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Further Adventures in the #maproom: Employing a RAY GUN (or, an appreciation for David Carson)

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F is for FAKE:

Following my last blog post, one of my photos therein received a comment from a friend who, doing his usual bit of detective work, pointed out the following:

There is one genuine M and one fake M. Possibly also one genuine O and one fake O.

I’m sure my friend’s comment was written in a humorous vein. Indeed, I chuckled. Unfortunately, the word “fake” has become a fighting word in our sad times. “So,” I said to no one in particular (since no one was there) “instead of my solution to a problem being seen as a ‘sly-te’ application of a theory wherein necessity becomes the mother of invention, I am reminded that barely nowhere can I go to escape the scourge of our times.”

Yet, forget that. Instead, let me twist this situation around and pay my due to a true master of invention (and other “fake” characterization) none other than one of my cultural ‘heroes’, @DavidCarson.

There must have been something in the water, the air or something else back in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s as there was a whole earth-shattering moment there with regard to creativity in the cultural sphere of the Western world. For perspective, Ronald Reagan was president . . . but I surely don’t think he had that much to do with it. More specifically, I’m speaking of touchstones like Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s “The Message”; the collaborations of Brian Eno with David Byrne and The Talking Heads; the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat; AND the aforementioned Mr. Carson. While the first two groupings were blowing up music, and JMB was blowing up art, the not-quite-as-household famous Mr. Carson was blowing up graphic design. In an almost trade-world-ish little publication called TRANSWORLD SKATEBOARDING, he was breaking ground. To be totally honest, at that time I was trying to find gainful employment and, with the exception of “Bush of Ghosts,” most of this was flying way over my head & beyond my radar. I didn’t get up to speed with most of this work for years . . . in some cases, decades.

But forward into the past. As Brian Eno has said, the word “Genius” is really a bit of misguiding terminology. He prefers his own word: “Scenius.” He argues against the popular notion of a solitary soul slaving away in the dark, unnoticed and isolated from all around until, “Eureka!,” there comes a “Eureka!” “Scenius” properly refers back to a more accurate “something in the water” idea. I.E., there was much coming-together, cross-referencing, & historical/cultural funneling down. There was a group channeling of the spirits, as it were. For instance, in the case of Basquiat experts talk about how much-ignored was his education in the history of the arts via his mother’s influence, and how his style reflected his love of hip-hop (his close friend was Fab Five Freddy). Regardless, the flow comes to an apotheosis and Basquiat, along with the others mentioned above are examples of touchstones.

Regarding David Carson, I have no idea how the flow reached him but like the others his work remains standout. I first became aware of his work in a magazine in the ‘90s of which he was a founder: RAY GUN. It blew my mind & yet, not knowing anything about publishing or art/design, I had no idea how singular was his contribution. The impact was stunning. One didn’t so much read the magazine as LOOK at it. The only thing I can relate to what the experience of RAY GUN was like was via yet another Eno interview: his take on song lyrics. He ventured that, in pop/rock/contemporary music they really weren’t that important — that what made a song standout was the combination of the music/key lyric phrases/production/sound and their impact as a whole that amounted to a sum greater than the parts. When I thought about it, it was true: while my favorite songs were embedded in my brain and being I really had little clue as to a lot of what most of them were talking about. I FELT them more than I understood them. To me, Carson seemed to take that approach with magazine copy. After all, there were SO many magazines. Who really read them? In fact, in one famous instance, he apparently thought so little of the questions and answers in an interview with Bryan Ferry that he printed the entire piece in Zapf Dingbat font. Incredible. And from what I can deduce, none of his style was attributable to computers & software. His style preceded that development & instead came along organically from an analog manner of layout. Yet what he did wasn’t random. It was a method. It was a vision. Naturally, due to the strength of his labors, it became imitated. Sadly, therefore, it eventually was diluted and distilled until it was a fad that came and went. Of course, they shot the messenger.

Today, however, when I open up my copy of his THE END OF PRINT, like when I re-listen to “The Message”, or the Eno/Byrne “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” or stand at the Broad Museum in front of Basquiat’s Untitled (Skull) these works seems as fresh, new and as fully impactful today as in the ‘80s. The more I look/listen to all of this work, the deeper the waters run and the more complex they get. Yet another key ingredient to all this work, for me: the sheer attraction of them. On the surface all of this work is FUN. They pull you in. And then they let you go to town.

Now, how did I get onto this? Returning back to my humble little #maproom project, it initially was inspired one recent morning via my passing through my dining room and coincidentally noticing the winter light shining across my map-covered table. Collections of some of my ‘stuff’ was strewn there — one such set was a mish-mash of industrial era typewriter keys which I’d always wanted to incorporate into something, somehow. Out came the camera right then, & one thing led to another. Now, the light at this time of year moves VERY fast. Working alone and close up to these things means moving quickly, cutting some corners. But it’s fun. In a project of this nature, however, eventually I was bound to ‘paint’ myself into a corner. I wanted to use a word that had, “damn!,” multiple uses for a single character — something a set of typewriter keys does not have. I could have taken more time and put up my tripod and taken multiple exposures and then loaded the images into Photoshop and blah and blah and blah. And it would not have looked “fake.”

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Which leads us to understanding that this method is the biggest fake there is. Not to mention being a total kill-joy. After many years of that approach, experience hyper-sped me to leap-frog right over that “solution”. Instead, my mind recalled how I’d always gotten a kick out of Carson’s font substitutions — upside down 7s as Ls, backwards 3s for Es, etc — and, boom, I moved directly to what I learned from him: “who gives a damn? Let go & just have fun.” Therefore, I “faked” it. I employed a zero as the second “O” and an upside down "W” as the second “M.” No big whoop, just a subtle substitution and yet “Bonus”: It perhaps does make someone take a second, closer look. “Hey! That’s not a REAL “O”!

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Necessity is the mother of re-invention.

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Oh, one other thing. That word “fake.” It also recalled another of my cultural heroes, Orson Welles, and his abecedarian entitled film. Yes. “F is for Fake.” No matter what character you use.

Adventures In the Map Room
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Ric Kallaher

Ric is: • a Professional Portrait Photographer specializing in working with small business owners towards enhancing their B2B online goals via executive portraits as well as images that tell the story of a business with on-site photography of facilities &/or product photography ; • an experienced Events Photographer who spectacularly documents high end awards shows and high-society special events, especially in regard to the People of Advertising, Media, Arts and Culture. • an insightful image-maker with a detailed eye who helps interior designers bring their work to life. • an award-winning wedding photographer who helps couples document their special day. Ric's Photographic Mission: To artfully create strong, provocative & transcendent visual records of meaningful relationships & significant moments. Additionally, Ric is a trained actor and experienced music producer who has often been heard applying his voice over talents to ongoing advertising campaigns. He has been the voice on national campaigns for the likes of SuperValu Grocery Stores, Texaco, Kendall Motor Oil, Campbell's Soups and more. He has even appeared ON-camera in an ad for Comedy Central as a scream therapist. His is represented by Ann Wright Reps.