Friday, May 14, 2010

Racial Profiling=Branding?

A propos, it occurs to me to wonder whether racial profiling involves a kind of "branding"? "Illegals" might be branded by the color of their skin, the clothes they wear... What do you think?

My friend, the artist Gary Lloyd over at CHI SPHERE sent me some thoughts, which I think bear on this notion. He wrote:

I've worked in the branding industry for 25 years but think it's been with us since we began to make marks.

My friend works as a physical anthropologist and identifies early marks and symbols as well as those used today in still existing isolated tribes. Identity and quality are survival tools used to come to quick choices re food, flight or flight, safety or risk etc.
It often takes the place of introspection or discovery as long as the archetypal mark is easy to relate to and has previous reinforced experiences related to the image.

Artists risk the stigma of branding themselves too early in their development. It really pissed Rothko off when a collector asked for "5 more purple ones", thinking that they were painted like shirts are manufactured.

I know many artists who had a good idea, worked through it and when the concept was exhausted changed to investigate another way of working only to be dropped by their dealers for not making more of the same.

Remember 'The New Coke'? Even corporate giants can't change once the branding has taken.


Spender said...

I heard recently on NPR about a study of children who demonstrated at a very young age a preference for others of their own ethnic appearance. The study suggests I am hard-wired to like (be attracted to) certain people or things because they are like (similar to) me. The society in which I live is filled with people who are not similar to me and that society holds as a supreme value that "all men are created equal". Yet I know no two people who I would stand next to each other and put an equals sign between them. This the impossible challenge and wonderful richness of life in these United States. I cannot not classify, group together, "brand"; I know what I like and whom I am like. I know what I don't like and whom I am not like. Over all that, above it, and separate from it is love. I don't have to like or be like someone to love them. Next door to love is respect. Yet I feel the pressure all round me to like and accept what, for me, is the unlikeable and unacceptable because we are all equal. George Orwell solved the problem in Animal Farm by declaring that while all are equal, some are more equal than others. So our young people do, as I once did: express their individuality and independence by being outrageous in the same way as each other. The incongruity has a certain poetic quality to me. Thanks for listening. Spencer

Spender said...

So, we have two kinds of branding -- (1) celebrity typecasting in which an individual becomes an icon in the eyes of individuals, and (2) group typecasting in which a group is given iconic characteristics by another group. As an individual artist I may choose to develop and stick with a brand (Tom Clancy, Elton John). As a member of various identifiable groupings into which I was born and raised I am hard-wired initially to be attracted to that which is similar to me. Living in a multi-dimensional, complex and varied society with many cultural cross-currents flowing through it I cannot not classify and group -- I'd go insane if I did not. What I do with all of this is up to me, if I am aware enough of the dynamics to see that I have choices, and if I am mature enough to choose wisely, for me. Thanks for listening. Spencer