Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Every successful artist I know, that supports themself with their work, runs their practice like a business and structures their time and effort to maximize material returns and material communities (whether bounded by traditional currency or not). If you're not doing that, it's a hobby. Even the academic route to creative dominance requires you to inject assessments of relative value into your process, because art is social, and "successful" art is even more social. And people care about real value and utility, whether that's emotional utility or some other kind.
"My work is pure! I create, and material circumstances to nothing to influence my art!" Oh, bullshit. Shut the fuck up.
But as an addendum: one of the provinces of the occult is the bizarre continuum between thoughtforms experienced by our subjective consciousness, enacted in the MATERIAL patterns of our neurons, and the "external" matter those thoughtforms use themselves to influence. This is the hazy dominion of what Crowley calls "True Will", or just will in general-- I'll write more extensively about this in the future, but the upshot is: in a the unified system that is the relationship between your internal and external matter, where do we locate the influenced, and where the influencer? Do we make culture, or does it make us?
Simon's an advocate for social good in branding. Basically, he believes that it's not only globally important for brands and companies to start building sustainable practices into their core values, but it's also good business, because it's what consumers want. You'll be improving the planet and your bottom line at the same time. So, we can convince companies to improve the planet because if they do they'll have a better relationship with their consumers. Nobody wins if the economy collapses and the planet goes dark.
He likes to trumpet the social responsibility some major brands are already assuming, and the criticism he receives goes like this: "Sure, Coca Cola's working to save the polar bears (they are), but they still manufacture brown sugar water and cause obesity. They're still bad for us and the world."
The way Simon's been approaching this criticism is to encourage people not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. He says that this is a slow transitional process, and that we shouldn't ignore the good work these companies are doing to focus on their persisting flaws, because that won't accomplish the change that we want.
I think he's basically right, but I think there's a better way to approach the question, and it's hiding in plain sight in We First's core ideas.
In his presentation, Simon emphasized that Nike is no longer in the shoe business, and Coke isn't in the soda business anymore-- now, we're all in the data business. It's the era of Big Data, and if we properly digest this avalanche of aggregated social information, we can listen to what consumers want, and we can give it to them. The whole We First idea is about companies listening to their consumers, through social media and other channels, and responding.
This is precisely the point the questioner fails to understand: we're in the data business. The relationship between a brand and a product is now entirely incidental.
A brand is a culture that surrounds the marketing of a product, sure, but is there any kind of one-to-one correlation? Do polar bears and "open happiness" have any direct relationship to brown sugar-water? No. Clearly not. Have the ingredients in Coke remained the same for the last 100 years? No. Clearly not.
How important is it to Coke that the ingredients in their product remain the same, do you think? You think it's more important to them than making money?
My point to Simon's interrogator would be this: oh, you don't like the fact that Coke makes brown sugar water? Well, GET ENOUGH PEOPLE TO AGREE WITH YOU, AND THEY'LL STOP.
Coke will make whatever you want. Maybe someday they'll make nothing but health drinks. Because Coke is a brand, and a brand is a culture, not a product. It doesn't matter to them what they make. It matters who buys it. There are limits to this, in terms of the manufactured item staying connected to the brand culture, especially in artistic products, but not as many as people think, certainly not in basic food, beverage, or appliance brands. They developed branding in the first place BECAUSE THE PRODUCTS WERE ALL THE SAME AND THEY NEEDED TO DIFFERENTIATE THEMSELVES. Branding was a direct reaction AGAINST simply describing a product that's like 10 others on the market. That's where brands like Coke, with their culture of happiness, came from.
Apple evolved their product lines completely over the course of their corporate existence, and they'll evolve them again. The culture has remained. The same can be true of any brand. And if the new role of these brands is to listen to consumer demand and respond, as Simon suggests, then it follows that the criticism he received is entirely off the mark. Focusing on the product makes absolutely no sense. The product is entirely incidental. It's all about the culture. It's all about the brand.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
When I was with my ex-girlfriend, I was participating in a definition of romance that I understood, finally, to be functional for the first time. This definition involved occasionally hurting each other, because we were experience junkies. There was no conversational topic off limits and no experiment that couldn't be approached as a possibility. I can tell now that I took her for granted to some extent, because most people just aren't psychologically comfortable with that level of freedom. They want to know that the relationship is monogamous or else it's not, and there are rules, and they want to understand what you can and can't do as far as hitting and biting and kicking, and they want to keep certain emotional territories hidden from the partner for the purposes of retaining their structural integrity. They don't just throw themselves into a relationship as an art project.
Well, I don't really know any other way to have relationships anymore. I understand now that I've gone way too far beyond the traditional relationship paradigm to ever date anyone who would need the program to unfold according to those rules again. It's interesting to speculate about what would happen if I just started applying the experimental attitude I've developed towards normal dating situations. Who knows.
