How to make serious people unserious

On May 1, 2012, at 10:51 PM, Matthew XXXXXX wrote:
Hey. Love your site.
The sentiment of the "Demolish Serious Culture" image appearing on your site is repulsive; it's worse if it's intended to be ironic. I won't ask that it be removed because that would be censorship but I just wanted to say think it represents a nadir for you.
Try harder next time.

On Tue, May 1, 2012 at 10:52 PM, Rob Beschizza wrote:

On May 1, 2012, at 10:55 PM, Matthew XXXXXX wrote:
I think it is an anti-intellectual, silly, stupid thing to put on a tee shirt.
Just saying.

On Tue, May 1, 2012 at 10:58 PM, Rob Beschizza wrote:
Not sure what you're getting at.

On May 1, 2012, at 11:00 PM, Matthew XXXXXX wrote:
I just wanted to weigh in, that's all.
Get better tee shirts.

On Tue, May 1, 2012 at 11:01 PM, Rob Beschizza wrote:
But what you said carries no intellectual weight.

On May 1, 2012, at 11:04 PM, Matthew XXXXXX wrote:
I measure my emails, combined, at 62 grams of intellectual weight.
Perhaps you need to zero out your intellectual scale. There should be a button labeled "tare" press that.

On Tue, May 1, 2012 at 11:07 PM, Rob Beschizza wrote:
That was too easy.

Buy the "Demolish Serious Culture" T-Shirt []


  1. I guess I don’t get it? I don’t really understand the “Demolish serious culture” shirt, either.

    It’s a little ironic that Matthew’s email “I have 62 grams of intellectual weight” line was wittier than anything you said despite his complaint, I guess?

          1. The question is not if you like it. Nobody asked that.

            The question is are you buying it.

    1. By replying to the mail a complaint was turned into a joke: something seriouse was demolished. By the complainer himself no less.


      1.  Gravitas:  seriousness, solemnity, or importance.   
        From Latin gravitas – weight, from gravis heavy.

    1. Unlike your pseudonym, which is the last word in highbrow sophistication.

      1. The fact that he doesnt like the T-Shirt doesnt mean he is incapable of being funny.

        Do you really think that people are either one way or another; serious or funny? You may have a difficult time with stereotypes, if so.

        1. I didn’t say “HowieFeltersnatch” was as funny or not funny, did I. I’m saying it’s stupider than the T-shirt.

        1. Thanks, Ratio. I used a logical fallacy, and I apologize to HowieFeltersnatch for doing so.

        1. Oh no you misunderstood. I was asking about your mood and demeanor while wearing the shirt at the opera. It was my version of a joke. Looks like one person got it… dammit. my jokes suck. orrrr are they too good? jury is still out. Serious replies only please.

  2. Rob, you seriously don’t understand why someone might find an image of a bomb with that slogan to be “anti-intellectual, silly, stupid”?

    1.  All right, I’ll spoil everybody’s fun here. It’s silly and stupid? THAT’S THE POINT.

      1. Here’s a little experiment. Imagine shirts with the word “serious” replaced:

        Demolish humorous culture
        Demolish popular culture
        Demolish old culture
        Demolish new culture
        Demolish high culture
        Demolish low culture
        Demolish Western culture
        Demolish Eastern culture
        Demolish white culture
        Demolish black culture
        Demolish male culture
        Demolish female culture
        Demolish straight culture
        Demolish gay culture
        Demolish Christian culture
        Demolish Muslim culture
        Demolish religious culture
        Demolish atheist culture

        Which are “silly and stupid and that’s the point”? Which are “repulsive”? The way anyone sorts them into those or other categories will say a lot about them, and perhaps provide insight as to why some of us don’t like the shirt.

        1.  Oh, god, you’re so right, I’ve been too silly, I will go flagellate myself back to serious right away, sir.

          1. It’s very amusing that this discussion is happening on a site where, just a few weeks ago, a bunch of people were bent out of shape because a photo caption described an Asian woman as “Asian.”

        2. The first 6 slogans don’t bother me. The others would offend me. Odd that you would equate black people or gay people with “serious” people.

          1. You are making my point. It’s a list of different segments of culture, not “equated,” just named. Some words in that slot seem funny and some don’t. Thus, it seems rather shallow and uninsightful to simply mock any objection to the original shirt.

          2. That was a Straw Man! Thanks for the Logical Fallacies Poster link last week. Very handy!

        3. I would advocate demolishing any culture that has become more negative than positive, and I fail to see why any culture should be sacred if they have become overly negative.

          Culture and tradition are only good whilst they do no harm, at which point they should cease to do harm or should be demolished if they refuse to cease that harm.

          At the end of the day culture and tradition are merely a set of things we do because they are cool, if they cease to be cool, they should deserve no special respect just because they have existed a long time, being arseholes for a long time is not something that needs protection.

