i'm with the brand

Is Donkey Kong David next?: Kordian Lewandowski’s Nintendo Pieta
March 23, 2010, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Art & Design | Tags: , ,

Game Over is Polish artist Kordian Lewandowski’s irreverent, Nintendo-fied take on Michelangelo’s La Pieta. Princess Peach takes the place of Mary, and Mario that of Jesus in this pop culture appropriation and re-contextualization of a high-culture icon of the art canon. Here, (branded) digital interactivity is our Bible, our shared narrative, and our object of worship. The choice of material, polystyrene foam, also seems significant–it’s crass and fake and disposable like so many pop cultural artifacts, but ironically, it’s likely to endure for much longer than Michelangelo’s pious marble. 

Hit designboom for more angles and pictures of the sculpture in process. (There’s chainsaws; it’s exciting.) Also, there’s more digital-told-in-the-language-of-the-old (Botticelli does Skype) and vice-versa (the Creature from the Black Lagoon enters the mix) at Lewandowski’s site.


Sculptures that are people, people that are paintings
March 23, 2010, 10:51 am
Filed under: Art & Design | Tags: ,

Timmy (Alexa Meade)

Painter Alexa Meade masks human flesh in thick acrylic paint in a method that “pushes the boundaries of perception, compressing 3D space into a 2D plane, effectively blurring the lines between art and life, [skewing] the way that the core of the subject is perceived.” Meade’s paintings, in distorting space, texture, and the eye’s ability to distinguish real living forms, thus presents both a sensory and a cognitive challenge. 


Sara (Alexa Meade)

Meade’s work reminds me of sculptors Duane Hanson, Jamie Salmon, and Ron Mueck, who, for contrast, achieve similar ends in technical negative: these photorealistic artists skew perception and subvert the real-unreal boundary between subject and environment with their life-sized (and in the case of Salmon and Mueck, sometimes massive) hyperreal sculptures.

In undermining the visual cues we take for granted as an indicator of the real, both approaches force an unsettling reevaluation of the nature–or even the possibility–of reality.

tourists 2

The Tourists II (Duane Hanson)


Chris (Jamie Salmon)

in bed

In Bed (Ron Mueck)

Complacent? FITC delivers a swift kick in the pants to agency dinosaurs-in-the-making
March 22, 2010, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , ,

last ad agency on earth

Urging true creativity over cut-and-paste, FITC, which puts on design and technology events, is encouraging old-school agencies to become nimbler and more inventive with their digital work–before it’s too late.

In a video to promote their upcoming digital conferences, FITC creates a Discovery Channel Pompeii Special of sorts chronicling the fall of the “Last Advertising Agency on Earth.” It’s funny, and I’m sure it hits close to home for many branding professionals who have lived through just the sort of dysfunctional head-in-the-sand environment the video describes, but it seems a bit of a harsh indictment to me–I’m unwilling to believe that no big agency has learned how to embrace new media (at least on a case-by-case basis) this late in the online game (seriously, guys–partying like it’s 1999, are you?). But there may be a kernel of truth under the heaps of tardy exaggeration–for every gem of inspired digital, there’s a truckload of unimaginative nonsense, and it’s perhaps less about digital per se and more about combating a culture of complacency: it’s about knowing how best to play the game in new and ever-changing spaces, whatever and wherever they may be.

In an ironic twist, it’s agency behemoth Saatchi & Saatchi Canada that helped produce the very video that takes shots at agency behemoths. Funny times, give it a watch:

Murray Hill Inc. runs for Congress, sticks it to the man little guy
Murray Hill

Ill-gotten influence--it's our birthright!

In the wake of Citizens United v FEC, the harebrained January Supreme Court decision that gave corporations to right to make direct political campaign contributions as an extension of free speech (and in so doing insidiously and ominously granted corporations legal “personhood”), liberal-leaning political PR firm Murray Hill is running for Congress in Maryland’s 8th district.

Throwing their hat in for the state’s Republican primary, Murray Hill (Incorporated, they’re eager to add at every opportunity) is running under the slogan that “Corporations are people too!” The New York Times reports that “Campaign Manager William Klein promises an aggressive, historic campaign that ‘puts people second’ or even third.” The firm also has plans to fight for its right to vote as a citizen—it’d be a hard-won right, to be sure. (I’m tearing up at the injustice of it all. Power to you, Murray Hill; may your time come soon.)

This astute campaign may be hilariously absurd and tongue-in-cheek, but underneath it all it’s bitter—and deadly serious. The campaign deftly exposes the mockery the Court’s decision makes of the political process and an independent government, and the real dangers it ultimately exposes us to as a free people. What’s truly tragicomic is that in campaigning to be an elected legislative representative, Murray Hill still fails at being evil–if elected, they would, after all, be using more legitimate means of influencing policy than most corporations do today.

