If you are what you eat, then is it such a stretch to say that you are what you buy?
You can be sure I am not the first to make this connection. As you read this article, the marketing gurus are busily working, analyzing your purchases, movements, clicks and downloads. Armed with highly advanced computer algorithms they are trying to compute what you will buy next. The next time you look at your credit card statement, you should consider the question before others do: what do your purchases say about you?
Please let me share with you a defining moment in our purchasing history.
In the wonderfully original Soho district of Buenos Aires, we stumbled on a small independently owned store that makes and sells porcelain dishes. We fell in love with a set of espresso cups and plates that we have never seen anywhere else. Simple, functional and artistic, yet also handcrafted and reasonable in price. The owner herself helped us in our decision. To this day, we have a sense of pride drinking from our beautiful handcrafted cups.
We now think twice about every purchase we make. It must be original and if possible, handcrafted. We strive to think global but buy local. Choosing local craftsmen and artisans. However, be forewarned, the marketing experts are getting more clever (or more devious) and will not give up their empire so easily.
We consumers (yes, an awful term which shows how big merchants view us, big mouths wide open, ready to gobble up their mass produced knock-offs) are bombarded with original-looking, not so cheap, imitation, products. But, when you look at where it is made – or better yet, how it is made – it is just more expensive junk.
Don’t we all have enough cheap (actually we don’t anymore, can you say: minimalist), artificial, and only skin deep good-looking stuff? Just say no. No one will say it for you. Enough is enough. Buy original. Choose craftsmanship, quality and style. True its costs a little more, takes a little more effort and time (time is only money for the people who are taking your money), but in the end, it tells something about who we are. Every purchase shapes and defines us. It contributes or takes away from the quality of our life. Remain a mystery to the marketing gurus. confuse their complex computer algorithms and throw a wrench (preferably one made in China) in their multi-billion dollar alliances. Stay original… be you.
First, Apple’s Get a Mac ads were voted among the best ads for 2006 according to The Wall Street Journal, and then Steve Jobs stole the show from CES (Consumer Electronic Show) with the iphone and Apple TV, holding in his hand the future of electronic convergence while Bill Gates just stood there at CES talking about it. Now micro-softies are really getting nervous and defensive (or at least more nervous and defensive than usual).
What they really need to do is relax, stop fighting (why can’t we just all get along?) and read the Stanford commencement speech given by Steve Jobs (highly recommended reading). It explains why Apple is always on the cutting edge of industrial, artistic (this is an art blog, so I had to find some way to get art in here… I even resorted to getting Eva to quickly paint this great Apple still life just for this blog! Now, don’t ever say that we did nothing for you.) and technological design. Once Bill Gates (before the messiah complex hit and he decided to resign as CEO of Microsoft and save the world) was posed with the question, what is your vision? He replied: “to see a personal computer on the desktop of every home.” Good one Mr. Bill, but hardly what one would say is visionary (it was kind of obvious that would happen).
Apple, on the other hand, seems to have no such simplistic vision. They innovate instead of follow. They reinvented the mp3 and now the smart phone. Their products are far more than technology, they become part of our lives, they even become our friends. (Yes, even minimalists need some kind of friendship.) They say that it was Steve Jobs who insisted that the Mac Plus have no fan as the noise took away from the beautiful design and user experience. (Turned out to be a lesson in form follows function as the solder joints would fracture. Of course, hard core minimalists were few and far between back then… come to think of it, we actually still are… I guess that makes us kind of minimal… you don’t have to read anything that appears in parenthesis by the way.) Of course they have had their other failures (the bright colored clamshell notebook with a handle was kind of embarrassing), but when something comes together, wow, it really comes together. Just like great art. (I know, I know, another very weak link to art… did I mention Eva’s great Apple still life… my goal in life is to write a whole article in parenthesis. That would make Penn Jillette proud.)
Of course the micro-softy masses always rely on the same old argument that if Macs are so good, then why do they have such a small market share. (Love that one, because then you have them right where you want them.) Based on that same logic, they should all be driving Honda Civics. Porsche has a very small market share. I guess then it is a failure as well. (Don’t get me wrong. Honda makes respectable cars that sell very well, but no one compares them to Porsches.) Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both very rich men. Both companies are doing very well. Which one is bigger, richer, or sells more, is of no consequence. (At least to us peons who get excited about finding 25 cents on the street.) One has a rather simplistic vision that has already being accomplished and doesn’t seem to know what’s next (except of course to continue copying, ‘borrowing’ or buying other people’s ideas), while the other, continues to innovate.
Why are micro-softies so defensive? Relax amigo, we don’t really care if you choose to use inferior software on ugly hardware. No one is twisting your arm and forcing you to change. We are happy to keep quietly driving our Porsches and when we pass you by in your Honda, we will even give you a friendly smile. You see, we CAN all just get along. Stay original… Porsches are.
Something is terribly wrong. Are we the only ones that can see it? Are we the only ones who care? Is anyone going to do something? Let us explain.
When we came back to Canada after a several year hiatus in South America, we made a brief visit to our favorite brew pub with a couple of friends. To our horror, one of them, ordered a low carb beer. What? Was what we were hearing true? Has North American culture gone mad? Perhaps it was still the jet lag? Perhaps our ears still needed to adjust from Spanish back to English? But no, sadly, it was very true. The low fat, low carb propaganda bullet had struck again.
