28 August 2008

one little piggy, two little piggies, three...

I've long been interested in food production and the processes we're using as a culture both modern and traditional. Due to the predicted global food crisis that everyone is predicting things like urban and hydroponic farming are now hot topics. To be honest I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm confident we'll figure it out as a society.

A friend of mine emailed me an article from Defpoints, which asks where do we stand as a nation in terms of food production now and then compares the productivity to the value. Below are the diagrams from that article. They are a bit dated being from 1997, but I think they are probably still pretty accurate in theory.


[Crops - acres per square mile by county, 1997]

food production us

[Animals - per square mile by county, 1997]


[Value - dollars per square mile by county, 1997]

At first glance there seems to be a lot of white space leftover on these diagrams. So curiosity got the best of me and I went through the exercise of layering all the images in Photoshop to produce a composite image. I quickly came to the conclusion that unless we want to begin "mountain farming" I think we're using our resources fairly well. I'm sure this doesn't take into count efficiency, but it's still amazing that we're actively using most of the land available to us in this Country.  The composite image I created is below.

combined farming and animals

[composite of crops and animals]

23 August 2008

subaru love


You may have noticed Subaru's ad campaign launched this summer, which shows short stories of how Subaru owners "love" their cars. Subaru America describes the ads with the following statement:

"I love my Subaru" is one of the most-used phrases we hear from Subaru drivers about our brand. That's why our new marketing campaign created by our agency of record, Carmichael Lynch, is based on the strong emotional bonds Subaru owners develop with their vehicles.

By focusing on the love Subaru owners have for their car, Subaru challenges non-owners: "Do you love your car?"

As a Subaru owner myself, I'd have to agree completely with the above sentiments. Whenever someone asks me about my car the first words out of my mouth are always "I love my Subaru." I thought that the feeling would begin to wear off as time pasted, but I honestly love it just as much today as I did when I bought it a few years back. In fact many of my friends would attest to the fact that I'm a bit overprotective and OCD about my car, which is a complete 180 from any other car I've ever owned.

All that aside, in regards to the new ad campaign it makes me wonder... if I didn't own a Subaru already would I want to buy one because of this campaign? Well I'm not sure. Prior to being dragged to the Subaru dealership by my Dad who is also a Subaru owner I had always thought that Subaru's were a bit uninspiring. What I realized quickly was that I didn't know what I was talking about. The test drive in particular sold me.

I think Subaru isn't far from the truth with the Love concept, but better than any marketing campaign what it has going for it most is word of mouth promotion from owners. That's something you simply can not have without producing a high quality product. Especially in the world we live in today where there are ENDLESS options making brand loyalty a thing of the past.

To prove my point here are the chain of events leading up to my purchase of a Subaru:

1. My Dad bought an outback after his good friend recommended he check it out. His friend is also a Subaru owner might I add. 

2. When I was thinking of getting a new car my Dad insisted that I go test drive a Subaru since he was so happy with his outback.

3. I ended up purchasing a Legacy. (There was no contest...)

4. A year after purchasing my car I insisted that one of my friends who was looking to buy a car go test drive a Subaru, which lead to her buying a Forester.

Coincidence? Maybe, but I don't think so. A happy customer is always you're best form of promotion. And that's priceless.

If you haven't seen the Subaru Love Campaign it's your lucky day. They compiled them all for you at Subaru America.

16 August 2008

alternative graffiti

pulaski bridge ny from ny times delivery bags unknown artist

[NYC skyline created on an overpass chain link fence with blue plastic bags]

Graffiti has been over-exposed in popular culture for quite a few years now. I mean if John Mayer features it in one of his music videos you sort of know it's run it's course in relation to pop culture. It's actually pretty sad how the media machine often destroys the essence of what made something once great, but that's a topic within itself and I digress...

What I want to write about is not your standard painted graffiti, but clean graffiti. Clean graffiti also called reverse graffiti, dust graffiti or grime writing is created by subtracting layers of dirt from a surface or adding non-painted layers. Often times city officials dislike this form of urban art because it makes it very apparent just how filthy our cities have become, however since no damage is done it's nearly impossible to prosecute for clean graffiti.


We've all seen reverse graffiti although perhaps we didn't know it's official name. For example if you've ever seen a dirty car that had "Wash Me" written on the back window there you go!

Clean graffiti is not a new method and has been around for a long time. It's also much more difficult to produce than just you're standard painted graffiti as it requires cleaning years of dirt, oil and/ or grime from streets and walls with scrubbing or pressure washers and sometimes a detergent. The image is created through the contrast of dirty and clean, so basically by working in reverse of a typical style of drawing. Hence the name reverse graffiti. So for these artists a long dirty wall is simply a massive canvas!

For anyone without art experience it's probably hard to visualize, so lets get right into some examples of artists doing this and their work.

The most well known Clean Graffiti artist is Paul Curtis, or Moose, from the United Kingdom. Moose is considered to be the godfather of reverse graffiti. For the most part his tools are simply a brush, water and elbow grease. He's also formed a small company called Symbolix for commercial advertising campaigns using reverse graffiti. Below is a video directed by Doug Pray for the Reverse Graffiti Project showing the process Moose uses to create one of his pieces in a tunnel in San Francisco. 