          1. Culture and tradition can neither be created or destroyed – they evolve. It is only in the perceived contradiction between culture and nature that culture can be defined and which makes culture truly creative. Perhaps culture can only be defined negatively by its non-definability. Like God. Male/female black/white gay/straight are a matter of genes, culture is the product of a particular time and place. Once the two concepts are conflated there is the possibility of producing an infinite number of theses and university studies without the risk of actually producing knowledge. There is a serious point about the term culture which needs to be made humorously as academic debates can have seriously detrimental affects on society if misused by the wrong people.

        4. My problem with this contention is that the word “serious” is the only  word of the three that cannot be substituted with a synonym and preserve the slogan’s primary intent. ie “Destroy Serious Art” is roughly equivalent…. and by the way WWWWWWWWWWWWINKLES!

        5.  You are correct. As a fifth-generation Serious-American, I find this shirt highly insulting to my cultural heritage. Cancel my subscription immediately!

        6.  Some alternative slogans for the repulsed:

          abolish serious culture
          accomplish serious culture
          admonish serious culture
          aholish serious culture
          astonish serious culture
          establish serious culture
          garnish serious culture
          ovalish serious culture
          polish serious culture
          popish serious culture
          starfish serious culture
          tarnish serious culture
          varnish serious culture

          Feel free to substitute any variant sub-culture from your fine list. I think we’re really getting somewhere with this!

        7. Destroy Indigenous Culture.

          …that would be a controversial one.
          How ’bout: “Destroy Pop Culture”

        8. Such an experiment is would change the conversation. The whole point of the t-shirt is to question what “serious” means.

        9. I find it amusing/horrible that this post has drawn the humor police suggesting a tokenism shame parade whilst other posts on BB referring to legitimate sexism/misogyny are dismissed by the whining masses as irrelevant. Doth protesting and such.

    2. Demolish serious culture is not anti-intellectual.  It is populist.  It means art is for everyone, all people.  It is anti-elitist.  It is some straight up 60’s hippy stuff, and that’s where it started.

      1. Um, “populist” is in no way the opposite of “anti-intellectual.” The two go together more often than not.

        1. Please google the phrase “demolish serious culture”.  It has a historical context, it’s not something that was invented for the purpose of this t-shirt.

          And while I am asking please: please stop getting all butthurt over a GD cartoon t-shirt.

          1. The history is interesting (thanks) but irrelevant to the point (or to my point, at least), which is that someone does not deserve mockery for finding it stupid and unfunny when someone else makes a supposedly humorous reference to violence against any segment of our culture.

          2.  People aren’t butthurt over the tedious shirt, man, they’re butthurt over the shitty way the complainant was handled, i.e. bit of humiliation etc.
            Its quite possible the original complainer is totally over the way any serious culture is demolished all over the place cos somehow that is like “stickin it to the man”. Stickin it to the 1%. Its not, actually, its stickin it to ourselves. If you feel so far away from serious culture that it scares you, then learn more about it. Its there for you too.

          3.  @Gimlet_eye:disqus  @yahoo-VDIZ5SHSYE6GI3AAMKOY2QXAEU:disqus

            Wait, what?

            I thought the point of the post was the beautiful irony, I don’t see any mockery.  Are we reading the same post?

            It’s also worth noting that the person that complained about this terribly disgusting (what?) tshirt was being pretty darn snarky.

            But I don’t think the point of this post is what you think it is.

        2. Yaay! You just hit two more logical fallacies from the recent poster. You used a strawman (DomoDomo didn’t imply that “populist” and “anti-intellectual” were opposite) and the very strawman you used was a ‘black and white’ fallacy. I’m going to get a bingo soon.

          DomoDomo said this thing is not one thing, it’s another, and you respond by saying those things aren’t opposites. You’re really good at non sequitur’s too.

          1. DomoDomo said, “Demolish serious culture is not anti-intellectual.  It is populist.”  To say that he didn’t imply they are opposite is not correct.  He didn’t SAY they were opposite, but the juxtaposition certainly strongly implies that to be the case.  Rhetorical devices such as juxtaposition and the strawman are common features of communication – “the strawman” may arise from a simple misunderstanding or bad communication; repeating what you believe someone’s argument to be is a GOOD thing if you’re really trying to understand them (not that that is necessarily what was happening above).  Repeatedly pointing out that certain things may be fallacies in formal logic seems to me to be unlikely to aid greater communication and understanding between ordinary happy mutants.

    3. You have to be careful of those cartoon drawings of bombs. They have been known to blow up cartoon drawings of buildings!

      1. Finding a joke to be unfunny is not the same as being unsophisticated or humorless. Finding a stupid joke to be funny is not the same as being sophisticated or having a good sense of humor.

        1. OH SNAP you just called Mark’s stupid joke stupid. He is going to be soooo  p – i – s – s – e – d.

  3. i am wearing this right now! for all the people who are offended, i wish i could demolish you:)

  4. I am wearing this right now and i wish i could *demolish* all these too serious mofo’s who see a bomb on a shirt and can’t handle it :D

    1. I’d like to point out that so far in this thread (I haven’t read to the bottom yet) the only people who have said that they bought the shirt are named Chris (I bought one too!)