Now I'm in a marriage-- another experiment, really, though we seem to have forgotten it. We've started playing it safe, even though over and over again I've learned that there's no such thing as playing it safe with your own emotions. Attempting to shield someone else, attempting to be something you're not, rarely works out very well for anyone involved. People that contort themselves to fit into boxes smaller than they are are in for extraordinary amounts of pain. You can be considerate, you can be kind and reasonable, but beyond a certain point you have to be able to open up and be who you are.
This goes for your career, your schooling, your friendships, anything, really. I've been looking back at my life lately, and I've been realizing that in many situations where I thought I was doing something incorrectly, or incompetently, or thought I didn't "get" something fundamental, I was actually convincing myself that I was dumber, less capable, less flexible, or less knowledgeable about the issue at hand than I actually was. And-- here's the kicker-- I was doing it in order to stay safe. I felt that my take on the given situation was so different from the ideas or feelings of those around me that I clearly must have something wrong, and were I to act on my predilections, I would just hurt myself.
Well, now I've backed myself into a corner. I'm at that point in my life where I can either take risky steps toward the life and career I want or continue hedging my bets and being careful and continue assuming that I'm not competent or special enough to bring about the kind of life I'd really like, despite all evidence to the contrary. Here's hoping I make the right decision, and here's hoping you do too.
Friday, September 30, 2011
I find that if I stare at anything long enough, particularly natural forms, they take on an alien menace that reminds me of nothing so much as the symmetrical patterns on an oriental rug. I start to see the sort of frayed, fractal edges of my particular system of classification as nouns blossom into groundless adjectives with only a relativistic framework holding them aloft.
This is why music with raw, simplistic emotional qualities has always appealed to me, maybe: some part of me wants to be reduced, wants to wipe away these cobwebbed semiotics. These too-intense oriental rugs. Emotion, particularly sexual emotion, is a very safe place in the midst of all this. I sometimes worry that these thought patterns too closely resemble the outline of some psychosis or other, but then I remember that I often go out and talk to people and pay bills and things like that and I realize that I must really be okay, if I'm capable of interfacing at that level; those are complicated tasks.
It might be tempting to associate these spreading networks of gossamer meaning with creativity, but I must insist that in a very real way they are precisely the opposite. They are traps. Because they are composed primarily of anxiety, they immobilize, and immobilization is not a harbinger of creativity, unless one wants to live within the constant cycling of terrified paralysis and manic expulsivity. I've toyed with this cycle before, and it' s exhausting to me and everyone around me.
In a few minutes I'll get up and get to work on my latest project. In these disturbing little gaps, bits of me get left, for someone to find.
"This is your only experience. Ever."
"Reality itself is the only God there is."
Dualistic differentiation ruins all my discussions about religion.
Spirits, gods, metaphysical absolutes, I don't understand why any of it has to enter the dialog. The only salient factors are experience and utility, to me. The chemical characteristics of a demon or an archangel are open to speculation, whatever. I don't care. "You're not religious, you're spiritual." The distinction is meaningless. You don't know what it means. So religion has to do with a saving belief that binds people together, according to Pierre Grimes, and spirituality has to do with an individual practice that alters consciousness. Okay, we're right back where we started from.
I'm never interested in talking about religion as a product of rote rules that must be followed, I'm interested in talking about it as a tool. Discussion of orthodox religion bores me.
There is undifferentiated awe. You can have a relationship with the gestalt, or isolated pieces of it. You can make gods. That's all I know. I'm of the opinion that they exists in my head; some people think they exist elsewhere. Some people claim that atheism as an excuse to stop using your imagination while parsing the surrounding environment. These people are boring too. You can name systems whatever you want, I don't care; I'm interested in what they DO.
I'm not interested in your truth. I can figure the truth out on my own, if that's even a thing, no thanks. I'm interested in tools.
Having these kinds of discussions with people that have political agendas is never productive. They want to talk about fears, not tools. They haven't the stomach to ask real questions about what kind of beliefs and experiences have real value or real meaning. Speculation and play is to them out of the question. Their rigid ontology is a matter of life or death.
I think that if your ontology is a matter of life and death you're dead already. Moving through the world is far more interesting if you allow for a little more narrative latitude and a little uncertainty. For god's sake, tell me a story that isn't the same story I've heard, over and over again, fifty million times. And please don't tell me you can save me when you can't even save yourself.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Wherefore art thou, Romeo? She looked for something, we all do. But she was special, her looking was special. All our looking is special.
There is a dancer, in her mind, that dances, always. If she keeps rhythm with this dancer she's okay. As she runs through the halls of the hotel, lost in the midst of this big conference, as long as she feels like she's playing, dancing, it's okay. It's not too serious. If she doesn't meet the love of her life she can still go to bed and sleep soundly.
When she was younger she had played this game all the time, very seriously, she believed prince charming was around, with soft stubble and a wry scarf. Maybe in the next room of the library. During the years of her relationships, "real" relationships, which meant relationships she never really cared about that much, she stopped playing the game.
But this big old hotel made her feel like a little girl again, and made her dance.