Deconstructing Pop and Consumer Culture, 1999

Life is full of mysterious beauty, but how we perceive it is through our beliefs and experiences. Everything around us influences us in some way. We respond to different things whether it be television or a scent in the air. How we respond to our environment creates our own view and world of reality. Throughout life, culture plays an important part in a person’s belief systems and responses to the environment around. Whether you’re in the 1930’s trying to escape from the Nazi’s or you’re in 1999 where school security has been increased due to the impact of the Colorado shooting, life as we know it changes. Through television, computers, and other media we can experience this culture.

Pop culture is one major type of culture that influences people today. Pop culture by definition is the shared common habits of different people. Due to the media as a source of information, people share a basis for pop culture in society. The internet and television is especially significant because it provides the most popular recreation in more developed countries throughout the world, and an important way in which knowledge of popular culture such as sports can be quickly diffused across the globe (Rubenstein, 1999). Popular culture is quickly widening its horizons, and threatening many people’s way of life. As a firm believer in the self, I feel that popular culture explores a person’s ability to create, but also to destroy. It isn’t founded on ideals, but interests of the people. Exploitation is widely used today in many talk shows to make people feel good about themselves by downgrading others and their way of life. In the Celestine Prophecy this is known as absorbing energy in a conversation, which makes people feel in control and has a tendency towards domination. It is hard to trace the many roots of popular culture today due to its complete synthesis into the society. Its hard to let a day go by not using or seeing some form of popular culture whether it be television, or eating pizza.

The primary concern of this paper is to show how popular culture influences the life of the individual. There are many examples to show the influence of popular culture, but I created an experiment to show some valid data. My hypothesis is that how we perceive the world around us is because of our ideals. Perception can be altered through beliefs and ideas. I wrote a survey probing into the minds of individuals. I asked a simple question as to what does France and Paris evoke in your mind. Most of the people involved said the Eiffel Tower. When asked what New York evoked in their mind many people responded differently to all the environmental stimuli available in New York, because they have been there. This further proves my hypothesis that culture shapes perception. In people that have never been to certain places (Paris), they envision in their own mind what it looks like (if they care to). Initially their expectations centers on a cultural icon, the Eiffel Tower, which shapes the perception of the landscape. Most of the participants in the survey have never been to Paris or France, but tend to associate it with a cultural icon. Those of the participants who have been to France and Paris, most of them responded by saying something that they remember about it like the cheese or wine. Another example of the influence of popular culture is in symbolism. Many people take for granted how much an image can provoke such emotion in their minds. Let’s take the swastika for example. Originally it was found by Ms. Blavatsky in an initiation ceremony within a Tibetan temple. She became ‘friends’ with Adolf Hitler who used the swastika to advertise his “Nazi-creed”. The symbol of unity was then turned into hate by association. People today associate the swastika with Nazi’s and hate instead of Ms. Blavatsky’s Aryan Society. This shows that history has an impact on popular culture and that popular culture has an impact on people. Another type of symbolism is the word and it’s double meaning. I had an insight when my mother started to scream at me. She said “Jesus Christ”, which is a form of expression in America, but what startled me is that she is Jewish and doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ. This shows the rapid diffusion of a popular belief and ideas fixated and translated into an everyday common word associated with “Oh my god”.

“Necessity is the mother of invention”, but I find it hard to express the importance of these little inconsequences. Broader perspective of this shows the beliefs being acculturated in society today without even knowing it. History is doomed to repeat itself unless we as humans can justly understand all the concepts around us today and understand how and why it effects us. If I could be able to dissect every day I live with all these symbols I would be wiser, and also get a lasting migraine due to the information overload out here today.

The use of symbolism and advertising brings up another important culture in society, consumer culture. Consumer culture is everything involved in the consumption of goods and resources. Since we are all consumers, consumer culture impacts our lives in a unique way. The use of advertisements, brands, and products has brought the level of consumerism to the general public. Pop culture also shapes the way we view these brands, advertisements, and products. Advertisements impact our lives on a variety of levels. One level is the psychological level where we are being manipulated by the images projected in magazines, on the internet, and television. Since we humans receive and rely on our vision for most of the information we receive, it affects us in a dramatic way. Ads and billboards show us a person we would like to be. They exploit all forms of idealization and psychology to manipulate the viewer into buying that specific product.