    1. Thing is, is this a serious troll, where Mr. XXXXX actually means what he says, or is this a cause-mayhem-or-irony troll, where he is intentionally disingenuous to stir things up?

      1. There is no such thing as a troll that means what it says, that’s a contradiction to the meaning of troll.

  5. The moment we believe something is too serious to be questioned, is the moment dogma and unthink take control. Laughter is how we learn to take the external viewpoint of ourselves. There is nothing more serious than a joke.

  6. “I’m not wearing any pants.”

    (This has become my standard answer when people are being too serious.)

    1. It would most likely be viewed by them with your legs and arms spread and their hands by your crotch.

    1. Someone signing off an email with “Try harder next time” doesn’t sound very well intentioned. 

      1. “And I heard the sermon on the mount / And I knew it was too complex / It didn’t amount to anything more / Than what the broken glass reflects.” – Bob Dylan

        1. “a man standing on his saddle to bang on the shutters… But then he called our names… You remember, man woke us up. We were sent for. That’s why we’re here.”

  7. So I gather that the shirt is just meant to say, “don’t be so serious!,” or something along those lines. If so, I totally agree with the sentiment. When I read it, though, that’s not what comes to mind. I can’t help but reflect on the fact that our society has already done a great deal to demolish our cultural institutions. I was trained as an orchestral musician, but quit 15 years ago when it became apparent that more and more orchestras were going to go out of business. I look around at friends who can’t get gigs, and situations like the one in Louisville right now just reinforce that reality. For lots of reasons, arts funding is way down, and that is literally demolishing serious culture. This has affected me and my friends personally, and I find it sad.

    I get it that that’s not the point of the shirt, but for me it hits too close to home. Sorry for being so serious :/

    1.  Yeah, I think that the “Demolish” part is what was disturbing to the poster.  Personally I think people (and society, and culture…) takes itself way too seriously, and there is value in challenging its sacred cows.  That said, I respect the passion that individuals have for the things they love, even if those things are sacred cows to me (like opera!) — so proclaiming that they be knocked down seems, well, mean.

      I prefer my father’s favourite saying, “Life is short, laugh at it.”  That better captures my worldview.

  8. Can someone from Boing Boing give a simple non-smart-assy little statement explaining the idea behind this shirt, cuz it does seem odd to me. It’s not surprising that someone should point out that it seems unfortunate that a website so geared around building and creativity should just aimlessly promote this content. So, as a semi-regular reader of Boing Boing, I wouldn’t mind a little intelligent talk that doesn’t just attack me (for example) or anyone else puzzled by the shirt. Can this be done? Eh?

    1. I’m envious because now you get to google Henry Flynt and learn about him for the first time.

        1.  Ye if you’d listened to Gweek you’d know by now that Mark is clearly one of the most sincere, nice people you could meet.

          At least he comes across that way.

      1. The lesson here is that the most historically consistent way to prove you’re eligible for a higher position in the “Serious Culture” establishment is to cogently argue how much you dislike it.

      2. Mark, when you first came out with this shirt, I liked it immediately but didn’t really understand it. I did some google-research and read about Flynt and the anti-art stuff and everything and found it really interesting. It struck a chord.

        I bought the shirt (and the robot one you designed) and I’m going to enjoy wearing it to the Toronto comic book convention this weekend (I may or may not decide to cover it with a jacket when I’m crossing the border…)

        I still don’t really understand it, though :) That’s part of the appeal. I don’t think anyone can quite say what it’s supposed to mean. Or, at least, it’ll mean something different to everyone. That’s what makes it a great shirt, and I’m sure that’s the whole point and why you chose to make it.

        I do suspect that you’d get more sales – and less misguided complaint e-mails – if you provided a hint of explanation on the store page for the shirt :) I bet after this comment thread you’ll see a surge of sales because people will read the comments and finally understand it.

        1. Hey Chris, My interpretation of the shirt is that a lot of people used to avoid trying creative things (art, music, etc) because they were not professionals. Culture is “serious business.” This slogan is a provocative way to demolish the idea that artistic culture is something for experts to deliver to the untalented masses. At least, that’s what it means to me.

          Things have changed since Flynt coined the slogan in 1963. (e.g., Instagram, YouTube, Deviant Art). Amateurs are enjoying the personal reward of being creative more now than they were back then. The shirt has a lot of nostalgic value for me (it was on the cover of Boing Boing #6, and I like Mark Pawson’s work very much).

          I’m glad it is stimulating a lively discussion!

          1. If this had been the first response to the first poster who asked, this would have saved me a lot of time. It wasn’t obvious that this was the meaning, maybe it should’ve been. Either way, I don’t see why you or particularly Beschizza (it was his post, and he was asked initially) couldn’t have just said that up front. 

