Obey the Altruistic Giant, or Else.

QUESTIONS OF APPROPRIATION and Tokenism are areas one must approach carefully. Human beings are involved and there is nuance, to be sure. Good can be done with methods that are not optimally beneficial to all parties involved. Furthermore, that cost must be weighed by each person. And yet, shapes of Whiteness move behind and around us, often invisible. They must be named.

obeyI WROTE A POST the other day on the new poster by Shepard Fairey and Ernesto Yerena, and essentially it was about how my initial impression was of a white artist appropriating culture in the newest culture-hungry OBEYGIANT art operation. I made various comments about the poster art, both complimenting elements of it (I love Fairey’s style, which borrows hugely from Russian Constructivism though he’d like the borrowing to stop there) as well as criticizing elements of the composition. These were not emotional “Eh, I just don’t like it” type comments; they were grounded in a cultural perspective as well as springing from my own artistic eye. I didn’t feel it necessary to temper my critique, because hey, it’s just one cat’s opinion. Little did I know I’d get the pushback I did.

As I have returned to this issue and this post and these people with as much nuance as I can manage, I expect commenters to do the same. If they cannot engage the ideas here thoughtfully, I will simply block them. I had enough arguing back and forth yesterday though I do very much thank those commenters, too. They forced me to delve deeper and to flesh out the ideas that I intuited right away, but had not yet the background “research” as was said, to argue comprehensively. I have done the research now, and I’m sure they will be satisfied that I took their advice.

Overall, the folks at ObeyGiant and/or ObeyGiant Forums did not care for my critique one bit, and they showed up to accuse me of various things, among those that I was reacting out of jealousy, ignorance, fear, and vanity. (In the same comment I was admonished to stop being divisive and feel the love!) The comments were in turns scornful, dismissive, and furious that I dared “spread misinformation.”

One commentor, “almanegra” wrote “[j]ust don’t start trying to spread misinformation that the whole operation was simply driven by a single factor, profit” as well as “you should really look into where the money is actually going as opposed to assuming that the image was purely profit driven.”

Reading back, I can see that it could read that way. No, I don’t really think it’s that simple. So not that I thought my opinion on it mattered so much, but okay. Ahem, for the record: I don’t think Shepard Fairey’s intentions can be said to be purely profit driven. Profits from the posters go to “creating materials for the May Day marches and donations for immigration reform organizations” and that doesn’t seem very profitable, does it. Of course if the “materials” are more of these posters, then the profits are essentially going back into creating what are highly-visible advertisements for the Shepard Fairey brand, as well. But we’ll push that aside for the moment. Finally, the cat who talked to me about the poster one-on-one says he works with Shepard Fairey and he’s an all right guy. So I have no reason to disbelieve that.

However, do notice that these comments seem mostly concerned that I was smearing Shepard Fairey’s motives; and that I was claiming the event was purely for profit. Of everything I said in my post, this is what was really raising hackles. Of course we know how important it is to Whiteness to maintain a public appearance of perfection and how averse it is in having its public image besmirched or its reputation sullied. On other hand, this panic-like flurry of comments could be simple fear of a brand being threatened or the anger that arises when having one’s altruistic motives questioned. Those things make sense, too.

Regardless: my question is where is the outrage to defend the name and integrity of Fairey’s supposed “partner” in this work, Ernesto Yerena? All this outrage is responding to the idea that I dare impugn the motives and reputation of Shepard Fairey.

The point was raised that Ernesto’s part in the making of the poster was being overlooked, but it was tiny compared to the focus on Fairey’s reputation, and in fact, was mentioned in the service of clearing Fairey of the charge of being an outsider looking in; not in the service of celebrating Ernesto Yerena and what his story and reality is. One problem with Whiteness is that it refuses to be de-centered in any area it appears. In this way, Whiteness is like a cognitive disease. It refuses to arrange importance rationally or by any meritocratic ranking, but instead arbitrarily and relentlessly places the feelings and point of view of Whiteness central to any arrangement of credit or concern.

Now I’m talking about a lot of things here. We see that this is not a simple poster discussion. Yes, we’re talking about artistic/symbolic elements in a work of art, but also about appropriation, Whiteness, Tokenism, the immigration movement, capitalism…

I’m happy that something is helping move the immigrant movement forward. So please know that. I really am. The people who suggest this is about petty jealousy reveal their own smallness. And those commenters who say I’m stirring up divisions where they shouldn’t be, well…I just wrote a blog post. I’m not the one who showed up here in numbers to argue back and forth and call names! So…who is being divisive? Again, we are talking about many things. Sometimes what I discuss here is idea based. These ideas can exist along with practical realities in the world; my commentary does not negate those. But some shapes are important to point out. And let’s be real. You are not really so worried about division amongst activists, but about image of the Fairey brand among youth who read me. In fact, I could read that concern in the words that were spoken to me personally.

The artist I spoke to on the phone from Obey Giant was very cool (and I’ll talk about him more soon) but posed the situation as if I were being “separatist.” He was very nice about it, but the assumption in his words was that I was interested in a pure divide between races. “I used to be separatist, but I don’t want to alienate white people anymore, my girlfriend is white… I want to reach the largest possible group.” And yes, I understand that. But see, I am not “separatist,” either. So just let me clear that up! I don’t want a little girl on a poster with a middle finger in the air, or an “I hate white people” pin! And my points were not about excluding white people. There is no need to interpret what I said as anti-white people. Just because it was anti-appropriation.

This is the kind of thing one has to draw out carefully. So I’ll try.

We can assume that ObeyGiant is already sensitized to being accused of cultural appropriation. We can assume this because a) cultural appropriation is sort of what Fairey does as a “style,” and because b), Fairey defends himself from it on his Wikipedia page.

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"It’s not like I’m just jumping on some cool rebel cause for the sake of exploiting it for profit." —Shepard Fairey

So for me to accuse him of the same thing (and without even having researched, as I was admonished by these commenters; “Next time do a little research!”) surely touched a nerve.

Commenter “A1″ wrote

I understand the fear that a white dude who has gained lots of popularity is exploiting a culture for profit and fame, but you have to believe me that this is not the case with this project. Don’t be hung up on the race of the guy who’s name is attached to this.

But I am hung up on whose name is attached to the project. See…that’s the very point, in part, that I’m making.

I’m hung up on that fact that Ernesto was the face of the artist when it comes to signing posters for the brown crowds while also being the one who was in the hole for the money that it took to make the posters, and at the same time being left off the credit side as another “Shepard Fairey” iconic work is produced and celebrated by the larger culture.

I’ll draw out these thoughts more in a minute. I did speak with Ernesto on the phone, after all. But that is my core complaint. And it is in line with all the things I always talk about when I write online, and have for over three years, now.

Now, while I was chastised by the commenters yesterday for daring to accuse Shepard Fairey of having cash as a motive (cash in hand or measured in increased visibility and reputation, nobody made clear), at the same time, I heard the complaint that I was not properly appreciative of how much money was sunk into such a risky venture!

