SIMULACRA & ARIZONA
The deflation of meaning is directly related to the inflation of information... We are at the point of flexibility where things don’t have to make sense. Perception is necessary to remain close to reality…
In 1992, the New York-based beverage distributor Ferolito, Vultaggio & Sons created Arizona Iced Tea. They wanted to name it after a location with a hot climate and landed on “Arizona”. Some of the other considered names were “Santa Fe”, “Picard, Nebraska”, and “Kalamazoo”. Don Vultaggio’s wife Ilene designed the southwestern-style logo.
Their first product, Arizona Green Tea pictures the sacred cherry blossom... juxtaposing New York, Arizona, and Ancient Chinese culture.
The blossoms and the tea are greatly and equally significant to me. Growing up in Queens, trips to the deli for 99cent Arizona tallboys were a daily ritual.
Being Chinese and Japanese, cherry blossoms are also very familiar. They represent “mono no aware”, meaning “sensitivity to things” and awareness of the transience of life. The blossoms’ extreme beauty and short lifespan are symbolic of both mortality and new beginnings.
Cherry blossoms, (unrelated to Arizona or green tea), are meant to be derived from the concept of the product (traditional oriental culture). But there is a reversal. After over a decade of marketing and branding, those cherry blossoms, particularly with a green background, have become a signifier for Arizona Green Tea., rather than mono no aware. The blossoms lost their identity through their rapid reproduction out of context. The tea is characterized by the blossoms, and in turn, the blossoms identify with the tea.
((((((((((Natural (adj): existing in nature and not made or caused by people, not having any extra substances or chemicals added, usual or expected.))))))))))
Like the can, the painting is loud.
is what it isn’t. Cheap commercial designs often lack consideration for honesty... or originality...beauty... all unnecessary. This is the world where you can claim to be the “best in town” or “#1” and anyone or no one will believe you. The misuse of language and imagery have rendered itself nonsense, and thus they have departed from reality. We have reached the next level of delusion. Jean Bauldriard calls this the third level of simulation:
The first level is that of pure representation where symbol=referent (i.e. A map).
In the second level, the simulation is an illusion of reality, like a copy so good you think it’s real.
The third, hyper-reality, occurs when the representation is materialized & produces it’s own reality (i.e. Disneyland). Bauldriard believes this is the dominant way of experiencing the world.
Arizona Green Tea exists in the third level of simulacra.
I wanted to pay a tribute to the cherry blossoms who lost their identities through the violence of marketing and reproduction, so I painted them in the form of “art.” I hope to transform the cherry blossoms.
a) to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphosis... b) to change in condition, nature, or character; convert.
The origins of the blossom iconography lie in Sumi ink painting, an art form originally practiced and mastered by Buddhist monks. In college, I took a Sumi Ink Painting Class where we recreated ink paintings from xeroxes taken from an instructional book you can buy on Amazon. We went through all the basics, rocks, bamboo, mountains, and finally cherry blossoms.
We never drew from life...
All you had to do was copy the xerox. Like a machine, I reproduced the images and learned the strokes.
These were the elements you needed to build a realistic Sumi ink landscape from scratch (hyper-reality.)
The more you consume it, the more you overlook the offensively tacky and gimmicky image of the whole product. The unnatural combination of hot pink and sea foam green begins to taste like Green Tea with Honey. The cherry blossoms are taken out of sacred context and reproduced infinitely onto disposable dollar cans (lingering in trash cans and storm drains.)
I made stencils and matched my colors. The painting appears mechanical and reproduced much like a commodity... removing the artist’s hand and thought process. My goal was to copy the can exactly, to capture the boldness of this icon.
The painting process led to a meditative state. By stripping all text, the blossoms attract attention and praise. The blossoms’ identity breaks free from the grips of marketing and into the world of art, symbols, and metaphor...