Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Joe Pankowski, Assignment1

I chose activity number four, Research and Debate from the Yes Men’s Teaching and Action Guide. The part that struck me the most about this activity was the question; who pays the price for those cheap goods we take for granted? I also wanted to touch upon the ridiculous things people think they need at unrealistic low prices. I decided to change the activity a little, and to make a video piece that would invoke debate about our consumption of absurd products at a high cost to our environment and humanity. The video piece is a mash-up of an old 1950’s propaganda film about capitalism and why it’s so important for our way of life. I inserted in this film what makes our capitalistic system function today, in order to make things such as lower costs for competition purposes possible. I also tried to find the most absurd product I could find that no one would ever need, but some might think they need. The product I chose was an MP-3 playing toilet paper dispenser. I imagine the people making these things for the American market must think we’re the biggest idiots. The tag line for this little number was as follows;Now you can Enhance your Experience in any room with your favorite music from your iPod.” And the price was even better at only $29.99 with free shipping. Amazing! I hope the video will make people think twice about what they really need to live their lives, while also causing them to think about their impact on others and the world in which live in.

Project One | JD Pirtle

I chose activity #3 of the Yes Men Fix the World Teaching Guide , interpreting the option of taking on the subject of corporate social responsibility to make a TV ad about FEMA, entitled “Duets.” It is an alternate history of sorts, creating a scenario involving Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Government and the then President of the United States (George W. Bush). The goal was to generate a sacharrine TV spot in the manner of melodramatic, sentimentalist commercials one sees so often today (e.g. Dow "Human Element" Ad Campaign). By showing what might have happened had our government responded as it should have to Katrina, the perception of their utter failure is heightened.

The TV spot features many generic techniques that are very popular with modern ad agencies--time-lapse shots of nature, personal sentiment (between a corporate entity and the viewer), still image transforms (so-called “Ken Burns Effect”) and the use of famous Opera arias that are present in poor or inaccurate context.

The inspiration for the subject matter is directly related to the disgust I felt when I was able to reflect on how poorly the Federal Government handled Katrina relief, how FEMA mismanaged resources and “lost” billions of dollars and how the disparity in natural disaster relief seems to point to bigoted ideology in the Federal Government. In hindsight, it is apparent that the funds and resources were present, but the government would not or could not help the people affected by Katrina. With this project I wanted to both show what could have been and what should have been--that a strong, centralized government in the form of a Republic should be able to quickly and effectively respond to these types of situations using funds taken those that are affected via taxes, etc.

View FEMA "Duets"

Project 1, Suspicious Ambivalence, Obelleiro-Borsani

Project 1: Alejandro Borsani and Julio Obelleiro.
Link here: Suspicious Ambivalence

Project 1

After working as a photojournalist for 4 years for a paper that reached nearly 35,000 people on a daily basis, my love for the newspaper and all news media died. Off assignment, I would spend hours sitting by a police scanner, waiting for a deadly car accident, a house fire, a business robbery, anything that would constitute for an ‘exciting’ news feature. If a day went by without some kind of tragedy, it was slow and the supplemental photographs taken to fill in the feature news spots were usually seen by the editors as less exciting than those depicting what I could only think of as calamity. Nonetheless I thrived on the stories that were dangerous, and apparently so did the public. With every day and every story that had some sort of negative note, following a murder trial, covering crooked politics, and going trigger-happy over deathly incidents, I found myself becoming uncomfortably desensitized to emotion. While I did cover my fair share of “happier” news features, county fairs, concerts, local charity events, the stories that I always heard people talk about were those of a ruinous nature. No one ever really remembers or cares about the kid who raised 20,000 dollars for a charity event helping autistic children when people died in a shoot out down the street. Unfortunately it seems like we thrive on tragedy and useless celebrity gossip.

Though many complain about the negative nature of the news and throw out the old saying “no news is good news,” these same people are often the ones who still purchase or support in some form (via the internet) their local newspapers. This readership, though riddled with complaints, is what keeps these stories alive and splashed across the front page of every section. Though some of it is viable news, and there are a few quaint stories of hope, the majority of the news, be it on TV, the Internet, or in the newspaper is rarely indicative of anything good going on in our world.

Following the Yes Men Fix The World Teaching guide, I will be completing a variation of the News Paper Activity. My action plan is to re-appropriate 3 stories from both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune so that they read the way that I feel an “ideal” version of the story should be. I will be making 2 separate blogs to post these stories and will also bring in the actual copies of the stories from both newspapers as well as a print out of the blog postings. These blog postings are meant to be a humorous poke at issues within these stories and try to focus on the injustice and sometimes nonsensical actions taken by governmental and corporate institutions that are presented to us in our daily news.



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Can I Picket? Yes you can!

Please load the following url into your browser and press play before proceeding:


Unmanipulated Files: "IMGP5908-5956.jpg"
Manipulated Project Files: "MoreJobCuts.pdf, HotChic.pdf, GayGrandma.pdf"
Manipulated Files: "MoreJobCuts.jpg, HotChic1-5.jpg, GayGRandman1-5.jpg"


File: ","

PDF of Strategic/Tactical:

File: "CanIPicket.pdf"

Project DeathLike

The original video which inspired the work.
Electronic Visualization Laboratory's Project LifeLike documentation.

When I saw the clip from the Science Channel called "PopSci's Future of: Immortal Avatars", from their "Future Of" series, featuring Project Lifelike from the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at UIC, I got an uncomfortable feeling from it. The idea of big $$ science being used to make a former NSF administrator immortal seems like an egomaniacal effort of the sort evil dictators would commission. The spin of the real actual clip seemed to point toward the death-tinged joy of interacting with corpses.

The clip reminded me of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein. The story is a cautionary tale regarding modern uses of science. In the story, a rogue scientist, Dr. Frankenstein, ignores the warnings of his more level-headed colleagues and works to revitalize the dead. In the popular 1931 movie adaptation, Dr. Frankenstein's monster is played by Boris Karlov. The monster goes on to kill an innocent child, and a mob of villagers eventually burns the monster.

In "Towards the Automation of Figurative Techniques," in Oliver Grau's book, Media Art Histories, Edmond Couchot discusses autonomous systems and their application to art. While on the one hand he discusses purely generative systems, he differentiates autonomous systems as specifically an extenuation of cybernetics and the body (via interactivity). He also says that autonomous systems have many applications in the sciences. I am concerned about the bad mojo and uncomfortable feeling I got from the clip. It seems as if the happy death imagery serves to distance a public from questioning the very creepy aspects of this work while being portrayed as fun, popular science.

Perhaps EVL should get a better handle on their public relations. The original clip which aired on the Science Channel and is linked on their website ( actually be doing them a disservice. My pastiche video, on the one hand, exaggerates and twists the original video, but on the other hand, reveals, as the Yes Men do, that we should hold accountable those who serve in the public trust.

Project 1 - Monumental Vandals

Here is the link for the project write-up. I'll upload the presentation video soon.

Bhopal Express

An atypical bollywood movie set during the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Since it was brought up by the Yes Men.