HEY Playboy! SPREAD or go DEAD: Go #@+* Participation…

In Barbara Ehrenreich‘s book, Hearts of Men, she talks about the launching of Playboy in 1953. At that time, a man who stayed single was suspected of homosexuality. The idea of being straight, of sound mind and body, and unmarried was unthinkable. So what Hugh Hefner did was invent a whole new kind of man, the playboy. The playboy stayed single (so as to have lots of ladies), kept his money for himself and his indulgences (that being booze and, of course, the ladies), and re-purposed the domestic sphere (enter: the snazzy bachelor pad full of booze and ladies).( Lisa Wade)

1969 Playboy Ad:What sort of man reads Playboy? He’s an entertaining young guy happily living the good life. And loving every adventurous minute of it. One recipe for his upbeat life style? Fun friends and fine potables. Facts. PLAYBOY is read by one of out every three men under 50 who drink alcoholic beverages. Small wonder beverage advertisers invest more dollars in PLAYBOY issue per issue than they do in any other magazine. Need your spirit lifted? This must be the place. The ad is a nice demonstration of Playboy’s invention of a new kind of man (“an entertaining young guy happily living the good life… loving every adventurous minute of it”) instead of the old work-a-day Joe stuck at a boring, dead end job to support his wife and kids.

Heineken’s latest ad “The Tiger” is not the first time Heineken has presented itself as a useful tool for your dating life, and guaranteed not the last. It looks like Heineken has had second thoughts about one of its currently running TV ads. After months of airing a commercial which describes a woman at a party as “prey,” the company has altered the voice-over on the ad to now refer to her as a “prize.” Albeit, the ad is extremely seductive, the basic dynamic is an assertion of societal expectations of virility where almost none is present. They are all mini romantic comedies that somehow finish at the altar.

Lisa Wade:Vintage ad for Kenwood appliances is a nice example of how the act of preparing food is gendered, and how one side of the gendered dichotomy is valued more than the other. Men are chefs– professionals, with careers. And their wives are cooks– they cook at home. Men have prestige as professional chefs outside the home, and women have value as caregiver cooks inside the home. I guess that this ad is from the early-1980s. How much of this gendering of cooking changed over the years?

At the other end of the identity spectrum is the You Tube video “Interior Semiotics”.  has become a work through its reception online, albeit, unwittingly .The film in question is an amateurish video of a student art piece that happened last spring in a small gallery in Chicago. It shows an audience of  student agers  crammed into a space, most of them sitting on the floor, to see a woman, Natacha Stolz, grappling with a can opener, then  doing a performance that involves reciting a couple of nihilistic lines and then doing strange things with a can of SpaghettiOs.  Some of the things that the woman does are deliberately shocking, and there is brief nudity; its anti consumerist and anti-erotic as well. It also had 200,000 views in 48 hours and almost one million overall. Something is resonating here that a Heineken or Guinness can’t figure out. What is it?

Russell Smith:So now the bulk of the online discussion is about the fallout rather than the original video; it is an analysis of what kind of person would become obsessed with it and why. Many commentators agree that the outrage must have some class resentment in it, since so much of it focuses on art schools and hipsters and their clothes and poses. The tempest also shows us something new: Performance art no longer happens in private, in those white-walled downtown loft spaces. One person has a camera, and the performance is instantly internationally accessible.

The piece is an homage to an artist called Carolee Schneemann, who did similar performances years ago, and even the title, Interior Semiotics, is a reference to a notorious 1975 Schneemann performance called Interior Scroll, part of a long series of performance art that redefined and challenged  the notion of the erotic; a full frontal  confrontation of  sexuality, gender, and the social construction of the female body. Stolz’s performance was Sesame Street compared to the no-holds barred Schneeman:

According to Schneemann, the power of a performance “is necessarily more aggressive and immediate in its effect.” Using her body as an explosive, Schneemann bombed male hierarchy in the art world in her 1975 performance Interior Scroll. Undressing to nothing but an apron, she then outlined her body with black paint. After reading passages from her book Cézanne, She was a Great Painter while making nude model poses, she proceeded to slowly pull a scroll out of her vagina, presenting selected texts to a shocked audience.