Commenter A1: I don’t think you understand how much time, money, and effort went into carrying out this project that tackles an issue that most people would be too scared to approach. I respect Shepard Fairey for being willing to attach himself to an issue that many find to be too controversial, and would rather avoid.

Or that I was not properly appreciative of the bravery that Shepard Fairey showed by risking his reputation to touch a controversial issue.

Again, I’m happy Shepard is on board and is helping. Beautiful. Of course, you know that I feel gente need to rely on each other, boost up each other, rise from within. As much as possible, and the more often, the better. I’m not a cookie dispenser for the brave altruists. If I were, you’d now be reading theunapologeticcookiedispenser.org . And you’re not. This wasn’t about how “good” or “bad” the artist was; what his moral fiber is. Or if I gave that impression, I should not have. This is about a shape that plays out between unequal powers, and about community, and about culture. It’s also about a person’s own experience and right to define themselves, so we’ll hear out another view soon. Ernesto’s—the artist who apprentices for Shepard Fairey and who contributed to this poster art.

But let’s address one last commenter before I talk about my conversation with him and my own thoughts and feelings on the entire complex issue of appropriation, tokenism, and the power structures that necessitate these dynamics.

ButchM writes to another commentor on my site:

Also, you are missing the point when you are defending the critique of the work. I don’t think people are concerned with the evaluation but rather the false premise that this was Shepard’s design. It was primarily Ernesto Yerna’s [sic] with input from Zach and Shepard. Ernesto is an apprentice of Shepard’s so his work has a similar flavor. You can criticize it all you want but just know that you are speaking about one of Ernesto’s designs. So that really invalidates the charges of “outsider perspective” or “whitness [sic] problem.”

“It is primarily Ernesto Yerna’s [sic] work”
Is this true? No, it is not. Ernesto told me personally (and I have the audio) that the work was “more or less 50-50.” So, no, ButchM; it is not “primarily Ernesto (you had his last name wrong) Yerena’s work.”

The particulars? Ernesto told me personally that he took the photo, and that Shepard Fairey then took “at least a couple hours” to render that photo down to a style that only showed its minimal contours and detail.

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Clearly not cultural appropriation.

I think you will recognize this look of simplified contour and detail I speak of in Fairey’s past work.

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Another case of Not Cultural Appropriation?

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Last time Shepard Fairey didn't take his own foto and the AP got pissed! This time Ernesto's photos were used to draw from.

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"Guns and Roses"

Ernesto said he then traced what Shepard Fairey had done “which didn’t take that much [work]” And he added two other color layers.

And no, until someone dropped a link yesterday to cimarrones.org, no I had not seen the other poster that the Fairey/Yerena had made, (below) showing a man with the fist properly raised in the air. Which is good. The fist in the air symbol is not something you can water down, really, as was done in the other version. No offense to Ernesto, if that was his call. But I stand by my comments that the halfway raised fist is about as effective a symbol as a photo of a man about to turn his back and run away from a line of tanks that are facing him. If Immigrant Girl is not intended to be a fighter but “what we are fighting for” as the commenter said yesterday…then put her fist down. And give her a parent on either side. Whole families not shattered by raids and separated by bars or borders—that is “what we are fighting for,” not one little girl.

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And the “We Are Human” just does not work for me for the reasons I stated, as well as were stated in comments. This is the name of the campaign, and I find it utterly tone-deaf, though it tries. It sounds like Fairey tried to do his contour-reducing trick on the slogan “No One is Illegal”; make it punchy and short. I don’t care if that’s accurate, really, or how it came about. But I will tell you that multiple activists/raza reacted instantly negatively to it, without even hearing my critique. So take it as you will.

And of course I’m glad gente at la marcha are happy to have free signs, and I’m not surprised! But a mass of people claiming to be humans in the street….what’s the message? Take us to your leader? Don’t mind the saucers, we are Homo Sapiens?

It’s just a weird phrase that, as was said by a compa, “sets the bar way too low.”

Foto by Luis Garcia. The Anti-Racism March in Maricopa County on Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Anti-Racism March in Maricopa County on Saturday, May 2, 2009 | Foto by Juan Luis Garcia

Ernesto told me that he was in debt to Fairey until they sold enough posters/screenprints to pay off what it cost to make the posters. (“He wouldn’t have made me pay it back even if we didn’t” he added kindly). He also told me he got to choose the colors. Finally he told me (and I don’t know if Fairey knows this, but I doublechecked with Ernesto to make sure it was okay to quote it) that he chose the colors of the Aztlán flag, the Anahuac people. (I love the colors he chose, but those aren’t the colors of the Aztlán flag that I know of, so maybe I have the wrong flag).

Nota: “Anahuac” refers to the Mexica movement, and the Mexica movement bases its purpose in that we are descended from the indigenous of this land and the borders that came later are invalid. Obviously, this is a hardcore stance, a smaller demographic subscribes to it, and many who do, don’t talk about it aloud as it can alarm those who disagree with the overall idea. The art and statements of the Mexica movement are why one commenter on my last Fairey post tried to sneer and deride UMX by calling it a “defacto MySpace page.” Because often you will see that art and those statements displayed by people on MySpace, gente trying to stand proud instead of being shat upon through the White Lens. People on MySpace are generally younger and more comfortable with speaking pure ideal because they don’t have to worry as much about negotiating the compromises that come with a visible career, etc.

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Ernesto Yerena, LA Artist working here on a Zach de la Rocha print | Foto by Juan Luis Garcia.

Ernesto was in a tricky spot talking about some of these things. Just as he was in taking part in the art and how confrontational to make it. He talked about not wanting to alienate white people as I wrote above (I didn’t butt in to tell him my family has “white people” in it) and of compromise, too. “I’ll take help where I can get it [to reach these goals].”  (“Though I’m totally happy with how it turned out” he added with barely any pause.)

And he is going to be in a tricky spot, when these types of conversations come down. And I understand that and will talk more about this soon. I relate to a lot of it.

My thoughts on Ernesto are that he is a good cat, a sweet guy, a real soul, a Xicano who comes from la comunidad, and who is keeping it as real as he can. He’s 22, he’s doing hard work for the community, he’s a talented vato, and he is walking a fine line—as gente must do when we negotiate these structures of power and opportunity. Finally, he is deeply committed to the cause for reasons more personal than I’ll even state here. So yes, there is no doubt that Ernesto is raza.

Is the charge of a Whiteness Problem invalid?
No, and this will be my final statement here.

On Ernesto’s navigating the outstretched hand of opportunity?

