Sunday, June 21, 2009

Photography: Pasadena

We took our cameras up to Pasadena and got some good shots of the overpass. This is with J's modified camera. I love the colors.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Obey Obama

Okie dokie. The irony is quality. Here's the story:

I was driving down the street yesterday and for the hundredth time I saw that Obama poster. You know the one that is in all the apartment windows in California. (getting blue from the sunlight - which is probably symbolic of Obama's democrat-iness.)

The poster is probably the single most recognizable image from the presidential campaign. Obama’s popularity with the younger generation escalated to meme status with the dorm-ready screenprint.

I saw it again today and it hit me, like time travel back to New York 2003.

That's the OBEY sign!

They are so similar; there had to be a connection.

The OBEY graphic was ubiquitous in urban areas in the early '00s. It wasn't uncommon to see a rouge poster appear overnight in a public walkway or over a parking structure. There was even a school mate who got it tattooed on his bicep. The large print OBEY was supposed to be a jest comment about surveillance or heavy-handed government.

The artist, Shepard Fairey started as a rebel screenprinter in NYC. He stole the tag and font script "OBEY" from the 1980s thriller, They Live, a film about a government that has complete control of its people by feeding subliminal messages like obey, consume, watch television, sleep through the TV and newspapers. Obviously, Fairey had some thoughts on the film and its subject, he labeled his graphic empire after it. His posters became huge in New York and his style rabidly copied by young artists. Meanwhile Fairey was copying, sometimes verbatim, the Chinese Communist propaganda posters.

After my realization, I thought well at the least I know that whoever made Obama's campaign poster was heavily influenced by the OBEY posters. But what was the relationship? What was the artist trying to say using propaganda style? Was that a conscious decision? If so, had the campaign organizers known about it? They must know. Was this in our face propaganda?

So back at home I set to researching....

...I didn't have to look far. BAM! Direct Hit! Mr Shepard "Obey" Fairey was the artist of the Obama posters. Now faced with a formidable head tangle, we had to ask why they hired an artist who does communist propaganda to do the official presidential poster?

After perusing just a few of Fairey's posters, you can see he was heavily influenced by the Socialist graphics of the Chinese and Russian blocs. His prints combine fanning sunrays of the new communist dawn, blocky screen prints, stars and the Red Scheme. He even reused entire images of infamous Communist leader, Mao Tsedong. Voters connecting Obama to communism should have a field day.

Though the posters are riddled with symbolism, none of it is Fairey’s own. After consideration, I'm pretty sure that  Fairey is either politically schizophrenic or just doesn't have a message. One screenprint is inspired by Orwell’s legendary book, 1984 cautioning against government control - the next adorns the former communist leaders as heroes.

Of course my assumption is that he probably just believed he was being hip by creating the OBEY campaign and culturejamming old propaganda for the younger generation, who are unfortunately more influenced by image than content.

The hypocrisy , the communist graphics, they are all fun to play with until you go and do something like - make the president's campaign poster!

It'd be a semi-witty jab to say that Obama represents government control and grooming, EXCEPT that Fairey actually supports Obama, so there's no message there either.

I am reminded of the all-seeing Che T-shirts.

"I have no idea who this is" - at least you are willing to admit it.