Tag Archives: 2004

The Corporate Wars: 2135-2312 and Corporate Freedom in the Age of Reason

In 2003 I  made a set of paintings called The Corporate Wars: 2135-2312 that used corporate buildings in them; these were 1 or 2 story buildings that I would often see while driving around out on Long Island when I was in school out there. I started by making a trip back out to Long Island from Brooklyn so I could take some photographs to use as references for the paintings. I wanted to make the paintings minimal without any real outstanding features showing so I decided to take the photographs so that only one corner of the building would show. I also wanted a lot of sky so I aimed my camera high to get as much sky as possible. Back at my studio I picked the best photos and cropped them exactly as I wanted them. I had recently stumbled across the Golden Ratio and wanted to use it to establish the proportions for my paintings; the Golden Ratio is supposed to be the ideal proportion for an aesthetically pleasing form. I chose 36″x58″ and for the first time decided to make my paintings using canvas stretched over home-made panels. I built 4 panels using 1/4″ smooth luan and 1″x4″‘s that I nailed and glued together and left to dry overnight. The next day I sanded any edges that were rough or splintering and wood-filled any edges that had blemishes in them.  After this process was done I stretched and primed the canvases and then painted them with oils.

After I was done I decided to place them into a political context by imagining a future where corporations ruled the world; these paintings would essentially become “portraits” of corporations that were involved in a war of the future. I gave them random numbers to make it seem like there were many more “portraits” in the series than there were. I also used the term Untitled in the title because I really don’t like it when artists don’t title their work so I wanted to use the term in an effective way. I’ve only shown this series once and that was in a group show at PS 122 as the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research.

In 2004 I made another painting of a corporate building that wasn’t part of this series. I made it 48″x78″ (also using the Golden Ratio) and painted it using a flat acrylic latex background. That one is called Corporate Freedom in the Age of Reason. Here is what I wrote about the Corporate Wars series and below that are the 4 paintings and the painting from 2004.

Terror is an extension of violence. At its very nature it is a psychological infliction imposed by a dominating force upon a weaker and more susceptible “victim”. In traditional history these boundaries are seemingly easy to understand by well defined rules of acceptable and unacceptable aggression. However, these rules of aggression become increasingly skewed by a very precise and powerful propaganda system that aims to protect the invested interests of the wealthy elite. These interests are often contradictory to the needs of the population at large but are easily protected through coercion and sometimes force.

             The Corporate Wars: 2135-2312 presents a horrific future in which the corporate elite dominate and control every aspect of civilization. This future of course does not present itself instantaneously but rather very slowly over a very long period of time. First public utilities are privatized and monopolized, forcing the population to pay exorbitant prices just to survive, then the media and communications industry are stripped from the public sectors and conglomerated, paving the way for a massive filtering system for information, then education and medicine are privatized, severing the last ties to any democratically sponsored responsibilities. Finally, military operations become increasingly bloated, forcing massive budget increases to help pioneer capital ventures and to control the restless and largely unhappy masses. It is at this point, when the corporations have established complete control over all domestic interests that the corporate landscape will make its final shift into oblivion, forcing the now dependent population into complete economic annihilation. 

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Associated Artists for Propaganda Research Interview October 2004

Here’s an interview that I did with myself back in 2004. I found it in an old notebook. I guess I never finished it. At the time I was still interested in faking the timeline for the AAPR. I think that interviews are a great way to get out ideas without needing to follow a traditional way of writing about your work.

October 2004

An Interview with the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research.

Q: When did the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research first get together?

A: 1984, 1985 I think. We were loose knit in ’84 but things really didn’t congeal until early 1985. That was when our first show was.

Q: Was that Corporate Utopia/Corporate Control?

A: Well, there was actually a show earlier that year which was quite successful at the time. Looking back on it I’m not so sure.

Q: How did the A.A.P.R. come about?

A: Well a few of us in art school were doing a lot of research into specific propaganda techniques utilized against the unknowing public. In an artistic practice this theme tends to become problematic. Our aim was to try and utilize this information in a somewhat cohesive manner, perhaps to try and make sense of it. It grew from there of course, but the beginning came out of a simple sort of pragmatism.

Q: Influences?

A: Well the Situationists and Fluxus of course made a great use of social politics. It seemed very anarchistic. Also Dada at its very roots was really fucking with the pre-established order of how we understand the world. I think Punk did the most though to bring change to the most amount of people. It basically popularized it and made it cool. And the aesthetics were outstanding.