The tricky thing about attacking the Appropriation/Token dynamic is that it is a huge offense to a person of color to be called a token. I know, because I’ve faced this same dynamic. When I was granted a ticket and costs to attend YearlyKos 07 as one of the Chicago 17, I needed to explore what opportunities were opening up in front of me. I felt this was in my path for a reason, and it was, in the end. But I didn’t know what it was. However, I trusted my fate and my path. I knew where my heart was and what it was about. I resented like crazy those who thought they knew better, that I was “selling out” or in some way less a person of color because of my decision. I was prompted to go by many readers and more importantly, I wanted to do this. I felt I could further the cause of what I was doing. I was exercising my free will, I was being recognized for my talents and influence, and I was being brought in as someone who was known to write fiery, unrelentingly ideal-based blog posts. What compromise was I making? But some of my readers disagreed with me and I lost what I thought were some friends by taking that opportunity. Of course, true gente stuck by me. My close amigos. Even if they thought what I was doing was…a mistake, or playing into a Token situation. And some understood that I was going where I needed to and trusted it would all be fine. (And it was all fine, and learning what I did there prompted me in the direction that helped lead to The Sanctuary’s existence.) But I felt a horrible pressure all the while I was making my own way. Pressure from the white funders to tell a story they liked, one that framed them as benificent and kind and altruistic, which is how they saw themselves to be. And pressure from certain factions of my own readership to completely turn away from all things Whiteosphere in the most extreme way possible—to not even go. So I was being forced to defend my integrity as a person of color. By people of color. One commenter even said “don’t be a token!” As it was not meant smartly, sort of dropped both meaning well and clumsiliy, I took it to be coming from outside conversations that were now reaching me.

So I feel bad that Ernesto’s call to me—even if prompted to do it by others at ObeyGiant—served the purpose of his having to defend his cred, his cultural integrity to me. On one hand he was making sure to tell me they were good to him, not taking advantage, really helpful and really open to him; he was also assuring me of his agreement with certain cultural beliefs and allegiances…and that is not what I needed to hear or wanted him to feel he had to tell me. This is what can happen when white structures take you in and use you in certain ways. Not to say you aren’t getting things out of it, too. But sadly, you are the one who ends up being pointed at by your fellow people of color and having to defend yourself and at the same time getting taken advantage of in one way or another from the other side.

It is a painful spot to be in.

It’s very tricky to address a tokenizing system while understanding that the people involved are simply trying to live and find their way to do what they love and believe in, may not see themselves as “tokens,” and must navigate an inequal power structure that may only hand you opportunities once you concede certain things, or hand your more or bigger ones depending on what shape you take, what words you use, how close you hue to a political line, etc. I don’t like calling people “tokens” and I don’t really feel I have that right and that is not what I’m doing here so much as exploring the inequality that exists in these setups that often earn these names. I wouldn’t blame an artist for doing her/his best to spread his/her message in the way that felt right to their own soul. Just as I wouldn’t scorn those holding up the posters and marching. They don’t care or want to hear about “appropriation”; they just want to escape persecution and have their families intact. But as I said, I write often about ideas that can coexist with realities on the ground.

When I spoke yesterday of how I wanted art that people called “icons of the movement” to come from la comunidad, ButchM sarcastically commented “Psst. His [Ernesto's] name is on it. He personally signed every single one of the s/n edition. How do you not know even know that before your wrote an article about it? Seriously.” And then linked me to cimarrones.org.

You tell me. Do you see Ernesto’s name on the poster? Well, maybe we can’t read it from here. I don’t see it. Though most blogs or sites touting the art immediately think of this as “Shepard Fairey” work, I was happy to note that at least some sites do purposely put Ernesto’s name in the credit when talking about this art.

But if you go to ObeyGiant as well as any other site that has grabbed the ObeyGiant press release, you’ll notice something interesting.

The two blurbs being used to sell the poster of mi gente, of nuestra gente—Ernesto and my people—are Shepard Fairey talking about his European immigrant ancestors, and Zach de la Rocha’s star-power endorsement. Don’t get me wrong, I crank RATM like nobody’s business! And I agree that de la Rocha was an inspiration years ago, too, with his music about social injustice. And still is. And por supuesto I’m glad that Shepard Fairey relates to today’s immigrant story in his way.

But where is Ernesto’s blurb?

When Ernesto talked to me, one of the first things he spoke about was his background, his roots. What situation his family is in now. How he has spent time in border towns and how much this issue means to his heart. It was real rap, and it was moving. But why, if he owns a ’50-50′ share in credit of who made this art, is his story not included in selling the poster? Why, if his presence should negate the charge that this poster is cultural appropriation that furthers Shepard’s visibility and career without fairly repaying or crediting the Brown™—is Ernesto’s story not part of the story of this art’s birth?

Why does Shepard Fairey lead the promo with his story of white immigration while Ernesto’s modern-day ties to this very issue and these very people are omitted?

If there is a clear answer to this that escapes the charges of Whiteness centering itself or cultural appropriation, I can’t imagine what it is.


Crossposted at The Sanctuary/ProMigrant.org


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34 Comments

  1. Aaminah Hernandez says:

    okay, i take back calling ernesto a schmuck, pero, what i said was “if he is the artist…” and frankly, it seems like it is still a shepard fairey piece that fairey allowed ernesto to add a bit to. and thank goodness that ernesto did what he did to contribute, otherwise it probably would have been much worse! i am still greatly concerned with why ernesto is not getting “50/50 credit”, why his name gets thrown around only to bring street cred to the piece, but not to give him as un hombre & as an artist, the credit HE deserves. no, the “credit” he gets is only in so far as it shores up the altruism & “authenticiy” of fairey & the poster. i would like to see that ernesto’s contribution means he will get more work, more opportunity to explore and present his own vision (i sure look forward to seeing what he would do given the freedom to express himself his own way). i really hope that is what this convo can help see happen. but i don’t think it would have happened without the critique having been made. i still don’t personally care for the poster, and i stand by that opinion. hey, again, we don’t all have to like the same things, and that does not require an entire PR campaign coming down on someone for their personal taste. i am down for nezua, & down for ernesto. still not down with shepard fairey, and not gonna feel guilty for it.

  2. nezua says:

    I’d feel a lot better and write another post on it, if ObeyGiant altered their marketing of this poster to prominently include the “50-50″ maker more than the few words in Fairey’s statement about “me and my co-worker Ernesto Yerena.” I’d want to see Ernesto have his own blurb included, his story, his immigrant story, his raza roots. With as many words allowed and encouraged as de la Rocha and Fairey have. And a new PR release that poses his ownership as equal to Fairey’s.

    Otherwise, yeah. It’s using him for authenticity purposes and scooping up the lion’s share of the credit…an age old pattern.

  3. Miranda says:

    I think Fairey’s little blurb got right at what really annoys me about the whole thing…the pronouns! It’s all about “People coming to America for the same reasons our ancestors did.”
    I appreciate that one of the biggest hinges in solidarity movements is making a connection to the cause (duh), so in a way I understand going off about European immigrants, but I run out of slack on that line. This is not a solidarity movement, and, like you said, while it’s good to have more people in la lucha, the possibility that a print of someone to be fought for doesn’t sit right. Good solidarity acts with, not for.

