Consumerism

November 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

So after a long while of trying to pinpoint a specific context to my bottlecap mandala works, I’ve finally found something relevant to relate it all to: consumerism. Combining the two seems an intersting contrast to display a meaningful arguement, for something I’m quite passionate about. This is an essay/rant about the whole deal with consumerism and capitalism, and how I’m showing it in a anti-consumer manner.

“This is where we wait together, regardless of our age, our carts stocked with brightly colored goods,” – Don DeLillo In his 1985 novel White Noise Don here describes the average American supermarket as a deeply spiritual place.

In the modern developed world consumerism, in many eyes, can be considered a religion. Within a capitalist society we are told that we constantly need to buy buy buy, ya feeling down? Go buy something, we’re told, it’ll make you feel good. That better? Fantastic, to celebrate this happiness go buy some more stuff! Consumer society tells us that shopping is a great pastime, a hobby, like playing video games or playing a sport. And if you can’t afford all of these consumer goods which make you fit so well into modern society, simply get a credit card and go wild! And then suffer the crippling consequences when the bill comes, but hey, don’t worry about that, think about all the cool things you’ll own! One of the biggest lies we’re told in this world is that we need money to be happy, when in reality this is totally untrue, the greatest example to give is that of communities that don’t have these complex structured societies like Amazonian and Indigenous tribes. These tribesman have no real concept of consumerism, they may know of it, but they do not partake in it, happily living their lives without any materialistic goods, services, or technology, these people use what they are given, which in a lot of cases is simply nature. Capitalism on the other hand caters for the developed world by sourcing the whole planet, attaining food, textiles, rare minerals, water and oil, then with these things that been taken from all over the globe they are manufactured into products and produced by people that won’t ever use them due to the exploitative wages they are given by the corporations who hire them. The developed world collectively can be seen as a very greedy bunch, having constant wants and needs, when in reality aren’t ‘needs’ at all, do you really need that gold plated iPhone? Or that £1000 Gucci handbag? No. When we have too many possessions they seem to own us, and surely it should be the other way round? All of these things are taken for granted by people, especially the younger generations, kids don’t seem to ever be happy even with all of the newest games, gadgets, toys and spending money, it really shouldn’t be like this, people should be grateful for what they have and are given, and not take all of these things for granted, which seems to be the case fairly often. 24166135 With all of this in mind, we can look upon consumerism as a religion: the religion of the modern developed world. In Today’s day and age technology is what drives society, it keeps it constantly moving, always developing, making older technologies insignificant, but what was it that drove us before technology? Things like good health and the providing of food, and those considered beyond the real realm, such as religion, Gods, symbols, and spirituality, these things took people away from reality. This idea of being taken away from reality is very loosely fitted to modern society as people have strayed from these things, however in it’s place we now consume through the means of shopping, modern shopping is our only communally agreed path to salvation. As a culture, this is what we do to define and transform ourselves. It gives us meaning, it’s the hobby of the nation! Shopping gives us a sense of community and belonging, it’s part of our lifestyle, assuring us that we belong to certain socialist groups, however, it’s with consumerism that we replaced the ‘old’ community – the need of religion and spirituality –  we value the feeling of belonging, which religion does, or did as it now seems to be the case in the modern developed world.

“Culture is everything we don’t have to do.

We have to eat but we don’t have to have cuisines

like Big Macs or Sushi.

We have to cover ourselves against the weather

but we don’t have to be concerned whether we put on

Levi’s or Yves Saint Laurent.

The ‘have to’ activities are functional and the ‘don’t have to’ stylistic –

The main basis on which we make choices is in terms of

stylistic differences”

– Brian Eno

Connecting these thoughts and speculations to my work: A mandala is a piece of religious design work, a spiritual and ritual symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism, representing the universe. I am linking consumerism with this religious design to represent the comparisons and contrasts between the two forces, on how we’ve become disconnected with ourselves and our ‘old’ sense of community (the need of religion and spirituality), and replaced it with consumerism. I’m displaying my designs in a similar manner that Chris Jordan does, by visually demonstrating these comparisons and contrasts in a series of images, interlinking the two topics into one, giving people an insight to the consumer culture that we live in, and seem to take for granted when looking at the rest of the world.

“Through meditation on the Mandala the mind is gradually able to ‘unscramble’ the sets of relationships and layers, which give an illusionary permanence to the outside world, whilst activating a greater insight to the inner world of ‘knowing’ or simply ‘being’.  Mandalas represent the realities that lie beyond the world of physical form and assist the viewer to recognise and integrate this unconscious knowledge.” – from Christine Rainbird.com

In terms of audience, the target audience according to the brief is meant to be aimed at young, design aware students from Hong Kong, my design outcome will be relevant to this audience as religion, Buddhism in particular, is quite prevalent in China and Hong Kong, as is consumerism, so the context of my work could be easily grasped. In general also, my work can be applied to all religions, not solely Buddhism and Hinduism, I’m simply using design influences from these religions to create an outcome. Why?-

  • I like the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism  and their ethos
  • I find mandalas visually appealing, and the meaning that’s attached to them
  • I like how mandalas have a certain structure to them, using shapes of varying size and intricacy, and colour to form the design, determining whether it’s simplistic or complex

– Consumerism makes us selfish, it’s a selfish void we all want to fill, we all do it. – When we have too many possessions they seem to own us, surely it should be the other way round? – – People who live simple lives are generally rather happy people because they abolish – Food: GM, if they don’t look right sling ’em – Capitalist society caters for the developed world by sourcing the whole planet, ruining peoples lives – we all get sucked into the trap of wanting these goods – advertising – Americanism – good at sucking people in, the whole world has followed in their stride – for example, on the polar opposite of this is religion – Buddhism / Hinduism How can I relate this to my work? “Through meditation on the Mandala the mind is gradually able to ‘unscramble’ the sets of relationships and layers, which give an illusionary permanence to the outside world, whilst activating a greater insight to the inner world of ‘knowing’ or simply ‘being’.  Mandalas represent the realities that lie beyond the world of physical form and assist the viewer to recognise and integrate this unconscious knowledge.” – from Christine Rainbird.com how will I colour mine, what will i do to mine? will I use meaningful shapes and colours? relating them to me? consumerism as a religion? – look at ‘No Logo’ by  Naomi Klein http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671888/a-giant-mandala-made-from-the-logos-of-mega-brands   Mandalas, though they take many different forms, are usually a form of meditation–the artist might spent whole weeks drawing a carefully constructed symmetrical depiction of the cosmos, only to have it brushed away in an instant. Klingberg’s replaced the traditional “cosmos” with a self-made version of the universe, populated by slogans like “TASTY!” and lo-res rainbows, stars, and hearts. Klingberg describes the installation as “viral,” saying, “the symbols and patterns in this mandala transform into an image of how our daily rhythm of commonplace doings blends with advertising and enters deep into our lives, homes, and minds.” As one Swedish critic noted, the New Age popularity of mandalas and the feel-good folksiness of the logos aren’t entirely at odds:

Thus, New Age spirituality’s promise of corporal and spiritual wellbeing merges with everyday consumer culture. They both seem to be quite agreed about what they are promising: a state in which nothing rubs or is uncomfortable–the possibility of total, rapid satisfaction of needs, accessible to everyone, all in one go. Whether it be with a new therapy or a new, more-effective washing-up liquid.

Wheel of Everyday Life sits smack-dab in the heart of it all, Houston, a city where Shell and Fiesta are both headquartered. For Klingberg, whose past work with mandalas is also location-specific, the association was completely intentional. “The logos are a link between our public and private spheres,” she adds, “maybe even to the collective unconscious.”

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