Friday, November 18, 2011

Hopelessly Devoted to You

From Obey Giant's Facebook page:  "This poster represents my support for the Occupy movement, a grassroots movement spawned to stand up against corruption, imbalance of power, and failure of our democracy to represent and help average Americans. On the other hand, as flawed as the system is, I see Obama as a potential ally of the Occupy movement if the energy of the movement is perceived as constructive, not destructive. I still see Obama as the closest thing to "a man on the inside" that we have presently. Obviously, just voting is not enough. We need to use all of our tools to help us achieve our goals and ideals. However, I think idealism and realism need to exist hand in hand. Change is not about one election, one rally, one leader, it is about a constant dedication to progress and a constant push in the right direction. Let's be the people doing the right thing as outsiders and simultaneously push the insiders to do the right thing for the people. I'm still trying to work out copyright issues I may face with this image, but feel free to share it and stay tuned...  -Shepard Fairey..."

I don't know.  Really.  I don't.  But one of the greatest things about art for me is that it moves us away from propaganda, chills the stupid heat that inspires political rants and lazy "us versus them" naivete.  And that goes for propaganda even if it's propaganda for "our side."  Fairey comes off opportunistic and self-involved and indulgent and teenaged-romantic in this little diatribe about his "new" piece of artworld branding that isn't new, and definitely does not add anything incisive or realistic to the conversation.  I especially love the part about "copyright issues."  And the way he positions himself and whoever is on "his side" as "outsiders."  The image is lifted, the politics are worn out, and the message feels like head-shop pontificating.  "Occupying" public parks and changing the system are actually not linked:  the style subverts the subject matter, and most of the main points in the media become about "free speech" and how a bunch of folks have a right to pitch tents and hold onto their sleeping bags before The Man comes in with power-washers.   These are serious times, possibly beyond "hope" and other nice little abstractions that only add idealism to a bunch of tired ideas.  If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, then run-down leftist political propaganda is the saddest refuge of an artist.  It's too easy and only recycles the same emotions and the same dance of right and left, conservative and liberal.  I know everyone means well, but at the end of the day pretending you're Guy Fawkes in the 21st Century is pretty close to pretending to be John Wayne.  Symbols are fine, but they don't get the job done.  You have to get elected to school-boards and file law-suits and out-think and out-organize your foes -- not out-camp them. 

Writes Fairey:  "We need to use all of our tools to help us achieve our goals and ideals."  What are the "tools'?  What actually are the "goals and ideals"?  I don't think anyone really knows at this point, and until they are known and spoken eloquently and forcefully (and by "forcefully" I don't mean "drum-beating" and "chanting"), the same old rhetoric achieves the same old results.