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Posts tagged ‘consumption’

Graffiti: Opportunities For Young Artists To Become Successful

In the last few years, there has been lots of news about graffiti artists showing in galleries and museums because currently there is a new visibility, respect, and cool factor to the art form. For example, a recent article from the Huffington Post tells all about a project in the Bronx of New York City in which “a block-long limestone mansion originally built as a welfare hotel for the retiring rich invites streetwise graffiti artists and others to gild its decayed rooms”. In 1915 a NY millionaire named Andrew Freedman died and left his money to build a mansion for the former wealthy to live in when they become poor so they could still have a wealthy lifestyle. The space is about twice the size of the white house, and since becoming a landmark in ’84 has been decaying and falling apart, which is ironic because the once lavish home of the disadvantaged wealthy has become the crumbling venue of street artists to display their work.

sneak peek at a room from the "This Side of Paradise" show

“At the same time in the late 70s and early 80s when this home’s original purpose was failing you had the rise of Bronx graffiti,” says Keith Schweitzer, the curator of the show.

"Wildstyle" Graffiti, 1983

Part of the idea behind this show is to “revitalize the community” and the show is called This Side of Paradise. “With a few heavyweight street art and graffiti names bringing these rooms to life, it’s interesting to see their role as one of contributing in a positive way here where the emergence of a global ‘Wildstyle’ graffiti first blossomed while entire neighborhoods burned.”

The project makes a funny kind of reversal of classes and time: “the role of the artist rising from the ashes of the burned-out neighborhoods then and an art show in the decay of this home now”.

Although this article makes no mention of minorities or youth, it does talk about class lines and how graffiti art, an art of the lower classes, can transcend that line. I would like to reference another article from PBS News which reviews a new book about the history of American graffiti. This article says that contemporary American graffiti really had its start in the early 70’s when kids started tagging city walls. It has always been a movement grounded in youth culture, especially teenage. “Young people were the key players in shaping the contemporary graffiti movement” says Neelon, one of the authors of the book. He goes on to say that graffiti is “by definition a defiant and public exhibition” and “there’s an earned respect and craft to graffiti work done outside in the streets”. This can be a problem for moving this kind of work from the outside to a gallery because often it will not translate well into a different setting. However, Neelon says that “artists who master the craft of painting on the street can create perhaps even greater work in studio settings, where they have more time, resources and don’t have to worry about the weather or the police. What they might lose is the volume of people who see their work on a regular basis”. Because of the current popularity of street art, many museums and organizations are trying to develop niches for bringing the art into a new space. I think the abandoned house graffiti project is a really great idea of a way to bring graffiti art into the high art world because it remains authentic, does not get lost in translation, allows the artists to have time and resources, allows them to spread to other mediums, and is run by a museum so it attracts a high art crowd but is in an abandoned building so also attracts the public.

A piece by Basquiat, titled "Baptism", 1982

Robin Kelley mentions that young graffiti artists in the 70s were also sometimes able to sell their work to local merchants and community organizations, “and a handful enjoyed fleeting success in the Soho art scene” (418). He goes on to talk about graffiti organizations serving to expose young artists to galleries and dealers, but “those who tried to branch out beyond graffiti were often discouraged, and gallery and museum directors who invited them to show their work tended to treat them in an incredibly disrespectful manner” (418). I would argue with this in the present because galleries today are really trying to be respectful of street art, one example being the project in the first article which shows graffiti artists branching out to other mediums and exhibiting their work through an organization while keeping it in a public space. Kelley also says that “ ‘high art’ critics viewed graffiti as the embodiment of an aggressive masculine street culture” and I think that was perhaps half true in the 70’s with artists such as Basquiat (who was really only marginally graffiti artist) but is not true today… in my opinion current graffiti art (at least what has become popular to the public) has a softer quality than what Kelley refers to, it is more design-based than aggressive (419). Kelley goes on to say “the overnight success of these major artists, especially Basquiat, gave hope to some writers that the visual arts might ofer a lucrative alternative to low-wage labor and an opportunity to live off their own creativity” (419). He later says however that graffiti loses its appeal and value when removed from its site of origin and rarely generates much money for the creator, and loses its authenticity when it is not created illegally, and he says that basketball is different because it doesn’t lose authenticity when players go pro (420). I think graffiti artists today are trying to keep that authenticity by remaining anonymous, or doing paid work out in public areas rather than in galleries. When they do show in galleries, I think they can bring the voice of their experiences to a different group of people. Also I would say that currently there is more of a chance to get money and fame from street art than there is to become a pro basketball player.

