For a Critique of the Phenomenology of Shepard Fairey's Manifesto

The following critique should be considered only as an explanation of the thought process used in this interpretation of Shepard Fairey's street art. It should not to be taken as a critique of the concept of Phenomenology, only the way in which Fairey utilizes the concept in his Manifesto.

The OBEY sticker campaign can be explained as an experiment in Phenomenology. Heidegger describes Phenomenology as "the process of letting things manifest themselves." Phenomenology attempts to enable people to see clearly something that is right before their eyes but obscured; things that are so taken for granted that they are muted by abstract observation.
Shepard Fairey, Manifesto (1990)

The excerpt from Fairey's Manifesto will be the starting point of the critique of the notion that the OBEY campaign represents an "experiment in Phenomenology." Assuming his interpretation of Phenomenology is a fair representation of the concept (although, upon casual browsing on the subject, his idea that, "The FIRST AIM OF PHENOMENOLOGY is to reawaken a sense of wonder about one's environment" could not be found in any list of components which make up the process; also, Heidegger's conception of philosophy differs from that of Husserl, who was its original developer) it still does not follow that a sticker campaign originally begun as an inside-joke would not carry that intention with it wherever it went. Also, the year in which he wrote the Manifesto predates the existence of the OBEY sticker campaign by roughly six years, yet no there is no listed date as to when an update on the document occurred. Thus, these questions arise: If the document was created during the original sticker campaign, does his assertion that it represents an "experiment in Phenomenology" apply to the OBEY campaign? If the "OBEY Giant" image was adapted from the "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" image, does it carry traces of the original's intention? Assuming that the intention of the original is not extended to "OBEY Giant," and that it is intended purely to illustrate the concept of Phenomenology, does it not still inherently carry the goals of the Phenomenological process as its intended effect? It is my understanding - again, only gained from Googling the term - that Phenomenology does not, as Fairey stated, "stimulate curiosity and bring people to question" anything. Rather, in the case of the OBEY sticker, each person's viewing of the image would instantly constitute their consciousness of it, as opposed to just inviting people to be puzzled about it, which necessarily dictates that any person who has their curiosity stimulated by an image would be accepting an invitation inherent in said image, thus reading the image through author's intentionality. A phenomenological (Heidegger's conception) reading of an image obliterates the concept of authorial intentionality and any approach to evaluating the visual which assumes that an informed reading, social lives of images or societal constructs which structure our relation to the visual, can have an effect upon our perception of images. Thus, the reason why so much space has been devoted to taking credibility away from Fairey's idea that his OBEY sticker campaign can be explained as an "experiment in Phenomenology," is because of the campaign's nature as a foundational image in Fairey's design (foundational in the sense that it has been included in many of the works that followed it and has even become a logo of sorts, which appears in a small rendering on the margins of the image) and because the phenomenological process disallows the presence of any other approach to interpreting visual materials. In his book The System of Objects, Jean Baudrillard addresses the concept of Phenomenology:

The notion that consciousness could be personalized in an object is absurd: it is personalized, rather, in a difference, because only a difference, by referring to the absolute singularity of the Model, can thereby refer at the same time to what is really being signified... (Baudrillard 155)

This seems to be directly refuting Heidegger's Phenomenology, which depends on personalized consciousness formation when viewing an image. Thus, disregarding Fairey's Phenomenology on the basis of Baudrillard's, "idea of absolute difference," as the makeup of the Model, which he says creates the personalized consciousness through the differences in the system, provides the basis for approaching this analysis of Fairey's images (Baudrillard 155, original emphasis).

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