In every issue, we work intensely to edit an extensive themed survey—our signature Main Theme section—dedicated to relevant topics in contemporary art and culture. We develop these surveys as if putting together a think tank or curating a group exhibition on paper. Recent issues have featured “Post Woman: A Reconsideration of Female Identities and Role Models” and “SO NY,” a choral tale of convergences, strategies and connections in the words of artists and creators who live and work in The City.
The Main Theme of the newly-released Kaleidoscope issue, entitled “Logomania,” explores art’s obsession with brands. The survey is composed of a trend overview, which I have written myself as a sort of extended editorial; a fashion think piece by Trey Taylor, a fantastic cultural writer and film editor of Dazed; and four artist interviews, including with Mark Flood on his logo paintings; young Berlin-based artist Ilja Karilampi; radical design collective Metahaven; and Cory Arcangel on his lifestyle brand Arcangel Surfware.
What about earlier times? For instance, during the Renaissance, brands could be seen as patrons (The Medicis etc.). There was a prolific relationship there, wasn’t it?
The trend overview I wrote is entitled “They Exist,” recalling horror movies and alluding to the fact that logos and brands are so pervasive in our lifestyle and collective imagery, that they take on an existence of their own; they live in our heads. The essay draws the genealogy of a line of research in contemporary art which appropriates and synthesizes commercial visual languages, from the Futurists to Pop Art to the so-called “corporate aesthetics” of digital native artists.
“Logos and brands are so pervasive in our lifestyle and collective imagery, that they take on an existence of their own; they live in our heads.”
You are certainly right to say that artists have been flirting with commerce even in earlier times. The artist’s studio in the Italian Renaissance was called bottega (shop) and the relationship with the patrons was definitely of a transactional nature. And after all, the family emblems are the ancestors of the logo!
Aren’t brands’ images and art both aiming to propose a lifestyle ideology? What is your essay’s take home message?
I do think in recent years art has replaced fashion as the ultimate status symbol. The lines between an art object and a luxury item are becoming increasingly blurred, which is one of the reasons for it becomes urgent to interrogate the ambiguous relationship of art and commerce.
“We are doomed to live in a world where everything is fake and Made in Shanzhai.”
My essay closes with a reflection on how radical practices have addressed the logo critically as an opaque symbol of corporate and political power. I mention an emblematic film by Danish collective Superflex, “Floating McDonald’s” (2009), which offers a somewhat dystopian perspective on the future in Logoland. Rather than a take home message, almost a threatening warning…
Should we be afraid of hybrid language? Is is the opposite of authenticity?
Not sure I believe in the notion of authenticity any longer, or at least it seems painfully out of context in today’s world of super-hybridity. It may be that we are doomed to live in a world where everything is fake and Made in Shanzhai.