Title: BRAND NEW WORLD
Partner: Katie Pellegrino
Conception & Design:
In designing our internet art project, Katie and I wanted to mock/comment on our 21st century brand-obsessed consumer culture. We began by posing the question: “Why do people care about brands and logos?” Our inquiry lead us to hypothesize that it isn’t necessarily the products that people are pursuing. But rather the feelings that they derive from wearing visible branding. So we sought to tap into these base pursuits by creating an ironic webshop where we would sell consumers the feelings they’re after without needing to buy the product. (“Skip the product cop the feeling!”) We came up with the name ‘BRAND NEW WORLD‘, which we thought was a clever play on words on the dystopic social satire novel by Aldous Huxley, ‘BRAVE NEW WORLD’.
When building our project, Katie and I sat and discussed how we wanted this webshop to look. We were really fascinated by the aesthetics and sketchy look of early 2000s websites, and the nostalgia that they evoked. So we aimed to design our webshop to be simple and tacky in its visual design. We went with Times New Roman for the title and all the headers because that was the go-to font for many websites back then; and also a bright blue for the text color against a pale yellow background because we felt that looked pretty 2002-ish. We used an image of a web browser from back then to build our webshop within, but used Photoshop to adjust it and add functions that would work with and fit our site. Katie took the lead on the technical web construction. I took took the lead on the visual assets. I used Adobe Illustrator to distort brand logos into the underlying feelings that they might give to their consumers. (Champion > Cool, Rolls Royce > Really Rich). To give our site a more retro feel, we implemented GIFs that were blatantly consumer-centric (dollar signs, ‘I LOVE SHOPPING’, ETC.) . We initially were stuck about how we would convey our idea of buying the feelings while reflecting the actual brands. During user testing, we received feedback that our project wasn’t entirely clear that it was supposed to be a webshop, and were suggested to add pricing and a checkout process to better convey it. One night while working on our project, we had an epiphany that it would be cool to juxtapose the original logos against the twisted logos of the feelings by perfectly fading into the feeling when hovered over, and adding prices that were were significantly cheaper that the actual relative price ranges of the brands’ products. The prices of the feelings that we’re selling go significantly down to reflect the “cheap feelings” that buying things give us. When checking out, users click the cart button which redirects them to an article on the psychological effect of purchasing luxury goods.
Upon receiving feedback, we probably should have been a bit less obvious with the irony and allowed users to think it was a real webshop and, after exploring the site a bit, discover that “Oh! this is actually not a real webshop, but an art piece.” I also would have loved to expand our “product inventory”. We did want to add more than just 3 items for each category. But unfortunately, time did not allow for the creation of more visual assets. In the future, I imagine there to be at least 9 per category, enough for the user to scroll while browsing.
Overall, I am very satisfied with how our project turned out, and how well Katie and I were able to execute it. Our final product looked almost exactly how I imagined it to look in my head since day 1 and our initial rough sketch on graph paper,
In “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses the danger of a single story. She talks about her experiences as a young girl reading British novels and writing stories that had elements from those novels as if books could only be represented by those stories. She talks about how her roommate when she was studying in America had this single idea of Africa: poverty-stricken, chaotic, and waiting to be saved. Recognizing how easily one can generalize an entire country and its people. Adichie makes a case of how these singular narratives can perpetuate stereotypes and leave out the nuances of people and places. She mentions how cultural and economic power plays a role in how stories are told and places interpreted, citing how she does not have this narrow view of America because she had the opportunity to read many American stories.
I like how Adichie mentions how elements like economic power play a role in determining which stories and voices get heard, which is something I hadn’t considered but makes a lot of sense. Hollywood, in America, is the greatest purveyor of American culture, and its variety of movies and TV shows allows international viewers to gain a holistic and varied understanding of what the United States is like. But many countries don’t have a “Hollywood”, and if they do have a movie industry, it’s not as robust and its films typically aren’t intended to transcend the audience beyond their country’s borders.
In Web Work: A History of Internet Art, Rachel Greene chronicles the advent of web-based art and its significance in the early days of the Internet. She frames net.art’s as a movement that allowed artists to utilized the freedom and agency of the Internet to explore new mediums and concepts that stood outside the barriers of the art world establishment and appealed to unconventional. Many of the net.art webpages in that golden era of the late 90s and early 2000s treated webpages like blank canvases—each net.art page differing stylistically and conceptually from the next, likely because there was no set precedent for “the way” an art site should look, as opposed to the templated, minimalistic, white-background designs of contemporary art sites. Net.art was underground, radical, and arguably groundbreaking. Artists like Vuk Cosic, Heath Bunting, Rachel baker, and Keiko Suzuki saw the Internet as a medium to communicate a message or concept that expanded the boundaries and definition of the internet “ought to be” and “ought to do”.