    On a side note, I also think that putting all the stress on immigration from just-anywhere, making that the crux of friendship, is not the strongest stance, either. I don’t feel like it gets at the meat of the issue. It’s not just nativism. It’s really specific. I’ve been trying to articulate that for a long time…I’m in the middle of a research paper, and I actually found a paragraph that got at it from the side. Maybe you’d like it.

    “The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided citizenship for the residents of the conquered land at the time; the treaty made no provision for later migrants. And migration to the former Mexican provinces and farther north continues unabated. The mexicano population grew over time and included people who shared language, religion, customs, physical appearance, and who were often actual blood relatives, but who were divided by the technicality of citizenship. Identification of citizen from alien was a difficult process and one which Anglo Americans were in no hurry to sort out — the alien dimension afforded a convenient justification for discrimination against all.”

    I enjoyed this post. I wish I had something to say re: having to defend cred.

  4. Miranda says:

    That paragraph’s from “Mexicano Resistance in the Southwest” by Robert Rosenbaum…forgot to say.

  5. nezua says:

    Great point about the “we” part of it; the same thought hit me when I read “this is who we are fighting for, not who is doing the fighting” and I was like “hunh.”

    But that’s the Beneficent Hand I spoke of, yeah. What Macon called the “do-gooder” POV.

    Your other points were great too. Thanks so much for adding them.

  6. For some reason, the WordPress giant didn’t want me to log in… so worked around him (her?).

    I’m hung up on that fact that Ernesto was the face of the artist when it comes to signing posters for the brown crowds while also being the one who was in the hole for the money that it took to make the posters, and at the same time being left off the credit side as another “Shepard Fairey” iconic work is produced and celebrated by the larger culture.

    Welcome to the commodification of ideas! I’m going through something slightly analogous (a commercial website took my material, I believe inapropriately — certainly without permission) for their use and I wrote about it, only to get “Oh you should be happy that (fill in the name of the Greek immigrant with an Anglo name) Post is giving you hits,” and that my “quaint little blog” benefits by exploitation by Big Site XX.

    Though down here I sometimes am the reluctant recipient of the “white man’s advantage”, my “quaint little blog” is a Mexican production, which makes me sympathetic (if that’s not too wimpy a word… more like “commiserating with”) your point.

    Perhaps we need to stop thinking of ideas, creative concepts as “property” and think of them as “resources”. Farley and the organization that expropriated my work for their advantage are the wealthy outsiders exploiting us for our resources, and not giving us a fair return for our goods.

  7. sweetleaf says:

    i know this is your house nezua, and thank you for letting me in.

    being a few days gone, i was checking out the home page and went to the post with all the responses. whoa, i’d say you hit a nerve. with all due respect, i guess the best defense is an offense might apply? i dunno. the individuals who favor the poster didn’t speak to the purpose of it much, mainly just about it, is my impression. is it really an image that will work for immigration reform? i personally think not, and i agree it will lend itself more to the spread of cognitive trauma/ whiteness which kai speaks of… http://www.kaichang.net/2009/04/the-whiteness-problem-1.html#comments

    nez, i think you hit the nail on the head in regards to your review. i know you have ALL the qualifications to critique this art work fairly, intelligently, and appropriately.

    my 2 cents, is that the poster of topic is just too cute. it would make a good poster for a farmers market, (except for – maybe or not – the stop the raids, which mr fairey should of stuck with that for a theme). the colours i liked too. in fact i was wearing them today, my khaki pants and a blue and off white stripped shirt and i blended right in where ever i went, not to be noticed. the poster just doesn’t seem to serve the purpose of the importance of the movement for immigration reform. for some reason the “we are human” pisses me off too. by declaring it, it seems to trivialize this fact, or something, or like you suggest, that there is other options to this? i don’t know, it pissed me off. i also liked how he captured a sweet softness in the young ones eyes…but hardly the eyes of a child whose family is experiencing the violence and results of an ice raid.

    this poster does not serve the purpose it needs to. it actually has the effect of covering the message for reform up…a good example of whiteness at work – as it is for the most part, unintentional/unconscious (the insidiousness of white disease). is is. it has the feeling of pretending something is being said.

    i’ll suggest, so the work doesn’t go to waste, that the farmers market in la or wherever adopt it for their use.

    peace, one love, and pass it on.

  8. Kai says:

    Excellent follow-up analysis, Nez, touching upon many important meaty threads of convo. Appropriation, tokenism, art/business, and oh yeah whiteness and its deceptions. I actually hadn’t previously caught on to the fact that the design company is actually frakkin called “Obey”, that is hilariously indicative of where they’re coming from; hipster irony, no doubt, of that most annoying hypocritical sort, pretending to satirize something retrogressive while actually engaging in it.

    Ernesto sounds like a good kid but this fact has no impact on my critique of the piece. And if it’s true that he’s the one who ended up shouldering the financial risk, well, that’s disgusting. I know about exploited interns but for a “protege” to actually end up in the hole? Wow. Cleverly transferring risk downward while funneling money and credit upward is what investment banks and subprime mortgage hucksters do; is that also how “the movement” is envisioned by the indignant defenders of the benevolent Shepard Fairey?

    Authentic analysis of tokenizing dynamics which swirl around an individual person of color needs to stop being seen by POC as a such an affront; it’s critical for us to name these games, highlight their contours, expose their subterfuge. As I see it, part of the game is that POC in tokenized positions have been told by white folks, in large and small ways, that they have ascended to the level of Special POC, smiled upon by whiteness and by capitalism. Then they hear the word “token” and they retort “how dare you not acknowledge my personal awesomeness which is how I ended up where I am!” In my view, all of us who find any “success” in white capitalist society need to get over ourselves a bit. I mean, life isn’t fair, there are many many many awesome people out there whom the world will never acknowledge, whose struggles and victories and humanity are forgotten; and while I think it’s good for folks who have “made it” to be proud of their achievements, there’s a fine line between healthy pride and extra-special white-capitalism-bestowed vanity which shuts down any talk from one’s own community which threatens the white capitalist narrative of personal awesomeness.

    Regarding the content of the work itself, I’ll say right off the bat that it is generally very well-done, very slick, very appealing. These things were never in dispute, even regarding the meek We Are Human Not Scary Militants girl. But it is steeped in white hipsterism and cultural appropration, that’s pretty much the whole point of this art. Slick or not, that’s what’s fundamentally going on here. Anybody who can’t see that, is probably either a newbie to this game, or white. Fairey does not emerge from the same cultural millieu as the iconography in which he traffics, any more than Elvis was the most authentic voice of the blues in his day.

    Finally, I need to return to one small yet significant thing: the font which Fairey (presumably) selected for the “We Are Human” slogan. It’s an odd choice, and as we discussed a bit in person, Nez, it sends mixed signals. I think it’s intended to have an indigenous, almost hieroglyphic vibe; which kinda makes sense, but then, you think about that slogan, and the whole point of it seems to be “We Are Not Some Exotic Brown Other”, yet it’s being said using exotic brown lettering, almost alien-like, almost like speaking with a foreign accent. So the effect is a dual motion: explicitly asserting the humanity of (Latino) immigrants, while implicitly visually exoticizing and othering them.

