Psychology

Distressed Denim

“OCD-estroyed”, $122

“ADD boyfriend distressed”, $72

Bored of your wardrobe, ladies? Well, you’re in luck. DSM Denim just released a sneak peek of their fall line, now available for pre-order. Pick the pair that bests suits your personality… or, heck, splurge on all four.

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As children, most of us our taught not to label one another, to avoid stereotypes and to not judge a book by its cover. Yet, modern psychiatry has developed an entire bible of labels used for diagnosis known as the Diagnostic Statistical Manual.  Yesterday’s idiosyncrasies have become today’s disorders. Personality disorders are an interesting phenomenon. The list of disorders in the diagnostic statistical manual grows bigger every year. Instead of viewing a bout of depression or anxiety as a transitional phase, the DSM terms it a mental disorder.

  Little beings who haven’t even fully come into their own personalities are being diagnosed with personality disorders, conduct disorders, ADHD, or autism. The latter wasn’t even a concept that existed thirty years ago. Perhaps a child’s hyperactivity is playful curiosity, or a result of the sugary granola bar snack and juice box they consumed at recess.

As children enter adolescence and high school, hormones are thrown for a loop. Troubling feelings may arise over not fitting in, being teased, the onset of acne or many  other milestones on the journey to self-discovery. It used to be called growing pains. Now it’s a condition. Lest us not forget homosexuality was coined a disorder in the DSM up until 1973. As we become more aware of the complexity and underlying humanity in our unique differences, we should see the danger in diagnosing.

In my first abnormal psychology class in college, I was forewarned by my professor not to be seduced into self-diagnosing. He said it happens all the time when new students begin reading symptoms of a disorder, they can identify with certain experiences and may begin to question their “normalcy”. The truth is, it’s all normal.  There is no cookie cutter for health. There is no cookie cutter for disease. Perhaps there is a bizarre comfort in conforming to an archetype, even if it has negative connotations. Maybe it is a quick fix to just deem ourselves defective and shop for prescriptions.

I think embracing health means honoring our differences, instead of casting them aside as deficiencies. There is something incredibly empowering about refusing to let an emotion or behavior define you. We can learn from all of these experiences… then move on.

“Schizo Splattered”, $98

“Bi-polar Skinny”, $88

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Consumer Culture, Defining Art, Guerilla Art, Social Activism, Subliminal Messages

The Art of Advertising

 

This weekend I was walking in New York City and a graffiti covered street corner caught my eye. I noticed a faintly familiar image of my favorite brand of ginger ale. I had no doubt that this was a piece of advertising. However, as the brand is nowhere as prominent as Seagram’s or Coca Cola, at least a handful of passerby will perceive this as art or even an act of defiance.

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The melding of consumer culture with art is not a new phenomenon. However, up until recently, it has served primarily as satire. Warhol’s reproduction of Campbell’s soup cans tested the constraints of low and high culture by mass-producing art in the very fashion we mass produce material goods. His iconic Campbell’s soup cans leave viewers unsure of how to discern art from the mundane, manufactured reproductions of the commercial realm.

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Shepard Fairey’s 1989 OBEY street art project followed in a similar vein. The original message of his guerrilla art campaign was to poke fun at commercial culture and the subliminal, brainwashing effects of advertising. Fairey stated, “… obedience is the most valuable currency. People rarely consider how much power they sacrifice by blindly following a self serving corporation’s marketing agenda.”

Whether known or unbeknownst to Fairey, his earnest message would soon become the very corporate marketing agenda it was meant to critique. The anti-establishment origins of the OBEY graphic is now an iconic brand name sold on everything from hats and tee’s to magnets and mugs.

  img_0006 OBEY Retail Space In London, UK

               Current culture more than ever has muddled the lines of art and advertising through a proliferation of mimetic imagery. The freedom and creative expression of art (especially guerilla)  traditionally served to subvert the status quo and inspire questioning. Warhol and Fairey attempted to implant messages in their spoofs of advertising. Yet, art’s imitation of advertisement risks paradoxically perpetuating the system it wishes to disengage from. It seems modern advertising’s imitation of art is cashing in on this fallacy.

Let Me Know, Comment Below:  What are your thoughts on art imitating advertising and advertising imitating art? Is distinguishing the two necessary or even possible?

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Consumer Culture, Consumerism, Decision-making, Humor, Psychology

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

 

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Each time I enter a store, even for the most simple purchases, it invariably leads to an inner struggle. I might just need some dish soap. That’s all. Yet, somehow time invested in the experience always exceeds the time I’d allotted once I’m in the aisle getting down to business. I attribute this, not just to a degree of neuroticism, but to option infiltration. When is the last time you saw only one, or two versions of a product in a store that wasn’t a gas station express mini-mart, or a hospital gift shop? And even those places seem to be getting fancy.

Like many people, I enjoy my options. They seem so empowering. I suppose it brings out the democratic, liberty lovin’, part of me. The issue is, much like other confections of democracy, it’s been frosted to excess. And I’m frozen in the aisle of a grocery store. I want to get on with my life.  Despite my awareness of option overload, putting haste into practice in the face of thirty dish soaps is easier said than done.

Instead, my thought process might go something like this:

The spendthrifty, overly-analytical side of me takes complete control of the situation- hijacking my mind and body. I find myself crouching and straining my neck in the strangest and most unthinkable positions, shocked by this new found flexibility. My eyes scan every label and price tag. I might even go out of my way to flag down an associate, only to verify the price of a lone ranger, non-designated bottle. “What if THAT’S the cheapest one?, I’ll tell myself. Price isn’t the only consideration, though. Cheapest one doesn’t mean shit if I’m going to be dousing my dishes with diluted toxins later on. Is there an organic option? It’s mine. Now I’m wondering what organic actually means in terms of safety. *Consults iPhone* Fighting a barrage of distracting characters, numbers and symbols on the screen; now my math brain comes alive. Suddenly I’m converting fluid ounces to ounces. I can do math? The clock on my screen makes its way into my periphery. I glance back at the aisle. Lemon is probably the least offensive scent. What does “Original” smell like? I know I enjoy feeling that way. Abruptly a Dawn oil spill commercial flashes into my mind and I’m sympathizing with their eco friendliness despite the .74 cent upcharge. Don’t you dare act in self interest. But, but.. “Softer feeling hands in 3 uses? …OLAY!” I decide to go with it. After all, it’s still made by Dawn. I proceed to the check out, contented by my utilitarianism. This way I’m killing two birds with one stone…

Oh, but that doesn’t sound good.

Scholarly Stuff : Psychologists are researching how choice can affect our well-being. Check out Barry Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, to further probe this connection.

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