This campaign may be the best agency ad in recent memory: it amps their cred as a go-to firm for lefty causes (they have a long history representing labor unions and environmental organizations), and shows that as a PR firm, Murray Hill knows how to run riot in the PR game.

Their website is worth your time. And so is their spot-on campaign ad:

(Thanks to Rose for the tip!)

Perfume-turned-cervical cancer commercial gives women the bait and switch
March 7, 2010, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , ,

cervical cancer

“Maybe it’s unfair to get your attention this way, but nothing’s fair about cervical cancer,” intones a voiceover towards the end of a new TV spot by pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline. The spot begins as a run-of-the-mill designer perfume ad–sumptuous ambience, tinkling music, beautiful woman, vapid-but-pretty discovery narrative–but quickly turns jarring, as the woman finds not an exquisite fragrance but instead deadly cervical cancer in a gleaming and innoccuous bottle. Startled, she turns away, and the voiceover reveals the spot’s PSA (-esque; obviously we understand the underlying objective is to sell more vaccines) purpose, adding the damning statistic that in the US, a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer every 47 minutes, and urging viewers to visit helppreventcervicalcancer.com for information on vaccinations, medical tests, and lifestyle changes that can help prevent and detect this insidious disease.

The cleverest and subtlest in a series of ads run in GlaxoSmithKline’s Help Prevent Cervical Cancer campaign, this spot gets women’s attention by backing into the real issue when the viewer’s guard is down. Without being melodramatic, graphic, or preachy, the approach not only gets more attention in the first place by keeping its cause marketing identity secret until the critical moment, but also ultimately delivers a more effective message by provoking a very real and unsettling feeling of unease in those whose curiosity was piqued by the prospect of the latest luxury bauble, sophisticated spritz, or material acquisition–items whose pursuit seems particularly silly when compared to the paramount importance of securing our health and wellbeing.

Lacoste logo lace: just a shirt or Campana consumerist commentary?
March 3, 2010, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , ,

lacoste lace

Brazilian designer duo Fernando and Humberto Campana have been commissioned to design a limited edition collection of Lacoste shirts for men and women. The brothers designed four shirts in all, but the most outrageous and inventive of all are the pieces entitled Alligator Lace, each in a limited edition of 12, which are composed entirely of the French clothier’s iconic embroidered logo. It’s a fascinating display of the mundane and workaday transformed into something exquisitely delicate, an oil-and-water contradiction between brashness and subtlety.

These are clearly statement-making art objects, and although I doubt it was the designers’ intent, they make an interesting commentary on branded objects and our relationships with them. We are human billboards when we don logo-bearing clothing, and both brand and wearer theoretically gain from this display: one exposure, the other cachet. The piece forces us to confront this issue, and challenges our willingness to glibly and eagerly cloak ourselves in a brand’s identity, as if to ask: That’s what we’re really buying ultimately, isn’t it? Why not be honest about it? Where is the virtue in feigned transcendence of the system? And while some branded items are more egregious than others in their logo-smattering, what is Alligator Lace, if not this readily-accepted notion taken to an ironic, satirical extreme? At what point does it become crass, or was it all along? Interesting questions, all.

designboom offers the following information on the shirts’ provenance:

“the shirts have been hand-made by the coopa-roca women’s co-operative in brazil, whose purpose is to provide positive working environments for its members, female residents of rocinha, brazil. improving the quality of life of the craftswomen and their families, the small production force is aimed at developing decorative craftwork productions through the revival of traditional brazilian craft techniques such as drawstring appliqué, crochet, knot work and patchwork.”

It’s intriguing that something so corporate would be crafted using the talents and traditional techniques of local artisans, bridging a cultural and generational gap in such a way as to highlight both the parallelism and disparity between the “traditional” and the modern practice of design and manufacture.

View the rest of the Campanas’ Lacoste collection at designboom.


Ironic Radio by CIID forces us to reconsider how we interact with objects
February 24, 2010, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Art & Design | Tags: , ,

Thought this was pretty cool–in a project by the Copenhagen Institute of Interactive Design, a team created a radio that looks like an iron, which is interesting in and of itself. But what’s more interesting is the way this cognitively dissonant sort of object challenges our notion of what an object is and does, and how we interact with it. The radio’s controls are in the knobs and buttons of the iron–but also on the iron’s metal surface, usually a surface we instinctively are uneasy touching, even when an iron is off–meaning that to control the radio, we have to do the counterintuitive, we have to overcome the way we think about and interact with the object in its usual context and learn a new way to conceive of the object.

Read all about it at PSFK, and watch a demo below:

Ironic Radio from Dean McNamee on Vimeo.