Graffiti as an art form has an amazing ability to give a voice to the anonymous/unheard, and at the same time transcend the lines of race and class and has the power to send its creators from the poor neighborhoods of the inner city to the success of the museum/gallery/downtown scene. The Robin Kelley article was written in 1997, talks about the brief popularity of graffiti art in the 70’s, but with the new popularity and visibility of street art today, I believe it has more of a power to catapult artists to the world of success and fame.



Mega Jawbreaker

Weighing in at one pound and 2.25 inches, the Mega Jawbreaker is a candy ball made purely of sugar, is impossible to bite, and lasts for days. The game of it  not fitting in a small mouth but has to be sucked to dissolve is what makes it loved by children. The Jawbreaker is a generic candy that can be found in candy stores today and it comes in varying sizes, shapes, and flavors. Ferrara Pan is one of the first companies to mass produce the candy in the 20th century, naming it the Jawbuster. Today they are sold by the pound and average about four dollars per jawbreaker.


Growing up, I was not allowed to buy this candy, but I would always find a way to get it when I was away from my parents. My friends and I loved to compare the different colored layers that we got. It was also a fun game to see who could eat their Mega Jawbreaker the fastest, which was usually a few days. Thinking back on it, the idea of sucking on the same piece of candy for days grosses me out.

According to Allison James, the Jawbreaker would definitely be labeled “Ket.” She uses this term to refer to sweets, especially cheaper ones that are usually only consumed by children. Some of the descriptions she gives ket are of having unnatural colors, blue, purple, green, yellow, being purely sugar with no real flavor other than sweet, and being sticky or messy. The Jawbreaker has all of those features. Since it lasts for days, children suck on it, put it away, and suck on it more leaving room for many germs to grow over the days. Its layers are all different colors of the rainbow and its only flavor is sweet. It is not likely that you will see an adult go into a candy store to buy a Mega Jawbreaker for themselves. From my experiences, I can definitely relate to James’s idea of Ket and agree that as an adult I couldn’t imagine trying to consume this icky candy.


Are “Snacker” and “Lead Bottom” the real villains in Disney’s “Habit Heroes” exhibit?

Snacker, Lead Bottom, and Glutton of Disney's recently closed "Habit Heroes" exhibit

Last week yahoo posted an article in its news section addressing the recent closing of Disney’s “controversial fat fighting exhibit” entitled “Habit Heroes.” The exhibit was originally produced to raise awareness and “fight” childhood obesity. The exhibit included cleverly named super heroes “Will Power” and “Callie Stenics” to fight the not-so-cleverly named evil villains “Snacker,” “Lead Bottom” and “Glutton.” The yahoo article says that the criticism for this exhibits roots from its “potential to shame overweight children and misrepresent the causes of the global obesity crisis.”  The story uses the words of respected bariatric surgeon, Yoni Freedhoff, to argue that there is indeed a problem within the health realm of children but offensive games that bluntly make fun of and stereotype the personalities of overweight children is not the way to handle it and unfortunately it makes Disney the “schoolyard bully.” The article closes with health statistics for U.S children and the main causes addressing the closing of the exhibit, including a petition that was signed by 300 protestors before it’s closing that argued “the attraction and game feature negative stereotypical characters, traditionally used to torment overweight kids, and will potentially reinforce and strengthen a cycle of bullying, depression, disease, eating disorders and even suicidal thoughts.”