            Hopefully Antinous doesn’t blast this comment to kingdom come…

          2. Thanks, that’s a great interpretation/explanation. I like the shirt even more now, and that’ll be part of the explanation I’ll use if anyone asks me about it :)

      3. What I find (seriously? casually?) interesting about this whole discussion is that culture is considered a Googlable trait now.

        That is, in the past, t-shirt slogans were generally accessible to anyone at a glance. “Recognizability” (mentioned in another comment) was understood to be important, so they were generally pop-culture references.

        But now, you don’t have to restrict yourself to references that are meaningful to any reasonable proportion of viewers: not to stuff that makes immediate sense, nor to the domain of general knowledge.

        So long as context can be found in a simple web search on a smart phone, you’re OK making a reference to it.

        I guess that’s a good thing. It’s a way of introducing people to things that aren’t part of popular culture or general knowledge.

        Trouble with this approach is: the thing you are delighted by may not be introduced well by the web.

        For example, the Wiki page on Flynt suggests he’s a really boring guy who epitomizes everything pretentious and unpleasant about serious formal art. He apparently coined the term “concept art”; he uses pretentious phrases like “cognitive nihilism”, “meta-technology”, “personhood theory”, and so on. Even on his own website, he comes across as the kind of pretentiously shallow person that Greg Egan so delightfully mocked in Teranesia, who, while wallowing in high art, gets himself points from the artistas by claiming to hate it – Google image search shows him beside signs saying “demolish lincoln centre” and “no more art!” – hardly concepts I think many here would get behind.

        In short, Google paints him as a douchey artist/philosopher. Might it be better to post a thread or two on those of his works that inspire delight?

        Compare Mark Pawson: while his wiki page has been deleted, Google shows him to be a definite source of unadulterated, unpretentious delight and desiderata, with a sense of fun that’s impossible to miss.

        I mean, seriously – he did a whole book of nothing but UK mains plug die-cuts! I WANT THAT BOOK SO MUCH!

  9. Hmm, I seem to have hit a nerve. Look, the reason I jumped in was not because the shirt offended me, but because I thought the post unjustly mocked Matthew’s point of view, which was followed by a big pile-on about his lack of a sense of humor. (Extra unfair given the wit of his reply.) He didn’t call names, he wasn’t asking that the shirt to be banned or for anyone to be fired. He just said it was repulsive, anti-intellectual, silly, and stupid, and I could see his point.

    Edgy and transgressive humor is fine with me, but if you are going to declare some humor unfunny (and my list proves that Happy Mutants find some humor unfunny), then it seems only fair to at least acknowledge that Matthew has a valid viewpoint, even if you don’t agree, and that he doesn’t deserve to be mocked and derided for it.

    1. You haven’t hit a nerve; you’ve just gone on and on in concrete-minded fashion about an interaction whose salient qualities are abstract.

      For example, you think this is simple derision of Matthew’s “lack of sense of humor” and “point of view”. But on the contrary, his witty response is the heart of the matter.

    2. Hmm, I seem to have hit a nerve.

      That’s hilarious coming from someone who’s made eight comments in this thread. Out of a total of eleven comments ever on BB.

          1. Demolish serious discussion. We’re back to square one. That’s the point :)

          1.  Why not? There’s no sanctified list of things that are worthy of serious discussion, nor a blacklist of things that are not.

            (I suddenly realized that I have a certain respect for deconstruction, as much as I love to ridicule the forms it can take.)

    3. Oh yeah, I’m all for edgy and transgressive humor, it just has its place, and you have to label it as such and file a form DZ-016 in triplicate to acquire permission to engage in said edgy and transgressive humor.  Without these steps it is unsafe to engage in such activities.

    4. I think your 2nd paragraph is intellectually bankrupt, because it is the same argument based on relativistic consistency, e.g. that some people make in favor of creationism.

  10. But… I’m a very serious person by disposition. I *like* being serious. And I’ve never liked being told to “lighten up” because, well, I like being who I am, dammit!

    Perhaps I’m missing the point? Is there some context I’m not understanding? I’m fully prepared to be called an idiot for not understanding the slogan. So… uh… little help, folks?

    1. “Understanding” and “not devaluing” are rather different things. Not that you’ve done either, but that’s the context I see missing in this thread. A lot.

      1. Okay, I’m just going to have to accept that I’m dense, because that didn’t really clarify anything for me…

          1. mdhatter03 – “me not being able to help may not be a function of my level of effort.”

            Okay, so I’m an idiot. A clod. Someone bound by the strictures of mainstream culture. Whatever you want to call me. But I am just asking for a little explanation. This is the first time I’ve ever heard this slogan, so please don’t make any assumptions about where I’m coming from. I don’t know who said it or why, and it’s proving to be fairly un-Googleable. Moreover, the way I came across it is in an article with the headline “How to make serious people unserious.”

            As someone who has been told to “stop being so serious” his entire life, and who has always been irritated by it, I’m really wondering if the slogan is somehow telling me that I shouldn’t be who I am. Or if it’s just saying that calling certain things high culture and others not is silly.

            Until I sort that, I can’t even begin to form an opinion, here.

