Value Can Be Found Beyond the Blue Boxes

Photo by Vik407 /flickr

If you’re involved in any kind of project these days chances are you make use of Facebook in some way or another. If you don’t, a few clicks on the internet or a few pages in your local newspaper, and you’ll probably get hit with an article about how “you should” in order to reach “the people”.  In the publishing world it is the same story multiplied by 1000, as the world’s largest social network site is considered the be all end all of doing anything online. If you’re not making full use of facebook, you’re somehow a failure or a fool.  Why? Because in the publishing world it is all about the numbers, and if there’s one thing we’re told over and over again, facebook has the numbers.

But what real value do these numbers have? The truth that few want to admit, is that we don’t know. What proof is there that all those likes, and all the times your post gets shared on facebook, that these things amount to anything beyond a brief 2 sentences that are constantly being buried under the feeds of the insatiable scrolling machines we have all become.  Companies pay a full time staff to control their social media presence, to keep an eye on the social networks and make sure they’re “talking about us.”  Somewhere along the line of all of us going online, “talking about” something stopped meaning real conversations of any substance, and became the act of copy pasting without having to read or remember anything.  Entire books and traveling guru’s (even more irritating versions of me) are dedicated and revered because they give institutions advice as to what they “should” be doing if they really want to be down with the social media thing.

We have lost and are now at risk of losing even more when it comes to real content, genuine thought, and meaningful understanding. When it is more important that you have a facebook page than it is to actually researching and writing articles; when its more important you go viral than actually capture the war criminal your video was about; when its more of a priority that your facebook page have lots of likes instead of real debate and discussion; that is the point where the world of journalism and media is proudly wrapped in a fog of stupidity.  One where trends and expert tips are given way more credence than they deserve, and where original content  is left in the dust.  Somewhere along the line we stopped being original and authentic, and we became apostles of that iconic blue masthead that says “this is what matters, not your hard work or your unique individual creations, but your ability to do exactly as we say you should. Why? Because we have the numbers. And in today’s publishing/business world, numbers trump humanity. Over and over again.

(yes I realize you’re likely reading this from within facebook, but I look forward to after the rebellion, when even less of us will)

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Judge Rules for Plesner, For art!

 

SL
Simple Living, by Nadia Plesner

My work on this site is not normally focused on breaking news, but this one just came out an hour ago and it involves the Plesner v. Louis Vuitton case we’ve been discussing over the past weeks.  The judge in the Hague ruled today in favor of Plesner’s right to continue to show her painting, Darfurnica, and that her use of the image of a Louis Vuitton bag is both “functional and proportional.”

 

No word yet from either Nadia or the Vuitton side, but as a newfound voice for Darfur and freedom of expression, she will surely return to the podcast in the future.  Click here for the initial report by Radio Netherlands regarding the court ruling.

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ctrp376 The Story of Darfurnica

Nadia Plesner is a concerned citizen of the world as well as an artist, and she’s deeply troubled by what has been happening in Darfur. She’s also frustrated with the lack of media coverage the topic recieves, while showbiz news has no such shortage of attention.  In her painting “Darfurnica” as well as her other work, Nadia has been depicting images of  the horrors that people live in Darfur, the political maneuvering that goes on, and images of what makes major media headlines instead of Darfur.  In part of Darfurnica, there appears the infamous photo of the ghastly thin Sudanese child, adorned in Paris Hilton style with a chiwawa in one hand and a Louis Vuitton bag in the other.

This is the story of how the painting came together, and how LV would file a lawsuit against Nadia. Demanding that she not show her artwork which contains images of their bag, and calling for her to pay an expensive penalty (€5,000 per each day the painting is shown) if she doesn’t take down her work.  The case is pending a decision in early May. In this podcast interview, we discuss the case as well as Nadia’s work in relation to Darfur.

 

Darfurnica
Darfurnica

 

 

Nadia’s website which includes info on her Darfur initiatives which you can be a part of,  as well updates about the case.

