Posts tagged ‘guerilla art’

That’s Not My Name: Lord, It’s The Samurai! intervention

altered poster, Lord, It's the Samurai, intervention, 2009

Altered poster, Lord, It's the Samurai!, 2009

Just got tipped to an excellent new intervention critiquing the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s latest orientalist extravaganza, Lords of the Samurai. My anonymous source sent me the link to Lord, it’s the Samurai!, a brilliant goof on this year’s summer blockbuster which replicates the show’s official website with a twist—it offers a detailed, pointed, and well-researched deconstruction of the problematic exhibition. The faux-site points out the less-than-savory aspects of samurai culture that the AAM conveniently glosses over, including the militarism, slavery, pederasty and misogyny inherent in the “code of the warrior.”

The ersatz site also recognizes the dangers of the exhibit’s glamorization of violence, noting,

No myth here, and it hasn’t changed since the times of the samurai: it’s universal and real, how war dehumanizes everyone.
Aestheticizing violence, normalizing war.
The museum may not want you to see it, but there is blood on those swords.

The faux-site also calls out the AAM’s ongoing Asian fetish with its hilarious tagline (Where Asian Still Means Oriental) and a fun little word-scramble that mixes up past titles from AAM exhibits to form an amalgamation of exotic Asiaphilic fantasies.

The imitation site also makes a cogent connection between the Museum’s soft-peddling of Japanese nationalism and the U.S. government’s interest in remilitarizing Japan, which would aid the U.S. in maintaining the upper hand in Asia. The faux-site also notes that it’s not the first time the AAM has backed up a superpower’s questionable point of view, as seen in Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World, the 2005 show that gave credence to the PRC’s claim that Tibet is really just the back door of China.

Hard-copy flyers, Lord, It's the Samurai!, invention, 2009

Hard-copy flyers, Lord, It's the Samurai!, 2009

All told, this little fakey website is a fine, funny, and extremely effective critique that packs in a copious number of links and information. It’s a companion piece to hard-copy flyers that have been distributed in public brochure racks in San Francisco’s Japantown. Someone upstairs at the AAM must have twigged to the switch since, as noted in the site, the counterfeit flyers have been systematically removed and replaced with the AAM’s own brochures almost as soon as they’ve been distributed. The fake site’s gmail address was also disabled shortly after sending out its first email blast. If the museum’s functionaries are so freaked out that they’re furiously trying to eradicate it, then I’d have to say that the intervention is working.

UPDATE: After just a couple days it appears that Lord, It’s The Samurai! has gone viral. This very blog entry has outstripped the site’s previous champion Shah Rukh Khan (and his six-pack) as the top post of the week and news of the faux-site has travelled far and wide around the blogosphere. Here are a few links:

CBS5’s post

mrpoopypants’ post (scroll down to the comments where an AAM employee defends the museum)

sfist post

8asians post (wherein the bloggers confess to being pwned by the faux-site)

Interview with the anonymous creators of the site here.

sfmike’s post

digdug’s post

UPDATE 2: The Asian Art Museum itself has posted an entry on its blog about the intervention. I’m de-linking it, though, since they’ve selectively refused trackbacks (including mine) from sites critical of their position. Another example of systematic exclusion on their part.

And Japanese history scholars weigh in with their approval of the site, calling it “an instant classic.” There are also some great observations on the significance of museum shows as well as a shout-out to the scholarly rigor of  Lord, It’s The Samurai!

UPDATE 3: Found this nice manifesto about social art intervention on John Jota Leanos’ site and thought I’d toss it out there, since it’s relevant to the conversation at hand. You can check out his art and other relevant information there, too. Plus his significant other was my kid’s kindergarten teacher.

UPDATE 3: Myself and a representative from asiansart.org, the folks who put together the parody website, were on Hard Knock Radio on KPFA-FM this week talking about the intervention. Go here for the stream, or download the interview here.

UPDATE 4: Ken Baker, art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, weighs in here. Mostly positive, with some great dialogue in the user comments (aside from some obvious cluelessness). Viraling!

UPDATE 5: Continued fallout some nine months later as Asian Art Museum director Jay Xu talks in the LA Times about how “painful” it was to be pwned by asiansart.org’s intervention. Maybe getting a clue would ease some of the pain, Jay. asianarts.org talks back here.

August 26, 2009 at 5:21 am 12 comments

No Blood For Oil: ChevWrong poster bombs

I will not complain about my asthma, downloadable poster, truecostofchevron.com, 2009

I will not complain about my asthma, downloadable poster, ChevWrong Inhumane Energy series, truecostofchevron.com, 2009

Just a quick shoutout to a couple well-placed guerilla art pieces spied around town here in San Francisco in the past week or so. In anticipation of the May 27 Chevron shareholders meeting in San Francisco last week, some enterprising artist/activists last week bombed the city with printouts of the downloadable subvertisements from truecostofchevron’s ChevWrong Inhumane Energy ads. The poster brigade, which plastered the city with hundreds of the alternate ads, decided to take matters into their own hands after CBS Outdoor refused to sell billboard space to truecostofchevron, claiming that it didn’t accept “negative” advertising. The Inhumane Energy series cleverly skewers Chevron’s current greenwashing ad campaign that speciously utilizes earth-friendly taglines such as “I will leave the car at home more,” “I will finally get a programmable thermostat,” and “I will replace 3 light bulbs with CFLs.” As if.

I will try not to get cancer, downloadable poster over Chevron ad, truecostofchevron.com, 2009

I will ignore the toxic waste pits in my village, downloadable poster over Chevron ad, ChevWrong Inhumane Energy series, truecostofchevron.com, 2009

Truecostofchevron’s slick little numbers nimbly mimic Chevron’s fakey feel-good sentiments with lines including,  “I will not breathe when outside,” “I will try not to get cancer,” and “I will not complain about my asthma,” coupled with facts and statistics about Chevron’s environmentally unsound activities in Nigeria, the U.S., Burma, Ecuador, Iraq and other sites worldwide. As with any good detournement, the series simultaneously critiques, neutralizes and repurposes its source material, in this case simulating Chevron’s high-powered happy-smiley corporate propaganda in order to expose and deride the oil giant’s own hypocrisy.

No Blood For Oil, stencil, Bay Bridge lower deck, 2009

No Blood For Oil, stencil, Bay Bridge lower deck, 2009

I’ve also been appreciating the rawer but no less effective commentary on the link between big oil and the destruction of the planet that’s cropped up on the eastbound approach to the Bay Bridge. Stenciled onto a couple pillars on the Bridge’s lower deck is a simple image of a tank’s silhouette spouting a single a drop of blood. Direct, visual and to the point, the graphic needs no embellishment to gets its message across, even to the distracted driver speeding along the freeway. And though it may be ephemeral, its placement in the line of sight of thousands of drivers a day brings its message to where it’s most needed and where it can’t be ignored. Which is the most that anyone can hope for in combating the baldfaced corporate misinformation that bombards us every day.

June 1, 2009 at 5:35 am 8 comments


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