    And that’s my morning ramble! ;-)

    Peace.

  9. nezua says:

    I agree on the analysis of the font, Kai. As when we spoke about it I mentioned that my use of this font years ago (and okay, fine I won’t assume anyone glommed the idea from me, Lord knows what a great track record ObeyGiant has for originality after all, but find me one other instance of chicano art with that font, please someone? anyone?) I used it in an ironic sense, to mirror JFH’s title that there were “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border.” However, used in a straightforward manner, it provides this conflict you speak of. Which is all part of my recoiling at ObeyGiant dressing up crowds of the Brown™ with signs that make them appear so…alien.

    On this:

    Authentic analysis of tokenizing dynamics which swirl around an individual person of color needs to stop being seen by POC as a such an affront; it’s critical for us to name these games, highlight their contours, expose their subterfuge. As I see it, part of the game is that POC in tokenized positions have been told by white folks, in large and small ways, that they have ascended to the level of Special POC, smiled upon by whiteness and by capitalism. Then they hear the word “token” and they retort “how dare you not acknowledge my personal awesomeness which is how I ended up where I am!” In my view, all of us who find any “success” in white capitalist society need to get over ourselves a bit. I mean, life isn’t fair, there are many many many awesome people out there whom the world will never acknowledge, whose struggles and victories and humanity are forgotten; and while I think it’s good for folks who have “made it” to be proud of their achievements, there’s a fine line between healthy pride and extra-special white-capitalism-bestowed vanity which shuts down any talk from one’s own community which threatens the white capitalist narrative of personal awesomeness.

    I would agree, and would add that “authentic analysis” needs to include the sensitivity I try to employ here for the very reasons I stated. While I agree with the need to get over ego, those of us on the critiquing side need to remember that we are not just attacking memes or capitalist dynamics. We are, as we do that, attacking people and their motives. I would perhaps-not-so-humbly suggest that moving us toward authentic analysis is just what I’m trying to do here. Because I feel the shape of the conversation so far is not as effective as it could be.

    It is not effective when any person, white, brown, black or inbetween shades, feels proud of themselves for achieving and then is alienated by the people they felt were their friends and without so much of a friendly connection or discussion. This will only drive them further into the reach of the only area they have support from, this flimsy tokenizing structure——if we are to agree that is where they are. In my personal experience, it felt like an attack. And I didn’t even understand why. I do not feel this is any kind of analysis, authentic or otherwise. I did not recoil at hearing “token” due to any desire to uphold a White Capitalist notion of anything. I recoiled because that’s not how friends act in my world. I would have loved an authentic analysis, instead of the cold shoulder. As you and I discussed the other day, activists who challenge the Western modes of power and hierarchy sometimes mistake the fight as one that must preclude any notions of individual merit or unique worth, and that’s not reality. So this needs to be finessed in these arguments and analysis.

    Which is what I’m trying to do with Ernesto. I don’t say the kind things about him I do to back away from the analysis I make; I say them because they are true and just as worthy of recognition as the fact that someone in his position is, arguably, being taken advantage of and tokenized.

    Cleverly transferring risk downward while funneling money and credit upward is what investment banks and subprime mortgage hucksters do; is that also how “the movement” is envisioned by the indignant defenders of the benevolent Shepard Fairey?

    This is a clear breakdown of the dynamic and I find it useful for sure. And yeah, isn’t that a trip…the contradictions both in appropriating style as well as the very name and idea espoused by the OBEY GIANT brand, which supposedly mocks the very dynamic it insists upon using.

  10. nezua says:

    Thanks, sweetleaf. Good call on that link because the phrase I use lately “the Whiteness Problem” is one I got from kai, and I did link it the first time I used it. Glad you dropped the link again!

    I appreciate your reactions and insights as always, amiga.

  11. Laura Molina says:

    A great discussion about this. Others have already elaborated, but I do think there is exploitation of Ernesto Yerena and cultural appropration on Shepard Fairey’s part.

  12. Kai says:

    I would have loved an authentic analysis, instead of the cold shoulder.

    In other words, there was no authentic analysis, which means my whole paragraph doesn’t apply to you, right? Don’t you think? I mean, “authentic” is the first word of the paragraph so it’s really important! And I think you’re doing a good job here of advancing authentic analysis on the subject of Ernesto (though of course he may end up seeing this as an attack; but give him a few years, at 22 he’s a baby). As for how all this fits your YearlyKos experience, well, you’re the only one who really knows that story, so I really can’t comment on it, it never entered my mind as I wrote what I wrote; I don’t know who attacked you or what they said, but no, a cold shoulder is not an authentic analysis. As I recall, I encouraged you to go on that wacky adventure for better or worse; and clearly, the result was not that you got pushed more deeply into flimsy tokenizing structures; so I think it’s all good!

    OBEY GIANT!! Hehehe it’s like a bad punchline all by itself. ;-)

  13. nezua says:

    Well, I think there is enough behind the links I dropped on my Ykos story to flesh out what I mean. I hope so. When I read it and re read my comment it feels like it. I’d say that just because I didnt get pushed deeper, or rather didn’t allow myself to do that, of course doesn’t negate my point about the potential.

    I think your comment was great. But I wanted to add to it is all. Didn’t mean to sound on the defense or anything; I know you were not talking about my situation. But I keep it in my head when I write on this as of course I draw on my own experience for these lessons.

    And yes, you were one of the amigos I mentioned who stuck close despite the voices that simply distanced themselves and flaked.

  14. nezua says:

    Hola Molina! Good to see ya. Thanks for chiming in.

  15. Auguste says:

    Shepard Fairey strikes me as a guy who’s really, really good at faking it when he can’t make it – at playing the word games behind non-racism, non-co-option without necessarily feeling it to his bones*, and there was one article on his site that really struck that chord with me.

    Here he writes to support his choice of clothing supplier, and he makes a really convincing case! Really he does. He seems to understand the concerns and the layers involved and everything; it’s about as decent a defense as you might expect anyone to write…

    …until he throws in, with not even a paragraph break, the following “I feel it is irresponsible to generalize about all factories in China or India. Look at the breadth of working conditions in the U.S., is it not logical that there is a range of conditions in other countries as well?” and brings it all crashing down. He’s written a thoughtful response to an honest question, and then, out of the blue, he feels it’s irresponsible to do all this generalizing.

    There’s no reason for that – I understand the need to be upfront about disagreement with one’s interlocuter, rather than hide it, but this isn’t responsive to the question; it’s the tell, the give, the indicator that what came before it is highly glossed at-least-semi-bullshit.

    It was a small moment, but one that spoke volumes to me. After all, it takes one to know one.

    —–

    * Most days? So am I. But I’m not Shepard Fairey, either.

  16. nezua says:

    Auguste:

    Y punto. Because someone who really felt “in the bones” as you say, the previous stuff would probably want to, instead of using varied working conditions in the US to justify poor working conditions in other countries, work it the other way around. That is, use the situation to highlight poor working conditions here, and yanno…do something about it. The signs would probably say WE ARE MEATPACKERS. Something like that.

