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Me as Post-Modernism: The Social Mirror, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1600

Essay

It is generally thought that models do not actually work. After studying my own face for fifteen minutes, the falseness of that assumption is obvious. I learned a few other things as well. First, it hurts your eyes and back to stare so hard. Second, I do not mind the little marks that I have on my face. Third, my heritage does not define me; it only gives me a foundation which I should recognize and understand as part of how I am perceived.

In purely a literal sense, the lines of my face seem to refract the light in a more angular way than I was aware of, reminding me of the works of Picasso. However, art is more than just an oversimplification of lines and color usage; art captures an essence of a feeling, soul, mood, tone, etc. The canvas emotes much in the same way as people and also may be liked or disliked, understood or misunderstood, overestimated or underestimated. Just the lines of my face don’t tell the whole story of the practical and innovative features which define me as a whole person, a canvas waiting for life to be sketched upon it. Physically, I look more worn, almost haggard if you stare too long, and I wonder if everyone looks like that after fifteen minutes by the mirror. You can tell that I have studied and worked hard and that I am used to squinting into computers and iPhones, which is now the norm for young students. I like some challenges and variety, so   my personality rebels against the overly simple or dramatic satire of modern art. I am not some colorful boxes or minimalist masterpiece. You can tell that I am busy, always on the move, and I blink more in the regular light than I do in the soft glow of the computer screen.

Looking at all of these factors, Post-Modernism seems to suit my face and spirit most equitably, conveying my sense of endless movement and the way the sides of myself overlap into a complex layering at the intersection of who I was, who I am, who I want to be, and who I am going to be. During my time in higher education, I have waited at this intersection. I am not sure whether the slight circles under my eyes are my imagination reminding me of the stresses I face or if they are really there, but Post-Modern art would be able to pick up on that difference, perhaps progressing photographs through a day or through years to project how my face will continue to reflect my life—more truthfully than a friend who tries to be too nice. Post-Modern art may combine magazine elements with painted ones, deconstruct and reconstruct a new image, emphasize art in action, define art as a more instinctive process which taps into the subconscious, and may get gritty.

I imagine the photographic still of my face in glossy sepia, perhaps ingeniously collaged into an entirely new environment or a progressive multimedia slideshow—one time only, of course, in the style of the popular urban Post-Modern installments. Post-Modern art does not have to try so hard to be affective. When I think of making a social, cultural, or political statement with an image, I am always reminded of the movie Full Metal Jacket– in which one of the soldier’s helmets has a peace sign on one side and “Born to Kill” on the other. While mine would not have that theme, mine could have lines of dots in the background which spell out “I speak English”, “I am not a computer technician”, or “I have a good driving record”, since those three stereotypes seem to be the most popular for people with Asian heritage who live in America, such as myself. I like the idea of an off-center photograph from the distance of a few feet- with the light striking my face in a way that makes it difficult to see which race I belong to. That, to me, is a big part of social, cultural, and political movements right now, as America the melting pot starts to separate its colors for separate rules, expectations, and benefits.

I do like the bold colors of my heritage, and I think that there is definitely a subconscious knowledge of how those elements fit into my life here. One of the most commonly-known symbols was the dragon, which was revered as powerful as much as it was feared. This thought of my ancestors being mixed up with dragons and early fireworks is almost offensive at first, but there is still strength in thinking about that long and rich cultural history- with many art forms, traditions, and techniques of their own. If I were to select an Asian art counterpart to myself, it might be the theater, although the Japanese Kabuki theater is more bold and public than I am as a person.

According to popular advertising, I should be on the cutting-edge of the latest technologies and maybe even producing, programming, or providing support for those systems. Being young, male, and Asian, I should be a leader in this field, wearing the company polos or demonstrating how new products are must-haves for the modern student, professional, or fashionable person. Although I can use the same technologies as most other people my age, I am not on the cutting-edge. I am in the main student body, texting and typing rapidly with l8r and all of the other short little phrases that are common. I am not a social networking master, either. In this case, the Advertising Horizon is distant from the reality.

I do not completely avoid mirrors, as Richard Prince in “The Perfect Tense”, but I cannot say that I am completely comfortable with them, and I definitely am not traffic-stopping handsome either. This demonstrates that the expected is not always true and sits on the opposite end of writings which show mirrors and paintings as a place where the ugliness of the soul is revealed. When I look into a mirror, I usually see how others that I care about will probably see me. I may not care what advertising has to say- except that it is sometimes annoying and inconvenient- but my friends and family want to see who I am but also see that I am happy with my life and doing something with it. Those opinions matter, and something as simple as a scratch can be a reminder that I have had a long and clumsy week. Each little scar or spot reminds me of the good and bad times through the years, so I guess that the face and the body are a timeline of each of the decisions and actions that led up to those points.

Thomas Frank’s study of counter-culture began with the 1960’s- twenty plus years before I was even born, but these things seem to loop around in circles. I do feel that we are on the edge of a new counter-culture and that the increasing impact of advertising has created a relatively permanent home for some sub-cultures, such as American punks, the “surfer”, etc. I am not a public icon for counter-culture, but I do not let it define me either. Counter-culture resists mainstream culture, but it also creates a world which reacts against the norms. I doubt that such a strong counter-culture as in the 1960’s will ever take such a strong hold during my life, especially with the smaller counter-cultures already developing. That being said, Asian Americans are moving from the usual technological careers to related areas, such as business management, art, theater, advertising, etc. in greater numbers. It is not completely the opposite of the expected, as in Frank’s idea of a counter-culture, but it is a very gradual movement toward making new roles. Because this movement is still happening and has not really ceased since the generations of my family began immigrating to America, I do not think that cultural jamming will occur for many years.

I can create an image of an American whose heritage only enhances my qualities if I replace what I am leaving behind with positive aspects of what I hope to be. In this globalized climate, tech savvy workers are considered very useful, so replacing that expectation with the positive aspects of knowing about advertising and culture creates a more even exchange which allows me to fit in more comfortably and positively in the business/ work environment. It will take time, and some people may never “get it”. Having a cultural identity besides the broad term American is good, but it must be recognized and addressed head-on.

I do love individualism and technology. For younger adults, that is becoming something of a counter-culture in itself. They allow us to express ourselves in our clothing and speech and to present our ideas better than ever before. Technology also allows family to live longer in many cases. Before these two elements seemed to be a global social pariah, one of those things where other countries seemed to shake their heads and say that we are too headstrong and dependent upon these changes. I think that I embrace these changes as long as they are positive- just as I do what I see in the mirror. Even the negative things that I see are just a reminder of the change that lies ahead. I hope to make that change positive, and my Asian heritage is a small part of who I am. It is also just the part that advertising teaches us to wear on our sleeves as a judgment of expectations.

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