SWM Archive: Consumerism

Collection by John Powers


Over the past year I have been thinking about what it means to be a "consumerist." To often Consumerism is conflated with gluttony. Judged by the Eames' motto of "The best, for the most, for the least" consumerism is perhaps one of the most humane ideologies ever conceived.

John Powers
Star Trek: A Future Abandon to Clowns & Rubes Social Organization, Consumerism, A Decade, Clowns, Worlds Of Fun, Star Trek, Abandoned, The Past, Archive

Star Trek: A Future Abandon to Clowns & Rubes

Trekky; Trotsky When I was in my early 20s all my friends were returning from trips to Europe telling stories about what rubes American tourist were and how universally Europeans hated them. The strategy everyone I knew seemed to have adopted, and I was instructed to use if and when I ever 'crossed the pond', was to pretend to be Canadian. I remember thinking that if all the cool, well-mannered Americans posed as Canadians, and only rubes and clowns admitted to being Americans, then who…

Hasbro's Twister Damien Hirst's Spot Challenge (Return to Part II ) Like "commodity", "consumerism" is not a word us. Size Of Texas, Damien Hirst, Consumerism, Game Art, Buy Art, The Past, Games, Connection, Archive

Buying The Art Game

Hasbro's Twister (1966); Damien Hirst's Spot Challenge (2012) (Return to Part II) Like "commodity", "consumerism" is not a word usually associated with art in any positive ways, but unlike commodity, that is exactly what contemporary art is: it is the art of consumerism. It is the product of consumerist societies; art made by consumers, for consumers. Because consumerism is a term that evokes alienation, complacency, passivity, obesity, malls, parking lots, sweat shops, big block stores, and…

Junkets: Gabriel-Julien Ouvrard (ca Damien Hirst (return to Part III ) When we use the word "art" in its modern sense, we are. Damien Hirst, Consumerism, Word Art, Savage, The Past, Archive, King, French, Modern

Biographical Extraterritoriality

Junkets: Gabriel-Julien Ouvrard (ca 1815); Damien Hirst (return to Part III) When we use the word "art" in its modern sense, we are speaking back and forth through time. We mean the inherited traditions of European aristocracy, but we also mean other traditions from around the world that French King's would have dismissed as savagery, as well as all the things we do today that no savage or French King would have hoped to have understood as art. But because so much of what we have in mind…

Spot Shops- Art is a commodity-ness outlier, a black swan out at the far edge of the consumer economy's left field. Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Consumerism, The Past, Photo Wall, Black Swan, Contemporary, Mugs, Frame

Spot Shops

Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent. (1999); $30 Damien Hirst spot themed coffee mugs (Return to Part I) "Laundry detergent is a commodity," the art blogger Greg Allen reminded me over twitter recently. Allen, who like Felix Salmon is an art collector with a background in finance, pressed me to explain my assertion that art is not a commodity in any way-shape-or-form. Allen pointed out that companies like Dow "invest heavily to differentiate [these products] as brands, so as to get a premium price."…

 the cynical mariage of art and commerce: Jeff Koons, Total Equilibrium Tank New Wet/Dry Trip. Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Consumerism, Archive, Floor, Paintings, Marketing, This Or That Questions, Home Decor

Spot Markets

Of vitrine and vitriol; the cynical mariage of art and commerce: Jeff Koons, Total Equilibrium Tank (1985), New Wet/Dry Tripledecker (1981); Damien Hirst, A Thousand Years (1990) (Return to Introduction) "Art is bought and sold, but it is more than a commodity." I plucked this quote from the comment thread below a Ben Davis post about the economics of being an artist (or lack-there-of). This sort of hand wringing reached it's hight within art world critical theory circles during the 1990s…

 Larry Gagosian promotion When I am asked to give an 'artist talk' for students, something I very much enjoy. Art Students, Consumerism, Star Trek, Archive, Classroom, Writing, People, Blog, Class Room


Cap'n Crunch promotion; Larry Gagosian promotion When I am asked to give an 'artist talk' for students, something I very much enjoy, I like to derail the me-train ("...and then I said...and then I was like... and then I thought... me,me,me MEEEE MEEE") - and instead of talking about myself, take the opportunity to discuss a topic or idea that I've been worrying. Recently I've been thinking a great deal about consumerism as an ideology - and have been trying to imagine how I would explain…

Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snowman Homemade Costume - 2013 Halloween Costume Contest Damian Lewis, Sarah Shahi, Coraline, Adam Lambert, Halo 2 Game, Studio Ghibli, Cartoon Network, Bungie Games, Yukon Cornelius

Star Trek and Satiability

Binge Drinking: Evil Kirk and anti-Occupy Wall Street Critics of consumerism, on both the Right and Left, usually count it as one of capitalism's sins. But according to Richard Wilkinson, modern consumerist societies require some level of relative income equality for good health. The laissez faire capitalism of the 19th Century (the brand championed by Rupert Murdoch's media outlets and the Koch brother's lobbying industry), made no concessions to address income disparity (I will leave it to…

Anglo Spring: Why We Fight - What every critic of consumerism misses, & that its defenders miss as well, is that what is extraordinary about consumer culture is not it's obvious excesses, alienation, moral confusions, or shallowness (those traits are hallmarks of any and all human culture). What is extraordinary is that consumers will fight, & fight hard. Fight Fight, Consumer Culture, Consumerism, Defenders, Critic, The Past, Archive, Politics, Spring

