S.O. cross-post: Upcycling with words

[ NOTE: This is a retroactive cross-post from SignificantObjects.com. That is to say, I wrote it for that site, with a view to making a point about how our project is a form of upcycling — but because it’s done with words, not by physically altering low-value objects, we get no “green” cred from the people who are in charge of doling out said cred. I partly made the point by noting that art that involved destroying (presumably unwanted) books gets props by converting these vessels for words into raw material; meanwhile, actual words don’t get the same respect. That was sort of my point, anyway. Since then, since I’ve been doing the books: the idea series, and this stuff relates to it, I’ve retroactively ported a cross-post over here, giving it the same date that it appeared on S.O. I hope that’s okay! ]

By Brian Dettmer

By Brian Dettmer

Significant Objects has many obvious virtues — but is it eco-friendly, too?

In the early days of trying to drum up traffic, I brought our project to the attention of several eco-blog types. Why? Because we figured that in converting near-worthless thrift-store junk into valuable and meaningful objects, our project was in effect upcycling with words.

By Jacqueline Rush Lee

By Jacqueline Rush Lee

I guess I did a bad job making this case, because none of the eco-bloggers bit, and it beats me why that is. Okay, so we’re not converting metric tons of spent plastic water bottles into hip t-shirts or somesuch. But surely if a sculptor incorporated some of the very same doodads you’re used to seeing on this site into a physical work of art and displayed it in a gallery, anybody would recognize that action as redeeming a bit of borderline junk with no particular use-value. Aren’t our writers doing the same?

Probably as a result of this I’ve been interested lately in examples of upcycled art and design that uses one specific form of object as its base material: the book.

By Jim Rosenau

By Jim Rosenau

This rather astounding roundup at Dark Roasted Blend (which I used to find the images for this post; click on any picture to go to the artist’s site) will provide you every example you need of books converted into pure objects; whatever words they contain hardly matter.

But I’m not here to rattle on about the special-ness of physical books and whatnot, as there are plenty of people around doing that already. And besides, a lot of these book-repurposings are pretty cool. I respect the artistry and craft involved. Speaking of artistry and craft, what I am here to do is say it loud and proud: The writers who’ve been participating in the Significant Objects project are also deploying their artistry and craft in a way that redeems borderline junk with no particular use-value. Read more

Time out!

The truly brilliant among you noticed that last week’s column included a note specifying that Consumed is on hiatus until late March (thus: no column in today’s magazine, you see).

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to post links of note at the Consumed Facebook page. Also of course the action will continue unabated at Significant Objects, where I sometimes contribute actual writing in additional to my, uh, curatorial skills.

And there’s always the fascinating MKTG Tumblr, and the scandalously underrated Things That Look Like Other Things, and all the other stuff hyped in the sidebars on this very site, all for your entertainment and edification. Oh, and here’s something I wrote for The Awl. Enjoy it all, why don’t you.

Merry, Happy, Glad, Good

Happy Time of Year, originally uploaded by R. Walker.

The Murketing Organization encourages you to enjoy the season.

In The New York Times Magazine: “Hoarders”

A TV reality series suggests the thin line between our national consumer frenzy — and psychopathology

…. Hoarding, he says, has “more to do with a person’s psyche than their taste in decorating.” Given how dark that psyche can be, why do people watch? Sharenow offers several reasons, from the visual wallop to the raw narrative drama. “There’s something kind of Joycean about watching a hoarder,” he continues. “You’re getting this incredibly deep picture of their entire existence in a way, through the objects and through the stuff they accumulate.” ….

It’s interesting then that “Hoarders” has found its audience now. In a sense, the show can be read as a metaphor for an entire culture that has lost perspective on the relative importance of things and desperately needs help.

Read the column in the December 20, 2009, New York Times Magazine, or here.

Discuss, make fun of, or praise this column to the skies at the Consumed Facebook page.

In The New York Times Magazine: Blu Dot’s Real Good Chair promotion

A furniture maker hypes its wares by leaving them out with the trash.

In early November, a marketing agency’s “street team” began scattering a client’s products on the sidewalks of Manhattan and Brooklyn….

Read the column in the December 6, 2009, New York Times Magazine, or here.

Discuss, make fun of, or praise this column to the skies at the Consumed Facebook page.

Bad taste?


I only recently got hip to the Museum of Things, in Berlin. I’d heard of it, but a chance encounter with Garth Johnson, an incredibly nice (and smart) guy, included him really setting me straight on the Museum of Things, and the fact that I really need to go.

But while I wait for the checks to materialize that will make it possible for me to travel to Berlin, I’ve at least been able to check out the site. And then I saw this Core77 item with the above image.

from the “Bad Taste Exhibition” at the Museum of Things in Berlin. 100 years ago, Gustav E. Pazaurek started a so called “Cabinet of Bad Taste” featuring the worst of the worst items ever made. The Museum of Things recently decided to give new life to Pazaurek’s historical and extremely complex efforts in documenting material mistakes, design mistakes, decorative mistakes and pure kitsch. Aart van Bezooyen brings us this great (and terrible!) gallery of over a century of bad taste!

But wait — look at those things. Bad taste? Those look like Significant Objects to me! Couldn’t any of them, or other similar objects in the MoT’s collection, be turned into valuable signifiers of very discriminating taste? I think so. Even this one. (Um, NSFW? Sorry.)

