The artwork Re Made Co. exists in the form of an online company, re-creating actual company Best Made Co.’s website, video and social media. My “company” (comprised of website, promotional materials, video, and social media) is identical, save for the company title, the substitution of my artisanal plunger for their artisanal axe, and my placement of fictional “founder” Peter Smith-Buchanan in the position mirroring Best Made Co.’s founder Peter Buchanan-Smith. Smith-Buchanan uses Buchanan-Smith’s own words to humorously but critically call attention to a complex range of issues, including the nostalgia for pioneer life that has surfaced in modern times, the packaging of masculine aggression using hip design aesthetics, and the transformation of functional tools of manual labor into expensive fetishes for consumption by the affluent.
The Re Made Co. work has multiple components, including:
RE MADE BRAND VIDEO
Best Made’s “American Felling Axe” brand video presents Best Made founder Peter Buchanan-Smith describing the axe as “embedded in our DNA” and “a tool that builds America.” The video’s images and rhetoric provide a complex inventory of masculinity, from manly competence and conquest, and a commentary on the positioning of “craft” and “design” as tools to elevate the elite. My goal in recreating the video, the first action of the Re Made work, was to use Buchanan-Smith’s own words to reveal the farce of his claims.
RE MADE SOCIAL MEDIA
The Re Made Co. Facebook page provides an opportunity for further study of Best Made’s archive of images, to deepen the parody, and to extend the boundaries of the work by allowing response from browsers. The hundreds of Re Made Co. Facebook images start to reveal categories, characters, and stylistic approaches in Best Made’s brand messaging.
RE MADE NEWS PARODIES
In building Re Made Co., I recreate published reviews of the Best Made store and products, substituting “plunger” for “axe,” along with other minor, though significant, alterations to the original articles. The goal is that these fictional articles use the authoritative language of the mainstream media to critique their own failures: the glorifying of a group of white upper-middle-class men sharpening their axes, without any discussion of race, class, gender, and the cultural appropriation of labor. These stories are available within the “Our Story” page of the Re Made website.
RE MADE ADVENTURES
Best Made has posted a series of “Adventures,” starring products such as the $188 Work Shirt. In their “Summer in Hoisingon, Kansas” adventure, Best Made photographed farmers and oil drillers, splattered in mud and oil, and dressed in the Work Shirt, alongside scenes of founder Peter Buchanan-Smith hanging out in local settings. To create the Re Made Co. “Adventure,” I worked with local farmers and well drillers in Hamilton County, Nebraska to collaboratively restage the Best Made Kansas Adventure in order to critique Best Made’s Plain State’s romanticism.
RE MADE LEGAL
Eight months after Re Made Co.’s launch, Best Made Co.’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter claiming that I had stolen Best Made’s “work.” Attorneys from the University of Michigan’s Office of General Counsel championed the Re Made artwork and my first amendment rights. Their support and the protection of Fair Use enabled the work to stay online. If Re Made Co. itself points to the economic and social contradictions that lie beneath Best Made Co.’s branding, the cease and desist document humorously re-creates this work (extensively comparing axes and plungers) and overtly displays the aggression that’s at the heart of Best Made. The cease and desist document is only viewable on this website.
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