Self help. Its been around forever it seems….
Art Chantry (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Magazine cover of the month! Psychology Magazine (“the standard publication of practical, inspirational and applied psychology”). vol. XII, No. 2. February, 1929. official motto? “HEALTH! HAPPINESS! SUCCESS!”
Even though psychology was a science barely existing in name, having only arrived on the scene a couple decades earlier, it was already the most misunderstood and abused science imaginable. This strange magazine is already full of all that crap you see in ‘pop psychology’ magazines today – “how to lose weight”, “how to be more powerful”, “join christian scientists! scientology! rosicrucions!” “learn the secrets of success!” “improve your sight WITHOUT GLASSES!” “learn to not be ashamed in front of a live audience!” “learn to hypnotize!” on and on and on. Some things never change, eh? And that’s just the adverts!
The actual articles are almost identical in scope. Sample titles: “the quest for beauty”, “get rid of that rut!”, “master man or master’s man?” “manners. morals and personality”, and the it-says-it-all title of the eons – “are you acquainted with yourself?” man, this is good stuff. Even the brooding mysterious illustrations (by then famous folks like henry wight and fred reinert and h. winfield scott) rival even the most moody work by Brad Holland, grand master of the style.
Reading this magazine from the same year as the great stock market crash (nicknamed ‘black friday’) that lead to the great depression, you’d never know that the actual end was really near. This magazine (i believe) collapsed with it’s demographic market – the middle class upwardly mobile american salesman. The great depression took it all down. It took another couple of decades before pop/psych magazines (like ‘psychology ptoday’) to re-emerge. Strangely, it’s as if they just plain lifted the articles straight across from this ancient publication.
This is where we got the ‘new age’. Crackpot fake theories based on observation and accepted fantastical ‘norms’ and unrealistic conspiracies. Toss in a little flying saucer lore and channel a few space pirates and you have the same stuff you find in books for sale in the crystal healing shop down the street. So sad. I love it.
I adore this cover. It’s so hand made (very arts&crafts!) It’s as if they threw out the notion that anything made by machine because it “was bad for the mind”. They instinctively went after the spiritual positives of DIY. Also, it was the fad of the moment. All that ‘back to nature’ stuff inspired by Thoreau and the romantics came pouring through in all the turf as the developement of psychological sciences. It was a sort of guilt by association. It ruined the credibility of psychology for ever, perhaps.
In a way, it was a backlash to Victorian industrialization that spawned the movement. It’s virtually identical to the hippie movement. Both of these periods were marked with massive dehumanizing industrial progress resulting in a dimishing of anything concerning people and their lives.
So, it’s only logical that a rejection of ‘the machine’ would result in a return to human handwork and thought and feelings. Thus the Victorian era (which was the first industrially produced pop style) gave way to the hand made arts&crafts era and art nouveau, etc. In the 1960′s you got a back-to-nature handmade anti-industrial style as well.
The one thing about this cover that really gets me is that little touch of the newly evolving industrial style – art deco. The images of the ‘castles on the hill’ in the rigidly bordered panels are dead give-aways to the real nature of this magazine. It is still a product of the machine culture. The art deco style was just coming into style during the late 1920′s in america. It had slowly slipped down the social/economic ladder to hit the masses. The conservative publishers of this magazine still clung to the ‘natural’ styles, but can’t seem to resist a touch of the new hip look of art deco. So, it pops up in the illustrations at the edges of the cover. It reveals that this is a “fake” art nouveau styling done by professionals.
In the 1960′s, when the hard edge style of American design culture (think madison avenue – “mad men”) lost it’s appeal to the new baby boom generation of touchy-feely “whataboutME?!” culture, it gave way to a more human scale DIY style – psychedelia. Those hippies literally looked at old art nouveau books and copied. They admit it. You can see the copy-catting directly borrowing from the art&crafts masters and even Beardsley and Mucha.
So, when the American industrial machine saw what the kids (and all that expendable income) were into this “new look” they copied it – just like this psychology magazine did decades earlier. It’s what we Americans do. We copy-cat to cash in. It’s as close to our hearts as Jesus and apple pie.
The industrialists of the 1960′s did their own version of ‘psychedelia’. I like to call it ‘hallmark psychedelia’ because so many Hallmark cards gave it a try. In essence, it was fake/psych created by people who knew nothing about the hippie culture – just the rubbish they saw on TV. So, the result was hard edge type of fake psychedelia.
Primo examples are those stupid flower stickers that every kid in America stuck on their Volkswagons, or the entire style and look of the TV show “laugh-in”. Utterly fake imitation psychedelia. All of it created by professionals without a clue. Once you know what to look for, it’s easy as hell to spot. Fake copycat styling is always exposed by the amount of sophistication and knowledge that leaks out. It ain’t “natural” to fake things. It’s a lie. And you can spot a lie.
So, it’s always fun to see a familiar echo happening in pop magazines from 40 years earlier. There really is nothing new under the sun. It’s all been done before (and better), whether it’s in the pop psychology magazine biz in 1929 or in the baby boomer psychedelia revolution in the 1960′s. We really live in an age of blind post modern appropriation. We really aren’t capable of coming up with anything ‘new’ anymore. We simply copy and adapt to a new environment. The more I learn about this stuff, the more true it becomes.
But, most of you will fight to the death to defend your sovereign originality.I actually see people suing each other over ‘intellectual property theft!” But, at this point in my studies, I can point out pre-existing examples of whatever it is you think you created from wholly original thought. it cracks me up. Usually those examples are a hundred years old, too.
We should spend a lot less time shouting “THEIF!” and “GIMMEE!”, and spend a lot more time just working.