Performance art and soap operas

james-franco-240We were interested here at Murketing HQ when it came to our attention not long ago that James Franco, a pretty successful movie actor, was doing a stint on General Hospital. The story went that this is something he wanted to do, although it wasn’t clear to us why. Fan of the show? Curious about it as an acting experiment? Unpaid gambling debts? Hard to say. In any case he’s taken on the role of an artist — and villian — named Franco. While we did not have a firm explanation for all this, I think it’s safe to say we applauded it.

Today’s WSJ has an essay by James Franco, that sort of discusses his GH turn, and explains it as performance art. Actually the essay is mostly about performance art, and you can read that here if you like. Here’s all he he has to say about his soap role:

I finally took the plunge [into performance art] and experimented with the form myself when I signed on to appear on 20 episodes of “General Hospital” as the bad-boy artist “Franco, just Franco.” I disrupted the audience’s suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn’t belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas. Everyone watching would see an actor they recognized, a real person in a made-up world. In performance art, the outcome is uncertain—and this was no exception. My hope was for people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate. Whether they did was out of my hands.

Hm. Well, I’m not sure I agree with all of that, but I see what he’s saying. He goes on to discuss performance art and his interest in it, and doesn’t return to the GH experience until the end.

The folks at “General Hospital” informed me that in three days of filming we backlogged enough material for 23 episodes. There will be one more step. After all of the Franco episodes are aired, my character’s storyline will be advanced in a special episode filmed in a “legitimate” New York gallery. One more layer will be added to this already layer-heavy experiment. If all goes according to plan, it will definitely be weird. But is it art?

I’m not sure how I feel about the gallery angle, and I don’t really care if it’s “art” or not. But by and large this is all pretty interesting. The author tag on the story says that Franco “is currently enrolled in NYU’s MFA filmmaking program and Columbia’s MFA program for fiction writing.”

I wish I knew somebody who knows this guy. I’d invite him to write for Significant Objects. He could do so as “Franco,” if he liked.

The Product Is You, No. 17

IMG_1186[The Product Is You* is an occasional Murketing series collecting advertising that is aimed at advertisers: Magazines or television networks packaging up their consumers — that is, you, the potential ad target — in ways designed to attract advertisers. ]

Meredith, publisher of magazines such as Better Homes, Parents, More, and ReadyMade, and operator of various associated online properties, here explains to potential advertisers the reason they should buy space in the Meredith universe. If you are among the “75 million women” that the ad states are Meredith’s audience, that reason is you.

Often you the media audience are pitched to potential advertisers with statistics or catchphrases. Here, a visual dominates. Read more

Significant Objects V.2

As some of you may know, Joshua Glenn and I recently launched Significant Objects, Volume 2.

In this sequel to our much-discussed experimental inquiry into the relationship between narrative and value, we plan to publish 50 stories (and auction off 50 objects) with proceeds at the end going in what we hope is an impressive lump sum to 826 National, a nonprofit that tutors students age 6-18 in creative and expository writing. Bid early and often to support this excellent cause!

We’re signing up contributors and editing stories — so visit the site, now and in the weeks ahead (or sign for the email, or do the Facebook thing or the Twitter thing), for stories about thrift-store objects  from Bob Powers, Amy Fusselman, Debbie Millman, Douglas Wolk, Barbara Bogaev, and many more. We’ll also be publishing stories by some of the finalists from our Slate contest, plus a few favorite contributors from Volume 1 will be back for an encore.

And check this out: For our first story, contributor Neil LaBute has made a very cool offer. Not only will the winning bidder get the Significant Object + story — that generous and tasteful individual will also receive a copy of the story hand-written by LaBute!

Even if you don’t bid we really need your help spreading the word. Tell friends, tell strangers, blog about it, tweet about it, link it up. Let’s make this fund-raiser version of the project a success! Thanks.

Oh, and we’re selling mugs. Get yours here.


We better not find one of these in a thrift store any time soon.

Search me

I don’t know if you have a website, or, if you do, whether you have some sort of plug-in that tells you about search terms that led people to it. I do, on both counts. Normally I don’t notice the latter, but today I did. Here’s what it says:

murketing,  mongols mc,  rob walker,  advertising,  donks

I think it caught my eye because of “mongols mc.” Odd that more people land here as a result of searching that phrase than, oh, I don’t know, my name. Particularly because I didn’t even recognize the phrase “mongols mc.” I had to search my own site to find it! I came up with this item, which I barely remember.

If you’re curious about “donks” — here‘s what that’s about. I really am interested in donks.

The lonely crowd?

The most-emailed story on Yahoo right now is headlined “Loneliness Spreads Like a Virus.

Okay, silly research, and fatuous deployments of the “virus” metaphor, are nothing new. But really, is this “finding” a prank?

The upshot: A lonely person is likely to lose touch with another person, who in turn gets cut off from others, and both end up on the fringes of a social group.

Well, then, uh, problem solved, am I right?

Really, even if there’s some sort of truth in the idea that loneliness spreads from person to person in the manner of the flu — wouldn’t that problem, by definition, pretty much take care of itself? How are the lonely contagion-carriers going to be spreading their awful loneliness among their non-existing social networks? What do when we identify them? Isolate them? I thought the were already isolated.

Am I really supposed to be worried about spending too much time with people who have been “cut off from others”? Is that the cure to this supposed epidemic? Are we to save ourselves from the ailment of people-avoidance by … avoiding people?


A person’s loneliness depended not just on his friend’s loneliness but also on his friend’s friend and his friend’s friend’s friend.

How did they find these lonely people with such robust social networks, anyway? Reading this makes feel like lonely people have more friends than I do. In fact it makes me kind of lone–

Oh my god.

I’ve caught it.