08 June 2012

No logos

As I have been out and about on my journeys by bike (sadly curtailed today by what we laughingly refer to as 'Summer in Ireland" and what Genesis 7:20 describes as "Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail") I have stopped every now and then to photograph the odd piece of street art or two.

As my travels take me further afield there is an opportunity to discover that occasionally pieces do not exist in isolation and instead form part of a series, as was the case with a group of paste-ups, the first of which I found just off Camden Street about four weeks ago using a series of corporate logos arranged on a scrabble board to read "Advertising creates need without function".


I passed by a second one in Newmarket Square on my way to the Dublin Food Co-Op, that reads "Believe/Deceive" in the same Logo/Scrabble tile design.

Grant Morrison, writer of cult comics such as The Invisibles and The Filth, and more mainstream fair with runs on X-Men, Superman and Batman, gave a pretty hectic talk at a Disinfo conference back in 2000 where he touched on the creation and use of corporate logos, and the power they have over society:
"if you look at cave-art, the first art was done, the first writing was done basically as art, and if someone wanted to make something happen like if you were some fucked-up caveman in the caves somewhere, moaning about your dinner, what do you do? You draw a bison on the wall, stick some spears in it, go out and the bison dies filled with spears. And "Hey man!" we can make this happen. Slowly those things become letters, they become words, they become reduced to abstractions, complexes of meaning, and you can take that basic idea, people like Austin Osman Spare, the magician from the early part of this century, or Crowley, or the chaos magicians from the 80s who were a big inspiration on me.

They used this stuff, and what you can do is this, like I say, you can try this at home. Write down a desire. Quite simple say 'It is my desire that my cat wins the Olympics'. Haha. Take out all the vowels. Write this down for fucks sake, and do it! Don't just listen, do it!

Right, Take out the vowels, then you'll be left with a string of consonants. Take out the repeated consonants and you'll be left with a string of consonants that will have no repeats in it you know X, Y, A, D, whatever. Turn that thing in to a little image. Take the D, draw a big D, you've got a T, draw a T under it, keep reducing it down until it looks magical and there are no rules for this thing, do it until it looks magical. At that point you now have a sigil. The sigil will work, you can project desire in to reality and change reality. It works!

This is verifiable. People have been telling us about this for thousands of years. Even the Tibetans have been telling us about this, the Mesopotamians have been telling us about this, and why has it been made occult? Because Coca-Cola have got the secret, these people know what we're talking about here because what you do is you create a sigil, Coca-Cola is a sigil, the McDonalds 'M' is a sigil, these people are basically turning the world in to themselves using sigils. And if we don't reverse that process and turn the world in to us using sigils, we're going to be living in fucking McDonalds!"
Yes, it's leaped over the fence through chemtrails and fluoride territory and headed straight into deepest Alien Lizard Men country, but if you strip back the mystical-trippy-trappings there is a nugget of sanity at its core when you pause to think of the power that corporate logos do have on us and on the fact that children can often already identify with specific brands through their logo even before they can actually read.

Believe/Deceive, artist unknown
Newmarket Square, Dublin, Saturday June 2nd
The word logo is derived from the Greek logos, meaning "word, speech or discourse", but logos also refers the divine "Word" from John 1:1, " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God", Jesus is (according to Christians at any rate), the Word made Flesh, the divine Logos incarnate. The image of Jesus on the cross is the ultimate logo, a symbol of everything that Christianity is, simplified down to a single iconic image, transcending language itself and inspiring worship and devotion across the world. To combat the power of this logo Islam banned the portrayal of either God or the human form (since humanity was made in God's image, and portrayal of humanity could touch on the divine, and that is apparently a no-no), and fifteen hundred years later wearing the logo of Pepsi to the Olympics can get you arrested for violating Coca-Cola's brand sponsorship of the event, and even Dublin Bus sets loose the legal hounds on any who dare to parody their branding. Authorities know the power of logos, and will do anything to undermine the ability of their rivals to use them.

We've all read Naomi Klein's No Logo, but in the decade since its original publication the battle against the brands seems to have been largely forgotten, eclipsed by larger events on the world stage. Were it not for the events of #OccupyWallStreet, the magazine Adbusters, champion of the anti-corporate movement that parallelled the publication of No Logo, would largely have been forgotten, relegated to a shelf of Millennial nostalgia. From the invention of Obama as a counter-culture icon during the last election campaign by Shepard Fairey to the appropriation of the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta by the Anonymous group and its supporters, branding is now seen as an essential element by those who seek to challenge the existing regime just as much as for those within the establishment itself, but is this not simply validating the power of the corporations by accepting their rules for the game, even if in an attempt to subvert them?

All these thoughts and more occurred to me as I saw these Scrabble/logo paste-ups. It think it's time to take down No Logo from the shelf, blow the dust off and give it a read with a fresh set of eyes.

If you have a spare 45 mins or so you really should watch the whole Morrison talk at DisinfoCon, it's like the antithesis of a TED talk, an anti-TED if you will, and the above text is from about 14 minutes in. You can also read a transcript of it at the old Disinfo archive here.

I say that the paste-up artist is unknown because the pieces are unsigned, but a sticker appeared with a similar typeset on a number of lampposts in the city center, and this sticker had a QR code on it that takes you to a page where you can download the font, called Branded. This font is pretty similar to a third paste-up in the series that appeared just off Francis Street (the logos used for the numbers are identical even if the ones used for the letters differ). This font is also available on Fontspace where the creator is listed, and a quick online search of their name brings up a Dublin based artist. Whether or not these paste-ups belong to them I don't know, the concept of an alphabet using corporate logos has been done before and will be again, but my CSI-sense is tingling.

Also, I am far too easily distracted away from work by the internets.

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At 1:24 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for that post brother. I learned a lot.


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