According to one website culture jamming “sticks where rational discourse slides off. It is, simply, the viral introduction of radical ideas. It is viral in that it uses the enemy's own resources to replicate itself -- corporate logos, marketing psychology, clean typography, "adspeak". It is radical because--ideally--the message, once deciphered, causes damage to blind belief. Fake ads, fake newspaper articles, parodies, pastiche. The best CJ is totally unexpected, surprising, shocking in its implications” (Abrupt).
There are three kinds of culture jamming:
- Commercial: “Probably the most well known form of culture jamming is subvertising. Subvertisements are creative anti-ads targeted at conspicuous consumption considered endemic of capitalistic societies. These images variously target consumers themselves or large corporations, often with a specific message to get people thinking about what and/or why they buy” (Weburbanist).
- Political: “Less common but equally powerful are political forms of culture jamming. The above examples play on everyday symbols people normally wouldn’t think twice about. By subtly changing their meaning, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and takes on significance beyond what is expected. Respectively, the above signs deal with complex issues of political asylum in Australia and the contentious Iraq War” (Weburbanist).
- Social: “Of course, some culture jams are playful in nature and target society in general, being satirically oriented at anything from a holiday to a particular political leader or recognizable symbol. They may cause one to rethink reality, or simply laugh at something twisted to be slightly more-than-ordinary. The best subversive street art videos and images, of course, cause us to do both” (Weburbanist).
This ad would be considered commercial subvertising. It has the original Calvin Klein title and font “OBSESSION” except the normally air brushed beautiful skinny-bodied women that usually clad the covers and photo shoots for their advertisements isn’t the main focus of this advertisement. Instead there is an anonymous young woman, nude, bending over a toilet with one arm holding on to her. The lighting in the photo falls just on the spine of her back, leading the viewer’s eye down towards her slightly protruding rib cage. The message this fellow culture jammer was trying to portray is well timeless and one that almost everyone would understand.
“As human beings we communicate with each other by referring to common experiences” (Franklin, 146). Each person has at one time or another had a feeling of inadequacy with who they are at that moment because they don’t look like the models in the magazines or their favourite celebrity or some reason or another. This specific suvertisement was able to send a fairly worldly message without confusing anybody like some culture jamming art can sometimes do.
That is one of the most important things to keep in mind when culture jamming- being aware of the news and the things that are going on around you and that are affecting the people around you. Sometimes messages get lost in culture jamming because not a lot of people know what the culture jammer is trying to say. Despite this little flaw that sometimes occurs, I personally do believe culture jamming is an art form, and an effective one at that. What better way than to piss off corporate companies by altering their advertisements or their billboards (like Ron English!) without permission and exposing the truth behind them to unknowing people like you and me. I think of it as a domino effect – as soon as one person looks at that advertisement and gets the joke or message right away, they’ll most likely pass it on, or the next person to see it will laugh out loud and point it out or someone will stop and take a photo of it and paste it on the web where millions of people might eventually look at it etc. The message will eventually get out and this awesome concept won’t go to waste. The effort of that culture jammer will have created awareness in whatever subject or issue that they feel is important to pay attention to and do something about it even if it is one advertisement at a time!
“Culture Jamming”. Abrupt. 23 Nov 2008.
Urbanist, “3 Kinds of Culture Jamming: Commercial, Political, and Social Signs of Our Time”. Weburbanist. 08 Oct 2007. 23 Nov 2008.
Franklin, Ursula M.. The Real World of Technology. Toronto,
On: House of Anansi Press Inc., 2004