swindles of all sizes

Art Chantry:

i really hate high-end expensive ‘hipster lifestyle’ magazines. i avoid them like the plague. i know, i know – it’s the ‘cutting edge’ in graphic design, blah blah blah. but, they always seem so shallow and plastic and lame to me. all they ever do is copycat what the REAL serious underground people are doing on their own (with no money.) then these ‘hipster mags’ (usually financed by a major corporation or rich ‘hipster’ asshole) sell it back to us and the whole world copy-cats it and everything goes to hell. i see these things as an abomination – a blight. they are an insult to everything i care about. it’s FASHION.

---... and personally, i think the clash were a total corporate fraud from the very inception. does that make ME cynical? i really don't care.---AC

just the same, i picked this thing up at a ‘half price books’ simply becasue i loved the cover. it’s a brilliant contemporary shallow snide insult to the legacy of jamie reid (a great snarky inside joke). but, the PHOTOS of these two primal trend-setting pioneering british punk rockers on the cover was just so damn COMPELLING. i wanted to read the interview to see what they had to say. it’s actally quite a brilliant cover design for any magazine – even a hipster fashion mag. even cynical old ME couldn’t resist it.

this is the 5th issue of SWINDLE. the only date i could find on it was “published 2005″ on the copyright page. beyond that, i have no idea who backed it, why it was created, what purpose this thing has – nothing to go on at all. it’s full of those awful “ever-so-chic” fashion ads for brand name labels too cool to last. the usual high-roller hogwash.

but, the articles in it are actually rather fascinating. it’s sort of like a REAL ‘zine – only what a ‘zine would look like if everybody on earth were fabulously wealthy. very very strange. the hipster art world meets punk and then surfs the fahsion fad of the moment.

then i looked closer – the art director was SHEPARD FAIREY!! this is an aspect of his work i had ZERO idea even existed. i’ve followed shep since his early punk days with the “obey” stickers and andre the giant slapped everywhere on earth. i paid attention to his early graphics and posters and everything. he had style. he had an eye. he was very very good. he had market savvy. he was a great huslter. but, (especially after meeting the guy) he proved to be a classic hustling punk rocker skateboard dude from los angeles – you know the type. the kinda guy who is almost oblivious to the imapct of his actions – yet is smart enough to control the exploitation of his work? i’ve met a thousand, a hundred thousand, ‘sheps’ over the years. but, this guy was ornery enough and cheerful enough to actually push ahead and make it all work for him.

when the infamous “hope” poster first hit the streets, i ignored it. it looked like a million other things to my eye. nothing special. but, when it struck that nerve in the american zeitgeist and became iconic, i totally re-assessed it and now appreciate it as one of those amazing great pieces of american graphic design that changes the world (like the happy face or batman). i doff my hat to the timing, brilliance and SHEER LUCK of shep fairy!

but, i thought it ended there. sure, he’s still producing, but anybody can have a hit record. it doesn’t mean they’re a recording ARTIST. all i’d ever seen of his extensive work are his cool posters and cheezy ‘obey’ stickers. the idea that he could design and art direct a magazine like this? totally surprised me. the skill set to do a good magazine design is extensive. joe average design punky fanboy can’t do it – period. yet, here is this really clever, smart sophisticated (and wealthy) magazine being churned out by the same guy – all before he was “famous”, too. it seemed antithetical to everything i thought i knew about shep. i, again, have to re-assess him.

when the whole brew-ha-ha about his (silly) copyright infringement erupted, he stumbled. he laughed it off and tried to mitigate the problem (juts like a skilled manager would – like an ‘art director’ would). however, the pop mindset of copyright (which is terribly unfair and ignorant – especially when it becomes a court case) roared to life against him and he was forced by circumstances to fight as good a fight as he could while being totally unprepared for the hurricane assault. the “crime” shep did was no different than something every single graphic designer in america (the WORLD) does daily – he used a visual ‘word” and used it to write a wonderful visual sentence. the pop psyche took that sentence and turned it into a paragraph and then a novel – a best-selling novel. it’s how this stuff works at it’s very very best – it’s language. the strange fact that this particular “word” caught on and became pop history AND that there were several battalions of coprorate money-grubbing lawyers happy to pounce on him and take control to make even MORE money? well, nobody expects things like that to happen. if we did we wouldn’t even be in the graphic design field. it would be impossible to work.

so, the prosecution (persecution?) of stephard fairy is a noble story and one that isn’t fully over. the wolves won this round. but those wolves are watching to attack another tasty morsel whenever it decides it’s hungry for more. the n

one could be YOU – for using a typeface you didn’t control the copyright on. or using a corproate color scheme that had sharks swimming around it. or making an image that has a tiny piece in it that looks too close to another “copyrighted” piece. copyright laws work AGAINST the lone artist. it’s a tool of the corporate master. they use it to control us. and to increase profits.

the bottom line is that shepard fairey is a sort of graphic design martyr. i hate using that word. it’s really hard to look at him as any sort of martyr. but, it’s really true. don’t you ever badmouth the guy again. he took a bullet for ALL of us graphic designers.

AC: i guess my position on this magazine is – ICKY! just like all of these magazines are icky. but, i’m fascinated that step fairy is such a sophisticated art director/designer. i always assumed (that word!) he was little more than a lucky punker. but, this level of technical mastery speaks to a whole ‘nother aspect of the guy. i think i mis-judged him (again.) i like that he surprises me….the clash were a marketing fraud from before their existance.. the pistols were an out of control frankenstein monster. go read some oral histories. it’s obvious what was what….ALL rock bands are plastic. the fantasy of righteousness and integrity only exists in our dreams. don’t be a fool. the clash ‘s integrity was a marketing ploy that you swallowed whole. don’t be a fool. DIY instead…. i’m also a huge monkees fan and just don’t understand the whole “fake” argument any more. the devil is always in the details. and the details always tell a different story that the pop myth narrative. rock bands are businesses. period….

… bernie’s ‘scam’ (as reported from before there even WAS a clash – they were still auditioning potentials forever and ever) was to have a ‘political subject matter’ band that reeked of leftist integrity. it was marketing hole they saw and decided to exploit. malcolm’s insane notions of the spectacle were positively brilliant in comparison to the sheer cold exploitive focus of bernie. total product….

… i recognize shep as a power and an incredible pop phenom. i also think he’s a heck of a great guy. finding this magazine was a bit of a shock as i had no idea he had this sort of work in his background. as far as a ‘design constiuancy”? isn’t that the definition of an art director? it’s always been a ‘managerial’ position, not a “high art” position. when i was at the rocket, i spent all my time hiring and managing people around me. when i got the chance to actually ‘design’ something with my own two hands, i was so stressed out and busy that it was always second level efforts. besides, all the “good assignments” were jobbed out in order to get people to actually be interested in working on the mag. i did all the ‘boring crummy’ articles to do on my own because i couldn’t get anybody out there dumb enough to do them for me….

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