Saturday, October 22, 2011

Everybody Is a Brand (And That Ain't Good)

It is a cruel facet of my personality that having a great day in the studio, as I did last week, doesn't carry nearly the emotional weight as a useless one.  I had plenty of time to think about this phenomenon yesterday, as I frittered the day away on frustrating dead end after another. The unfortunate conclusion I came to is that I expect a great day in the studio, I expect productivity, and anything less feels like failure. Ridiculous, but there it is.

Even more frustrating was that I went into yesterday knowing I wasn't going to be working in the studio. I am in the middle (hopefully a little closer to the end) of getting a Kickstarter campaign launched. Since I am launching a new campaign, I thought it made sense to also use this time to launch the piece I've been wanting to try on Etsy and, since I'm doing all that, I thought I should probably refresh my website. And, since I don't count any of those activities as actual productivity, I thought I might be able to resolve them all on Friday. Turns out no.

I should say that I didn't just start working on them on Friday. I've been working on them, intermittently, since last week, when I bought a little, useless HD video camera (since returned), and throughout the week, a little at a time. The problem is, you can't really rush any of this stuff. Maybe I'm still not in tune with the new digital reality, but I still believe that everything you put out there is important. Not because anybody cares on a piece-by-piece basis, but because of the aggregate impression it creates. The terrible, relentless, truth is that everything you put on the internet becomes part of your brand.

The problem with thinking of everything you do as reflecting on your brand is that, as an artist, there is so little distance between the two. On the internet, you become the face of your own little microbrand, which is poison. What makes it poisonous is not the fact that you become identified with your work, which is unavoidable, but that existence of Facebook, and Twitter, and Kickstarter and all the rest mean that your work becomes identified with your whole life. You are not just the face of your own little microbrand, you are the face of  microlifestylebrand. Social media turns us all into little Martha Stewart's.

It's a nasty catch-22, because while it's hard to imagine anything that has had a more positive impact on artist's ability to bring their work to market than social media, it is equally hard to think of a group of people who need to increase that self-conscious meta-thinking less than artists. Poets, maybe. Or Narcissists. I bet social media has been a disaster for narcissists. The very wise Ellen Driscoll, once told me that being an artist meant being learning to live with risk, and I believe she's right. You've got to be willing to bet big, every time. But betting big means being willing to see some of those bets, maybe a lot of those bets go terribly, embarrassingly wrong. And that's a lot harder to do when you're also trying to look cool.

To me this begs the question, if you think social media is such a problem, and that digital self-consciousness is such a problem, what are you doing with this blog? The truth is, I'm not sure. Certainly this is not the unvarnished truth about what happens in the studio. There are time when I find myself cleaning the studio so I can take a decent photo, or not talking about projects that unsure of, or don't like. It is, in a very real sense, a marketing tool. But that's the thing - when you are the brand (and you unavoidably are), then everything is a marketing tool. Facebook, Etsy, Twitter, Flikr, Kickstarter. All of it. Every picture you post of you and your crazy/bucolic/extravagant lifestyle becomes part of your little advertising campaign. And that can't be good. 

1 comment:

  1. So I totally get what you are saying with this, but I think that you can do it one of two ways...Treat it like 'Brand You' or you can just be you. When I first started showing my work, I was always trying to come off a certain way, but then I was inspired by my best friend's sister, the fabulous and wonderful Zoe Strauss, who has maintained who she is as a normal person in her art life. She always is herself, whether it be through a blog post or FB post (Ie when she got a show at the PMA, it was a very "Holyfuckingshit!" kind of any normal person would have :) She made me realize that people are probably more interested in you as a human rather than your "representative". I realize this doesn't work for all markets and that a fancy gallery doesn't want to hear in my bio that I hate zombies and like family dance parties but I think that being yourself takes a load of stress out of an already stressful job. Also I feel like people who like your art want to get to know who you are in the real world, so by being a real human is a great way to make real connections with people. Anyway this is all a jumble, I'm sure because I haven't finished my coffee yet but basically I am trying to say, don't worry about it so much... i think the point of introducing FB and Twitter and all that to your art life is to give people a peek into your real life...