  17. Meep says:

    first of all this post is awesome.

    second…

    Because often you will see that art and those statements displayed by people on MySpace, gente trying to stand proud instead of being shat upon through the White Lens.

    I had this conversation with my friend about the realization that MySpace is not “ugly” – it’s that the medium of HTML/CSS and the tools to modify these things are actually insufficient. MySpace is actually a failure to properly let artistic individuals express themselves in a logical, thoughtful manner however they see fit – instead, they are constrained to a strange template system and bound by the internet speed of their onlookers.

  18. Chris Clarke says:

    This, my friend, is journalism at its finest. Kudos.

    Fairey is a thief, pure and simple. His entire career is based on theft. The fact that it’s a kind of theft that the hipster art community has formally sanctioned doesn’t change that.

  19. nezua says:

    Good point Meep. It is insufficient in that way. Ugh, those pages. Crammed up and long loading, and you have to hand code it all! Nice techie brain you have there. :)

    Oh and thank you.

  20. nezua says:

    Chris, thanks!

    Your Pure and Simple framework cracked me up.

  21. Donna says:

    I’m not sure if you saw the link in the Animal New York story that you linked to, it’s shocking exactly how much of Fairey’s art is stolen from other artists. Not borrowing elements or styles, not inspired by, but stolen. The only difference in many of them is that he has decontextualized them by adding his own words or slogan, and added his trademark logo.

    I do think that Ernesto Yerena is being tokenized by Shepard Fairey, that doesn’t mean I don’t think that Yerena has talent and he’s just there to make Obey Giant look diverse or something. It isn’t so black and white as that. After reading the article I linked above I’m of the mind that instead Fairey recognized Yerena as very talented and wanted to be able to take advantage of him and take the credit for his work. This is Fairey’s pattern, he finds talent, appropriates it for his own purposes, and takes credit for it. I think that for Fairey, being seen as diversifying and progressive is the icing on the cake.

    One of the problems with putting it this way is that it could be interpreted that I think that Yerena is a fool being played, but again, not so black and white. I think POC understand that there will be concessions and compromises that we have to make in order to survive in a white supremacist world. So whether he is a fool being played or not is dependent on what his own goals are and if those goals are being realized. If Yerena expected to ride Fairey’s coattails, raise his own profile, have projects he cares about funded, then he is being played, since he is the one on the hook to pay for the project and he is getting very little credit for doing at least half the work. But if the issues and the projects are Yerena’s goals, then he’s successful since the marches are happening with those posters being displayed, the project is in the media, and the issues are being highlighted.

  22. A1 says:

    disclaimer: I speak for myself. Not for Shepard Fairey, Ernesto Yerena, the Obey fans, anyone of the organizations mentioned. Just myself).

    Nezua,

    I told myself I would let your rants go, that it was detrimental to the overall cause to have an internet back and forth with you, so I’m really trying to keep it civil with you and your followers of your blog.
    I commend you for reconsidering your original, uninformed reaction the to the project(that involved the print), even if it feels a bit disingenuous.

    What you and your readers are still failing to understand, even though someone mentioned it in the other post, is that the defensive reaction you got from a few was not just being defensive of Shepard Fairey. Haters attacking Shepard Fairey, especially since his recent success with the Obama campaign, is nothing new, original, or controversial. So please let that idea go.

    The thing you guys still fail to understand, despite a brief skimming of the project done after your post, is that this project wasn’t initiated by Shepard Fairey. Ernesto was NOT just used as a brown face for the project. A terrible assumption, that I feel is being pushed to vindicate your guys’ stance. I too have met and spoken with Ernesto Yerena. I am a fan of his personal artwork. I participated in several marches in California and Arizona where the posters appeared. I was blessed to be able to follow the project in question.

    Like someone said on here, Ernesto is a young cat. He’s a young dude who has hustled his way into the art industry. He found himself working for a very influential artist by the name of Shepard Fairey. As he developed a network among artists, important people in the movement, and people with a voice in this country, the kid realized he was in a perfect position to influence certain projects for the causes he cared about. One of those causes being immigrant rights.

    The project We Are Human was developed by Ernesto, Zack De La Rocha, and members of NDLON(which you have a link of on your page), all of whom approached Shepard Fairey with this project. Fairey obliged in a very big way. Ernesto used the great resources available to him to do something for the community, for the movement. And Ernesto is a humble dude. While others may seek to use the movement to promote themselves(like you accused Fairey of doing), Ernesto’s main concern was the movement itself. He basically used the buzz Shepard has garnered, and his influence on Shepard, to promote an issue he deeply cares about. And he did a great job. Not bad for a 22 year old.

    As far as having Ernesto as the “brown face” signing posters, I have some insight to that as well. I was at Tonatierra Community Development Center (http://www.tonatierra.org/) where there was a poster signing. It’s the only one I’m aware of, and I assume that’s what you meant. Again, not Shepard’s will.
    The night before the march in Phoenix against Joe Arpaio, Tonatierra held an event at their community center. It featured Zack De La Rocha who helped lead the march and helped spearhead the We are Human project. He was present signing the prints for fans(using his recognition for something good: to gain support for the march). He insisted that Ernesto Yerena join him as the artist, and be next to him signing with him.

    So you see, Ernesto didn’t get pushed to the back. His self-promotion wasn’t his concern. He didn’t want to create a buzz for his name. He wants what’s best for the movement. As we all should.

    I just don’t see how Ernesto using his position working with an influential “white”(if you must) artist to push important issues he cares about is that different than yourself trying to get on MTV, a much more insidious corporate “white”(if you must) appropriator of culture, that I’m sure would have given you much less free reign on expression than Ernesto got from Obey.

    Anyway, feel free to not like the poster itself, or to be against Shepard Fairey, White people, whatever. It’s your right. Even without the credentials you dropped, of course you have the right to criticize art…and to come up with something better. But I’m asking you and the others to please not question the sincerity of this project, and of the people involved. It does a great injustice to the people like Ernesto, and the people from NDLON and Tonatierra who poured a lot of heart and soul into getting the people together.

    The reason my first post may have sounded irritated, was that I was actually present at these events. It was an exhilarating experience to see so much unity, and such a peaceful, yet determined crowd. Yours and your readers responses were such a contrast to that of the people who were physically there, that it really hit a nerve. I apologize for any rudeness.

    Lastly, I think it was respectful of Ernesto to reach out to you for a one on one. I think it’s ironic that you don’t seem to take his attempt at reasoning very seriously. You almost push him aside for your discussion of Fairey and whiteness. It’s like you don’t believe Ernesto. I mean, you even hint at recording the discussion? Did you ask for permission for that? Who does that in a discussion between men? That you would record a personal conversation, and put details of into your blog says a lot about your intention during your conversation with Ernesto. Hopefully that too, you reconsider.

