Author Archive

Market Research Things: An Opportunity for Collaboration

May 26, 2009

1. Remarks on Collaboration

“To reach, not the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I. We are no longer ourselves. Each will know his own. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.”
–Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

We find ourselves compelled, but perplexed, by Henare, Holbraad and Wastell’s call for an ethnographic methodology of engaging heuristically with things. They write, “Rather than going into the field armed with a set of pre-determined theoretical criteria against which to measure the ‘things’ one already anticipates might be encountered, it is proposed that the ‘things’ that present themselves be allowed to serve as a heuristic with which a particular field of phenomena can be identified, which only then engender theory” (5). We’re interested in what might help us continue to think about how to craft such a methodology. In this context, we want to explore where the idiom of collaboration takes us. We want to bring to bear on our work with things some thoughts on ethnographic relationships configured as collaborations. Where does it take us to think of things as collaborators in research?

Collaboration strikes us as an interesting idiom because of some particularly rich discussions of collaboration in ethnographic work, collaboration both as a methodology for research and as an object of analysis. We are being, we recognize, a bit playful in exploring the idea that–in the same way that we have registered a parallel between a post-colonial interest in whether the subaltern can speak and a materially-oriented interest in whether the thing can–we now want to suggest a productivity in sketching an incipient parallel between a shift in the focus of ethnographic relationships from an other to an informant to a collaborator and a shift in the focus of our relationship with things from radical ontological alterity to collaborative potential.

The discussions of collaboration in ethnographic work are useful in this context in that they not only proceed with a sense that collaboration is possible across multiple epistemologies (or epistemic communities), but in fact that the multiplicity is what makes collaboration so necessary. The question we want to pose is whether we enact a similar move for ontologies, and thereby see collaboration as a way of conceptualizing how we relate to things.

2. Ethnographic Collaborations

Looking at Doug Holmes and George Marcus’s recent article “Collaboration Today and the Re-Imagination of the Classic Scene of Fieldwork Encounter,” we can imagine a parallel between the way they talk about relationships among people and about knowing, on the one hand, and a way of thinking about relationships between people and things and about being very much along the lines of Henare et al.’s discussion, on the other hand. They write, “Working amid and on collaborations significantly shifts the purposes of ethnography from description and analysis, inevitably distanced practices for which it has settled, to a deferral to subjects’ modes of knowing, a function to which ethnography has long aspired” (2). “The point is, again, to integrate fully our subjects’ analytical acumen and insights to define the issues at stake in our projects, as well as the means by which we explore them” (8).

In her ethnography Friction, Anna Tsing makes the point that collaboration is not at all inhibited, but rather enabled, by divergence among collaborators. “Through the frictions of such collaborations, global conservation projects–like other forms of traveling knowledge–gain their shape. Collaboration is not a simple sharing of information. There is no reason to assume that collaborators share common goals. In transnational collaborations, overlapping but discrepant forms of cosmopolitanism may inform contributors, allowing them to converse–but across difference. Attention to collaboration moves discussion beyond the eternal standoff between opposing interest groups…but not because it assumes that compromise is always imminent. Collaboration creates new interests and identities, but not to everyone’s benefit” (13).

Annemarie Mol, writing about artherosclerosis in her ethnography The Body Multiple, brings us even closer to applying a this way of seeing collaboration to a discussion of ontologies. She makes the point that a capacity to act does not rest upon shared ontology. “A shared, coherent ontology is not required for treatment and prevention practices. Incompatibilities between objects enacted are no obstacle to medicine’s capabilities to intervene….That the ontology enacted in medical practice is an amalgam of variants-in-tension is more likely to contribute to the rich, adaptable, and yet tenacious character of medical practice. Distributions separate out what might otherwise clash” (115).

Working with this idea that collaboration doesn’t require similarity but rather proceeds through dissimilarity, collaboration as a different way of talking about the rhizomatic entanglements of things can perhaps move us away from considering thingness primarily in the breakdown of things. The question we pose, which we’d like to consider in light of a question about alternatives to hyper-humanism and post-humanism, is not “What do things want?” or “Why do things resist?” but rather, what do things and we together enact? To speak of collaboration attunes us to enactment, and in particular to the practices through which enactment occurs.

