Punk Your Brand

I attended a Joshua Davis presentation three years ago at SXSW. Now, Wired has an interesting profile of the man.

There are two ways to get noticed as an artist. You can stick to a familiar formula, like Thomas Kinkade with his prodigious output of country cottages that look perfect hung above the ­chenille sofa in a bed-and-breakfast. Or you can have a fresh shtick, something that kicks convention to the curb. Davis’ shtick is provocation.
Davis creates what he calls generative composition machines: applications written with his collaborator Branden Hall, using open source code and Flash to automate his sketches. He plugs in multiple options – say, five different drawings of a tree trunk, 10 types of leaves, seven branches, 15 critters that can live in the foliage, and 12 background colors. Then his code morphs the image from pas toral scenescape into any number of moving visuals – a time-lapse sequence of continental drift, a single frame of anime burning in front of a projector lens, or a Japanese landscape painting rendered as spin art.
“Code is just as artistic as using paint and a brush,” he says. “Besides, I don’t see the point of painting the same way a bunch of dead pricks did in the 15th century.”
Davis is being courted by museums and galleries, but he still pays the bills shilling for the Man. Right now, he’s working on BMW’s new Z4 coupe. “Yeah, I’ll do it – why not?” he says. “I’ll fly to Germany, sit in a room, and write code for my artwork. Hell, yeah.” With projects completed or under way for clients as diverse as Barneys New York, Nike, Nokia, Diesel, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Tool, Davis has become the badass artiste mainstream America turns to for edgy branding.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am now head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.