pseudoliterary is advertising


It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.

David Foster Wallace – Infinite Jest

a year ago, pseudoliterary was still the endlessly unstarted project

now, the never ending. 

it sounds so simple. so singular. it wasn’t, and then it was. but before, kicking and screaming, soft-skulled and sticky, spastically grasping at nothing in particular, it was untimely ripped from the polluted womb of its mad, bad mother, pseudoliterary, that is, the website you’re reading right now, went through several in utero iterations – creative portfolio, acid diary, stoner gospel, vanlife lifestyle blog, therapy.

anytime i had an idea, i’d imagine it on pseudoliterary. anytime i wanted ideas, i’d imagine pseudoliterary. i was a benzedrined beat poet, twitching in anticipation, fingers poised, with my diy sellotaped scroll in the typewriter feed. and pseudoliterary was perfect, back then. a beautiful blank canvas. a pristine wilderness, untouched by man. it was fresh, footprintless snow. it was the immaculate conception, and i was the virgin mary. 

i conceived of pseudoliterary as a project, or platform, to retrospectively extricate some meaning out of what was beginning to feel like four years of pointless fingerpointing. the idea was to reuse, rehash, and edit together et cetera a curated selection of here’s-some-i-made-earlier content, repackage it and and put it up on the internet. 

the rest is easy. get rich, get famous, get invited by the cool artschool kids to all the cool artschool parties. 

in the end, it didn’t happen like that, because it turns out to be extremely artistically unfulfilling to just repost shit you wrote so long ago you don’t even remember being that person, never mind writing about being that person. 

but, should i wish to use it, all the content i could ever want is already there. pre-written. this is post number ninety four. i could rehash shit for the next nine hundred and forty without writing a single sentence. or word. just copy and paste. copy, paste. 

in which case, there’s not much to do really. 
all that’s left is to spread the word. 
all that’s left is to advertise.

pseudoliterary is advertising. 


advertising is everywhere. it’s all around us, all the time. like elevated levels of carbon dioxide and methane. like zubats in a dark cave. nothing in the world can said to be certain, except death and taxes. so said benjamin franklin. but that was then, and this is now. this is the age of bezos. of billionaires. they don’t pay taxes. and soon enough, they won’t die either. what then, in this brave new world, can we cling to? god? dead. governments? dying. well? why, advertising of course. 

adverts are easy to hate. adverts for things we hate are even easier to hate. but in the interest of pretending to present a balanced argument and not just a biased, bitter, anti-advertising diatribe, i must admit that there are good adverts as well as bad adverts. 

a good advert doesn’t have to be high art. a good advert might just be fun [john smith’s – ‘ave it]. it might make some subtle but amusingly accurate social observation [freeview – crack open the good biscuits]. it might be colourful, and catchy [honda – grrr], or it might be ridiculously clever and totally brilliant [honda – cog]. it might be a fucking masterpiece [guinness – surfer].  

the best adverts transcend their mundane and morally contemptible genesis, their fons et origo mali

the very best adverts are art


then again, actual good adverts are the exception rather than the rule. statistically, overwhelmingly, adverts are a steaming pile of shit. they’re boring and repetitive. they cater for the lowest-common-denominator. they’re emotionally manipulative, and full of fucked-up, damaging stereotypes.

they’re anti-art. in many ways, they’re anti-humanity. 

recently i’ve observed a trend towards a certain type of advert. you’ll know the one, it’s the – times are tough, but we’re here for you – bullshit. banking institutions, in particular, favour this unctuous fuckery. and supermarkets. it grates. it really fucking grates. 

there’s at least two subcategories to this type. the first is the ‘times are tough, and here’s how we’re pretending to help.’ you might call it the ‘we’re all in this together’ ad. the other, which generally employed when it’s too obvious, even to the most idiotic customer, that the product or service they’re shilling can be of no conceivable help, is the ‘times are tough, so treat yo’ self.‘ you might call it the ‘fuck it‘ ad. 

youtube, the hellmouth of shit advertising, has been bombarding me lately with adverts for a generic mid-range gaming laptop which i won’t bother to name. i mention it here simply because it’s probably the most egregious ‘fuck it’ ad i’ve ever encountered. here is the strapline, i shit you not – life can be miserable, have fun

fixed that for you ↑

your life is shit, now buy our product. 

