For a while now, I’ve wanted to write and introduce you to the work of media installation artist Dave Greber, part of the New Orleans based artist collective The Front. David belongs to a group of video artists, experimental cinema producers, writers and other artists who are exploring popular culture and it’s media conduit, exposing the often subliminal propaganda-style messages we are all confronted by every day, and in doing so invites all of us to examine media memes and the roles they play in social communications.
More than 30 years ago, long before the concept of an internet meme became so popular and commonplace, media theorists and activists were studying the cultural effects of a meme, most usually defined as “an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture,” often passed along on a personal, family or neighborhood level but on a grander scale through the mass media, including television and the internet.
Adbusters and many other similarly motivated groups have long used the concept of “culture jamming” to both explore and reveal how commercial, corporate, government and other media channels transmit messages through means of mass communications networks that operate on any number of different levels and in dong so, help deconstruct media messages. Neither media messages or internet memes are inherently subversive or deceptive, but the fact that they can be and often are have led to the comparing of these messages to similar processes in what is more narrowly considered to be usually dramatic, commercial or political “propaganda.” But more broadly defined, propaganda is the spreading of ideas, information to further a cause and/or influence public opinion or perception in many ways, through many channels.
These ideas have been explored by media studies scholars, activists and artists (“artivists”) across the cultural spectrum for a long time. What media artists such as Greber employ are devices studied in the field of semiotics, a general philosophical theory of signs, symbols and cultural codes that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises syntactics, and semantics. From the Merriam Webster Dictionary (online)
Semiotics – Study of signs and sign-using behaviour, especially in language. In the late 19th and early 20th century the work of Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Peirce led to the emergence of semiotics as a method for examining phenomena in different fields, including aesthetics, anthropology, communications, psychology, and semantics. Interest in the structure behind the use of particular signs links semiotics with the methods of structuralism.
Having recently seen some of Dave Greber’s work on Vimeo, I think the inspiration for much of his work takes place as part of this exploration into, as he says, “the constant attack on our biological and cultural environments by commercial forces.”
I have been researching and exposing tactics of corporate television advertising that are, for the most part, culturally degenerative memes overlooked by the general public. I create a skeleton commercial built from the tone, cadence, verbal and graphic illusions that comprise a corporate propaganda campaign. I then fill the shell with my own agenda, which is to reveal that the form itself is psychologically manipulative. I infuse them with my own contemporary style and present them as a seamless loop, which translates them from a parasitic corporate language to one of viewer empowerment.
And along with the artistic and cultural exploration inherent in his work, Dave Greber also combines a very healthy sense of humor. He says, “I have a great time making and showing these. They make me laugh and they are intended to make the viewer laugh when they have a realization of their own.” I hope you will enjoy them too, while you’re also “getting the message.”
a video installation
by Dave Greber, TV Boxes. Roel Miranda
Camilla Bergin, Andy Cook, Tessa Corthell, Stephen Kennedy, Roel Miranda, JJ Smith, Robert Ries, Jen DeGregorio, Valorie Polmer, Lea Downing, Alden Eagle, Katie Gelfand, Matthew Holdren, Brandon Meginley, Phil Rached
Asst. Director, Katie Gelfand
Camera , Dave Greber, Phil Rached
Music: Peter Leonard, Kevin MacLeod
- An Introduction to Exploring Media Arts (mcdonaldemiantor.wordpress.com)
- Call for Submissions: Japan Media Arts Festival 2014 (shinpaideshou.wordpress.com)
- Video Art – Terrestrial Sonata #1 (photosynthesismediaarts.com)