We turn, then, to a particular site, where this idea of things as collaborators in research can finally take on some actual thingness. We want to look at market research as a set of practices through which our relationships with things are organized, keeping in mind the question of whether the idiom of collaboration is at all useful for considering these practices. Does considering market research as collaboration help us to recognize, yet feel neither alienated nor overwhelmed by (and thus still entangled with), the force of things?

3. Market Research Things

And so for four years and maybe more they explored and interviewed and analysed. Why are pure-suction vacuum cleaners selling so poorly? What do people of modest origin think of chicory? Do you like ready-made mashed potato and if so, why? Because it’s light? Because it’s creamy? Because it’s easy to make – just open it up and there you are? Do people really reckon baby carriages are expensive? Aren’t you always prepared to fork out a bit extra for the good of the kids? Which way will French women vote? Do people like cheese in squeezy tubes? Are you for or against public transport? What do you notice first when you eat yoghurt? – the colour? the texture? the taste? natural odour? … Do you like frozen food? How much do you think a lighter like this costs, eh? What do you look for in a mattress? Describe a man who likes pasta. What do you think of your washing machine? …

There was washing, drying, ironing. Gas, electricity and the telephone. Children. Clothes and underclothes. Mustard. Packet soups, tinned soups. Hair: how to wash it, how to dry it, how to make it hold a wave, how to make it shine. Students, fingernails, cough syrup, typewriters, fertilizers, tractors, leisure pursuits, presents, stationary, linen, politics, motorways, alcoholic drinks, mineral water, cheeses, jams, lamps and curtains, insurance and gardening. Nil humani alienum… Nothing that was human was outside their scope.

Georges Perec, Things: A Story of the Sixties


The interview (individual or focus group) is only one of the many technologies of market research.  There are national surveys sampling the population across every relevant variable and correlating them with sale statistics.  Segments are identified based on affinity and made into target groups.  There are blind taste tests where consumers evaluate beer for drinkability, bitterness, gas and foam, and chocolate for sweetness and if it does not stick to the tongue too much. Ethnology students—Malinowski in hand—move in with “regular people” do participant observation of their coffee brewing practices.  Others hang out with the cool kids to study new trends.  In a lab in Warsaw an expert in neuromarketing puts electrodes to subjects heads to measure how their frontal lobes respond to certain commercials.

A vast industry in every market economy, market research makes the consumers visible to the marketers—literally, as in the case of a moderated discussion in a room with a two-way mirror, and more figuratively through statistics and quantitative models of economic behavior, psychological studies of consumer unconscious and ethnographic research into the consumer’s everyday.  This knowledge is used to develop and refine mass-produced things or gauge the price people will be willing to pay for them.  More importantly, it gives input to the work of branding and advertisement, which invest the products with subtly designed and controlled meanings and emotional appeal beyond their utilitarian use.  (For example, a particular brand of beer may expected to speak about masculinity and male bonding, symbolically addressing perceived emotional and social needs or lacks in its target group.)

We plan to explore market research as a site of mediation and collaboration.  Firstly, it is a set of practices bringing together the producers and the consumers in performing the market—their mutual relationship figured as “supply” and “demand” through statistical description and probabilistic reasoning.  Secondly, in this interaction a lot of attention is given to localizing or nationalizing the products and brands in transnational circulation (market research is expected to articulate the “local difference” within the global capitalist economy).  Third, marketers are careful to use research to negotiate the manufactured versus authentic binary.  Hence their preoccupation with ethnography and questions of everyday appropriation of consumer products in everyday life of “real people,” as well as interest in psychology of the subconscious (thus “real”) needs and desires that consumers have.  Finally, in market research there is a tension between the immateriality of the abstract “market” and the materiality of actual things that are manufactured, advertised, sold and consumed.

We will be interested in market research as a site of knowledge production, where it is not only information that is produced, but through this process new kinds of people and new kinds of practices.
market research is a field where things and people collaborate to produce a new kind of subject, the consumer, and new kinds of consumption practices.

Thinking about an ethnography of capitalism focused on practices engaging affect that perform the consumer market we are inspired by Michel Callon et al.’s (2002) notion of the economy of qualities.  In an effort to present a description of the market that follows from an analytical symmetry between human and non-human actors Callon et al. offer a conceptualization of a product that foregrounds its unstable and fluid nature.