    Anyway, much peace, and hoping for a civil discussion.

  23. nezua says:

    Now you want to be civil. And yet you insist on misrepresenting my message, as well as misquoting my words, to push your case. I’m not going to bother redirecting you to the very thoughtful passages I wrote on Ernesto (pushed him aside indeed), on Whiteness (which you love to pose as “white people” which I explicitly made a point to deconstruct), and cast dispersion on me because I record (legally) phone calls so I may listen back and take notes and be accurate…as journalists DO. Finally, to call me disingenuous when it is you lazily labeling people “haters” (did you get this off a MySpace page?) because they make the well-documented case for Fairey’s record of cultural appropration…wow.

    You are not interested in honest talk, or are just mentally impaired. In the former case it would be unfair to myself to continue this talk. In the latter, it would be unfair to you.

    Thanks for adding your voice, Peace.

  24. nezua says:

    Donna, you make good points. Always good to hear an honest voice drawing out the possibilities of various angles, rather than sounding like a broken propaganda robot….

  25. Donna says:

    It’s strange how A1 noted that you took a position with MTV, while not understanding that the postition was as a journalist. And most people do know that journalists interview people and will record those interviews. I have to laugh at how he is accusing you of being uninformed when he is uninformed!

    I do think he has confirmed that Yerena is involved with Fairey for the sake of the movement, issues, and projects. I wish him the best of luck.

  26. Chris Clarke says:

    What you and your readers are still failing to understand,

    Hey Al? Bite me. Our advancing arguments you can’t bring yourself to counter intelligently does not constitute our “failing to understand” anything.

    Some of us were progressive before it became a hipster fashion statement. Some of us are continuing to be progressive even where it may conflict with hipster fashion.

    The Revolution Will Not Be Posterized, little man. Don’t try to condescend to people: you’re not very good at it.

  27. nezua says:

    if A1 homesauce had any track record at all here of earnest communication, i’d entertain the arguments. anyway, those with actual mental integrity can see that i did my best to be fair to ernesto. i even double checked with him on touchy points as to whether or not i could mention it. every quote is accurate, and i even included his followup statements made to underline ernesto’s take on things.

    fuck homesauce! plz. dood changes his argument and approach each comment. so take any words within them with a grain of salt. i just dont get the persistance, coupled with the derision that tries to act like its “civil.” maybe homesauce feels NDLON’s contribution and energy is being stained by association with fairey and his checkered past of cultural appropriation, but i disagree. i don’t feel bad at all about ernesto or NDLON, of course! more power to both of them and to de la rocha! and to the movement. this fool acts like because of Nezua’s post, the immigration reform movement will falter and fail! what a trip.

  28. la kumquat says:

    This has been such an interesting discussion to follow on both posts– it reminds me of Coco Fusco and bell hooks’s discussions of the power dynamics involved in “borrowing/appropriation” and representation. Fusco writes that “Crucial to understanding and determining the value and meaning of cultural appropriation is the nature of the genre worked in and the power relations it sustains among artists, subjects, and audience” (English is Broken Here). It seems fairly clear that a)the “cultural production” of Yerena is being “regulated and capitalized on” by Fairey and b) whether it was Yerena or Fairey who chose the flowers, half-raised fist and/or “We are Human” was doing this for a non-sympathetic audience. It’s a very… appeasing message. A “don’t worry, we really AREN’T threatening/powerful, and like a helpless child, we need your help” message.

    Further, as has already been pointed out by Nezua & los demas, it’s ironic how those who are trying to defend the project use such arrogant language– which just reflects poorly on Fairey and the project.

    sorry for the long post– this whole thing has triggered reflection on this and topics I study in literature and it helps (me) to write it out!

  29. nezua says:

    i appreciate the thoughts, la kumquat. that adds a lot. don’t mind long comments like this kind. others, well…i’ve moderated the spammy and sneery followups by the fairey supporters, which went so far as to include veiled threats. way to contribute to a movement, eh?

    peace.

  30. sweetleaf says:

    be the change you want to see mr a1 – walk your talk. if your interest is in truly unifying for the imperative purpose to actualize immigration reform… you do not have to defend another’s intentions but only look at your own. get off attack/defence mode; be quite, listen and learn from those that live, breath, study, actively engage daily with passion of purpose to see an equality of rights, respectful, and just treatment for all people, and then do what you can to assist that effort.

    nezua knows what he is talking about period. it would help you to recognize that.

    i might even suggest that you respectfully take what is being raised here to expand and enlighten those that you feel need your defense. you are not doing them a service here by not working on your own reactions first, and limiting yourself with what you think you already know (your own understanding).
    i don’t think your intention here mr a1 is hostile, your motives are probably well intended. however, my impression is “thou doth protest too much” and you risk losing the opportunity to better understand the complexities of this issue, to help raise the consciousness for the better way needed for change.

    peace, one love, pass it on.

  31. nezua says:

    nope, A1 is certainly not interested in anything “unifying.” Judging by public comments as well as ones I moderated and deleted, A1 is only interested in making sure I write things according to his point of view, insulting me, discrediting me when he can’t argue my points, and generally being a prickish dimwit. So. Whatchagonnado.

  32. ansel says:

    I’m kinda late to this thread, but I think this is a great analysis. Your take on the poster’s art makes sense to me.

    The only critical thing I was going to say is that I didn’t see much evidence that Fairey was seeking to personally profit financially or socially off these posters. I had seen an interview with him about the AP photo controversy a while ago and he seemed genuine and all about art from the bottom-up.

    Then I checked the Obeygiant homepage just to have a look. Fairey says in a recent update he’s “very flattered that the agency Crispin Porter & Bugosky included my HOPE graphic in their design.” Then I read his Wikipedia bio. He got his start producing ads for Pepsi and other big corporations.

    Wtf? Why should this guy be welcome in any grassroots/radical movement? There’s abundant evidence that, besides cloaking himself in subversive language, he’s no different from any other white male capitalist. Seeing him thank CP&J, one of the biggies ad agencies in the world, struck a nerve – CP&J produced a series of obnoxious, masculinist ads for Burger King while the Coalition of Immokalee Workers were trying to pressure the chain into adopting their penny-per-pound/human rights framework for tomato pickers. I would go to CIW protests and then see those ads on TV. Clearly Fairey hasn’t outgrown his roots in the corporate propaganda business. The more I look at his “art,” the more I see that. Not to mention the questions of plagiarism.