            (Sorry about not replying directly to your comment – the commenting system seems not to like having replies shoved over so far)

        1. Just because one doesn’t “get it” doesn’t mean they should put it down? 

          Not that you did either, and so it kind of doesn’t matter.

          That’s what I got out of the comment. HTH! One serious person with a sincere inability to read irony to another. 

          And speaking of devaluing, usually when some one tells you to stop being serious (especially when you are female) they are just trying to shut you up and put you in a less threatening position where you don’t talk so much or have opinions. That’s probably what you’re thinking of there: lighten up doll! You should smile more! Sorry your brother raped you and stuff but the joke is still funny, even your mom laughed!

          your friendly humorless unironic feminist auntie from hell.

          PS. Consider that your cultural perspective on this statement is different since “serious” is undefined and therefore filled with meaning by the reader alone. Pretend that the shirt is only a litmus test for “getting it” and by failing to get it you are simply ensuring you have people around you who get you. Or, put up with being criticized for questioning assumed universality in popular slogans.

          1. Well, I suppose that is what the comment is saying. It just didn’t click since, as you say, I don’t think I’m putting things down just because I don’t get them. Thanks.

            As for being told to be less serious, I’m generally thinking of people who assume that I must love being silly but I’m too shy to do it. So they encourage me to “come out of my shell.” No thanks. No interest in dancing. Not saying you shouldn’t like it, just that I don’t. And then I get the derisive sneer. They don’t seem to accept that I have a different idea of fun than they do, so they get offended. Story of my life.

            I suppose I just knee-jerk at even the slightest indication that I should “lighten up” at this point. That this article seems to suggest that unserious people are preferable to serious ones (Why make a serious person unserious if it isn’t better? Why demolish serious culture if unserious culture isn’t better?), so I’m knee-jerking.

            Which is why I’m trying so hard to understand what the slogan – and what Rob – are saying. Because I’d like to eventually form an opinion, and I’d rather it be an informed one instead of one based on a potentially wrong knee-jerk reaction.

            Maybe I’m reading *way* too much into a three word slogan on a shirt, but as I said, I’m a serious person by disposition. Over-thinking is what I *do*.

            I suppose I fail the litmus test, eh?

          2. mdhatter03 – “I said none of those things, and so I will not validate them.”

            I never said that you did. I’m saying it about me. Because I seem not to be able to understand anything in this thread.

            “But it’s hard to see serious questions, with so few question marks being used.”


            Can you tell me what *you* think this slogan means, and what Rob was saying?

            Do you have any idea why people are so offended by this shirt?

            I do not understand the slogan, the article, or the joke. Could you please explain them?

            “It takes all kinds to fill the freeway. I walk. Enjoy the very serious freeway.”

            What do you mean by this?

          3. Do you have any idea why people are so offended by this shirt?

            Absolutely I do! Fear. That’s all I am explaining on that point.

            I do not understand the slogan, the article, or the joke. Could you please explain them?

            yes, yes, and yes.

            The slogan pokes fun at institutions. Anything from table manners to the UN. All are useful in context, but nothing is obviously useful 100% of the time, or out of context. Functional fixedness is not a shortcoming in a person, but it is a shortcoming in a society.

            The article was a very efficient exchange where seriousness turned to levity, and both sides got what they wanted. (Rob made his point, and the writer got heard, agreement to disagree and move on = good life skill for good world)

            The joke is that anyone who wishes to be offended, can be. I find that awesome. You might not. That does not mean you are the butt of the joke, unles you make it so.

            “It takes all kinds to fill the freeway. I walk. Enjoy the very serious freeway.”

            What do you mean by this?

            I mean slow down, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the company, and let the company enjoy your company. I’ve enjoyed this, but I’ll bet not everyone has. I hope you have too. Find a place for a little levity, and everything becomes less heavy, man.

  11. I don’t find it offensive, but I don’t find it particularly funny. Basically, it is completely neutral to me. I can kind of see why someone might be annoyed by it (what if we like serious culture?) and I can kind of see why someone might find such objections amusing (obviously, it is not a serious statement) but both positions seem to sort of miss the point. And maybe that’s the point? The 62 grams line was clever, especially given the ‘serious’ accusation that what they said has no intellectual weight.

    Basically, carry on, don’t get your knickers in a twist, stop being sad about things, but don’t be happy for no reason. That’s my philosophy and it works everywhere.

  12. Well the shirt does sort of remind me of this

    “Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meinen Browning!” *
    , but at least it’s not on a brown shirt , so I guess it’s ok…

    Wait a moment … black , white , red , sort of a circular shape , 

    * funny only if accompanied by a picture of Robert Browning , not funny if it’s a picture of  John Browning

    1.  While your comment’s punctuation makes my eyes bleed, I find myself liking the quote in it more than the one on the shirt in question, if only because of higher recognisability — it carries more of a context for more people.

      I understand Mattew, “Demolish serious culture” is sorta “meh” and doesn’t mean what people would think it means.

