Posts tagged ‘constructivism’

The things I chose to keep to myself

– posted by russellmania3000

To the best of my knowledge, I had thought Sam was either in France or dead of bowel cancer, and for my intents and purposes, there isn’t a big distinction between either scenario. But she’s back States-side and if I know her at all she’ll be riding the I-hate-it-here wambulance for a spell, so I guess we’ll see if any further contributions from her are forthcoming. I’ve been terrible busy and working on and off on a long-form piece on Jim Henson, but this is more temporally pertinent, and if I were to go another week without writing anything, I may as well give Redikulus up for keeps.

Until earlier in March, I hadn’t gone to see anything on First Friday in several months; all too often I’m too late getting there or too disillusioned from the last time I went so I skip the galleries and go straight to the bar. This month, I avoided Old City altogether and opted for a few spots I’d never visited, which didn’t really help with the disillusionment but at least it wasn’t ass-to-ankles crowded.

First stop: Juanita & Juan’s for the launch of Megawords issue 10. In case visitors didn’t want to physically handle a zine, a copy had been unbound and the pages had been tacked to the wall, which really deprives you of the experience of paging through 112 pages of in crowd ego stroking that “reflects upon the exhibition’s thirty-one days as a physical outlet for creativity in a melange of color and black and white photographs, reproductions of storefront plans and proposals, and written reflections about the project.” In other words, a scenester scrap book, in effect a publication whose subject is itself. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that this was perhaps not their strongest issue.

Second stop: Vox Populi had a exhibition called Bivouac which included: creepy drawings of Snow White; photos of constructivist/readymade-ish sculptures; film of guy telling molestation story while molesting wad of clay; film of naked Juggernauts; film of hands paging through book. There was also a performance/installation piece called Rented Time, consisting of: balloons; giant cigarette carton spinning on wall; guy in Halloween costume making funny noises, breaking in and out of character. Also three really scrawny guys talking about their weightlifting routines in the corner. Next please.

Third stop: Tiger Strike Asteroid. No link for this place, not a huge surprise, because the name should be a dead giveaway that it was just some art students’ loft. In one room they had hung what looked to be someone’s projects from a freshman year design curriculum, over-performing homework assignments but under-performing pieces of art.

Fourth stop: Toy Factory. Again no link, but again this was just another loft apartment with a name, and in some extra space adjacent the kitchen were a couple found object sculptures and some pseudo-Giger-ish drawings with Game Boys, Transformers and a smattering of other pop culture ironies-du-jour. The antique movie camera converted into a music box was a hugely redeeming factor to an otherwise lackluster display.

I should also mention something about the ambiance of these last two places. As if going into smaller spaces doesn’t already sometimes feel like you’re intruding on a private engagement, entering these last two spots, glorified residences as they were, definitely felt like I inadvertently stumbled into the wrong room. Tiger Strike Asteroid was confined and crowded and full of chatter, the place was pretty sparse, most signs of inhabitation had been tidied away, and there were definitely, like, senior citizens there, presumably done with Vox Populi and just poking around, so that wasn’t so jarring. But Toy Factory was far more awkward in that the place was larger, emptier (of people) and had all the trappings of a very cozy, comfy home. Lived in, is the phrase. A small crowd was to one side and speaking quietly amongst themselves if at all, lounging about rather than huddling together like you do when in unfamiliar territory, and one guy was in an adjacent living room watching a skateboard video like it was Tuesday. And there was a blind dog with cataracts the size of dinner plates. It felt too personal for comfort.

Contemporary art, like much of all art, is self-indulgent to an extent, but usually it comes off as an adverb, as in “this piece self-indulgently but successfully renders so and so” or “this guy paints really well, albeit a little self-indulgently.” But this month more than any other I can remember, the work I saw seemed to embrace self-indulgence in a new and profound way, as sort of the object noun/central thesis/raison d’etre. You know violence for violence’s sake or sex for sex’s sake? Well…yeah. How exquisitely postmodern. More on this to come.

Bonus round: Khmer Art Gallery. You know how in like every kung fu movie there’s some smarmy Brit who’s stealing truckloads of Chinese artifacts and selling them to “the institute” for major ducket? This place is like that dude’s hideout, only substitute Chinese for Cambodian and smarmy Brit for portly, middle-aged hippy lady. I mean, their collection is so extensive it feels pillaged.

Bonus round 2: More recently I popped over to the PMA, because, you know, what the hell, can’t be worse than First Friday. They have an exhibition on called Cézanne and Beyond which is quite possibly worth the $24. Among others, there’s some lesser-known works by Picasso, Matisse, Jasper Johns, Max Beckmann, Giacometti, Gorky, Braque and Mondrian, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. There was also some Japanese photography and a small Gehry exhibition, which is neat if you’re into Gehry.

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March 18, 2009 at 12:01 AM Leave a comment

A conversation we have all of us had

– posted by russellmania3000

It begins something like this:

Act I, Scene I: The scene opens to the cold light of dawn. Two middle-aged men exit a makeshift trading post/tavern made of rotting beechwood located on the desolate main drag of a lonely rural mining town. Their skin is leathery and worn full of crevices such that a close-up photograph of one of their cheeks might look like a topographical image of the Himalayas. They walk together, blowing steamy breath into clenched fists and speaking in hushed tones. They wear silly fur hats.

