Sunday, July 24, 2005

Culture Jamming

I’d known some about culture jamming, but I came across a post at “worldchanging” yesterday that spoke to a couple of interesting expressions of the phenomenon I’d not heard before. The first is a bit of history, a 1989 product swap by the BLO, the Barbie Liberation Organization. Apparently the BLO bought hundreds of Teen Talk Barbie dolls (“Math is hard,” and “I love to shop”) along with hundreds of Talking Dude G.I.Joe dolls (“Vengence is mine!”) and exchanged the electronic devices before carefully repackaging and covertly replacing the dolls on store shelves. Says Jamais at worldchanging, “Barbie demanded to hear the lamentations of her enemies, and G.I.Joe sought assistance for planning weddings.” … I would so love to have purchased one of those dolls!

Shopdropping” is a present-time culture jam practiced along similar lines – this effort one to reclaim public space with random acts of art. The idea is to purchase canned food goods in volume, redesign and replace the packaging with labels altered to display photographs of artistic value, of course keeping barcodes and pricing cues in place. Having completed the project, the can goods are then covertly returned to the shelves. An ongoing project, the artist describes Shopdropping as an effort that “strives to take back a share of the visual space we encounter on a daily basis, similar to the way street art stakes a claim on public space for self expression.”

As with the Barbie dolls above, I would treasure a can of peas, even okra, if I found one re.presented wrapped in art, and the article suggests that such an inflation of value has been known to follow episodes of shopdropping. In any case, the practice presents food for thought in considering the value of reclaiming all that we can of public space from commercial use, restoring it to civic and artistic expression. I’ll take my olives wrapped in a Tuscany sunset, thank you.


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1 comment:

narrator said...

Does the group in NYC that does the performances for the surveillance cameras fit into this in some way?