      1. That quote (“Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meinen Browning!”) is famously attributed to famous Nazis Hanns Johst and Hermann Goring.
        When John Brownlee was the culture blogger at Wired, I suggested (in all seriousness) that that blog’s motto should be “When I hear the word ‘culture’, I reach for my Brownlee”

  13. It might be worth considering that Mark Pawson has a well deserved reputation as one of the UK’s most dedicated collectors of popular culture. He has self-published books (little works of art in themselves) celebrating the majesty of the 70s desktop icon ‘The Gonk’ as well as a an incredibly well researched encyclopaedia of Kinder Surprise toys.

    I really don’t think that he cares about anything else ( I met him a couple of times in the mid 90s and he sticks in my mind as being the quintessential dower Yorkshireman ). After finding myself acting like a 12 year old as I went to see the Avengers movie this weekend, and not to the theatre, or opera, or any of the other serious culture opportunities that the city that I live in, and the age that I now am would suggest, I think this t-shirt makes a fairly decent point about what we have done to ourselves.

    1. Mark Pawson is a national treasure. He has been active in the UK small press and mail art scene since the 80s. He may be the world’s quietest genius.

    1.  Googling that is hilariously unhelpful. It just sends you to a bunch of random-assed sites with pictures that follow a similar theme. I clicked all the links on the first page of results and still have no idea who Henry Flynt is, what this slogan means, or why i should care.

  14. BTW, this reminds me of a popular t-shirt back in the 80s that read “Fuck art , let’s dance” I carried a sharpie and would amend it to 
     “Fuck artists , & let’s dance” Later on I saw one that was changed to just “Fuck dancers”

  15. What I like about the shirt is that the last thing one would want to do to demolish serious culture is actually blow it up … that would be way too serious itself.  So its a joke to make a serious point. Eh?

  16. I think it’s funny how many people are making serious argument about this.

    Surely the whole point is not to be serious? It’s just a slightly more brutal way of saying “have some fun”, isn’t it?

    PS, don’t wear this shirt in an airport. You’re pretty much asking for a rubber glove enema and to be blamed for terrorist activities that caused the entire building to be evacuated.

    What I call the I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude of life is when
    everyone minds his own business, at the same time as he knows how to
    respect other individualities, and even how to stand up for himself, the
    two-step becoming a national anthem, a junk shop, the wireless transmitting Bach fugues, illuminated
    advertisements for placards for brothels, the organ broadcasting
    carnations for God, all this at the same time, and in real terms,
    replacing photography and unilateral catechism”
    “I destroy the drawers of the brain, and those of social organisation: to
    sow demoralisation everywhere, and throw heaven’s hand into hell,
    hell’s eyes into heaven, to reinstate the fertile wheel of a universal
    circus in the Powers of reality, and the fantasy of every individual.”

  18. I think the point is that “seriousness” is a social construction that serves authoritarian control. (QV recent boing-boing post on Logical Fallacies Poster – Appeals to Authority). Serious Culture is the propaganda of the advocates of this self-evidently questionable concept. When Raymond Queneau was confronted by a critic maintaining that his works were devalued by their overt humour, Queneau responded that he was working for an audience that was intelligent rather than serious. Apologies for non-flippant tone of my post. AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRSSSSSSSSSE!

  19. Some friends and I were hurling nonsensical one-liners one night, I came up with the winner:  “I hate feeling good”.

    However, on a t-shirt, I’d like to see “I HATE EARWIGS”, preferably in silver letters and also a two-tone earwig outline in silver and purple, with an orange background, nice and shiny.  As for the slogan, I think it’s a sentiment we can all agree on, no?

  20. How about just “Demolish Culture” because… really.

    Besides I find the whole “demolish serious culture” thing kind of like some koan anyway. Somehow I think that the shirt is not meant… seriously? Or then, maybe it’s ironic.

    Oh how I long for post-ironic discourse.

  21. I get the meaning of the slogan, and the intent of putting it on a t-shirt.  I’m fully on board with the sentiment it embodies, generally.  But I still don’t think the slogan itself, worn publicly on a t-shirt, is a very good way of promoting that sentiment.  It’s not ironic, it’s just intentionally obscure, like an inside joke.  Those who get the reference immediately may congratulate themselves on being members of the in-group, and those who do not are invited to suspect that the joke may somehow be on them.  That’s clever, in a junior-high sort of way.  I don’t consider that a worthy replacement for too-serious culture.  It’s more like a polar opposite, just as obnoxious but in a different way.

    1. yep, and moreover …

      Flynt now views his previous assessment of art as being heavily conditioned by the period in which he entered the New York art scene. Nevertheless, his critique provides a useful starting point for discussing the class basis of culture. As the eighties draw to a close, Flynt’s extreme utopianism is gaining currency among a younger generation of thinkers (particularly those who emerged from the now defunct Neoist movement). Simultaneously, his recent work is creating ripples of interest among the cognoscenti of the official art world.

      how did i ever miss the Neoist movement or the Flynt revival of 1989?

