Diana Ciuca Philosophy IA Semester Exam 1,715 words

I ♥ NY
Whether or not a symbol can be considered a great work of art (or vice versa) which represents an entire nation’s sentiments towards a subject is not only a philosophical question, but a cultural one. In the ever popular “I ♥ NY” (figure 1) symbol/logo/masterpiece, the issue presented concerns the identity of ‘I,’ the significance of the heart, and finally, the ambiguity of the final two letters. To address this matter, I will first analyze the meaning and span of the self, especially its validity in representing (a) society. Furthermore, I move on to discuss the heart as an abstract design and its qualities in terms of it being regarded as art, and finally finishing with a discussion of the importance of love. Lastly, I shall provide examples of what “NY” means, and how it exudes such qualities, along with the malleability of the area following the heart. I this, I that. When one talks about himself, he expresses how his self perceives outside interaction. Given the publicity of this logo, the “I” is no longer simply one person, but an entire culture. Various philosophers interpret this either in a personal context (Kant, Hume, Locke) or a societal context (Plato, Marx, Rorty). John Locke, the father of empiricism, defines the self through experience. In his book On Personal Identity, he identifies the self as, “consciousness…the conscious, thinking being… [who] owns all the action of that thing as its own.” However, his interpretation fails to acknowledge, in this case, the overwhelming audience who is the ‘I.’ Given that this logo is typically worn on a shirt, the self is not only one person who experiences things, but instead an

amalgam of people. Thus, Hume’s definition of the self is may be apt. This is because in this logo, there really is no self, but potentially combination of several impressions; but that definition fails to adhere to the possibilities of multiple selves and the objectivity of these impressions. Finally, Emmanuel Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, identifies the individual through, “self-sustaining intelligence.” This definition, possible due to its modernity, falls most under what we would consider the self to be today. Thus, in accordance with Kant’s definition, the ‘I’ represents an active identity, which transforms into a whole. I agree with this assumption, but would further expand it to one which identifies the society’s role in shaping the individual. Therefore, the self is the combined interaction between societal mandates and personal experiences. Furthermore, the identity in this case must engulf more than just one person given the intent of the logo. It is a commercial item. Since many people sport this logo on their bags, and t-shirt, this inadvertently indicates that they identify with the 'I.' All the multiple 'I's result in a 'we.' We, as in we the people or us, as "One Nation Under God, Indivisible." The ‘I’ and the ‘we’ are, in fact, inseparable. This contradicts the previous philosophers who prefer to identify man in his own self, as an inherent being, a mean in himself. Instead, I look towards Marx, who combined the meanings of society and individual by stating, “The real nature of man is the totality of social relations.” Prior philosophers saw society in a simpler way, such as Plato who divided it into three parts. The 'I' here, since he "loves," must obviously then be the spiritual part of the self and therefore the ‘Guardians’ of society who are strong and brave. Richard Rorty, a more recent philosopher had a similarly applicable idea of the self, yet saw it through the use of vocabularies to define the self. In his other philosophies, he also emphasizes free will, something crucial to the meaning of this logo. Given that it is something typically bought to be worn on a t-shirt, bag, or

other accessory, the person buying it chooses to buy it due to his own free will. This will is stemmed from the desire to express his feelings regarding the statement made: that he loves NY. Nevertheless, not only one person wears this sign proudly on his chest, but millions do, thereby making it a truly cultural phenomenon. With this in mind, philosophies disregarding the power of the all fail to recognize the unity of the United States (since the main audience of this logo is U.S. citizens). Our de facto motto further promotes this Idea: E Pluribus Unum, meaning in Latin: one from many. Thus, the societal context of this logo impacts its interpretation. The next component of this logo is the widely interpreted red heart. In this case, human anatomy has been abstracted to not represent what an actual heart looks like, but rather how it feels. Since hearts are typically associated with emotions, they are commonly depicted as red. These are all assumptions portrayed through the heart in this logo. Regarding the question of artwork, this could be considered propaganda and have no intent to be valued as art, or instead, due to its popularity, be considered Pop Art, among the great works of Warhol and Lichtenstein. Although its elements of designs and principles of art are simplistic, the work is analogous to Barbara Kruger’s since it aims to make a proclamation. Moreover, due to this, it also has “infectiousness.” According to Leo Tolstoy’s definition, this picture transmits the same emotionality as the artist who made it to those who wear the work of art. The person’s body therefore becomes the artist’s canvas. Moreover, there are conflicting visions of this piece as being art through the modernist and post modernist lenses. The modernist may see art through beauty, in the classical sense. This traditional interpretation advocates for the universality of the piece of art. Nonetheless, this piece of ark cannot apply to everyone or appeal to everyone and therefore must fall under the postmodern interpretation of art, as most of today’s art does. This type of art has specific and