The product is a sequence of transformations.  This notion of product is contrasted with a more traditional economic notion of a good.  For example, a car as an economic good is a stable object with predetermined qualities, use and value.  As a product, however, it does not have qualities; it has to constantly be qualified.  “[I]t starts off by existing in the form of a set of specifications, then a model, then a prototype, then a series of assembled elements and, finally, a car in a catalogue that is ordered from a dealer…” (p. 198).

It is through this process of qualification (aided by techniques of market research) that stable marketable things emerge: “All quality is obtained at the end of a process of qualification, and all qualification aims to establish a constellation of characteristics, stabilized at least for a while, which are attached to the product and transform it temporarily into a tradable good in the market” (p. 199).

Such a “thing theory” positing the ontological stability of products on the market as something achieved and temporary rather than given enables us to see that market research is equally concerned with reflexive stabilization and destabilization of products (see Foster 2007).

4. Collaborating on/with bottled water

Marketing concept:

I usually drink water when I’m thirsty. Don’t wait for thirst. Do you know that a 2% loss of water in your body can make your body’s efficiency drop by 20%? Remember, drink 1.5 liters of the water X everyday, even if you’re not thirsty.

***

Q (researcher): If I was a Martian and had no idea was thirst is, how would you describe it?

A (consumer): Your lips are dry.

Q: Uhuh, dry lips, what else?

A: You can’t concentrate, you can’t focus, all you think about is that you want something to drink. And then this drink will bring relaxation, a sort of relief, will take the stress away. Because this dryness in the mouth is the kind that you think that in a moment you’re going to die.

***

Q: What is the difference between fizzy and still water?

A: The still one, you can say, is tasteless. It’s like that. And you know I’ve been married to my husband, such a long time, and he always says that still water is like drinking that awful tap water. So this influences me, this talk, and he keeps telling me that fizzy is good and still is bad. And I also tried this Lemon Arctic brand, but it was too sweet. So maybe now this water I’ll be experimenting with will have this something which will be awesome. And maybe it will be a substitute for the water I drink in my fitness club. But with water I’m more theory than practice. Theoretically I know that one should drink the still kind.

Q: OK, so I understand, theoretically it’s the still water, but what does it do to your body? Does it do something else with your body than other beverages?

A: Yes, I think so, because it doesn’t have all these chemicals in it. It’s made of natural ingredients. So one feels better after drinking this. Physically, because your bowels work differently. Your stomach acids work better. And the whole digestion is just better. It’s healthier than stuffing yourself with bubbles. You know, bicarbonate. Because a lot of fizzy waters, you know, they have this bicarbonate. And you burp.

Q What do you think would happen if you drank that much water every day from now on?

A: … if this water was a kind of like everyday ritual… I don’t know if my skin would be even be more supple, softer, but maybe, you know, all your skin would get better on the legs and everywhere, because in every human being the skin on the legs is thicker, it’s both in men and women. And older women have drier skin because they don’t have water in their body. These processes of, you know, hydration are not happening. I noticed that my skin was softer after these two weeks. And because I earlier had problems with it, because you know my skin has this tendency to get dry, on my hands. My husband, by the way, has horrible hands because he got frostbite when he was in the military. But my skin now is very nice. You can touch it if you like. Is it OK for researchers to touch women?

Q: Yes, I think we do it sometimes. I was more interested in how it makes you feel.

A: It feels nicer, my skin is more silky. I feel better with it, I feel comfortable. It’s about my pleasure really because I’m not the kind of person who’s looking to others to tell me that I look good. But it’s also nice to think that your hand feels better in contact with another person, like when you shake hands or a man kisses you on the hand.

Q: So what else happened during this experiment?

A: Psychologically, I got pissed off. All this drinking and constant going to the bathroom. Physically, I feel lighter. I lost 1.5 kilos.

Q: After drinking this water for two weeks everyday, if you were to write a letter or give a speech to a friend to convince her to do this, what would you say?

A: I would say, Ursula, I strongly recommend that you drink still water, because in a two-week experiment I noticed that I got thinner, I feel lighter, I feel more toned, and you don’t get this feeling of being full like you get with the fizzy water. Oh, oh, and my skin is better moisturized and supple. So I strongly recommend it, even though I know you hate still water.