pro-tip for advertisers. if you want people to have fun, don’t remind them of how fucking miserable their lives are. 

one by one, your loved ones will die, and so will you, alone and lonely, watching daytime television in a pair of piss-stinking slippers, in some sad little nursing home, surrounded by drooling, doubly-incontinent, dementia-addled octogenarians, have fun

it’s instructive to consider why this advert fails so completely, by comparing it with an all-time-classic advert for the original xbox – [life is short, play more].

at first glance they’re sort of similar. the straplines are almost identical. life can be miserable / life is short. have fun / play more. if anything, of the two, life is short tongues even harder at its particular bloody, toothless hole of human anxiety – we are all going to die

but in every way that life is short succeeds, life can be miserable fails. 

firstly, it fails artistically – not because of inept direction, or cinematography, or acting, but simply because it’s just not fun. it’s not fun. in fact, i’d go so far as to call it depressing

it's raining, have fun. 
you're late for work, have fun. 
you hate your job, have fun. 
your life is an interminable inner monologue of mild, mumbling disappointment, have fun. 
and unexceptional sex, have fun. 
and by the way, your cat doesn't love you, have fun. 

have fun. have fun. have fun. 

now i don’t for a second suspect that advertisers have any reservations about depressing their audience. if they believed that suicide would sell they’d have us all hooking up our car exhausts and hanging in closets. they’d have us smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol and eating ourselves to death. they don’t give a shit. but this advert is supposed to be about having fun. 

neither advert has much, if anything, to do with gaming consoles or laptops. but one of them is fun, and makes me want to play more. whereas the other one is not fun, and makes me want to throw a brick through the window of whichever advertising agency thought it was a good idea. 

secondly, importantly, it fails morally. take the xbox advert. life is short. we should play more. should we therefore buy an xbox? probably not. probably we should just go outside and climb trees. or take drugs recreationally. but it reminds us of an important truth. our time here is limited, and we should consider not spending all of it working jobs we hate, for money that we’re going to waste on consumer electronics, mindlessly marching like an army of automotons towards our inevitable deaths. 

now take the laptop advert. life can be miserable. so fucking what? what important truth does that remind us of? er… and the solution? have fun. thanks. i hadn’t thought of that. i guess i was just going to go on being miserable forever because i didn’t know about your shit laptop. it does nothing, apart from making me feel a bit less good. thanks for nothing, assholes. 

i know, i’ll start up a hilarious conversation with a group of strangers on the tube about how great my new gaming laptop is and we can all performatively chortle along like we’re coked up to our tits, recording a fucking late-nineties laugh track. 

it stinks of cynicism. of a complete lack of ideas. of creative bankruptcy. of design by committee. of corporate greed. of a solution to nothing, in search of a non-existent problem. it’s not fun. 

and i know, i know, some advertising guru who does this shit for a living (btw, fuck you) will tell me that an advert doesn’t have to be ‘good’ to be effective. that effective equals ‘good’. after all, it worked, didn’t it? why else would i be typing this? which is why, most of all, i want to add, it doesn’t make me want to buy anything. 

but you know what? i did have fun, writing this. so here another suggestion, for free.

life can be fun. have fun.

but that’s enough about other people’s shit adverts. what about mine?

first, some terminological clarification. 
are my adverts adverts?
because there is no product. no service. no idea. 

there’s another word for this sort of messaging, where the aim isn’t to sell, but to change public attitudes about a subject. that word is propaganda

you can tell if something is a piece of propaganda, and not an advert, when the company has a product that sells itself, like addictive drugs, and mostly is just trying desperately to rehabilitate their tarnished image. energy companies pull this sanctimonious shit all the time. tech companies too. 

don’t buy it. 

one particular piece of propaganda, which aired during the covid lockdown, unforgivably featured a spoken-word recording from an artist i deeply admired at the time, together with shaky, badly-lit, hand-held phone-camera videos to plug their hate-filled shitheap of a ‘social network’ which i don’t even use. and now i can never unsee it. 

