Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pan-ifesto: Jesus for sale!

Even before I started creating logo parodies as Pan Demonium, I noticed that they were becoming increasingly popular as t-shirt designs. And I also noticed that they were particularly popular as Christian t-shirts! This trend has continued, and there are scores of different designs available. Here are samples of some of the best ones I found online:
Now, I didn't read much into this phenomenon until recently. I tend to see these designs as slightly humorous, and actually appreciate them on an aesthetic level, although their message is lost on me. But as I continue to see more of them, I must wonder, why?

Instead of making a simple joke or a comment on the product being parodied, this a more conscious use of the format. Here, the logo is actually being subverted, and used for a completely different purpose. The artist is, in effect, stealing the power inherent in the brand identity and repurposing it for their own ends.
This works in a couple of ways: first, it presents the message (i.e. "Jesus") in a form that has proven to be a successful visual style that is readily accepted by the general public; also it normalizes the message, conveying it in a way that is consistent with the aesthetic of the dominant consumer culture. Thus, the message becomes a product which can then compete in the 'marketplace of ideas' as well as in a real, retail sense.

This realization has been very influential on the way I approach my own work, and is a key component of my current direction.

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