Sunday, 7 December 2014

When Art Critiques Go Wrong

I was perusing the long-defunct "Notes" section of my Facebook account today when I unearthed this gem from a few years ago; to be precise, from the 6th of October, 2011. I recall sitting down for an art history class called "The Critical Viewer" and being informed by a classmate that Steve Jobs had died of cancer. So naturally the lecture hall was abuzz by the time the prof walked in, calmed us down, and got the class rolling. He started by throwing this photo up on the screen...

Our task was to form small groups and come up with supposed commonly accepted and alternate views on the meaning behind this image. The later didn't have to be feasible; we could interpret the picture however we chose. I must have been in some kinda mood that morning because I may have let this one get a little out of hand. As recorded in my Facebook note from that day (with some belated proofreading):
"We begin with McDonald's. McDonald's is probably the most blatant, the ultimate, symbol of American consumerism and capitalist corporate business society. Now, a very large portion of corporate profits goes towards military funding; America has the world's single most potent military force, an accomplishment they have fought much opposition to achieve. Now, the McDonald's symbol on the crab-like creature is upside down in this image, and so becomes the middle initial of President Bush. George W. was born on July 6th, under the astrological sign of the crab, Cancer. Bush's invasion of the Middle East coupled with America's social values of excess have greatly impacted the Muslim world, and many conservative Islamic people refer to America as "The Great Satan", a term embodied in the horned top of the crab. Let's move on to the ketchup creature thing. There is a saying that only two things will survive a nuclear holocaust: cockroaches, and the Chinese. This cockroach form is clearly representative of China, especially in the politically-charged military context I will get to momentarily. The cockroach is red, with a distinct little yellow crescent on it, a symbol of the communist power with the ability to survive nuclear war. The other half of this military reference is the crab's shadow, which mimics the form of Sputnik and is a symbol of Soviet Russia and the Cold War arms race. Both Soviet Russia (shown to be merely a "shadow of the past") and Communist China have opposed and threatened America in its rise to power, but now they are portrayed as weak; one is a fleeting, insubstantial shadow while the other cowers beneath the powerful predatory stance of corporate America.

Now, in case you aren't convinced of the validity of this argument, allow me to prove to you three more ways in which the crab made of french fries represents America. Firstly, it stands for corporate America, and this is where it gets creepy. Some of you may be aware that Steve Jobs, the CEO and founder of Apple Inc., died yesterday. He was head of a corporation that landed at number 35 on 2011's Fortune 500, a significant player in the American economy. Now, that crab is made of fries, and fries are made from potatoes. They are, decidedly, "French" fries, and the French term for potato is "Pomme de Terre"..."Apple of the Earth". Apple. Now like I said, Steve Jobs died today. Of cancer. Which, as I have already told you, is the sign of the crab.

Now secondly, it stands for imperialist America. The Roman eagle, the symbol of the Legions and of the power of the Roman Empire, was adopted by America upon its constitution. The eagle was tradionally made of bronze if it were to be carried on campaign, gold for ceremonial purposes. Both of these metals are yellow or distinctly yellowish, dependent on their quality. So what in this image stands out as yellow? Well, the fries, and the three points of the "W". If you count up those points there are eight legs, two 'arms', and the three prongs of the letter, you get thirteen. There were thirteen colonies brought into Constitution in 1787, the first States of America.

And lastly, it represents America's international efforts to remain a step ahead of all their competition. I have been calling the larger figure in this image a "crab" up until this point, but I seemed to be one of few who saw it that way in class. Most people referred to as a "spider", and it definitely can come across that way. It has eight legs, and is certainly predatory. So let us work with the spider for a bit. Spiders in many cultural muthologies are the tricksters. They are the only living creature that sets a constructed trap and lies in wait for its prey to snare itself. Out of this devious characteristic have risen legends like Anansi as well as ficticious constructions like Tolkien's Ungoliant and Shelob. The creature in the image bears all these connotations. The crab also carries a distinctly engineered skeletal feel to it's composition, and this is no acident. The Central Intelligence Agency is rumoured to have been founded by members of a secret society at Yale University called Skull and Bones, the members of which are referred to as Bonesmen. The CIA is responsible for feeding intelligence to the American military, as well as conducting operations within allied and opposing countries to plant and manipulate information. In short, the Agency sets traps, spins webs, and then waits for someone to fall in. As well, George W. Bush is a known alumni of the Bonesmen. Coincidence? Perhaps..."
Don't worry; I'm well aware of how inaccurate parts of that spiel are, and the blustering bravado of the young art student that saturates my words (or in Art Spiegelman's words, "the Artist as a Young %@&*!", which I was). But it's a fun bit of nostalgia to look back on and a ridiculous glimpse into my brain, and now it's your ridiculous glimpse into my brain.

You're welcome.

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