FUCK YOU ZUCKERBERG
AND FUCK YOU FACEBOOK
you ruined kae tempest for me.

anyway, i don’t need to rehabilitate my image. i’m not doing this to brainwash anyone. 


so… let’s assume my adverts are indeed adverts. what am i selling? 

maybe i’m selling a lifestyle. 
what lifestyle?
my lifestyle?

it’s interesting how in the past, the goal, and challenge, for advertisers was to sell a certain lifestyle to people. a dream. a fantasy. here’s dfw: 


In regular adult-market ads, attractive people are shown having a near-illegally good time in some scenario surrounding a product, and you are meant to fantasize that you can project yourself into the ad’s perfect world via purchase of that product.

David Foster Wallace – Infinite Jest


if you buy this car slash life insurance slash eau-de-toilette, you be irresistible to all women, envied, but grudgingly respected by all men, hung like a horse, rich, famous, and somehow able to pull off that ridiculous moustache that in real life just makes you look like a late-eighties crack-addict adult-entertainer. in other words, a lie. 

nowadays, nobody cares about living a certain lifestyle. instead, we care about appearing to live a certain lifestyle. the dream isn’t to be, but to appear to be. we advertise ourselves constantly, and as a result, adverts have become an accurate representation of the sort of pseudo-lifestyles we hope to portray upon purchase of a product. in a strange way, they’ve become more truthful than they used to be. in an even stranger way, they’ve become more truthful than real life. 

so read pseudoliterary, and you too can truly pretend to be the sort of person who reads pseudoliterary. 


YOUR AD HERE


while i was briefly back in the uk, on one of my more minor pilgrimages, i found myself descending the now familiar stairs of manchester’s famous (slash infamous) basement emporium – the empire exchange. a mucid gewgar’d relic of a bygone time. of better days, and days gone by. ‘we buy, we sell, we trade: visit our internet website’. my assignment: to obtain (by my assessment) the least classy-looking adult magazines in the whole disreputable subterranean establishment. i asked if they had any national geographics too, but they didn’t, so i stuck with the porn. paid cash. i started to explain that they were for making collages for my website, but saying it out loud somehow made it seem even more pathetic than just jerking off to them. 

in a way, pornography is the perfect advert for pseudoliterary. 


The relation between a Calvin Klein ad and a hard-core adult film is essentially the same as the relation between a funny joke and an explanation of what’s funny about that joke.

David Foster Wallace – Infinite Jest


porn is inherently fake. it’s fake. we all know it’s fake. even when it’s real it’s fake. there’s a camera, there’s a cameraman, there’s a script and there’s a fucking director. 

and pedro, he’s not a really a professor, or a plumber, or a pool boy, or a school boy. and felicity, she doesn’t really owe him money for rent or pizza or whatever. she’s not an amateur. she’s getting paid. she’s an actress. this is her job. she’s not really cumming uncontrollably after every third thrust of his perfectly-sculpted ten-inch cock. oh, and she’s not a virgin, by the way. 

and yet… there’s something real about it. really real. despite all that. there’s no movie magic. ok, sometimes there is, when he’s pouring a litre of cornstarch or condensed milk or yakult all over her augmented tits. but they really are having sex. fucking. whatever. everything is fake. the plot, the emotions, the reactions, the noises, the buckets of semen. but they’re actually fucking. 

real but fake. 
fake but real. 

that. 

that’s pseudoliterary. 



Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

Cesar A. Cruz

i’m not trying to shock. ok, maybe a little bit. 

but more so, if anything, i’m trying to point out the irony inherent in trying to shock anyone using something so ridiculously ubiquitous as porn.

something so boring
so banal
so ersatz as simulated sex

pseudoliterary is a safe space for freaks and weirdos. 
for the disturbed. 
it’s a comfortable spot on the sofa, a monster bong-hit and a mind-fuck movie. 

here, i saved you a space. 


postscript:

here’s a quote from the street-art jesus, banksy:


People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.

Banksy

i like this quote because sometimes i question my motivation for putting my work into the public space. on the street, or on the internet. is this all some stupid ego trip? probably. after all, i do this for me, mostly.

but then again, there’s such a scandalous imbalance in the public space between the volume of the voice of the few compared to that of the many. even if my art was strictly neutral, even if i was just going around wheatpasting blank pieces of copy paper over existing adverts, it’d still be a huge improvement. 

and i have no intention of making strictly neutral art. 

it’s time to throw back some rocks.