Dmitri: What is this, this Sonic? Day after day I see their advertisements on the moving picture box, teasing and tempting me with their patties of ground beef, and slushie happy hours, and tots! Oh, the tots! But here, in the frozen wastes of the Urals, such an establishment there is not. Believe me comrade, I have looked, for my eyes long for the sight and my tongue for the taste.

Vladimir: They are places of legend, my friend, for in all my wandering I have happened upon nary a one for many moons. You will not find Sonic and her fresh bounties within 500 leagues of this place. But I have many fond memories of a carefree childhood in Omsk, for it was there that my family took my sister and me weekly to market and, after a long day of trading and peddling our wares in the village square, we ate a hearty meal of breakfast burritos and onion rings. Those were happier days. But here in the mines of Narodnaya, for us there is only sweat and dust and the meager root stew.

Dmitri: But why, Vladimir, tell me, why do they mock us with promotional messages for goods which we cannot procure? Surely such a ruse is not worth the price!

Vladimir: It is a strange and cruel fate that we should be cast so from the light and warmth of the simple pleasures we desire most.

Exeunt Dmitri and Vladimir stage left. End scene.

Or in 3-panel strip form, if you prefer it.

Like many of you, for years I have seen Sonic ads on TV, shaken my fist at the heavens, spat at almighty God and persevered. Or just went to Five Guys. I don’t want to make pithy banter with a balding friend or dumpy-looking wife or chubby Paris Hilton lookalike and even more busted female. And by busted I don’t mean she has nice mammaries or resembles a plaster cast from the shoulders up. I mean that when photons bounce off her body and are recorded by a camera, and this recording is played back so that more photons in the pattern of her visage scurry in the direction of my ocular cavity, the net result is an unpleasant sensation in my cerebellum. No, I just want a burger.

Last week some coworkers and I took a little 20-minute excursion up I-95 to get to the nearest Sonic, which was out in Bensalem in a run down industrial area that I would have no reason to go to otherwise. This kind of thing isn’t uncommon for us; we’ve driven a half hour to get to an Arby’s because, let’s be honest, time out of the office is time out of the office any way you slice it. Sonic’s website says “[t]here are more than 3400 SONIC® Drive-In locations across the country.” Just none where you live. Especially if you live in a city. Bensalem is not a city. In any case, if you haven’t been or even seen one (both my seeing and tasting cherries were popped with one thrust), Sonic is indeed delicious, though it would have been more delicious if a girl on roller skates brought out our food on one of those trays that hooks onto the car door.

But all this skullduggery does have an explanation, and a method behind the apparent scattershot advertising strategy. National cable advertising is, at certain volumes, cheaper than regionally targeted advertising, so that’s a no brainer right there. But the genius of the whole thing is that it drives people mad with wonder and envy. How flabbergasting it must be, as say, a resident of metropolitan New York, to find yourself jealous of some yokel from Georgia or Tennessee or where-bumblefucking-ever because they have a Sonic and you don’t, and you have to pay out the ass for McDonald’s in NY. They’ve stumbled upon the holy grail of marketing, sort of. They’ve achieved the kind of viral, word-of-mouth-driven national discussion that everyone wants, over the subject of “where the fuck is there a Sonic,” simply by advertising something that’s not available. Now, whenever they open a new joint, they get all kinds of media coverage and blog hype and lines around the block because they’ve been advertising for years to people who want to be customers but can’t.

This is not a new strategy or phenomenon. Companies have been doing this for decades in areas where they plan to launch. You’ll notice the ambiguous “Respekt” outdoor ads for Cricket mobile phone services around Philadelphia presently. They’re not available here yet, but they will be soon, and at that point they’ll start to demystify their messaging and identify that top-heavy K with their wordmark/logotype (a befuddling design choice). The difference here is Cricket isn’t offering any specific deal or even saying who they are, which is…I don’t know, who cares. But Sonic is offering free tots and gigantic slushies for under $1 to anyone in the nation lucky enough to live by or drive by one and that’s apparently been pretty rabble-rousing. The more significant difference is that Cricket’s hype/awareness campaign, and most things of that nature, will last maybe weeks or months. I’m not positive but Leap, their owner, has indicated they hope to that by the end of this year they will have rolled out service in all 27 markets they won bids on in the 2006 FCC auction. By contrast, Sonic has been advertising in Philadelphia and other major metropolitan areas for years and have yet to announce any new locations there. In fact there may never be a Sonic in Philly. But their incessant advertising has given them a legion of customers-in-waiting who are ready for a cross-country road trip, or like me, the opportunity to take an extra long lunch.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as a marketing guy, I am delighted that a protracted campaign designed to frustrate and drive people bats might actually work really well. It would sure be fun to try.

PS: holy balls.

February 12, 2009 at 2:54 PM Leave a comment


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