Bibliography

Callon, Michel, Cécile Méadel and Volonona Rabeharisoa. 2002. “The economy of qualities.” Economy and Society 31:2: 194-217.
Foster, Robert J. 2007. “The work of the new economy: Consumers, Brands, and Value Creation.” Cultural Anthropology 22.2: 707-731.
Henare, Amiria, Martin Holbraad and Sari Wastell. 2007. Thinking Through Things: Theorizing Artefacts Ethnographically. London: Routledge.
Holmes, Douglas R. & George E. Marcus 2008. “Collaboration Today and the Re-Imagination of the Classic Scene of Fieldwork Encounter,” Collaborative Anthropologies 1:136-70.
Mol, Annemarie. 2002. The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice. Durham, NC: Duke Univerity Press.
Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2005. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

What this picture wants?

May 5, 2009

The 9/11 photo debate archive

February 18, 2009

– Thought people might be interested in the background on the photo we talked about today. Mateusz

Thursday, September 13, 2001. Photographer Thomas Hoepker is looking at the archive of 9/11 photographs in the offices of Magnum Photos. Some of the pictures will soon be published in an album called “New York September 11 by Magnum Photographers.”

David Friend interviewed Hoepker for his 2006 book “Watching the World Change. The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11” (see also project’s website here). “Out on the light table that first Thursday,” writes Friend of the picture we talked about in class today, “was one of the Hoepker’s 9/11 pictures that he hesitated over, then cast aside.

“It didn’t live up to the drama of other shots,” he recalls. “It was too subtle for the news moment. At the time you jumped to the obvious [photographs].” The image showed a disorientingly tranquil and schizophrenic scene: a handful of young people in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as if on a lunch break or taking a breather from a bike ride. They seem to talk idly, turning their backs on the terror of a smoke covered Manhattan.

060911_magnum-thoepker

It’s a kind of a troubling picture [Hoepker says.] The sun was shining. They were totally relaxed like any normal afternoon. They were just chatting away. It’s possible they lost people and cared, but they were not stirred by it.”

It took Hoepker four years before he felt inclined to publish the shot widely. In effect, he had self-censored it. The picture seemed to capture and invite complacency. It lacked any sense of outrage, a response Hoepker believed the background ought to have elicited from any civilized person seated in the foreground. It didn’t meet any of our standard expectations of what a September 11 photography should look like. “The idyllic quality turned me off,” he says. “It was too pretty. Maybe we didn’t need to see that, then. Maybe I wasn’t sure it would stir the wrong emotions [in the viewer] (Friend, 2006: 142-3).

Hoepker trying to make sense of the picture he took, goes to Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (Pieter Breughel the Elder, 1558). (Find a William Carlos Williams’s poem referring to the painting here )

icarus

“Over time,” says Hoepker quoted in Friend, “with pespective, [the picture] grew in importance.

It’s a very contemporary picture: the bright colors are up front [but] it has that touch of neutrality, a coolness, a bit of distance to suffering and a not trusting of emotions.” Despite its postmodern cast, it reminded Hoepker of Pieter Bruegel’s sixteenth-century painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, in which the subject seems willfully immune to the epic calamity in their midst. Bruegel’s work, says Hoepker, shows “a beautiful Flemish landscape and way in the sky this birdlike figure, Icarus, having flown too close to the Sun, [has] caught fire and is crashing down. [Similarily,] this is bucolic and in the background something awful is happening. I can only speculate [but they] didn’t seem to care. It took a while for the news to sink in. It took a while to know how to react (Friend, 2006: 143).

Sunday, September 10, 2006. In his New York Times column Frank Rich picks up the story from Friend’s book, and calls Hoepker’s picture a “taboo 9/11 Photo”. His piece was titled “Whatever Happened to the America of 9/12?” (read it here), and illustrated with a cartoon by Barry Blitt, a drawing of a New York shopfront with signs reading “Cafe 911” and “WTC Toys”.

Seen from the perspective of 9/11’s fifth anniversary, Mr. Hoepker’s photo is prescient as well as important — a snapshot of history soon to come. What he caught was this: Traumatic as the attack on America was, 9/11 would recede quickly for many. This is a country that likes to move on, and fast. The young people in Mr. Hoepker’s photo aren’t necessarily callous. They’re just American. In the five years since the attacks, the ability of Americans to dust themselves off and keep going explains both what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong on our path to the divided and dispirited state the nation finds itself in today.

