Tuesday, February 06, 2007

wedding expansiveness to minimalism

My second love, after writing, is anthropology. The cultural kind, not the digging for bones kind. I remember taking a class once on indigenous tribes, and I wrote a paper comparing the warring aspects of these tribes to modern day football games. I was trying on objectivity, divorcing myself from editorial content, staying with the facts, only the facts.

I like this sort of dispassioned writing: analyzing trends, customs, practices and norms from a sort of scientific perspective. Keeping emotion and judgment out of it. I explored this type of writing through the lens of fiction when I practiced minimalism. "Recording angel," was the way we put it in Tom Spanbauer's class. Get as small as you can. Search for God via a trail of inquiry that propels itself by observation, not subjective discernment.

My day job, conversely, is all about agenda. It's an overt attempt to connect emotionally with the customer by massaging the senses. There is a much more brash and expansive approach to this writing, psychologically. You want to be where the action is. Finger on the pulse. Resonance and Zeitgeist.

The process by which I create "successful" ad copy refutes everything I strive for in my art. It's goal-driven and chirpy. It asks something of the audience. The relationship this sort of copy has with objects is inverse to the relationship objects have with minimalism. Simply presenting objects is the way into the subconscious in minimalistic fiction. In ad copy, the subconscious is played as a way to gain perceived value for a particular object.

On the subject of popular culture's relationship with advertising, The Oregonian's TV columnist Peter Ames Carlin had a spot-on harangue on the hype and crusade displayed by Sunday's Super Bowl extravaganza.

Advertising is an amazing reflection of culture. An anthropological study without parallel. Art, if you follow this hypothesis, could be viewed as study of the anti-culture. A response to the emotional whacking we sign up for just by getting out of bed each morning.

My own personal belief is that to be a healthy member of this world, you need a firm foot in both camps. You need to understand, and, yes, immerse yourself in, to a certain extent, the normative playground. But you also have to know how and when to pull yourself out of the frenzy. Become an anthropologist. Think for yourself. In order to do that, it's become increasingly essential for people to read fiction and poetry, see plays, go to the galleries, and, especially, pursue some sort of creative engagement of their own.

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