Q: What about post-Punk?

 A: What the hells that? I guess New Wave really followed but it was really just an extension of the Punk aesthetic. Don’t forget that New Wave and the Punks came out of the Mod culture.

Q: What religion do you practice if any?

A: Religion? I’m really more of an atheist/pessimist which requires no practice whatsoever. It’s probably what got me in this predicament to begin with. (laughs) Perhaps I should re-evaluate my position a little bit. I believe in a certain spirituality but no specific dogmas. It annoys me really (organized religion) because it only allows for growth under very specialized rules. It’s like saying I’m a Nietzschean, or a follower of Kafka. What does this mean? Philosophy doesn’t or shouldn’t follow such defined rules. What is religion but philosophy with a bit of spirituality thrown in. They used to go hand in hand. Why should I restrict myself?

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The Destruction of Public Utilities

In 2005 I was asked to be in a group show at a small gallery in Brooklyn. I had painted a large painting the year before called The Tower and had recently finished 2 small paintings: one of a monorail and the other of some highway lights. The Tower was used as part of the series Ten Great Paintings About Ten Great Philosophies and the 2 small paintings would later be used in Epicenter City. For this small group show I was interested in using them to address the United States’ corrupt privatization of public utilities. Here is what I wrote and below that are the paintings that were used:

In my most recent paintings I address issues of subversive power and control. This control is most notable in the corporate and military sectors of society where the public has little chance of establishing any democratic influence. These privatized tyrannies aim to circumvent democratic processes by misinforming the public through very select, corporate controlled media outlets while continuing to carry out illegal and often state sanctioned acts against popular interests.

The Destruction of Public Utilities addresses the continual migration of public utilities into the hands of the private sector. Such necessities as water, gas, electricity and transportation are no longer accessible through governmentally maintained facilities but are rather sold by the largely unregulated utility conglomerates to the public as a profitable commodity. In the future, the very building blocks of life will be bought and sold in the marketplace, leaving the majority of the population struggling just to survive.

The Tower presents the ominous realities of media conglomeration and their threats to democracy and public accessibility. This continual concentration of media outlets allows a select amount of corporate giants to limit the parameters of information available to the masses at large, creating a narrowly informed and complacent population of willing consumers.

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TEST SET, MK-4 GTS/APU SYSTEM A/E -24M-40

In 2003 I was asked to create a piece that utilizes a suitcase for an exhibition at the Denver Airport in Colorado. It was a collaborative project with the artist Max Yawney in which he made a large series of cutout foam suitcase shapes all painted grey and he asked individual artists to make pieces that use a suitcase as their main form of material. Max found a corridor in the airport that had a long line of glass display cases that were divided in the middle in which he could place both one of his gray cut outs and the individual artist’s piece. For this project I made the sculpture TEST SET, MK-4 GTS/APU SYSTEM A/E -24M-40 which was made using an old military aircraft container that I found at a flea market and some plastic model aircraft missiles. The case is made of 2 halves and uses 8 heavy duty clasps to keep it together. This turned out to be a nice feature for displaying it since the case was designed to be stacked, so the top could be taken off, flipped and put underneath so that the bottom “feet”, which are concave, could fit exactly on of top of the cone shaped “feet” from the top (which is now upside down and on the bottom.) I also liked the stenciling on the side which is where the title comes from and I stenciled AAPRHIGBEE04 on the other half of the lid which can’t be seen in the final photograph. I cut out some gray foam so it would fit in the bottom half of the case and cut slits for the missiles which I had built from 3 different sets of missiles used for model aircrafts. I made the missiles as realistic as I could and even found a way of fitting the missiles into the end of a Dremel tool to spin it like a lathe in order to produce accurate stripes where needed. I then attached pins to the missiles with glue so I could sink them into the foam where I made the slits, sinking them slightly and securing their positions. I did this in pairs to further emphasize their symmetrical use on fighter planes.

At some point my piece was pulled from the exhibition along with 2 other pieces that were found to be offensive. My piece was eventually returned due to the fact that it was considered to be only “borderline offensive.” The ACLU got involved and there was some minor reporting in the news. One of the funny things that I found repeated in the media was that my suitcase contained “small planes and missiles” which was obviously not true, there were only missiles. Also I found it ironic that people were offended by the sight of missiles when I had purposefully made sure that the model missiles that I used were for U.S. fighter planes which I found to be more offensive.

TEST SET by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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