Light, Lame, and Limp
Appropriationists: "Their work is caracterized by... recycling... cultural iconography by [arranging] elements of it in another context ...: a detour in which... the blow up of the reproduction can become more original than the original itself." -- American Appropriationists and the Lolita-Complex
The LA Times thinks it has "exposed" the Joker, but the real Joker artist is still at large. Half of the Obama 'Joker' Artist is a Palestinian Arab from Chicago, Firas Alkhateeb. All bets are off if you think you know where he's at politically:
"After Obama was elected, you had all of these people who basically saw him as the second coming of Christ," Alkhateeb said. "From my perspective, there wasn't much substance to him. I abstained from voting in November," he wrote in an e-mail. "Living in Illinois, my vote means close to nothing as there was no chance Obama would not win the state." If he had to choose a politician to support, Alkhateeb said, it would be Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich.Dennis. Kucinich. ? Oh. Kay....
Photoshop, modern media, and whacko politicos are harsh taskmasters. Indeed it's not all that surprisingly that a million photoshoppers mashing up Obama, Time Magazine's obsessive Obamallatio, and Heath Ledger's creepy pre-dying fallguy, could throw up something like this and take it to Flickr.
But the mere making is only half the story, and the less interesting half at that.
Crafting a mashup and publishing it on Flickr is easy. Too easy. The common result is that the image just lays there, inert in the vast cold data soup of Flickr getting a few comments from friends and idle browsers. That's certainly what happened in this case. Mr. Alkhateeb reports that since uploading it on January 18 he'd received only about 2,000 views. And why would it get more than that? It's an obvious mash-up that says communicates only vague disgruntlement. It's got no punch. It's passive. Limp, simply.
Alkhateeb's work went nowhere until our still unknown Appropriationist found it, and kicked it up quite a few notches by removing the Time garble and presenting us with the raw image. This image has the colors and contrast punched up and the background scumbled out and the red border roughened by reproduction.
The result? A more arresting image but one whose message is still obscure and arty. Still not quite there.
Then the masterstroke. The propaganda bonanza. That gutsy and brilliant touch was to run underneath the image the stark bold word, "socialism."
Right, Tight, and Bright
"How about this image projected against a cloudy night sky high above a busy
metropolis?" -- Reilly
With that single addition you go from a somewhat interesting image to a work of art, of propaganda, that has real bite. You can tell it does by listening to the litany of carping and the predictable howls of "Racism!" rising out of the lap dogs of the left. That those howls are trumped by the origin of the image in the mind of "a Palestinian Arab from Chicago" is sweet.
By any interpretation we have a much more powerful image than the Time cover, one that grabs you in a glance. "Obama? Joker? Socialism? Humm, what does that mean? What could that mean?" Whatever you may think about the statement the poster still has power. Once seen, it cannot be unseen.
But wait, there's more.
Just because the image is finished does not mean that the Appropriationist's artwork is finished. For an image to grab you in a glance, you have to be able to see it. The real "art" here, the real edgy move, was to print this up in many multiples, and start plastering them in various urban locations.
That's the final move and the one that takes guts. After all, with Obama riding high as the dominant pop culture icon of the era, it wouldn't do to stumble into a group of his fervid supporters in a dark underpass while pasting these images up. You just might get popped for your art.
Once done, the last move in your bit of political agitprop is to fade back into the shadows and let the media take its course. The media. So obvious, really, aren't they?
The LA Times is trumpeting this "discovery of the artist" as a major scoop. It's not. It's just internet research from a Flickr tip. It's the kind of "reporting" that doesn't take more than a Blackberry and a telephone.
The classic "Who done it?" remains. It's not the Kuchinch supporter rendering spooky mash-ups on the Internet that's the hero of this classic bit of Appropriationist art. It's the mysterious Man in the Arena with a bunch of Samizdat Smash the State posters and a pot of paste for sticking them up.
Alkhateeb? Alkhateeb's a punk. The real artist remains a shadow, but whoever he is I'm putting him up as the official artist of the Conservative Revolutionary Front (CRF).
And I call for more STREET ART!, MORE CRF ARTISTS!, MORE... VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA!
Revolutionary Appropriationist Video by alinskyrules'sPosted by Vanderleun at August 17, 2009 11:59 PM