July 11, 2008

A One Shot Joke (But A Good One)

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Saw this for the first time today. In a week we'll doubtless all be sick of it, but for the moment, enjoy.

Wonder if anybody's selling tee shirts yet...

(Apologies to FotM readers from outside the US who don't get it.)

[Note: a fine short introduction to Fanon's theoretical contributions from a Marxist standpoint can be found here.]

Apologies to Isaac (see comments) and others inside the US who've said the same thing to me, namely "Hunh? I don' geddit."

Chalk it up to Frog in the Well Syndrome. Here in Harlem, it seems like you can't go a block without seeing Shepard Fairey's distinctive agitprop-retro creation in a shop window or on a bootleg tee. And if you spend any time rummaging around in the vast sock drawer of the left liberal blogosphere, you'll o.d. on it pretty soon too.

And a one shot joke that needs explanation. How funny is that?


Unknown said...

maybe i'm completely dense, but i don't get it.

Nathaniel said...

Hey Isaac,

It's riffing on the popular Obama posters by Obey Giant:


Obey Giant's style has elicited quite a bit of discussion of its blatant appropriation of left-wing imagery, particularly when it is embraced by a bourgeois candidate. People, despite everything, are familiar with the associated radicalism of what those images represent, but that radical "hope" and "change" are not there.

(And of course right-wingers get off on pointing this out when they want to "prove" Obama and Democrats are Communists. Some liberals talk about its "troubling heritage." Admittedly we left-wingers, and liberals too, would be similarly vocal if fascist imagery was used to sell something, particularly a candidate.

Jimmy Higgins said...

Thanks for the clarification, nathaniel! Looks like you commented just as I was posting the update. Having to explain a joke you've (re)told is pretty embarrassing.

In the meantime, here's an interview with Shepard Fairey, highlighting his radical flava, including busts for Robbie Conal-style street sniping (large scale wheatpasting, in this case of political images). Taken at face value, the article seems to hint that Fairey has put himself in a box. Badly wanting Obama to win, he seems to be avoiding the Rev. Wright role of using a bit of Obama-related celebrity to lay out a few home truths about the system to a larger audience.

Incidentally, there is a savage critique of Fairey's work as content-free plagiarism (written before the Obama poster showed up) by Mark Vallen at his "Art for a Change" website. Struck me as a bit one-sided but I'll (uncharacteristically) let ignorance still my keyboard here...

Unknown said...

oh, ok, that makes sense. the inconsistency of the "frantz fanon" underneath the portrait confused me - since the original isn't labeled literally, "barack obama," the inconsistency threw me off. like maybe the other one would say "anti-colonialism" or something. anwyay....

i re-read and enjoyed your SDS pamphlet from '87 or so the other day. are the other 2 pamphlets in the series (from frso student commission) still around anywhere? in any case, if there is a printed out version of even that pamphlet i'd like to get a copy (maybe in a month in jersey?)