What’s gone right: the terrorists failed to break America’s back. The “new” normal lasted about 10 minutes, except at airport check-ins. The economy, for all its dips and inequities and runaway debt, was not destroyed. The culture, for better and worse, survived intact. It took only four days for television networks to restore commercials to grim news programming. Some two weeks after that Rudy Giuliani ritualistically welcomed laughter back to American living rooms by giving his on-camera imprimatur to “Saturday Night Live.” Before 9/11, Americans feasted on reality programs, nonstop coverage of child abductions and sex scandals. Five years later, they still do. The day that changed everything didn’t make Americans change the channel, unless it was from “Fear Factor” to “American Idol” or from Pamela Anderson to Paris Hilton.

Monday, September 11, 2006. Slate.com quotes Rich’s column and publishes the photo (Times did not).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006. “Those New Yorkers weren’r relaxing!,” writes David Plotz on Slate in a piece titled “Frank Rich is Wrong About That 9/11 Photograph” (read here).

But wait! Look at the photograph. Do you agree with Rich’s account of it? Do these look like five New Yorkers who are “enjoying the radiant late-summer sun and chatting away”? Who have “move[d] on”? Who—in Rich’s malicious, backhanded swipe—”aren’t necessarily callous”? They don’t to me. I wasn’t there, and Hoepker was, so it may well be that they were just swapping stories about the Yankees. But I doubt it. The subjects are obviously engaged with each other, and they’re almost certainly discussing the horrific event unfolding behind them. They have looked away from the towers for a moment not because they’re bored with 9/11, but because they’re citizens participating in the most important act in a democracy—civic debate.

Ask yourself: What are these five people doing out on the waterfront, anyway? Do you really think, as Rich suggests, that they are out for “a lunch or bike-riding break”? Of course not. They came to this spot to watch their country’s history unfold and to be with each other at a time of national emergency. Short of rushing to Ground Zero and digging for bodies, how much more patriotic and concerned could they have been? None of us really knows what the five people in the picture were thinking or doing, writes Plotz. He gives his e-mail address writing that we wants to hear from people in the picture.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006. “A snapshot can make mourners attending a funeral look like they’re having a party,” writes Walter Sipser, a Brooklyn artist, in an e-mail to Slate. He identifies himself as the man in the far right of the picture. (Slate confirms his identity).

Thomas Hoepker took a photograph of my girlfriend and me sitting and talking with strangers against the backdrop of the smoking ruin of the World Trade Center on September 11th. Earlier, she and I had watched the buildings collapse from my rooftop in Brooklyn and had made our way down to the waterfront. The Williamsburg Bridge was filled with hundreds of people, covered in dust, helping one another make their way onto the street. It was clear that people who ordinarily would not have spoken two words to each other were suddenly bound together, which I suppose must be a fairly common occurrence in the aftermath of a catastrophe.

We were in a profound state of shock and disbelief, like everyone else we encountered that day. Thomas Hoepker did not ask permission to photograph us nor did he make any attempt to ascertain our state of mind before concluding five years later that, “It’s possible they lost people and cared, but they were not stirred by it.” Had Hoepker walked fifty feet over to introduce himself he would have discovered a bunch of New Yorkers in the middle of an animated discussion about what had just happened. He instead chose to publish the photograph that allowed him to draw the conclusions he wished to draw, conclusions that also led Frank Rich to write, “The young people in Mr. Hoepker’s photo aren’t necessarily callous. They’re just American.” A more honest conclusion might start by acknowledging just how easily a photograph can be manipulated, especially in the advancement of one’s own biases or in the service of one’s own career.

Still, it was nice being described as a young person. I was forty at the time the photograph was taken.

Later the same day Sipsers then girlfriend, Chris Schiavo, follows up, identifying herself as the “contortionist sunbather” lounging next to Sipser:

I am one of the “disaffected sunbathing youth” in the photo. I think Walter Sipser and your readers have already voiced most of what should be considered when looking at this photo in conjunction with the New York Times article.

