For my art history class, I had to write a paper on a piece of protest art. Some of you may have seen/heard about Hal Hefner’s “Consume” series, however, I had no idea what it was all about before I dug further. I thought I’d share my paper with you.
A couple days after receiving this assignment, I came across a photoset on tumblr of these pop art-esque, or maybe “cartoon” is more correct, depictions of advertisements and photographs from the media turned zombie. The first in the series shows two football players, the second portrays a zombie Kim Kardashian in her infamous “Break The Internet” nude pose, the third is Ronald McDonald, arms open, inviting the viewer in, but the skeletal mouth, bulging eyes, and visible muscle tissue stretched across his skull tell me to beware. The word “CONSUME” is plastered in bold letters across the top of each of the previous images. The piece I chose is the fourth in the series, created by Hal Hefner in 2015, who is an artist and the founder of Catmonkey Studio, is an eerie take on the iconic photograph of Steve Jobs that all of us in the United States have seen at some point.
Steve Jobs is also turned into a zombie; his eyes are dead, the pupils look like mutilated stars splattered in the center of what would normally be his irises, the flesh from his hand and face is missing, revealing tree branch-like veins and a sterile, lipless mouth. Below the familiar Apple logo in the upper right-hand corner are the words “Don’t Think / Consume”. The message in this image is pretty clear – we are constantly being told what to do, what to wear, what to buy, and what to (or not to) think. This work is poking at the mindless consumerism of our current society. There is no subtlety in any of Hefner’s images in his Consume Series; he shoves the message right into the viewers face without apology.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Apple myself, which is what prompted me to choose this piece of artwork. I do, in fact, own an iPod and have owned iPhones in the past, but overall I think of Apple as a greedy company which just shells out new and unnecessary products on a rapid basis. Despite the huge amount of legal and moral controversy surrounding Apple Inc. (there is an entire Wikipedia page on it), so many people buy into their hype. We have all met someone who just had to have the new iPhone or the new iPad or the new MacBook, despite already owning an earlier version. I believe this is what Hefner is portraying – the mindless consumerism, perpetuated by a multinational company with a net profit of 18 billion dollars in January 2015 alone (“Apple Press Info”, 2015). With the upcoming release of the new Apple Watch, costing from $349 to an astounding $17,000, I felt even more annoyed (Swider, 2015). Is an Apple Watch really a necessary product for anyone? Isn’t there already an app for that (actually, there is an app you can download to see the new Apple Watch models in their true size!)? I love Hefner’s portrayal of Steve Jobs as a zombie himself – mindless and dead inside, like the consumers his company needs to survive.
As a self-proclaimed consumer, I truly find this image striking artistically but even more so as a very, very loud message. The purpose of Hefner’s image is to provoke thought; the opposite of what the image actually tells us to do. There is no way to completely protest consumerism as a whole, unless one is willing to hightail it to the forest and live off of possibly-poisonous berries (how will we know they’re poisonous unless we Google it with our Smartphones?), so I think what Hefner is trying to say is to simply think before acting, something many of us learned to do in elementary school. Society is spoon-fed propaganda and products by the media no matter where we go – it’s unavoidable. I don’t think Hefner is making a jab directly at the late Steve Jobs or Apple Inc., I think he is telling his viewer that being aware of what we are consuming and why should be at the forefront of their minds.
Apple – Press Info – Apple Reports Record First Quarter Results. (2015, January 1). Retrieved
April 21, 2015, from http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2015/01/27Apple-Reports-Record-First-Quarter-Results.html
HAL HEFNER DOT COM. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2015, from http://halhefner.com/
Hefner, H. (2015, February 1). Consume. Retrieved April 21, 2015, from
Swider, M. (2015, April 21). Apple Watch release date, price and features. Retrieved April 21,