    2. I was not sure if I wanted to reply to you or not, but then I saw that your name is Chris H. My name is also Chris H. I suspect we may actually have different last names, but that’s ok.

      I don’t see it as an inside joke. Yes, it contains an inside joke in that those who know the reference, well, they know the reference. But it isn’t something that doesn’t make any sense if you don’t know the reference. Well, it sort of doesn’t make any sense (even if you know the reference). 

      It is perhaps intentionally obscure – but not obscure in that it’s referencing an obscure inside joke. Obscure in that its meaning is inherently obscure. It does mean something literally – destroy serious stuff with 18th-century bombs. But nobody except someone who works for the TSA would look at this shirt and apply such a literal interpretation, because it’s so evocatively confusing to anyone with a bit of intellect. Sort of like BoingBoing in general :)

      1. My main dislike is that it can too easily be read as “demolish classical art”, and I’d rather not walk around affirming the views of the kind of people that think opera is for (slur of your choice).

    3. “It’s not ironic, it’s just intentionally obscure, like an inside joke. ”

      See also: BoingBoing on any given day

    1.  good job really, if they get upset by this then imagine the gnashing of teeth over Art Strike for instance

  22. “Demolish serious culture” seems like something Peter Pan might say if his “fly away and never grow up” philosophy wasn’t working out.

  23. I’m thinking about how well this motto maps onto “Destroy Museums” and “Laugh at People Who Aren’t Laughing”.

  24. Without having googled the true meaning behind “Demolish Serious Culture”, I took it as an attack on the culture of seriousness, not culture (in the sense of art) being too serious or self-absorbed.

    It reminded me about that video of John Cleese (about creativity) posted here some time ago. I think it was there when I heard him talking about people who mistake being serious with being solemn or something like that. You can be funny about a serious theme and still convey your point, but most people (politicans…) act serious for the sake of being serious.

    I’m going to google this now to see if I’m right or taking this entire thing too serious.

  25. Now I’m a little sad, that I know that it’s about the seriousness of culture and not the culture of seriousness, but I can still agree with both points of view.

  26. Problem with original comment thread re-posted by Rob, and with numerous comments on this thread, is the implication that the *only* appropriate response to the T-shirt is an un-serious one.  When the original poster makes his joke about the weight of his e-mails, Rob takes that as a win for his own side.  The original T-shirt says one thing — but Rob then turns it into a logical trap and then, through mockery, polices the hell out of anyone’s serious response to it.

      1. hmm, the invitation could have been “Eh?”, but if so it seems to have been accepted as a requirement to restate the original point in simpler terms.

        or it could have been “Not sure what you’re getting at.”, and if so it too was accepted as a need to restate the point in terms that even a kindergartner could understand.

        or it could have been “But what you said carries no intellectual weight.” which could have been viewed as (mild) mockery and either way ended up receiving a witty retort. you responded with the oblique “That was too easy.” which could easily be interpreted as “hah! you fell into my logical trap”.  but perhaps you intended something cleverer than that and just failed to let us know.

        it seems easier to conclude that it took you 3 rounds of vacuous responses to elict that witty retort, which you then posted on BB. its reasonably easy to conclude  that you and other BB’ers hold that  that someone with a serious response to the t-shirt has somehow missed the point.

        1. OK, so let’s be serious for a moment :)

          “But what you said carries no intellectual weight” is not a logical trap or a public humiliation. It’s an invitation to make the serious intellectual argument that presumably girds the initial complaint. But it doesn’t happen. Instead, Matthew already knows that it’s better to do something else. He knows that the most expressive way to criticize my apparent laziness and disinterest is not to be serious: it is to be witty, dashing, clever, and profoundly unserious.

          So, we both win!

          That’s not to nail down the ‘meaning’ of the slogan; just to show in one small way how being unserious is serious business.

          1. Contrast:

            There’s no such implication, only an invitation that was immediately and wonderfully accepted.


            It’s an invitation to make the serious intellectual argument that presumably girds the initial complaint. But it doesn’t happen. Instead,
            Matthew …

            Maybe its the brit in me (and maybe in you too) but I’d say that anyone with a familiarity of your posting style on BB would have interpreted “But what you said carries no intellectual weight”in precisely the way Matthew did – a humorous, self-referential riposte that is nearly lacking in content.

          2. The invitation is accepted, as it were, in both cases: it’s the  “serious intellectual argument” that doesn’t happen.

            Sure it’s a “riposte lacking in content”. But that’s the thing: if seriousness cracks as soon as it’s faced with having to explain itself to a fool, what is its purpose?

  27. “A little nonsense now and then is savored by the wisest men.”

    (not sure who originally said it, but I learned it from a Tom Baker-episode of Dr. Who, which is appropriate in it’s own way.)

