who we be-jeff chang

“Creativity is the purest of human endeavors. Creativity is the ultimate act of optimism,” he said. Capitalist realism was transforming into something else-a kind of capitalist romanticism.” (235, John Hoke III)

“that’s wassup”

i once had coffee with the leader of my most regular writing workshop (that i was recently honoured to guest host) and he spoke of his hatred of dave eggers with such conviction that it was kind of scary. i understand this feeling, but i usually feel it towards those who produce mediocre works, not those whose work i admire. i feel the opposite for jeff chang, though i do have moments where i hate him for being so brilliant.

it’s been a minute since i promised to interview him for total chaos, a promise i never followed through on, but a collection that made it through the purges, and whose pages are completely dogeared and underlined. i won’t lend it to anyone because i feel like my mind and my influence are all over it, but i do think that everyone should read it.

disclaimer-i couldn’t really get through can’t stop won’t stop, but only because it’s so dense and academic-which this one is too, but the pictures help. like amy poehler‘s-the book is printed on beauty-full, heavy paper, and i’m not hating on anyone who’s trying to cross over markets, get that money, writers. make a coffee table book. but note to self to wait until shit comes out on paperback if i’m going to keep toting these tomes on the ttc.

art is always personal and political, even when it’s devoid of personality and politics. the best art makes you think of something, or it makes you think of nothing-it’s an escape that offers new possibilities or a moment to reflect on and be humbled by the things you may have missed or taken for granted in your pre/sent.

chang’s framing, as per usual, tells a story that smashes all paradigms of time, and is edited and unfurled so perfectly. i made notes to look up morrie turner, charles stone, and many other people/artworks. for that, i am great-full.

“It was the end of the 1980s, a decade in which every day felt like a battle for the heart of America.” (106)

“In Coca-Cola’s early years, over seven thousand imitation brands tried to cut away slices of its massive market share. There was an Afri-Cola brand marketed to Blacks. And there was also a Klu-Ko Kola brand marketed not just to whites, but the apparently underserved hooded supremacist niche. Advertising helped maintain Coke’s status as ‘the universal drink,’ the market leader for racists, antiracists, and everyone in between.” (57)

“A paradigm shift in the consumer economy had begun. Pepsi had staked its future on youth, women, and African Americans-vanguard buyers who embodied postwar optimism and the largest reserves of unmobilized demand. Meanwhile, Coke was still aiming for the median American-the white, middle-aged suburban professional, the mirror image of the image-makers themselves.

The main question the Pepsi Generation commercials answered was not ‘Why do you want this drink?’ It was “Who the hell wants to be old?’ A drink was now more than a drink. It represented a lifestyle. Pepsi sold drinks by selling youth, which was no longer a mere biological condition, but an emotional condition enabled by the products of youthiness. If you felt young and hip, then you, too, could enjoy ‘the official drink of today’s generation.’” (59)

“Globalization, in other words, was simply a way of making multiculturalism serve a corporate monoculture.” (171)

“lost generation, fast-paced nation, world population confront their frustration…”

the link between capitalism and art and life is presented in a way that isn’t judgy or preachy (naomi klein-i’m looking at you) and there is a real analysis of the need for artists to be able to be able to keep producing, and keep living.

“Between George Herriman’s death in 1944 and Morrie Turner’s national debut in 1965, the industry and the country had changed. The comics business had become huge, the form had become standardized, and the content had turned conservative. Comic strips were decades behind the social mainstream. Turner was a middle-aged man in tune with the children of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. But the funny pages were less a mirror of tastes of children than of middle-aged men.” (25)

In Living Color introduced the Wayans family, Jamie Foxx, and David Alan Grier to mass audiences. ‘The Fly Girls’ included Jennifer Lopez from the Bronx, Carrie Ann Inaba from Honolulu, and Rosie Perez from Brooklyn. Jim Carrey was one of the only two whites in the cast. Fox had one other wildly popular show featuring a disproportionately high number of people of color on-screen-a ride-along reality show called COPS. Stumbling forward, staggering back.” (200)

“Pryor’s comedy was conceptual from jump. His jokes started with what people saw, but they ended up really being about what people thought they saw and what they thought about what they saw.” (219)

“One of the things multiculturalists had won for their daughters was the privilege of taste and judgement. When her mother had pressed a copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God into her hands, Zadie Smith could be skeptical of her mother’s claims of its greatness. That she did not find it wanting was evidence that her mother’s generation had been right.” (222)

“being with you is a top priority, ain’t no need to question the authority”

increasingly, we are an image-based culture, whether we like it or not. this is a win for art, if we want it. a project of this magnitude can be daunting because it can seem never ending, but that’s what you get for being relevant. bigups to jeff for closing on a moment that is both an ending and a precipice. RIP trayvon, hoodies up.

“Nixon believed that people did not vote their hopes, they voted their fears. They liked to be flattered into thinking they were voting their principles. If white working-class voters feared that postwar wealth was being redistributed away from them to Blacks, the Southern strategy gave them a target and a justification.” (47)

“‘You don’t talk free trade to a man with an empty belly,’ said one agricultural economics expert. ‘You feed him.’” (107)

“That was how Clinton’s great conversation on race ended, not with purgation but procedure, not with reconciliation but exhaustion.” (208)

“A lot of people thought it was ironic that I made an image directly supporting something, since I’ve encouraged people for years through my Obey campaign to question the visuals they’re confronted with and look at things more cautiously, but with the HOPE portrait I was very sincerely making propaganda to support Obama. I still encourage people to question everything, but irony is frequently a way to be noncommittal with views. Once you’ve examined things, it’s important to actually have a point of view that you’re willing to stand behind.” (262, Shepard Fairey)

“In the warm easing dusk, when the lakes of Central Florida reflected an endless sky unfurling in torsade strands of orange and purple, the green lawn where the kids used to play football with Trayvon Martin sat silent and empty.” (313)

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