Well, you can imagine our embarrassment, but what could we do? After all, they were our friends. Then we started to realize that were in fact surrounded by infected people. People who were trading their India pale ales and Stouts for low carb beers, and right there on the table in front of us was even a low fat, low carb menu.
In the grocery stores we noticed how real food, (yes, food as nature intended, sorry kids but pizza pops are not real food), had been replaced by food PRODUCTS, many of which came with government approval labels, trying to convince us how healthy they are. Hmm… Funny there were no such labels to be found on the few natural and real foods that we found left in the store, the fruits and vegetables. Something is terribly wrong. Are we the only ones that can see it? Are we the only ones who care? Is anyone going to do something?
Yes, we are going to do something and we want you to join us. It is about time we fight back, stand up for real food, real beer, and good health. But first, we need a motto, so here it is folks, are you ready, brace yourselves it’s going to be a good one: “full fat, full flavor, full health.” There you have it. Catchy isn’t it? You see, what we are going do is to eat REAL food with all the fat and all the flavor, but just eat LESS. (Insert our usual minimalist ranting here…) Self-control is the answer, not all the fat free chocolate cake you can eat.
And while were on the subject, sorry people, but you CAN taste the difference, low fat Fettuccini Alfredo does not taste the same, people just agree with you, because you have so little body fat, they are afraid to rattle your cage. Well, there you have it, that’s our solution to the problem. Repeat after us: full fat, fall flavor, full health. Now don’t you feel better already? Stay original… it’s only natural.
Wow, for minimalists we sure make a lot of noise. Search the web and you find all kinds of minimalists spouting off about the virtues of “less is more” and how “form follows function.” Why even big corporations are putting out minimalist adds in the big glossy rags.
So why, do you ask, do we need another blog on the subject? Because, we minimalists have nothing left in our houses and have driven off all our friends, so we have nothing else to do but extol the virtues of minimalism. No really, the real reason is because of something profound that happened to us recently.
We were talking to some twenty-something year old friends about minimalist music, art and design. (Actually that’s not really true, we were talking about something completely different, but we always look for ways to change the theme of any conversation to minimalist design.) Then I mentioned something about Andy Warhol. Well, when we saw the blank look of confusion on their faces, we realized that these poor under privileged girls had no idea of whom we were talking about. It was even worse then we initially thought.
We mentioned other names to see if any brain synapses were connecting: The Velvet Underground… nothing, American Music Club… zip, The Feelies… nope, Mies Van Der Rohe, Jennifer Sterling… oh my, this is bad, the Latin Playboys… nada. What do they teach in schools these days? Ok, we could see that we had our work cut out for us. So, how do you go about helping a couple of young impressionable minds to appreciate the virtues of minimalist design?
Hand bags. Yes, you read correctly, handbags and other women’s accessories. You see, I recently stumbled upon the website of designer Marc Jacobs, which is a beautiful presentation of minimalist web design, OK granted, too much Flash (no, not the glittery kind, go ask a computer nerd then come back…) but oh so very clean. (Also, not very functional, but who cares, he’s rich and famous.) We just happened to be at a coffee house in Paraguay called Havanna who have Wi-fi and even a couple Apple Macs (Hmm… do we see a connection forming here..) for customer use. As soon as I brought up the Marc Jacobs website, I could see the blank looks disappear followed by instant recognition, and a lot of shouting: “I love Marc Jacobs, they make such cool hand bags.” Mission accomplished.
The moral of the story is the following: minimalism is best appreciated through the simple things in life. Are not the simplest words the most meaningful and powerful: love, home, family, friends, and iPod. (Just kidding.) The point is: everyone is minimalist at heart; they just don’t know it yet. Perhaps there is too much clutter in their lives for them to see it. You see, that’s why we minimalists have to make so much noise. Stay original… be minimal.
Mark Eitzel from the venerable American Music Club (whose CD jackets by the way contain brilliant art and who many believe is one of the best songwriters of all time) once said he writes “pretentious little songs of quiet self-loathing.” If only all artists could be as honest about their work.
You may have noticed that the underground art project does not have an artist statement. It is not because we could not think of some lofty, pretentious things to say about nothing, or babble about some metaphysical junk, but rather because we feel the whole idea of an artist statement is, well, to be honest, is just down right SILLY. Do you really care what some artist has to say about what his work is about or what it SHOULD be about? Can you not tell these things from simply viewing his work? Why is art so pretentious? Why are artists so pretentious?
Art is completely subjective (unless of course you are an art dealer, then in that case ‘subjective’ is a bad word) and is one of the purest forms of expression that eliminates the need for explanations or commentaries. If you like a painting then that’s great, if you don’t then that’s great to. If you can’t decide, then that’s not great, and you should be forced to read endless artists statements until you have an opinion.
If for any other reason you really want to read some poor misguided artist’s pretentious words, the art galleries and the web are full of them (knock yourself out), we however would much rather you listen to Mark Eitzel’s pretentious little songs of quiet self-loathing. After which, you might even be inspired to pick up the brush and start painting.
Stay original… not pretentious.