I totally concur with Paul Rand’s sentiments about computers’ role in art and design production. I think all artists must master, or at least become familiar with, the traditional artistic methods in order to have a solid artistic foundation before translating those skills through a computer program. I liked Jacques Barzun’s quote, “Working out the steps by hand gives the mind that ‘feel of material’ which is essential to mastery in any art or trade.” I’ve experienced this myself—the gratification that comes with feeling of the graphite touching the paper, the wet clay on the slab, or the brush against the canvas. There is an almost divine sense of ecstasy and power that comes with working technically with one’s hands and seeing an intangible idea in one’s mind become manually and directly transmitted into something tangible. That particular sensation usually escapes me when I do similar work in a computer program. It’s easy to get a straight line or a perfect angle on Illustrator, and it takes five seconds to render a cube in Rhino. But achieving an excellent line or angle with a ruler or set square while applying the right amount of pressure on the lead and having the capacity to visualize a 3-dimensional plane within a 2-dimensional paper in order to draw a perfect cube in perspective is the true process toward mastery. On a computer, one doesn’t need to imagine a 3D plane, rather he can virtually create forms within one. In architecture, the debate between continued instruction in traditional hand drafting versus the contemporary method of CAD rendering is ever-present. I see both skills as complementary. I think being familiar with the traditional arts aids the transition into computer-based art and design programs. For example, many find the method of working in layers in Photoshop both bothersome and unintuitive. But to me learning Photoshop was intuitive, it was like painting. Translating a sketch into a painting requires seeing each component of the sketch as layers to be painted individually (underlay, overlay, glaze, etc.). Though the traditional arts offer, as Rand put it, “the pleasure of accomplishment,” computers offer efficiency and minimized error. Yet their synergy is imperative for artists and designers in the 21st century.
Graham makes a case that correlates the hacker to the traditional painter. He cites the similar creative and technical process hackers utilize that sets them apart from the other computer-related professions under the broad umbrella that is computer science. I particularly liked the analogy he proposes about the museum being a library of technique for the referential painter just as open-source code offers reference to the novice hacker. This reading was eye-opening for me, because I never thought of hackers as artists before. One typically imagines hacking as an uber-mechanical process with little design thinking involved. But now I can see the creativity needed to crack code and mitigate system vulnerabilities.
Group partners: Andrew and Sylvia
We decided to create a short film for our video project. Our narrative follows three characters (each of us) as they follow the directions of a suspicious note that mysteriously finds them. Their individual narratives thread at the end when they each arrive at the final location.
Shooting was the fun part. We shot around Puxi (I don’t know the names of the specific neighborhoods or locations) and at night to give the video an ominous tone. It took us about 3 hours total to shoot including commuting between locations. We didn’t exactly follow or have an explicit storyboard. Rather, I had the vision for how it should look in my head and my partners trusted it, and contributed some ideas for scenes. We shot scenes based on convenience of location and by chunks of character’s individual storylines. We did have to pivot and make the best out of some scenes and for some scenarios but it all worked out. We also had some issues with the SD card interrupting the recording but managed through it. And our camera’s battery, for better or worse, died right after we finished shooting the final scene at the restaurant.
Regarding the project package, I did the editing for the video, which took hours, and directed and shot most of the video. Andrew did the website. Our title ‘DIE NOTIZ’ translates into ‘The Note’ from German, in reference to the blue note that guides our characters. I felt that the German transliteration gives the film a more forbidding impression than “The Note.” The soundtrack for the film is derived from the instrumental of a Travis Scott song called Drugs You Should It. To me the sound, rhythm, and sonic structure of the instrumental made it the perfect choice to carry the story.
Because our video is a short film, we didn’t want any interactivity to interfere with the viewing experience. So instead, we added the interactive portion to the end by posing an important ethical question to the viewer that relates to the narrative of our video.
Overall, I am confident and satisfied in how the video project turned out.
For our video project, we’re thinking about using threaded narrative to bring each of our characters’ individual storylines into one conclusive ending. We want to shoot visuals that incorporate digital signage at night and Shanghai street scenes. The digital signage will be a recurring motif throughout our video and its significance will prove itself at the end of our video story. We decided to act but without dialog and without voiceover. Rather, music will accompany the visuals and carry the story. In terms of interactivity, we’ll probably allow viewers to decide alternate endings.