Aside from exploring her naked body as a conceptual work of art, she asserts her writings as a material extension of herself, giving birth to them. Vaginal and aggressive, Interior Scroll is a slap in the face to the machismo of the abstract expressionists who, I would argue, painted with their dicks, ejaculating wildly onto the canvas. ( Guillerme Booth )

"Another work of hers I experienced on that enlightening February evening was her 1967 film Fuses in which she filmed herself and her then-boyfriend James Tenney having sex. This film depicts sexuality within the context of a relationship. Besides sex, there are also shots of her cat Kitsch. Spliced in near the end, there seems to be footage of a road trip the couple took together adding nature to the whole experience. Clearly, Schneemann is in control here. Instead of a greasy porn movie heavy on blowjobs and male-dominated positions, this silent movie shows only a flaccid penis and jumps rapidly from one moment to the next. This playfulness is also apparent in her treatment of the media. Burning, staining and drawing on the celluloid like Stan Brakhage...."

The type of reception it has received, mostly negative, rarely addresses the content of the video. Hardly as provocative now as its namesake was, Interior Scroll, 1975, by Carolee Schneemann, performance image seen at top, the majority of the negative feedback, attacks against hipsters, etc., revolves around the audience members and their reactions as they are prominently featured in the video. The criticism is in itself sexist and based likely

he lack of consumption potential the audience seems to possess; their own identity issues notwithstanding. “Anonymous”, who conducted an interview with Stolz at Rhizome , likens it to a class consciousness flare-up, saying, “[The reaction to Interior Semiotics] stands at a nexus of hot-blooded issues; issues relating to class, status, accessibility, belonging and not belonging.” Yet, what does seem to be ignored is the collaborative nature of the work.

"The story of the video is this: The artist posts the video on YouTube and it goes unnoticed there for several months, as so much underground art does. Then someone posts it to the Internet forum called 4chan, a famous repository of the nasty and mean, the video starts getting mocked and passed around, and the comments start getting hysterical and out of control. People hate this video; they hate it passionately and viscerally. The comments around the world grow into the thousands and they include threats of rape and murder against the artist."

As I said before, this has become an artwork through its reception online. As the performance and reception is archived by sites such as http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/interior-semiotics, http://encyclopediadramatica.com/Spaghettios, rhizome.org, and the artist herself, the meaning expands and therefore the work does as well. Performance art in the age of the internet provides the best proof yet that the value of a work lies in its reception, not in the artifact. Performance, in an interactive public arena such as the internet where the viewer is also a maker, ensures that a work is never complete. This creates the illusion that the workings of time are sped up and consequently shifts the chief interest of the art historian to aggregation.

Henry Jenkins:The ability of corporations to control their "intellectual property" has had a devastating impact upon the production and circulation of cultural materials, meaning that the general population has come to see themselves primarily as consumers of -- rather than participants within -- their culture. The mass production of culture has largely displaced the old folk culture, but we have lost the possibility for cultural myths to accrue new meanings and associations over time, resulting in single authorized versions (or at best, corporately controlled efforts to rewrite and 'update' the myths of our popular heroes). Our emotional and social investments in culture have not shifted, but new structures of ownership diminish our ability to participate in the creation and interpretation of that culture.

Henry Jenkins:Participatory culture refers to the new style of consumerism that emerges in this environment. If media convergence is to become a viable corporate strategy, it will be because consumers have learned new ways to interact with media content. Not surprisingly, participatory culture is running ahead of the technological developments necessary to sustain industrial visions of media convergence and thus making demands on popular culture which the studios are not yet, and perhaps never will be, able to satisfy. The first and foremost demand consumers make is the right to participate in the creation and distribution of media narratives. Media consumers want to become media producers, while media producers want to maintain their traditional dominance over media content….

Fans respond to this situation of an increasingly privatized culture by applying the traditional practices of a folk culture to mass culture, treating film or television as if it offered them raw materials for telling their own stories and resources for forging their own communities. Just as the American folk songs of the nineteenth century were often related to issues of work, the American folk culture of the twentieth century speaks to issues of leisure and consumption. Fan culture, thus, represents a participatory culture through which fans explore and question the ideologies of mass culture, speaking from a position sometimes inside and sometimes outside the cultural logic of commercial entertainment. The key difference between fan culture and traditional folk culture doesn’t have to do with fan actions but with corporate reactions. Robin Hood, Pecos Bill, John Henry, Coyote, and Br’er Rabbit belonged to the folk. Kirk and Spock, Scully and Mulder, Hans and Chewbacca, or Xena and Gabrielle belong to corporations.

Fan fiction repairs some of the damage caused by the privatization of culture, allowing these potentially rich cultural archetypes to speak to and for a much broader range of social and political visions. Fan fiction helps to broaden the potential interest in a series by pulling its content toward fantasies that are unlikely to gain widespread distribution, tailoring it to cultural niches under-represented within and under-served by the aired material. In theory, such efforts could increase the commercial value of media products by opening them to new audiences, though producers rarely understand them in those terms.

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