The United States has many cultural influences. Through the use of modern technology, i.e. television, internet, and other international access, people can be influenced. Throughout the world we create icons in music, media, arts, and entertainment. Consumers are influenced by many factors that surround their lives. Their icons and hero’s also influence them. The idea that the perfect woman looks slender and sexy is through the use of advertisement and other visual stimulus. Calendar girls and magazine pictures of perfect bodies can be attributed with eating disorders and people who are uncomfortable with their body or themselves because they are not their image of beauty. Buying a specific brand sometimes influenced by packaging effects the world and economy which allows certain industries to gain popularity, wealth, and power over industry. These corporations then access more information, products, and consumer trends, which gives them more money. The ultimate goal is money, which inevitably “people can’t get enough of”, and also depletes the Earth’s natural resources. Outside influences like commercial, television, and magazines play some part in buying a product. Today more people are influenced by commercial, pop, and consumer culture without realizing it, and the iconography and status it creates for them.

The world is more accessible to visual imagery. There are many factors contributing to the loss of self and identity drowned in icons and consumption. Some people also attribute this sort of cultural cliché to the destruction in the news like the events of the Chicago shooting as well as others. It is clear to me that society and its influence is effecting people.

Consumer culture was best described by Andy Warhol’s art. In the “Marilyn Diptych” it shows the clear evolution of thought on consumer culture. Andy Warhol brings the recognizable to culture, using commercial elements in art. The use of modern technology, the silk-screen, to mass reproduce an image of Marilyn Monroe. He positively embraces society through the use of crisp lines. He also critiques this society by bringing the image of a celebrity’s persona, instead of the person itself. A diptych refers to an altarpiece used to portray religious images in history. This is a criticism of consumer based society, because he uses a famous revered icon of the celebrity and creates an altarpiece to her image and not her. This work shows a loss of the individual because of the repeated icon of Marilyn Monroe, each looking exactly like each other. Her image is colored like a package of candy, which references her commodity to culture. This work shows no passion even in the smudges, and has a sense of the mechanical. There is complete loss of Marilyn Monroe as an individual; instead she represents an icon of mass culture consuming her.

Most things get lost inside a forest of their own creation, we as humans do this to ourselves. We create icons and worship their image. One example of this is PeeWee Herman. He was created as a revered childlike icon until he was caught publicly exposed in a pornographic movie house. That day changed his life because he was the subject for many media crazes and was out of a job because his public image was destroyed. But what does a celebrity’s private life have to do with their job?

I am trying to deconstruct pop culture at its very beginning. Its end vice is the collage of images and icons in my room. Underneath the surface of my walls is nothing but the individual coming to grips with this world. I have been living in a world of vast ideas. My room is where I could feel at home. I had all my favorite musicians, painters, actors and other assorted pictures. It was a collage of different icons like a famous Rauchenburg painting. What I did do is take down all the pictures, which I have grown up with. I was living in this cultural environment where my eyes wandered over the many familiar faces and icons. I dismantled my walls, and in doing so I have begun to take a more intellectual basis in my life. This declares an outward statement of my life that I’ve had enough of this mere meaningless cultural establishment.

I attempted to recreate my walls like the famous French painter Turner. I recreated his painting into an environment where you’re enveloped in his painting. The color expresses the very chaotic and purity of nature. Turner is a romantic painter in 1700’s. His painting, “The Slave Ship”, shows the nature of destruction, man vs. man, and the basic indifference of nature towards man. There is a serene chaos in the sky, which reflects a very naturalistic presence of the event painted. This painting is very gestural, almost to the point of abstraction, because it shows the painters brush strokes and energy involved in painting. There is a setting sun, which provides an almost pure aesthetic beauty in the mix of elemental forces within. I chose this painting on that basis, and I wanted to show the eventual destruction of mankind through nature to show how insignificant all these icons and pictures are compared to nature. And all this freely exploding color is captivating in it’s beauty like many things in nature. It also reflects my romantic ideals of life.

What I did after painting my room was to put up the pictures of my old room, where it was located in that spot. This reflects the dualism of time and shows that I still remember and reflect on all my past images, but I am moving on in life. It is like history, if you know history you would be less likely to repeat it. I know that I am influenced by the world around me, and so I frame it like a picture in my mind. This is a remembrance of all that influenced me, as if I am paying tribute to my past environment and pseudo-intellectual understanding. The pictures on my walls also allows for a permanence to ideals, as I actually visualize my growing; I begin to see entropy taking its place and forming dust on these pictures. I hope you can find your own peace in my work, and see things in your own perspective. “I am neither the means nor the end to which others may wish to accomplish.”

There is continuity in life, like a never-ending circle, which we all go through from time to time. My life is more like a spiral because I move on with the knowledge I obtain from everything. I hope I’ve opened your eyes to more possibilities within this life that is so very precious and mysterious. In conclusion I wish to quote myself, “This world is strange indeed, but how we perceive it makes us creators of beauty. We have the power to change what we believe we see into what we want to see. Each of us live in our own incredible world. The journey starts very physical, but ends up in our hearts, untouchable. Never let your beauty be tainted by perception. Live for life, and envision it the way you want to.” (5/26/99)


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