If advertising is the engine of capitalism, then brands are its symbolic currency. Branding is a complex communications system of signifiers that leverages psychoanalytical principals of irrationality and desire. As activists and socially engaged cultural producers we recognize the problems associated with a culture designed around consumption. Unlimited growth in a finite ecosystem is a recipe for global catastrophe. The practice of branding is a central force driving the system towards its inherent limit. How are we to respond?
A typical reaction is to reject branding/advertising with anti-advertising rhetoric. But the successful negation of representation is as likely as erasing language. After all, signs and symbols are the basis of communication. Another approach would be to deconstruct the internal workings of branding, making visible the ways in which society and individuals are determined by irrational drives, skillfully manipulated by corporations. Becoming aware however does little to circumvent a pervasive practice that ignores rational understanding as it preys on our subconscious.
With these challenges in mind this presentation series plans to explore the mechanics of the branding industry, it’s principles, and tricks of the trade. To see what lessons we might learn. How might activists and cultural producers leverage the tools of advertising, marketing, public relations and spectacle production? Can we produce our own brands in the service of a progressive politics? Does a brand communicate a fixed message, or can it be interpreted to signify a variety of meanings? If so, can we intervene upon and appropriate brands to point them in a direction of new meaning?
The Change You Want To See Gallery
September 24 - November 5, 2009
With Douglass Rushkoff, Stuart Ewen, Joo Young Oh, Carrie McLaren, Steve Lambert, Stephen Duncombe, Jessica Teal, and Loid Der
Events live-streamed at http://livestream.com/notanalternative
(save the dates)
Thursday, Sept 24, 7:30-9:30pm – professor/author Douglass Rushkoff
Sunday, Sept 27, 4pm-9pm -- Screening Adam Curtis' four-part BBC series The Century of Self
Thursday, Oct 1, 7:30pm–9:30pm -- professor/author Stuart Ewen
Monday, Oct 12, 7:30pm–9:30pm -- consultant JooYoung Oh workshop on design research
Monday, Oct 26, 7:30-9:30pm: professor/author Stephen Duncombe
Thursday, Nov 5, 7:30-9:30pm: consultant Loid Der workshop on branding
ABOUT “THE CENTURY OF SELF”
"The Century of Self" (2002) is a four-part BBC mini-series about the history of "spin," consumerism, mass psychology, and the role of propaganda in politics, social movements, cultural attitudes, and consumption. Adam Curtis' acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty. To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?
Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society's belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man's ultimate goal.
ABOUT THE PRESENTERS:
(in order of event date)
Douglas Rushkoff is the author of ten books on media, technology, and society, including Cyberia, Media Virus, Coercion, Nothing Sacred, Playing the Future, Open Source Democracy and Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out. Rushkoff also wrote the acclaimed novels Ecstasy Club and Exit Strategy, the graphic novel Club Zero-G and the comic book series Testament. He has written and hosted two award-winning Frontline documentaries - "The Merchants of Cool", which looked at the influence of corporations on youth culture, and "The Persuaders", about the cluttered landscape of marketing, and new efforts to overcome consumer resistance. He is currently working on PBS' new multiplatform project, Digital Nation, which will culminate as a Frontline documentary. Rushkoff’s commentaries air on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s All Things Considered, and have appeared in publications from The New York Times to Time magazine. His column on cyberculture is distributed globally through the New York Times Syndicate. He is Advisor to the United Nations Commission on World Culture, on the Board of Directors of the Media Ecology Association, The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, and was a founding member of Technorealism. He has been awarded Senior Fellowships by the Markle Foundation and the Center for Global Communications Fellow of the International University of Japan. He regularly appears on TV shows from NBC Nightly News to Larry King and Bill Maher. He developed the Electronic Oracle software series for HarperCollins Interactive. He currently hosts the WFMU radio show The MediaSquat, and teaches at the New School University. His latest book, Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation And How To Take It Back, was released in June 2009.