The lecture from Wednesday’s class addressed candy and sweets and how they get into the hands of children.  Clearly, the problem of overindulgence in sweets and unhealthy food in the current generation of children is a problem considering the many statistics outlining the rise in childhood obesity. I agree with the above yahoo news article that the problem should be addressed but Disney failed to do it in a respectable and considerate way. All in all, I don’t believe the bad diet of many children is their own fault so why should Disney encourage others to see overweight children as ugly, disgusting and lazy, much like “Snacker” and “Lead Bottom”? As discussed in class, the chances of children these days to spend their money on candy is a lot less likely and ironically, it was mentioned that the institutions, such as schools, that stress most about concerns of childhood obesity are the places in which children are most likely to receive unhealthy food. If big companies, such as Disney and Blue Cross, are willing to spend millions of dollars on exhibits and programs that stress childhood obesity then maybe they should am their arguments at the adults that provide children with unhealthy and be both considerate and aware of the effects in will have on current children struggling with obesity. I believe it to be a hard situation to handle but hope that big companies will be more considerate of their affects next time they decide to open such a controversial exhibit.

They have recently canceled the site where you could see and read all the characters of Disney’s “Habit Heroes” exhibit but check out the bottom of this linked blog, The Weight Loss Rollercoaster, to check out a couple of the villain characteristics.


Christmas: Capitalism At Its Best

Christmas shopping for most Americans

Growing up, I remember Christmas being the most exciting time of the year. As I’ve gotten older and have become responsible for purchasing gifts for other people myself, I have come to associate the holiday with frenzy and anxiety. Thorstein Veblen was undoubtedly correct to refer to Christmas as a time of vicarious consumption. Christmas is literally referred to as “the season of giving” and if you are not giving you may be seen as cheap or a scrooge. As we have learned in our readings, one of parents’ biggest fears is having bored children. Parents also want to ensure their children do not feel left out or disappointed. With the growing emphasis on the importance of material items in the U.S., parents feel obligated to stretch their wallets  at this time of year to ensure their children aren’t left out. This is because we have been socialized to believe that when you wake up on  Christmas morning, there should be a towering mountain of gifts under the tree with your name on them. The main goal for many children is bragging rights. They want to be able to go to school the next day and compare who got the better presents.

“When compared to the average family budget, the Christmas gift budget makes up 1.3% of all average family spending. It is more than what the average family will spend on reading materials ($110/year) and alcoholic beverages ($435/year) put together.”

In the article “Modern Childhood, Modern Toys”, Gary Cross says, “But in the nineteenth century these celebrations of indulgence were increasingly focused on the family, in parents pampering children. The shower of gifts became a way of demonstrating personal affluence” (59). Essentially, families are going out of their way to buy their children’s happiness. The blame can in many instances be placed on advertising. Companies make it a point, especially at this time of year, to advertise their most expensive, sought after products while basically telling viewers how much they need it. Children see their friends playing with the best new toy and many advertisements lead them to feel like they aren’t “cool” if they don’t have that great toy too. Advertisements only solidify parents’ fear that they will disappoint their children.

Directly Targeting Children

Our discussion and reading of marketing toys directly to children made me consider advertisments that I was exposed to growing up. Almost all of these advertisements for toys, movies, and video games were directed at children and not at adults, a development that Gary Cross finds originated in the early twentieth century., citing a 1913 article in Toys and Novelties that advocated marketing to children “to cause their wonderment, their desire for ownership and their immediate pleas.” (52)

This marketing tenet seems to still hold true in advertising toward the very end of the 20th century, as exemplified by these advertisements between children’s programming on Nickelodeon in 1999, specifically the two Star Wars ads. I remember the first one specifically because it advertised the connection of two things very dear to my seven-year-old self: Star Wars and Legos. These advertisements were crafted specfically to run on a children’s network and are completely geared toward the imagination and playfulness of a child audience. There are no adults buying or giving toys to children, just children playing within the “Star Wars universe,” fulfilling their own desires to be a part of a galaxy far, far away.