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Art, Genocide, and Handbags

I’ve never been to a court house in the Netherlands, in my 9 years in this country, somehow I never had cause to enter one. After weaving through some of the plethora of government buildings one can find in the Hague, I somehow managed to find the courthouse, though I was somewhat surprised there was no crowd out front. Considering the importance of the case, which features an art student being sued by a multinational corporation for depicting their product in her art, I figured there would be at least a dozen people holding signs outside in support. Silly me, too many hollywood films with people behind police barricades in front of ye olde city courthouse.

Court House in the Hague

I waltzed my way in and navigated my way through very modern hallways, past doors A through G, until I found my destination, court room H. A uniformed cop sat outside the door, the lonely figure in the hallway, fiddling with his phone in silence. I asked if I could go in and he gave a nonchalant nod. As I carefully opened the door I found myself in the audience, creeping quietly to find a seat, being noticed by all among the 15 to 20 people in attendance. I choose a spot by some people scribbling in notepads, “how old fashioned and quaint” I thought to myself in a condescending technologist tone. I looked forward and studied the figures in the front of the medium sized room, 2 judge looking people behind the big desk facing me, 2 lawyers dressed in black robes, one woman standing at the little microphone going over what seems to be a prewritten text, a young bearded man to her left going through pages of notes. Just next to them I see the long blonde hair and nervous look of who I immediately recognize as Nadia Plesner. She looks sad, which is not a surprise considering the magnitude of damages (5,000€ per day since January) she faces. As I look on the left side of the room, opposite the defence, I see the profile of what looks like a very shrewd legal mind, the Louis Vuitton lawyer. Close behind him sit 4 to 5 extremely well dressed, prim and proper individuals. Behind them two ladies are gabbing away into small microphones, I recognize what has to be simultaneous French translation, I presume, for the people back at the home office. The rest of the audience sits quietly, an assorted crew of concerned faces, occasionally shaking their head in disagreement or agreement with a statement that is made up front. Many are wearing little hand written pins with slogans about supporting art, supporting Nadia, and urging “Louis” to lighten up. And finally I notice there behind all of us, taking up the entire back wall of the court room is the subject of all this activity… the painting – Darfurnica.

I happen to be sitting right in front of the image of the boy holding the chihuahua and the luxurious handbag, which I now know is a Louis Vuitton bag. He’s decked out like Paris Hilton, while all around him are conflicting symbols of death and horror in Darfur, and Hollywood gossip-news-images of the rich and famous. In between are images of influential politicians with some role in what happens or does not happen in Sudan. Above it all, the sun, just like in Picasso’s Guernica, only instead of a lightbulb inside the sun, it is the logo of Petro-China, the oil company with the most investment in Sudan.

Just when I thought it wouldn’t get too exciting and that perhaps this would all be very routine until the judge finally makes a decision, the Vuitton lawyer gets his 20 minutes. Pacing around his little podium area, often with his arms folded, with a booming voice he presented a story filled with drama, conspiracies, and even some stern looks-jabs at the “media” in the room . Looking at the judge, even he seemed half fascinated and half bored with the extent to which events can be dramatized.

After long back and forth presentations and a few heated moments (more than 2 hours later), court is adjourned. It is hard to tell what the judge is thinking, but he’s giving both sides a critical look and has reprimanded them all at different times. As everyone files out into the hall, Nadia stays in the courtroom to do an interview with the big Dutch news program. Outside the Vuitton friends are huddled with the lawyer, they’re discussing where to get some drinks before some of them fly off to wherever it is they live. They’re confident but they keep it to themselves, glancing only occasionally at the young people adorned with pins, chatting only a few steps away.

As the corporate lawyer, now dressed in a very nice suit, walks towards the exit, he passes one of the girls with supportive pins. “May I have one as well, I think these are lovely…”, the somewhat surprised and nervous girl takes a step back and holds her bag of pins close.. “No, these are for those who support Nadia. Therefore not you. I think it wouldn’t be right.” Realizing the moment has passed, the lawyer shakes it off like he was only kidding, and walks out the door.

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