    So thanks – this has been a teaching moment for me, that guys like this don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt…

  33. David Eubank says:

    Interesting discussion, Fairey/Appropriation. What’s this whiteness stuff? After reading further it seems to me a collaboration exists between artists. I wonder if it is a branding issue, tagging to a familiar and known brand. Old advertising tactic that in this case because of who Fairey is has raised the question of motive. If you will stay with me I will try to make my point. The target audience is the Corporate Indoctrinated Public. The images are designed with a corporate vocabulary that is understood by the audience. Does that make sense. With respect to the immigration issue you don’t have to sell to the choir. The broader audience the audience targeted and the audience needed is comfortable with the vocabulary. Have you ever watched the Glenn Beck show? Beck has appropriated Fairey’s image style. In fact his whole website and T.V. show set is visually dominated with appropriated images in the Fairey style depicting the Founding Fathers, the Flag. In fact Beck sells posters and tee-shirts via his website of these appropriated images styles that use this familiar vocabulary, (the hope poster and others) which are appropriated from cross cultural historical propaganda imagery. Imagery that has a history of successful communication. So if the intent is to reach that indoctrinated audience you have to use familiar tactics, vocabulary and images.

    Color is also a powerful element because color is a dominate part of the vocabulary. All the good colors like whiteness, brownness, greenness and so on have been used up and do not describe the target audience. The target I think is Cooperate-ness and I think we need a new color that says corporation when it is seen or heard. After all if I didn’t miss the point we need to bring people together, not further divide, right?

    Fairey it is often said steals, appropriates. Perhaps in the context of visual vocabulary maybe not. Why are we writing in English? If you want to reach that broader audience you have to use their tactics and vocabulary or the language is foreign to them, they won’t get it. I am just saying. Nice blog.

    • nezua says:

      Interesting discussion, Fairey/Appropriation. What’s this whiteness stuff?

      Whiteness is shorthand for the characteristics commonly associated with those who have historically lorded power over the races and ethnicities long ago deemed non-white by themselves. These characterists include but are not limited to blind spots to that very dynamic, theft, appropriation, colonization, eradication of culture, violence, and so on. That’s the quick breakdown. Yes, ware essentialism; yes, ware overgeneralizing, etc.

      After reading further it seems to me a collaboration exists between artists.

      I don’t see this as mutually exclusive with the points I made, necessarily.

      I wonder if it is a branding issue, tagging to a familiar and known brand. Old advertising tactic that in this case because of who Fairey is has raised the question of motive.

      If you read my original post on this matter as well as the follow-up, you’ll see that I was (amazingly enough) ignorant of Fairey’s rep as an appropriator/thief! So. His rep may have influenced one or more commenter’s comments. Perhaps. It’s possible. But again, not my original post on the topic. Regardless, I think rather than assume his critics are suffering some sort of mass hallucination, it’s simpler and safer to describe it as many people who simply feel Fairey repurposes shit in a disrespectful way.

      As far as your point on hitching a ride with a larger name for a good cause, sure. Many things go on in any action or happenstance. Never simply one dynamic! The idea is to look at them all, and think about what good is done, and what harm is done. Right? Many things happening at once. Nothing wrong with talking about them all—especially the more insidious, harder to ferret out aspects. Those definitely need someone talking about them somewhere. This is how we improve our consciousness collectively, I imagine. Or one of the ways.

      If you will stay with me I will try to make my point.

      I’m right here.

      The target audience is the Corporate Indoctrinated Public. The images are designed with a corporate vocabulary that is understood by the audience. Does that make sense.

      Sure! And I even imagine it sounds like something I’d imagine Fairey would offer, himself. It makes sense. Again, tho: not mutually exclusive to my points.

      With respect to the immigration issue you don’t have to sell to the choir. The broader audience the audience targeted and the audience needed is comfortable with the vocabulary.

      You assert that Fairey is not original enough to create art powerful enough to move people unless it echoes icons they’ve seen all their life. That makes sense. I guess I’d agree. Though I suppose I was giving him more credit than that.

      Have you ever watched the Glenn Beck show? Beck has appropriated Fairey’s image style. In fact his whole website and T.V. show set is visually dominated with appropriated images in the Fairey style depicting the Founding Fathers, the Flag. In fact Beck sells posters and tee-shirts via his website of these appropriated images styles that use this familiar vocabulary, (the hope poster and others) which are appropriated from cross cultural historical propaganda imagery. Imagery that has a history of successful communication. So if the intent is to reach that indoctrinated audience you have to use familiar tactics, vocabulary and images.

      Well. Beck uses flags. And icons of famous people. In frame. Does he really create art that pretends to be new by putting his own take on older art? If so, I wasn’t aware of it. And no, I don’t watch his show. Though I’ve seen a few seconds here and there online in videos.

      But as far as I was aware, Beck is not grabbing other people’s art and reshaping it as his. Unless—again—I missed the fact that Beck is an artist. He’s a TV actor, a propagandist and a performer. But he doesn’t paint. God. I shudder to think of what he’d produce. Did you see “The Sweater?” Be grateful.

      UPDATE: Okay, I happened across a pic of G. Washington that looks exactly like Fairey’s work. So now I can see in my mind what you were talking about…but I’m not sure what the point is. Yes, I get the point that Beck is referencing it because Fairey’s style is in the collective image pool/mind…but again, Beck is lazy and a propagandist. So he’s hardly the one to point at to justify the actions of someone accused of being less than ethical…

      Color is also a powerful element because color is a dominate [sic] part of the vocabulary. All the good colors like whiteness, brownness, greenness and so on have been used up and do not describe the target audience.

      Good colors? Used up? I’m sorry, I don’t follow you. Nor do I think we can know what Fairey’s target was. Though I don’t mind your ruminating on it at all.

      The target I think is Cooperate-ness and I think we need a new color that says corporation when it is seen or heard. After all if I didn’t miss the point we need to bring people together, not further divide, right?

      Yes, you miss the point. I am critiquing Whiteness. Not your new color. But I appreciate the lingual tricks you are doing. That’s fun. I love language. Unless you meant to write “corporateness.” And if that is the case, I’d say that I do think the target would logically be those voters in the US who are either apathetic to immigrants, unaware, or hostile. One or more crowds therein. I don’t think that “We Are Human” really works for either group. And hey, some other people do. It’s cool. I accept that. We all see different things when we look at a thing.

      Fairey it is often said steals, appropriates. Perhaps in the context of visual vocabulary maybe not.

      No, I get ya. Fairey has a pastiche, mashup, collage style. It’s its own thing. Not denying that. And it’s often really hot to look at. Fun. And it does resonate with all those items taken from the collective psychological image pool. But siphoning money from a person by leveraging their power or work or resources is also it’s “own thing.” And what he does, to my mind, is what is done when people make new outfits that they feel are cool, by mixing native american ritual dress with, say, rave gear. Now they have something hot and new. True. Yet, there I will be, rolling up on the scene, perhaps to drop a note about how this potentially harms a community, or at least aids in the eradication of meaning and culture by using powerful talismans as your own objects with no prior magic or energy or use to them.

      Why are we writing in English?

      Sadly, I am mostly monolingual. If I wrote in any other language…say, Spanish? I’d not be able to express most of what I do. I’d speak with the alacrity and poetry of a three year old. Less, maybe. :) So, yeah. I’ll need to improve that. But until then, I write in the language I know.

      If you want to reach that broader audience you have to use their tactics and vocabulary or the language is foreign to them, they won’t get it. I am just saying. Nice blog.

      Thank you! Nice comment.

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