Greenwood, Mississippi


I love this photograph. I love the way that your first reaction is probably to wonder why you’re looking at it. It’s just a bare, unlit lightbulb, hanging from a badly-painted crimson ceiling that meets badly painted crimson walls; it’s not art.

The perspective grates. This isn’t the normal view of a room—the photographer must have been standing on something, or, possibly, holding the camera above his head, relying on the machine, not his eye, to frame the image for him.

Three cables snake out from the bulb, like sclerotic arteries. You wonder where they’re going. One leads to a black light, again unlit. You’re drawn to the dayglo poster beneath: it looks instructional in some way. On closer inspection, you realise it’s a menu of sexual positions. And the figurative lightbulb comes on. You’re in a room in a brothel.

But the crimson walls and ceilings aren’t remotely erotic, they’re a frightening, glossy, dark arterial-red. And the way the cables dissect the image reminds you of the Confederate battle flag, and all the hate and bitterness over which that has flown. This is a room soaked in menace and dread. Dark things have happened here, and that strange, grating perspective starts to make you wonder what it is you’re not looking at. What has the photographer spared you from seeing? What’s on that bed that you imagine lies underneath that bare bulb?

The photograph is titled Greenwood, Mississippi, and was shot by William Eggleston in 1973. It’s hard to imagine quite how fresh—and how shocking—Eggleston’s photography was when his first major solo show opened at MOMA three years later. Until Eggleston, colour was the refuge of advertising scoundrels and artless amateurs. High art was black-and-white; artfully composed or contrived to appear like a happy accident.

Greenwood, Mississippi is William Eggleston’s artistic high tide mark. As it pools all over the print, the saturated red pulls the viewer in with car-crash compulsion. Eggleston claims he shot the room simply because red is a difficult colour to capture, but the shot is drenched in the threat, or suggestion, of violence that pervades much of his work: the girl on the lawn, whose red buttons make her look like the innocent victim of a random drive-by shooting; the abondoned tricycle the signal that dinner is ready, or the only trace of a missing child?

And this art is shocking – not simply because it demands you view the world from a different perspective, the arbitrary act of framing and publishing making you examine objects you wouldn’t give a second glance to in real life, but also because it makes you creatively complicit, forcing you to write a narrative, frequently one you don’t want to read.


No words can express this joy

Fuck safe



THIS is a great post, highlighting a brilliant bit of promotion of an Ellsworth Kelly exhibition from Die Welt, in which every photo in the paper was replaced with a Kelly shape. British papers would never do anything this audacious, creative or clever.

As an aside, I love Ellsworth Kelly. He was part of 23rd Headquarters Special Troops – the Allied “ghost army” who supported the D-Day landings with a sustained campaign of tactical deception, confusing German agents and their High Command spymasters into believing the invading army was far bigger and more powerful than it really was (they achieved this with inflatable tanks, cardboard soldiers and sound effects).

Recruitment for the Ghost Army reflected its unconventional mission: members of the unit were drawn from ad agencies, art schools and film studios.from advertising agencies, art schools, film studios; creative thinkers who used their creativity to solve a problem, out-thinking and out manoeuvring the competition. That the Allied high command had the foresight to use admen, artists and designers to achieve this strategic advantage 67 years ago demonstrates the power that creative-thinkers have always had to come up with surprising ways to achieve this aim.







The Innovator’s Cookbook

Been a bit neglectful of this blog for a while, but in my defence, I have two-month old twins at home, so a degree of laxity can be forgiven.

One of the other side effects is the very slight prospect of ploughing through an ever-growing reading list any time soon. Which is a shame, because Steven Johnson’s new title, The Innovator’s Cookbook,  looks to be essential reading as we continue to flounder over what our business model will be and how we’ll make any kind of living out of advertising. Obviously, his belief in the power of serendipity in finding innovations will strike a chord with me, but I particularly like the sound of his advice to “get lost” in order to find what you didn’t know you were looking for.

I’ll bump it up the pile, but secretly I’m hoping that the incrediby kind Paul Arnold has this one on his MBA Book Club reading list. For anyone who hasn’t come across Paul, each month he sends out a brilliant precis of a brilliant bit of reading. Mail me if you’d like his contact details.

KLM surprise

Been meaning to link to this for a while now. Really nice, simple & effective.

Program, or be programmed

Douglas Rushkoff’s Life Inc. has been sitting on my desk admonishing me for about nine months now, a continual reminder that I’m terrible at starting books (especially work-related titles) and not finishing them.

I’m going to have to add another of his books to the pile after reading a great link that my friend @sparkey posted last night to a great blog post on talk that Rushkoff gave at last year’s SxSWi conference based his book: Program of Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. They are great points, and there are clear echoes of Jaron Lanier’s thinking in You Are Not A Gadget.

Rushkoff’s (and Lanier’s) point is that we’re increasingly becoming the vicitim of biases which have been established and codified by others (namely, largely blameless programmers) … profile templates, 140-character messages, filing systems … as our digital and offline lives become increasingly indistinguishable, a small number of people are defining who we are.

Rushkoff argues that we either program, or be programmed. And while this might all sound a tad lofty and philosophical, his Ten Commandments are full of small, practical things that we could all do and which would make all our lives a little richer and more interesting.

Rushkoff’s Ten Commands

Do Not Be “Always On”

There’s a benefit to be had from switching off from time to time. There have been hundreds of studies into the distracting nature of constant connection to the web, and great thinking often comes from quiet, offline moments

Live in Person
This one annoys the shit out of me on a daily basis. I work approximately 20 feet away from people who would rather send me an email than talk to me in person. I simply don’t understand why.

You May Always Choose “None of the Above”
Don’t let Facebook pigeonhole you because it helps their search algorithm. The digital you isn’t the real you, it’s just a simulacrum

You Are Never Completely Right
The net doesn’t do shades of grey particularly well. Real life isn’t binary

One Size Does Not Fit All.
Not everything scales up: there’s a benefit in the aggregation of small things

Be Yourself
Again, there’s been tonnes written about this recently, and full marks to Facebook for insisting on real identities. Web anonymity feeds the bullying culture online. It’s neither nice, nor useful

Do Not Sell Your Friends
Social spaces are about contact, not the ability to flog more shit. Facebook should be loathed for its marketplace messages

Tell the Truth
Simple in theory, hard in practice … and with strong links to VI above

Share, Don’t Steal
Nothing is really free. If someone has created something of value, you’re going to have to pay for it one way or another

Program or Be Programmed
Think not what this app can do for me, but what can I make it do

This app might change your life

The creators of the excellent This Diary Will Change your Life series have created an iPhone app.

Situationist is designed to make the day-to-day more “thrilling and exciting” by alerting members to each-other’s proximity and encouraging them to interact in random ways. Members upload a photo and submit a list of situations that they’d like to experience, with moderators filtering out the more specialist suggestions. Worth a look, I reckon.