I am also a professional photographer and did not touch a camera that day. Why? For many reasons including a now-obvious one: This somewhat cynical expression of an assumed reality printed in the New York Times proves a good reason. (Shame on Mr. Rich and Mr. Hoepker—one should never assume.) But most of all to keep both hands free, just in case there was actually something I could do to alter this day or affect a life, to experience every nanosecond in every molecule of my body, rather than place a lens between myself and the moment. (Sounds pretty “callous,” huh?) I also have a strict policy of never taking a photograph of a person without their permission or knowledge of my intent.

I am a third-generation native New Yorker, who knows and loves every square inch of this city, as did her ancestors before her. My mother and father are both architects and artists who have contributed much to the landscape of this city and my knowledge of the buildings that are my hometown and my childhood friends. (Ironically, my mother even worked for Minoru Yamasaki, the World Trade Center architect.) The point being, it was genetically impossible for me to be unaffected by this event.

(You can find both letters here)

Thursday, September 14, 2006. A rejoinder by Hoepke on Slate (full text here)

Somewhere in Williamsburg I saw, out of the corner of my eye, an almost idyllic scene near a restaurant—flowers, cypress trees, a group of young people sitting in the bright sunshine of this splendid late summer day while the dark, thick plume of smoke was rising in the background. I got out of the car, shot three frames of the seemingly peaceful setting and drove on hastily, hoping/fearing to get closer to the unimaginable horrors at the tip of Manhattan.

The next day I went to the office of my agency, Magnum Photos. There, on the light tables and computer screens, were hundreds of touching, shocking, and moving images that my colleagues had taken at or near Ground Zero. We quickly decided to publish a book, and I took boxes of pictures home to start working on a selection and a first layout. I choose three of my own shots that I had taken from the Manhattan Bridge but set the images from that idyllic scene in Williamsburg aside, feeling that they did not reflect at all what had transpired on that day. The picture, I felt, was ambiguous and confusing: Publishing it might distort the reality as we had felt it on that historic day. I had seen and read about the outpouring of compassion of New Yorkers toward the stricken families, the acts of heroism by firefighters, police, and anonymous helpers. This shot didn’t “feel right” at this moment and I put it in the “B” box of rejected images. Now, in 2006, David Friend, in his book Watching the World Change, wrote that I had self-censored the picture.

Distanced from the actual event, the picture seemed strange and surreal. It asked questions but provided no answers. How could disaster descend on such a beautiful day? How could this group of cool-looking young people sit there so relaxed and seemingly untouched by the mother of all catastrophes which unfolded in the background? Was this the callousness of a generation, which had seen too much CNN and too many horror movies? Or was it just the devious lie of a snapshot, which ignored the seconds before and after I had clicked the shutter? Maybe this group had just gone through agony and catharsis or a long-concerned discussion? Was everyone supposed to run around with a worried look on that day or the weeks after 9/11? How would I have looked on that day to a distanced observer? Probably like a coldhearted reporter, geared to shoot the pictures of his life. I just remember that I was in shock, confused, scared, disoriented, and emotional, but trying hard to stay focused on getting my snaps.

The picture ended up on a wall of my retrospective exhibition in my hometown Munich, together with 200 of my images, and it made the cover of my book, which accompanied the show. When I did guided tours through the exhibition, people stopped and kept asking endless questions about it, questions for which I didn’t have pat answers. Then the press came; they, too, asked many questions. The image has been published in 15 newspapers in Germany but only once in the United States, as a half-page in David Friend’s book on the images of 9/11. But it has now come to the surface through three paragraphs in the New York Times, written by Frank Rich last Sunday. These thoughtful words—without the picture—were enough to incite a debate, which has swept over to Slate, that has just started and seems to grow by the hour on the Internet in many blogs.

I think the image has touched many people exactly because it remains fuzzy and ambiguous in all its sun-drenched sharpness. On that day five years ago, sheer horror came to New York, bright and colorful like a Hitchcock movie. And the only cloud in that blue sky was the sinister first smoke signal of a new era.

What Do Pictures Want?

February 17, 2009

shepard_fairey_obama-poster1uncle-sam-wants-you

It was only about a year ago, though it feels like half a lifetime, that Shepard Fairey created the most efficacious American political illustration since “Uncle Sam Wants You”: the Obama “Hope” poster. In innumerable variants, the craning, intent, elegant mien of the candidate engulfed the planet. (Check out the review of Fairey’s Boston exhibit in the recent New Yorker).