Cross states that “toy companies recognized that in an era of growing permissiveness, children had influence of parent’s spending,” and cites this as a cause for marketing to shift towards children. Although this may be the origin of this idea, I believe that the increase in media consumption of American youth in the pass few decades has been the most significant factor in the use and success of advertisements geared directly toward children. The source of this clip shows this phenomenon, as the almost entirely youth-oriented Nickelodeon television network, a relatively new media development, enables advertisement blocks to directly target younger demographics. As mass media has spread throughout all facets of American life, advertisement has been able to capitalize on very precise niches that in ways that it couldn’t’ one hundred years ago.


The pink, temperamental Pokémon character I identified with most as a child

As a child I wanted to do everything my brother did, including playing the video games, watching the TV show, collecting the cards and obsessing over the movies/stuffed animals/anything relative to Pokémon. I obviously was not interested in the “supposed different interest of girls and boys.” (Course packet page 69) It was a boy’s game that I did not openly admit to liking, however my parents never denied me the joy of playing. They actually were all for this considering my brother and I fought like cats and dogs. Our bond in Pokémon would temporarily control the madness and entertain both of us at the same time; they saw no problem with killing two birds with one stone. Like many parents they were concerned “about whether their children were being entertained enough.” (Course packet page 6)

“Pokémon was launched in Japan in 1996 and today is one of the most popular children’s entertainment properties in the world…” earning the second spot in top game franchises. Pokémon was originally intended to be a video game and therefore is affiliated with Nintendo, however it has spread into a plethora of products not necessarily centered around video games.

Their products range in price depending on what exactly you want; As far as games go, the Pokémon games for the Nintendo DS run a little under $40. Right now on Amazon a Pokémon videogame for a gaming consul costs almost $100.

"This one’s for the ladies in the house (or dudes if you’re into it, Pokébra judges no gender!), these adorable bras are custom made, meaning every boobie of every size can be successfully captured by this nerdiness. It’s a shame that during all his years on the air in prepubescent purgatory Ash was never old enough to touch a boob. I’m pretty sure a bra like this would have made his awkward teenage years more memorable."

When I decided to write about Pokémon I had a conversation with a friend about the topic. I was having trouble remembering the name of my favorite Pokémon character. I knew it was pink and temperamental; finally the name came to me, Jigglypuff! There are some ridiculous Pokémon products that have emerged and are for sale right now. These products include a Pokébra, Pokémon Jets, Pokéball Beret, Yellow Pikachu Lightning Nike Sneakers, PokéDex iPhone Case, Pikachu Boxers and more. I thought that it would be a difficult topic to write on since it had been so long since I had been a Pokémon fanatic. I was proven wrong with my first Google search. I have learned that although I eventually grew out of that awkward stage of my life, it seems as though others continue to dwell in this fantasy.


The Modern View on Christmas Spending


Over the course of the twentieth century, Christmas has taken on a new purpose due to evolving consumerism and industrialism in America. Parents have taken to a sort of vicarious consumption in order to both earn the love of their children, and to try and outdo their neighbors. In an effort to appear more affluent than others, parents are increasingly spending more and more on pricey Christmas presents for their children. In Cross’s article, “Modern Children, Modern Toy,” he discusses the effects of this changing mentality regarding the gift-giving side of the holidays. He says that, “When parents bestowed presents on their offspring, they also attempted to share their excitement with the wider world of new things” (Cross, 59). This is another side effect of this new found vicarious consumption. By overspending on gifts for their children around the holidays, parents are trying to live out their desire for excitement and fun through their children. The giving of gifts turns to a new way for the parent to connect with the child without appearing to overindulge or spoil them.

Ads like this, from large retailers such as Toys R Us, are aimed at parents as well as children and try to convince parents to purchase expensive gifts around the holidays through mechanisms like door-buster sales and free offers. By doing so, they can both appease their children, and not appear to be overindulgent to their friends and neighbors.  This mentality developed throughout the twentieth century do to new innovations in toy manufacture, and new increased parental concern over their children’s boredom. These sorts of concerns have created an atmosphere garnered towards over-consumption, and in which parents feel obligated to shower their children with gifts in order to appear better parents.