I should mention that reverse graffiti isn't without media exposure. It has been used by brands like Smirnoff, BP, XBox and MSN since as early as 2004. 

Another reverse graffiti artist is Brazilian Alexandre Orion. One of his pieces was in a tunnel in Sao Paulo where he scraped away years of soot to draw hundreds of skulls. Jose de Souza Martins a Professor of Sociology at the Universidad de Sao Paulo describes the project as; "Skulls, one after another. From ocular cavities of so many dead, his work looks out on the living and interrogates people passing by; it quietly criticizes our omission, our comfortable acceptance of pollution."


[Orion at work Image from his website]

Without closer inspection it is almost impossible to believe that reverse graffiti like this isn't done with paint. It is unbelievable just how dirty our cities truly have become. Sao Paulo officials were not pleased with this particular piece, but unable to charge Orion with anything they instead power washed the entire tunnel. So in the end Orion's mission was successful and the city became a little cleaner. While Orion's work seems to me more politically and environmentally motivated it is no less appealing.


[from Orion's Website]

Going back to dirty cars. Scott Wade, an American artist, uses dusty cars for his canvas to create his own version of clean graffiti. These pieces are incredibly detailed and vary greatly in content from Mt. Rushmore to Landscapes to the Mona Lisa. He has an extensive gallery of his work at his site Dirty Car Art.


[Scott Wade's Mona Lisa from Dirty Car Art Gallery]

Last, but not least is the work of New York City street artist D. Billy. Billy uses primarily balloons and artist tape to create his whimsical pieces. The following is his artist statement regarding his work:

"Using colorful media such as twisting balloons, party streamers, and artist tape, I have begun to add visual representations of sound effects to public spaces as a sort of dimensional graffiti. After embellishing the found scenes and photographing the results, I leave my additions in place to engage passers-by for as long as the materials hold up. For me, this process encourages a reexamination of surroundings and objects that are usually taken for granted, and injects a hint of the fantastical surreality that I have established in my other work.

Or, at the very least, I hope someone thinks these things are kind of funny."


[D Billy - NYC subway - Balloons]

fire hydrant

[D Billy - NYC - Fire Hydrant]

Perhaps what is most compelling about the work of these 4 artists is the temporality and organic nature of their pieces. Especially with the true reverse graffiti of Moose, Orion and Wade. Overtime you know that pollution will again build up and slowly erase their creations or in the case of Wade a good rainstorm and all that's left is a memory. In any case all of these artists are successful in for at least for a moment getting passersby to stop and look at their surroundings a bit closer and even laugh at the mundane. So there you go. 4 artists trying to re-think street art in a non-destructive way.

13 August 2008

watch out for that giant turd


Complex Shit by Paul McCarthy from ArtInfo

Alright, for my after vacation come-back to Pinball...too good of a story to pass on. The UK's Telegraph reported yesterday an incredible story. Here's the headline:


Now even Hollywood can't make that "shit" up. (sorry too good to pass on that one) The Zentrum Paul Klee in Berne, Switzerland was hosting a modern art exhibition entitled "East of Eden. A Garden Show" and this inflatable sculpture of a pile of dog turds the size of a small house was a part of the exhibit. The sculpture by American artist Paul McCarthy was supposed to have a built in fail safe that would deflate should the turds come loose, but it malfunctioned and floated 200 yards away to a children's home on July 31st.

The hardest thing about all this is trying to figure out what part is best. The turd sculpture, the fact some engineer had to design a deflation safety device (can you imagine a client coming in asking for that..."Um yeah, we'd like you to design a deflation device for a balloon." "How large of a Balloon." "One the size of a house, oh and shaped like a turd."), or that apparently today we would consider an inflatable turd "high art."Ah, I almost forgot. The name of the piece is "Complex Shit" (2008). Totally Classic!

As for the sculpture itself this isn't an unexpected piece from McCarthy. He himself has said "My work is more about being a clown than a shaman." (Magnus Petersen) Critics have also gone so far as suggesting his work seeks to undermine the idea of "the myth of artistic greatness." (Paul McCarthy: Rites of Masculinity) Either way you have to give it up for someone out there who still has their sense of humor intact because personally I think it would be awesome to walk through a beautiful sculpture park full of serious pieces watching people pretend to know something about art and then turn a corner and find a giant pile of inflatable dog poop. To see such a common nuisance elevated to such a ridiculous scale would be hysterical. The fact that it took flight is just the cherry on the sundae.

The museum's official description of the intent for exhibit is as follows,

"20 Hectares of playground for the garden show: the farmland to the rear of the three steel hills and the entire tract of greenery from the Wyssloch Valley down to Lake Egelsee will be sprouting weird and wonderful objects to form and animated kind of front garden.

Paul McCarthy will be subverting the otherwise harmonious landscape sculpture of the Zentrum Paul Klee with his installation Complex Shit - a giant pile of dog feces."

To read the full article - Telegraph Uk

Zentrum Paul Klee Bern