By Anthony Garcia
Philadelphia-based graphic designer Allan Espiritu spoke to students and faculty in Mayo Concert Hall on Friday, Nov. 3, at the seventh Brown Bag presentation of the semester, where he explained his creative process, shared stories that shaped his view on art and empowered aspiring artists.
The title of his presentation, “Mashup: ‘Cause we are Living in an (Im)material World/The Boy with a Thorn in His Side,” was inspired by Espiritu’s friend and mentor. His mentor resembles a member of the English rock band, The Smiths, who wrote the song, “A Boy With a Thorn in His Side.” Espiritu’s friend and mentor also introduced him to the Situationists International, an organization of artists and political revolutionaries from the mid 20th century. The group conducted art-based social experiments, which inspired Espiritu to create interactive art. Espiritu feels the overlap of sociology and art gives him a way to spread messages through his work.
“(Situationists International) were against this idea of consumerism,” Espiritu said.
“The Situationists used art to get their points across. They created situations to counteract spectacle and complacency.” Walter Benjamin’s book, “Illuminations” also strongly influenced Espiritu’s work. Benjamin writes that aura is lost in art when things are mass produced.
“As a graphic designer this sucks,” Espiritu said. The book also discusses the ephemerality of art, and how an artist’s effort can be appreciated or ignored by viewers. This idea continues to challenge Espiritu. “(Benjamin’s ideas) helped me form my position on graphic design,” Espiritu said.
At Espiritu’s first job, he designed and created coupons. One day, he saw one of his designs in a neighbor’s trashcan and decided to make a change in his life.
Feeling empowered, Espiritu left his first job. He went on to earn his masters in graphic design at Yale University. There, he worked on finding himself as an artist.
“This idea of the ephemeral, me as a graphic designer making disposable things, that you can throw away at the end of the day. I had a real problem with that,” Espiritu said. Espiritu also discovered a love for print.
“I love print, rather than making everything digital,” Espiritu said. “I kind of rebelled against that –– I was interested in the material of things.”
Students were impressed with Espiritu’s work and his willingness to deviate from traditional artistic norms. One such student, Wesley Pena, a freshman music education major enjoyed Espiritu’s philosophy on art.
“He’s trying to change his whole industry, it’s cool,” Pena said of Espritu’s goals. “Art should not be disposable.”
Espiritu concluded the lecture by reiterating two major points.
“Reject the ephemeral –– make things last,” Espiritu said, “and reject complacency.”
Having a physical connection with material objects provided a sense of palpable ownership that does not occur with digital content.
“I try to reject all standards,” Espiritu said. “It makes my job more lively and fun.”