. As soon as they get a new shipment or the next color way releases then yah, then we go blast stuff out and we make sure that that sells out, but we could make a super cool vine piece or you know or even whatever you want, print piece, e-mail, and it’s not gonna sell more shoes at the moment, so it’s kind of like an inefficient use of your creativity, and that doesn’t mean that it’s wasted because we’ve got several other clients that we can throw our brains at you know? So I guess that’s part of the world of applied arts. Like it’s never art for arts sake or for messaging our own thoughts or our own creativity. It’s always art for a specific purpose in mind, and almost always it’s a problem solving mechanism so we use creativity to solve a problem that a client has and if there is no problem or we don’t have a problem that’s been addressed to us we don’t necessarily fire anything off because that’s what were paid for. Were using our means and the staff that we have which is more creative than our clients have on staff to create things that solve their problems.
QUESTION: what do you think is the difference between art and advertising?
ANSWER: I think that relates to the ad idea of being a problem solver. You know in app,ied arts you are using your craft with someone else to reach a specific goal for a specific audience that’s not you. Where as I feel like art that you do for yourself, which a lot of people in this industry do, and I appreciate art tremendously, a lot of times that’s more reflective of the artist themselves, like they’re expressing something they feel they need to get out or they trying to progress a thought forward that they have and it may not have a clear goal it might be just for creativities sake, it might be for their own means which no one else is invested in, which is fine, you know sometimes you make something great just because you wanted to make it or you felt inspired to make it, which is obviously for the betterment of all humanity I would hope that everyone can agree that art does that, but that’s the difference.
QUESTION: why do you do what you do?
ANSWER: yah, that’s a funny one. So, my mother was an architect, and me and my older brother always drew, and I got into art school straight out of high school, so it’s kind of one of those things like it was always just there ahead of me, and I kind of chased it, not with a ton of thought. I actually don’t remember how I netted out graphic design except for that I liked the web design class at my high school. And I guess I’ve just always been following that interest like I was and still am interested in websites and web design, and then from the drawing background I’m also interested in all sorts of static imagery so I’m very technical in photoshop, I used to teach an advanced class in New York and I do that not necessarily because it’s, I mean its beneficial to my job but I would do it anyways. I feel like I just instinctively create things, and I feel like sometimes the ad world is a way to monetize creativity. I don’t think creativity needs the ad world. I think creative people just make things because they want to make things and they’re driven to make them, and because I’ve kind fallen into this world that finds a purpose for them that I like I mean I like advertising obviously if I didn’t I would have that creativity energy still but I would be using it for so sing else but I guess I found a world that could utilize the fact that I like creating things, that I like seeing new things, learning new skills and then you know put that out in the world for me
QUESTION: is their personal expression in your advertising work?
ANSWER: I think that goes a little bit back to that problem solving angle, uhm so you’ve got - the way you solve problems creatively is divergent problem solving so it’s not the obvious solution and I think you take a lot of personal pride in finding a solution that works or a solution that you find to be entertaining or inspiring or just clever and I think you have to be invested a little bit in the quality of your work to put up with all of the layers the come with advertising. I don’t think anybody could maintain a creative career if they weren’t proud of the work that they put out. It’s way too much work to just kind of be doing it for the paycheck
QUESTION: Do you think collaboration is better for creativity, or do you think individual exploration is better? Or, do you think they’re each better in their own ways?
ANSWER: I think collaboration is pretty much mandatory, and it’s not just because you can get more done when you work with more people but even if you look at great artists that we consider geniuses they all come from a background where they were sharing their ideas, whether it’s like coffee shops in Paris in like 1920 or I mean Michelangelo came from a guild he was educated amongst different people so I can’t think of one art lone genius that’s actually and alone genius. If you actually scratch a little beyond that you realize that everybody, somewhere along the line was bouncing ideas off someone or reacting to people even if they weren’t discussing it. I feel like that’s almost like a turbo charger for your creative process. If your just in a vacuum you might come up with something cool, but if you bounce that idea off something else, then something else, then something else, and it led to something somebody hadn’t thought about. So it’s up to you how you collaborate, but I think collaboration is pretty crucial.
QUESTION: how do you feel about the stealing, copying, and appropriation of other peoples work?
ANSWER: so like picasso, for example. He didn’t come up with cubism. So that kind of tells you it’s wrong to steal an idea from somebody to try to create or even diminish their contribution. I think its good to appropriate work if you feel like you can come up with something new or exciting. And I do feel like there are people who will steal work and not push it further, and they can make a dent, but that’s a very; that’s a short lived ad life you know? Because of some bodies done it before, at best you can do it bigger or in front of a bigger audience, but it’s not that exciting. Eventually your art directors and people in the industry are gonna realize this guys kind of a dud. So I feel like the creative community, whether it’s artists or applied artists in graphic design, advertising, film, I think there’s a natural filter for that so I don’t sweat too much when I think about other people stealing stuff.
QUESTION: do you find work and appropriate it?
ANSWER: I think so I mean, if I’m 100% honest, yah, even on subconscious levels I’m sure I do it a lot because that’s part of that collaborative process of bouncing ideas off people and sometimes your bouncing ideas off of something you saw on Pinterest or tumblr or something like that, but you think oh that thing they did kind of opened your eyes to something that you could do and hopefully that’s when you make that creative decision to mold it and enhance it for your purpose, not just kind of rip it off.
QUESTION: what does the word concept mean to you whether it’s in art or advertising?
ANSWER: I think concepts are huge in advertising because your trying to find something that resonates with an audience. So I think at best concept finds you a little truth that people will relate to and understand and then that helps you get your message across with some level of authority or authenticity. And if you look at the art world now you’ve got artists like jeff koons who I like a lot. He doesn’t make any of his stuff but he’s got great ideas behind why he has other people make them, and that in itself is interesting. People can think about it, discuss it, and enrich their lives through conceptual art, and people can do the same thing, on some level with advertising. They can relate to a brand or feel like a brand can speak to them in a unique way and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.