Stuart Ewen is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Film & Media Studies at Hunter College, and in the Ph.D. Programs in History, Sociology and American Studies at The CUNY Graduate Center (City University of New York). He is generally considered one of the originators of the field of Media Studies, and his writings have continued to shape debates in the field. Ewen is the author of influential books on the history of consumer society, visual culture, propaganda and modernity, including PR! A Social History of Spin, All Consuming Images: On the Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture, Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture and, with Elizabeth Ewen, Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness, and also Typecasting: On the Arts & Sciences of Human Inequality. Under a nom de plume, Archie Bishop, he has also worked as a photographer, pamphleteer, graphic artist, multimedia prankster, and political situationist for more than thirty years. Bishop's artwork is part of an international traveling exhibit, “Toxic Landscapes,” sponsored by the Puffin Foundation, and was recently featured in “Tactical Action,” a group exhibit at the Gigantic ArtSpace (GAS), 59 Franklin Street (Broadway/Lafayette), from April to June, 2004.
JooYoung Oh is a specialist who provides consumer insights that lead organizations to innovative design strategies. She does this through using tools that help people express their dreams and desires, identifying patterns and insights, and translating those insights into actionable frameworks for concept generation. Through multi-sensory stimuli approach she not only provides companies the understanding of current and ideal experience, but also how the ideal experiences can translate into metaphors and attributes with visual and tangible examples. She teaches these techniques through short and long term training courses and workshops and is a frequent presenter at design conferences and design schools, sharing her knowledge in participatory design methods. Prior to starting her own consultant business in 2009, she was with Lextant where she gained over 5 years of experience leading both domestic and international programs to gain consumer understanding for fortune 500 companies including Samsung mobile communication, Dell, P&G baby care hair care, Cardinal Health, Kohler, Moen, Whirlpool, Kaz, Wilson’s Leather, Ethicon Endo Surgery, Respironics, Cordis, CheckFree, Nationwide Insurance, and Wireless Generation. JooYoung gained her MFA in product design at Savannah College of Art & Design in Savannah, GA, USA and BFA in ceramic arts at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, Korea.
Carrie McLarenis the founder of the now defunct Stay Free! magazine, and editor of Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture, a compendium of new and previously published material on the impact of consumer culture on our lives (June, 2009). A longtime blogger, she is currently at Consumerist, a website owned by the publishers of Consumer Reports. She is the curator of Adult Education, a "useless lecture series" based in Brooklyn, New York. In a previous life, she organized the Illegal Art Exhibit, a traveling multimedia art show and website devoted to copyright reform. A former advertising columnist for the Village Voice, her writing has also appeared in Newsday, Mother Jones, Time Out NY, and SPIN magazine, among others. Carrie lives in Brooklyn with one each of husband, son and cat.
Steve Lambert is currently a Senior Fellow at Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology in New York and teaches at Parsons/The New School and Hunter College. He founded the outdoor, guerilla art gallery, the Budget Gallery, in 1999 and the Anti-Advertising Agency in 2004. Steve’s projects and art works have won awards from Rhizome/The New Museum, the Creative Work Fund, Adbusters Media Foundation, the California Arts Council, the Belle Foundation, and others. He earned the “Best Public Art” award from the San Francisco Weekly in 2008. His work has been shown nationally in cities like Detroit, New York, and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as internationally in Havana, Canada, Barcelona, and Rotterdam. Writings about his work have appeared in multiple publications such as the New York Times, Punk Planet, Artweek, and Newsweek magazine and featured on National Public Radio.
Stephen Duncombe is an Associate Professor at New York University where he teaches the history and politics of media and culture. He is the author of Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy and Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture the editor of the Cultural Resistance Reader and the coauthor of The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York. He also writes widely on culture and politics for scholarly journals and collections, as well as popular publications like the New York Times, the Nation, and Playboy. He is the co-founder of the College of Tactical Culture, part of the 2009 night school series at the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center. Duncombe has been a lifelong political activist and is currently working on a book about propaganda during the New Deal.
Loid Der is creative consultant specializing in developing and managing strategic brand solutions for corporations and non-profit organizations. Until he began his own practice, he was a creative director at the world's largest branding agency, Interbrand for the last four years, leading creative teams from strategy, concept, design through implementation, and was responsible for creating the brand identities for AT&T, Microsoft and Xerox. His non-profit clients and projects include Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest), the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Yes Men, Alternet and Not An Alternative. and He has collaborated with artists and writers on book and installation projects to explore issues of surveillance, security and seduction, female interrogation and torture techniques , kitsch and death. He has won numerous awards from Communication Arts, Graphis, Art Directors Club New York, Critique, Type Directors Club, and Idea Magazine. His work has been included in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Design.