Archive for July, 2009

Capitalist Collage, Digital Media. July 26, 2009

Capitalist Collage, Digital Media. July 26, 2009

UPDATE: Great timing. NYT just published an article on Polyvore 11 hours ago! The site will now get a lot of attention. You know you heard about it first here;)

This collage was created with Polyvore, an online tool which allows users to compose collections using everyday objects of consumptions.   More than a game, some of the works result in interesting examples of digital collaging techniques, composition, and graphic design.  In some instances, interior architectural illustrations have been created.

I experimented with the application and, although this collage exceeded the 50 objects limit- and thus could not be published, I was allowed to complete my work. By using ‘printscreen’ I was able to have a copy. The idea of using objects as paint came to me after seeing the way objects are categorized not only by type (bags, dresses, etc.) but also by color- and there are about 70 colors available. Here is a snapshot of the color ‘fuchsia’:

Polyvore  - Dashboard

Polyvore - Dashboard

The software/application is designed to allow users (usually females) to create ‘spreads’ of objects such as those seen in popular fashion magazines, reflecting one’s taste and ‘style’.  The application is built well and is fairly user-friendly:  it  has definite potential for artistic expression and original creations. The text tool is also really versatile and yields results which are, at times, beautiful.  A cross between a simplified version of Photoshop and the customization tools of Myspace, Polyvore ‘sets’-as they are called- trigger questions on whether some of the resulting work could be rightfully called ‘art’ (what is the difference between using this tool and cutting  images from magazines by hand and collaging them)? An artist I read about years ago became famous for creating micro-worlds and  fully furnished ‘homes’ by painstakingly cutting and collaging from glossy magazines and newspapers. Could Polyvore be a way to do the same, but digitally? And, as in everything, is the creativity lying with the user or with the creator of the proprietary software? We have had the same conversation for years, among architecture professors, on the differences between drawing by hand and drawing on the computer. Michael Webb (thank you to my colleague Gregory De Peña for passing this on) writes:

A case can be made that a drawing produced by a computer,or rather, by fingers that are instructing a computer to produce a drawing, is part of a joint effort…that is, the skills of the person, to whom the fingers are attached, are combined with the truly remarkable skills of those original designers of the program being employed.

Thinly disguised is the fact that Polyvore  is nothing but a cunning media for advertisement. By browsing through the shopping categories, users are exposed to the price and website where each object showcased is available for purchase. Few click of the mouse and a credit card, and the object is acquired.
I was very interested in studying this game/art tool and its agenda.

In the best of scenarios, Polyvore offers a creative outlet for women- a digital take on the classic ‘paper doll’ game.
In the worst, it is part of the advertising machine. It is up to us to decide.

Here is an example of some of the site most creative work, also here. Naturally, I find myself drawn to collages about environments, shadow boxes and painting-like works. The environments speak of space, and offer a novel way of thinking about architectural renderings or photocollages normally composed in Photoshop. Design and fun.

I have not spent too much time analyzing the demographic, but it seem a truly fascinating social trend, specifically where the tool has been used for political reasons (Iran collections), or as sort of illustrated letters, manifestoes and visual status updates. Collections are also made as gifts.
On a side note, I do believe that the tool is not more popular- despite its originality and versatility- due to its name, which I find unfortunate and ominously medical-sounding. Polydent anyone?

Incidentally, as I was composing the collage, Giuseppe Arcimboldi came to mind.
He was a fellow milanese.

As Shelley Esaak notes in arthistory.about.com:
‘Submitted for your consideration: Cubism, 350 years ahead of the official movement’…by an Italian:

(for more click here)

Giuseppe Arcimboldo- The Librarian (Wolfgang Lazius)

Giuseppe Arcimboldo- The Librarian (Wolfgang Lazius)

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Appreciate the beauty

of stacks of firewood.

Or the sounds of tall, tall trees

Their leaves glistening like tambourines,

coins on a woman’s collarbone.

Say silent thank-you’s for the clouds

The majesty of their shadows

-on canyons and Badlands-

some people never fly above them.

The air fresh like a new day,

carrying the faint smell of beets-

earthen work done by honest men.

Travel to see yourself from far away.

Fargo, July 20, 2009

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