In my first post in this series, I said that decommodified art can do things that commercial art can’t. But what does that mean? Here’s how I put it in Turn Your Life Into Art (with snippets from a few different sections, lightly edited below):
Consider Disney World. Imagine the most impressive, impossible ride that Disney World can create. They’re throwing everything they’ve got at it. They’ve got actors, they’ve got sound designers, they’ve got architects with an unlimited budget. They’re going to create a roller coaster that takes you to a beautiful palace filled with secret rooms and holograms telling stories and… and …I dunno… use your imagination. Make it as amazing as you can get.
And this is my bet with you: no matter how amazing Disney World can make that experience, there is no experience Disney World can create that will be as thrilling as breaking into Disney World.
Not “breaking in” like they create a “Breaking into Disney World Experience” – I mean really breaking in. That’s the experience you’re going to have whose intensity will remain with you for the rest of your life, and will bond you to the people who did it with you.
If they know what they’re doing, two guys with bolt cutters can have a more potent experience than all the imagineers in the world can provide. And that’s not a knock on imagineers, or their skill and their talent, but it’s the nature of the beast.
That should tell us something. Something we need to pay attention to.
There is no reason—none at all—that companies and marketing consultants and entertainment conglomerates can’t use the techniques and approaches for creating “transformative” experiences. Of course they can. And it will probably help them.
But they will never—never—be as good at it as mad artists and psychomagical monks and anyone who devotes themselves to this practice for its own sake.
The essence of “transformation” is what emerges from within you. It’s the very idiosyncratic and unique ways in which our individual selves, struggling to become, connect with the collective unconscious and create together, because they find a space where they can be seen and engaged. Psychomagical art and experiences are doors that open to wherever you need to be taken, and you… you personally… show us where that is through your own projections and inner mythology.
Corporate art experiences, on the other hand, are about building brands. They cannot afford to go wherever you take them, because they are trying to lead you on a journey to a specific destination that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Harry Potter’s Wizarding World cannot and will not go off-brand to accommodate your personal mythology; Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge will always put its merchandising ahead of your inner revelations.
The purpose of branding and marketing is to raise product awareness, reinforce brand identity, and sell widgets. The purpose of psychomagic is to give you a breakthrough experience. Brands and marketing are, ultimately, fictions; psychomagic is at its most potent when it is real.
Psychomagical artists go where events that put branding or monetization first cannot. Psychomagical artists can make their art about you, personally, in ways that branding creatives cannot. Psychomagical artists can make your real life their subject matter, whereas corporate “experiences” are all about selling you their story. It’s not yours, it’s theirs, and they have to sell it.
Oh sure, corporate experience designers could work only with facts and real people—but the moment the story starts to have nothing to do with the product, or questions the brand’s legitimacy, they’re going to try and drive the experience back “on track.” At which point there’s no meaningful opportunities for real transformation.
For dedicated artists, things starting to go off track in unpredictable ways is where things really begin to get interesting. At which point, your self-actualizing unconscious perks up and says, “Let’s play!”
Psychomagic is designed to open possibility; commercialized art is designed to limit it.
People trying to build a brand can productively use all the tricks in this book, but they will never be as good at it as dedicated artists.
Cover image of “Mariposita” by Chris Carnabuci (Photo by Mark Nixon)