Anglo Spring: Why We Fight

Love in the social network free riots of Vancouver; Hate at the Twitter and Facebook fueled UK riots. When the riots broke out in Tottenham this summer two very different stories leapt to mind. One was Jonathan Franzen's commencement speech tirade in which he warned a group of freshly minted BAs against, consigning themselves "to 10 years of merely taking up space on the planet and burning up its resources." He was warning them against being - "in the most damning sense of the word"…

Wisconsin's "unseemly Gustave Courbet, The Burial at Ornan When Gustave Courbet showed his painting, The Buri. Gustave Courbet, It's Meant To Be, Consumerism, Wisconsin, Cities, Vineyard, Thats Not My, The Past, Archive

Anglo Spring: Sociopathocracy

Wisconsin's "unseemly circus"(2011); Gustave Courbet, The Burial at Ornan (1850) When Gustave Courbet showed his painting, The Burial at Ornan, in 1850 it upset his Parisian audience. The historian TJ Clark explains that Courbet refused to depict peasants at pious and simple, instead he "painted worship without worshipers." But more maddening still, Courbet painted the peasants fashionably dressed, undermining the Parisian's patronizing vision of country people. Adding injury to insult…

Downton Abbey Irascables The painter Jasper Johns famously observed that, “artists are the elite of the servan. Jasper Johns, Modern Artists, Consumerism, Fails, The Past, Archive, Politics, In This Moment, Note

Anglo Spring: It is time for this unseemly circus to stop.

Downton Abbey (2010); Irascables (1950) The painter Jasper Johns famously observed that, “artists are the elite of the servant class.” What Johns fails to note however, is exactly which servant artists most resemble. In the BBC series Downton Abbey we are reminded how clearly the roles of butlers, footmen and maids were defined. Each has very particular expertise and places within very old and explicit hierarchies. The only premodern equivalent to role of the modern artist meanwhile is a…

White Walls, Consumerism (A Conclusion) Economies Of Scale, Postwar, It's Meant To Be, Consumerism, White Walls, Economics, Abundance, Wealth, The Past

White Walls, Consumerism (A Conclusion)

Consumerism's carrot and stick: Jobs vs. no jobs. (Part 10) This summer, as I watched the DSK prosecution stall and collapse, Right-wing ideologs turn the debt ceiling debate into a crisis that cost American tax payers billions, and the riots in England, I found myself experiencing far more than my usual level of disgusted with capitalism - but perversely defensive on the part of consumerism. Capitalism is nothing more than a bundle of mechanisms for distributing wealth: markets, property…

 Damien Hirst's century nihilist Spots (Return to Part IV ) "Bourgeoisie" and ". Georges Seurat, Damien Hirst, Pointillism, Consumerism, Separate, The Outsiders, The Past, Frames, Archive


Georges Seurat 19th century anarchist pointillism; Damien Hirst's 21st century nihilist Spots (Return to Part IV) "Bourgeoisie" and "proletariat" are terms that may still have a certain amount of currency among a set of cultural theorist and political activists, but for most of us they are badly dated terms, especially in the case of proletariat, which few people use except in boldly debarked air-quotes. "Bourgeoisie" has a little more currency left because it still gets thrown around as an…

Star Trek: Utopians at War Consumer Culture, Savages, Total War, It's Meant To Be, Consumerism, Modern Warfare, Wells, Star Trek, Goal

Star Trek: Utopians at War

HG Wells, JT Kirk "This is now a war for peace" wrote the Radium Age scifi master, H.G. Wells, in 1914, "This is the greatest of all wars, not just another war - it is the last war!" In 1932, as if answering Wells directly, but also predicting the rest of the 20th century, the Nazi jurist Carle Schmitt wrote "Such a war is necessarily unusually intense and inhuman because, by transcending the limits of political framework, it simultaneously degrades the enemy into moral and other categories…

Star Trek: A Diamond Age Social Contract Social Contract, Religious Text, Legal System, Consumerism, Star Trek, New Books, The Past, Archive, Politics

Star Trek: A Diamond Age Social Contract

Debating the future: Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (1969); Occupy Wall Street (2011) In his new book, The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama writes that, "In tribal societies justice between individuals is a bit like contemporary international relations, based on the self-help of rival groups in a world where there is no third party enforce or rules." This is the bread and butter of libertarian thinkers in the mold of Friedrich Hayek, who believe that the formation of the rule…

Deseases of excess; Captain Kirk, Ayn Rand My friend Guan asked where "rugged individualism" fits into my understanding of the Americ. Environmental Degradation, Consumerism, Global Warming, Star Trek, The Past, Archive, Stars, American, Starship Enterprise

Star Trek and Gluttony

Deseases of excess; Captain Kirk, Ayn Rand My friend Guan asked where "rugged individualism" fits into my understanding of the American Dream and pointed me to a post by J. Bradford DeLong. "What has survived throughout is the American myth of rugged individualism," DeLong writes. "The power of this myth has meant that the United States is not, and never will be, a European-style social democracy. People may come together for barn raisings, but America is still the land of upward mobility…

Star Trek Director JJ Abrams picked three other Brits — Alice Eve, Noel Clarke and Benedict Cumberbatch — for the new Star Trek film, wh. Movies Out Now, New Movies, Movies To Watch, Uk Actors, Actors & Actresses, Noel Clarke, New Star Trek, Simon Pegg, Movie Tickets

Star Trek and Postscarcity Consumerism

James Doohan and Simon Pegg as Scotty Even if many Americans have lost track of the full promise of the American Dream - the dream that a nation's wealth is measured not simply by how great it is, but how greatly it is shared - our cousins in Scotland have not. I have no idea what they're putting in scotch eggs these days, but between Charles Stross, Ken MacLeod, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, the Scots have a lock on myth creation at the moment. The Godfather of this second Scottish…