Not too many years back, copyright lawyers were the scourges of post modernist creativity, and peddling in pop culture critique was a risky business. Disney was notoriously draconian with it’s crusade against infringement, going so far as to famously sue a Florida daycare for painting Mickey Mouse on their wall.
There have been dozens of copyright cases over the years that open and close the doors for artists; a step forward, a step back. 2live Crew wins a case. Yay! Jeff Koons looses a case. Boo! Technically, there still isn’t a truly safe legal stance for artists to reference and dissect our society’s canon of pop culture.
The real safety net started to appear when Lucas Films voluntarily allowed open sourcing of Star Wars images. It was an a brilliant move, by allowing fans to actively participate in the imagery of the Star Wars universe, Lucas effectively speed-balled his franchise into the modern mythos we have now.
This set the stage for a massive rise of fan fiction, which, along with the advent of social media, created a licensing infringement tsunami whose sheer size crushed the legal departments of entertainment and publishing companies, much the way piracy crushed many companies themselves.
Along with the entertainment companies, the venerable tastemakers and academicians of the fine art world have suffered greatly under the socialist environment of the Internet as well. There was a time when you needed to actually visit galleries curated by “experts,” and read art journals edited by “critics,” who chose what you would be exposed to. Alas and hazzah, Instagram is the final well-deserved nail in the Salon system.
The result of all of this is what I call, the Clickbait ‘Member Berry Art Revolution, which is perfectly personified in Dan Luvisi’s insanely pleasing cartoon nightmare monstrosities.
Since it’s far more likely that an artist will be discovered through an iPhone than through a gallery, the competition in the attention economy is fierce. Impressing critics is not necessarily as important as pleasing the public, and going viral has become as coveted as getting a show, and the easiest way to get some click bait play is to dose your work with some ‘Member Berries.
I’m not going to rehash the South Park plotline that involves ‘Member Berries (If you don’t watch South Park, you are a dick and I don’t like you.) But basically, ‘Member Berries are the reflexive, warm and pleasing release of dopamine we feel when referencing childhood memories and nostalgia.
Why is The Force Awakens awesome when it’s basically just a rip-off of A New Hope?
Why is it so damned funny just seeing Peter Griffin dressed up like Spock? Member Berries.
Why is Dan Luvisi’s series of sleazy, gritty, pop culture cartoons so immensely satisfying and shared by millions of people over and over again? ‘Member Berries.
‘Member Berry Click Bait Art is probably the biggest genre of art today, purely dictated by the free market.
The irony of this is, while I’m basically typifying Dan Luvisi’s work as a symptom of the death knells of the old guard art world and a prime example of modern art marketing, I have no doubt that he probably couldn’t give a shit.
Luvisi has had a long and stunning career as an illustrator in the gamming world and this series doesn’t even start to reflect the insanity of his talent. I suspect that these images are more likely just a flight of fancy of his, instead of a calculated commentary on pop culture premeditatedly designed to be share friendly. I guess I could have found out if I had cared enough to contact him and ask.