particular meaning to the viewer. Thus, this leads me to the different paradigms of viewing this work of art: descriptivism, prescriptivism, and performativism. Through descriptivism, it could be seen as art, subjectively, but definitely not objectively. A subjective interpretation is too vague, but the most applicable since nothing can be objective; one can only endeavor for it. Furthermore a prescriptive interpretation should never apply for art, since it has no validity towards a whole, and barely declares a substantial sentiment regarding whether or not the object is, in fact, art. Finally, through a performative viewpoint, time and context is regarding along with meaning. This statement takes in consideration Hegelian-like cycles of times along with societal contexts and the alteration of purpose. Since there is no overall common quality shared by all great works, this definition along with a subjective analysis (descriptivism) work hand-inhand to define this logo as art. In my opinion, although any this logo could be considered a crucial work of art, especially in regards to society, I would argue otherwise. Given its purpose and triteness, it has no longer become an original refreshing peace, and never was since it was influenced by other ‘love’ ideas (i.e. Virginia is for Lovers). It was intended to influence others to love the state of New York, which is not a difficult task. However, its goal incorporates nationalism. Nationalistic art equals propaganda. So, the potential connection between the viewer and the producer no longer becomes an emotional connection, but an economical pursuit. The commerciality of the art no longer makes it a masterpiece, but a commodity. Nevertheless, the meaning of the work would be altered if not intended to signify love for New York. It was part of a marketing campaign intended to only last a few months and mainly promote tourism, along with other things. Nevertheless, it has become closely associated with New York City, as it is being used in multiple commercials around the city and products. Since

New York was shortened to ‘NY,’ this displays the progression of United State’s society to shorten words in order to move at a quicker pace. It exemplifies the pervasion of technology, especially in aiding communication. This can be seen today throughout ever popular text messages. In which words are abbreviated in ordr 2 quikn th prcss of typng. Through these two simple letters, an entire nation’s vocabulary is exemplified. We like things to be simple, quick and to the point, and that is what this logo is. In times of trouble, we are further engulfed by this ravenous ‘I,’ as we, a nation, become united. Such an example is after the 9/11 attacks, a shirt embodied an attitude which stated, “I Love NY more than ever,” (figure 2). This image can further be appropriated to other contexts, such as showing love for other cities. Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States, has its own logo, one representative of the LA counterculture, especially in reference to graffiti (figure 3). Additionally, Tokyo used a similar concept of changing the logo to fit their culture in figure 4. Finally, the last two letters can represent anything, although usually used for initials. Thus, my personal favorite is figure 5, “I heart DC.” Albeit this is a common tourist souvenir in our great capital, Washington, D.C., for me it symbolizes my initials, and nothing more. In summation, the meaning of the final two letters is ambiguous, given the amount of times it has been changed and can represent anything (figure 6)

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Ultimately, this work originates through governmental promotion of chauvinism. This type of advertising occurs throughout cities, like another notable “lovely” city: Philadelphia (The City of Brotherly Love). They are known especially for their famous “LOVE” Statue (figure 7), which shows how strongly national pride in intertwined with our society, especially in respect to our great cities (just like Chicago and the Olympics). Delray Beach even had their own “LOVE” statue here in Old School Square. But, even we know how to laugh when our country has taken an economic downturn (figure 8). Our pride is not mauled, and our humor prospers. Thus, this becomes a symbol of changing views of ourselves and of our society.

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