  28. Seriously, it’s like you’re spitting in the face of every Doctor Without Borders in the world.  Put this shirt on? It’s like you’re, seriously, literally, peeing on the Innocence Project.
    You’re literally, seriously, saying Head Start Programs should be blown up.
    You’re seriously making “boobie squeeze hands” gesture at Planned Parenthood with this shirt.
    Seriously, this shirt pulls down the pants of the ACLU and seriously, spanks them, with another (frozen) shirt.
    This shirt wants to destroy the home beekeeping movement. 
    I’m not surprised to hear this shirt called a “NADIR” because I suspect this shirt messed up the 2000 elections. I would suggest you take it down, but then I’d obviously be a serious douche soo. . .(rolls eyes)  I mean if that’s the message you want to send, seriously, go right ahead.  SERIOUSLY GUIZE THIS SHIRT is so seriously bad.

    1.  “I’m not surprised to hear this shirt called a “NADIR” because I suspect this shirt messed up the 2000 elections.”

      Okay, that was seriously great.

  29. I do find this t-shirt a little annoying. “Serious Culture” is kind of an endangered species drowning in a sea of Adam Sandler films.

    If it’s supposed to be ironic it’s just boring. How about an ironic book burning t-shirt next?

    1. I think the fact that you’re referring to these oeuvres (whatever you’re referring to, I don’t want to make any assumptions) as Serious Culture is the problem here. The slogan’s not meant to be ironic. Why should culture be serious? Why is the membership of that club of ‘serious culture’ regulated by what gets into art galleries and theatres? The slogan is about demolishing the culture establishment, and demolishing how seriously it takes itself.

      Although as Mark says earlier in a lot of mediums it’s not quite as relevant nowadays due to the democratisation of the internet.

  30. the third rule of ” demolish DADA ” club is to never mention ” demolish DADA ” club in public , unless everyone is demonstrably extremely intoxicated  and/or plausible deniability deniability is otherwise in force ! no , wait , the FOURTH rule – – –

  31. Hold on here a minute . . . There is an enormous thread in the culture. high, low or indifferent that High Culture is a sham. I am going to reach back to Alfred Jarry, but you certainly could go a lot farther back than that. You don’t have to go outside the arts to find people who are repulsed by High Culture. All ( . . .well. nearly all) of Contemporary art is a reaction to the awful truth that culture is a weapon used against us.
    Quoting David Thomas:

    “We are abandoned. Liars own the words. And all the pictures in all the museums in the world are just a shell and pea game played by the clever people to bilk the rubes. Reality is defined by the needs of the media. History is rewritten faster than it can happen. Culture is a weapon that’s used against us.”

    If we forget about the failure of high culture we can still justify destruction by siting the long history of acknowledgement in world religions of the destructive side of creation. Artists instinctively know that destruction is a natural part of the cycle of creation. Unless, that is, they were trained in the sterile and denatured world of high culture. Again, the history of twentieth century art is the history of this struggle.

  32. @someguyyouvenevermet
     That was my first reaction as well – it seems like a slightly quaint artifact from a time when serious culture actually had any notable impact on the world. Of course, I might be using the wrong definition of “serious culture”, but the ties to the anti-art movement at least hints that I’m not.

    I do enjoy the entirely fitting de-seriousing happening in that exchange, though. :D

    1.  if you’re worried about using the right definition, then you’re using the wrong definition. Just use your own, and buy the shirt, or don’t.

      1. It’s less “how I understand it” than “what do I appear to be supporting”. I’ll go with “don’t” – and the knowledge that I’m probably far too self-conscious.  :)

        1. ’tis a fine line between self aware and self conscious. About the same as the one between bravery and foolhardiness. It’s 100% yours to define for yourself. Seriously. :)

  33. My problem with it is a different one: It’s simply misphrased.

    You can be serious about doing something that is absolutely not solemn — watch a kid sometime; they’re often very focused on their play. Unfortunately you can also be solemn as a mask for not being at all serious.

    Serious is an attitude, and is generally a good thing.  Solemnity is a decorious pose, to be used in specific ritual situations where it’s called for. Confusing the two is what does the damage, and the shirt perpetuates that.

    (And I’ll leave you to decide whether I’m being serious, solemn, or both in this post.)

  34. Bloviating about a FRIGGIN T-SHIRT sums it up: if someone doesn’t “get” the joke, it’s because they are probably the butt of it. 

  35. A running commentary on a commentary t-shirt, let’s not all get caught in a recursive loop here and break the universe folks.

  36. So…apparently people decided to stop going to pieces over Tom the Dancing Bug cartoons…

    …and are now going to pieces over tee shirts instead.  Don’t know if that’s better or worse.

    1.  It’s not the shirt, it’s the slogan. And aren’t slogans a good example of something that is worthy of some debate and disagreement?

      1. No.  Slogans are not the thing.  Slogans are the handle for the thing.  Debate the thing; the slogan is just to get you thinking about it in the first place.

        Debating slogans is a waste of time.

        Although it is hilarious that the people complaining that the slogan is “anti-intellectual” are doing a terrible job of intellectualizing this. Which means they’re actually living out the slogan. Someone was onto something with the *head splodey* bit.

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