No Way Out

Art as background images for book covers

In my intertextuality class last semester I made a case for the circulation of artist images in non-"traditional" art venues/mediums as a source for creating intertextuality, or what marketing calls synergy -- the linking together of products/images/artworks/etc in an individual's mind that informs her/his experience of the company/artist. Marketers hope that synergy will lead to the development of product preference, and later, nearly unaware and impulsive [like muscle contraction], product purchase. I believe that there is also something unconscious happening to our perception of artists and artworks when we experience them in other venues, like on the cover of books. Whether or not we know the image is of an artwork, the image is still imprinted in our memory, creating the opportunity for making an intertextual connection between that previous experience of the image, and a later one.

My case study: Damien Hirst. I am not going to go into all of his strategically brilliant examples of mastering his own synergy, however I am going to make note of one particular example, the cover of Will Self's book How the Dead Live.

Now, Amazon has two different versions of the cover, one hardback and the otherpaperback...both of these US-release version don't have the cover I'm discussing...The UK paperback release had Hirst's 1991 work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a rather appropriate piece given the topic of the book, but also since Hirst and Self are often viewed in British media each as the "bad boy" of their mediums.

Self included an interview-style conversation with Hirst in his book, Junk Mail and has commented on the High Art Lite scene of which Hirst is considerned not only the President but also a client. Not so coincidently, they are both members - and have been kicked out of - the infamous Groucho Club in London (a place not unlike NYC's Soho House; the pool was in an episode of last season's Sex and the City, fyi).

Hypothesis 1: Synergy/intertextuality, directed by flow within media and social networks, increases the cultural capital of the artist and economic value of their work.

Or, as Hirst said...

"It's about minimum effort, maximum effect, and people who work and play in a way in which you can't separate one from the other..."

Another example that got me on this subject today... Edward Burtynsky, and his 1996 work, Nickel Tallings No.34 . Analyzing my own "intertextual" experience of this artwork, I first saw the photograph in his exhibition at the Canadian Embassy.

And today, I came across the book This Overheating World and immediately made the connection. I don't know if the publisher licensed the work or not, but the images are too similar to avoid making a link. The meaning of this intertextual relationship? It is different for each individual.
How did I find the book? Randomly...a funny thing happened on my way to blog today, which made me think of this artwork [the only image I could find was this adaptation of the work] --- I can't remember where I saw it, nor can I remember the artist's name, but I found the book at this site when googling the artwork's title.

What was the funny thing that started all of this? A squirrel was digging in the dirt by the sidewalk. Normal, right? Looking for a burried nut, one would assume. Except that there was a hypodermic needle right by where the squirrel was digging --- Who knew that the squirrels of our nation's capital are in such a desperate state?! And, ironically, this was all taking place near the bushes of the St. Stephen Catholic Church.

Hypothesis 2: Google is a spider weaving the intertextual web of >online< experience.

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