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Let the Dictionary of Unhappiness guide you through one letter at a time

Politics

If coffee table books could laugh then this one would snicker cynically at all the others. The Dictionary of Unhappiness, a tongue in cheek send-up of the alphabet pictorials of your childhood yesteryears, puts a post-situationist spin on the everyday with neat visual aids. A collaboration between Isaac Cronin, a stalwart of the radical '70s Situationist movement and Tyler Spangler, a digi-collagist (think pop art meets Godard), the photobook is released on Little Black Cart this month. With classic cynicisms like "Faith: Unshakeable belief that God encourages commerce" and "Child: Proof of disposable income", it's one for the whole family. We caught up with Tyler and Isaac to find out more.

You've spoken about people never speaking more yet saying less RE: the truth – why do you think that is? What's to blame and can we turn it around?

Isaac Cronin: To put it simply, nearly all social interactions and communication are mediated by an abstraction which seems to represent us and our humanity but which is in fact deadening at the center. And that abstraction is the commodity and the master commodity, money. It appears to be simplistic, but the ramifications are complex, brutal and often hidden, based on a several thousand year development process. I think that the current order has never had more power over our lives, and yet never been more vulnerable because everything and everyone is connected by existing networks. Every road leads back to Rome. We have none of the power and all of it. This is a very exciting time.

Tyler Spangler: Everyone today has a forum to speak. While great, it’s also a double edged sword. Personal filtering is the only way to turn it around.

How did you and Isaac team up for this project?

Isaac Cronin: It was a serendipitous meeting. I was walking through an event called the San Francisco Zine Fest last summer and Tyler had a table. He was selling these beautiful hardcover one-off books of his work, and I discovered a talent and a sensibility that expressed profound concepts and feelings in images. I was looking for someone to illustrate the dictionary at the time and I knew immediately I wanted to work with him. Fortunately for the project, the feeling was mutual.

Tyler Spangler: SF Zine Fest. He was drawn in by the color of my table I assume. While flipping through one of my 440 page books he stumbled across a page design about the Situationist movement. At that point it was a go.

“The reversal on the meaning of faith ("Unshakable belief that God encourages commerce") is so charged after 9/11.” – Isaac Cronin

If you could each add another word to the book what would that be?

Isaac Cronin: Atheist: Having renounced god, he instead affirms the mystical power of the commodity.

Tyler Spangler: Subversion: Refrain from using social media.

What's the future of communication?

Isaac Cronin: It's the central battle ground for all social combat and therefore a dynamic zone of force and counterforce. I wouldn't want to predict the outcome of this high stakes war. My friend Jean Pierre Voyer said a huge pitfall for us today is to confuse the means of communication, the mechanical tools, with real dialogue itself, and I think most of what passes for meaningful conversation is actually technical detail, sometimes disguised as social change. 

Tyler Spangler: 2D. Augmenting isolation with interactive personalization.

_human resource

What's your favourite graphic/which word 'take-down' resonates most with you?

Isaac Cronin: Faith. I love Tyler's dreamy image and the reversal on the meaning of faith ("Unshakable belief that God encourages commerce") that is so charged after 9/11. 

Tyler Spangler: I like the image of Human Resource because it has a particular David Cronenberg message behind it and I think it is very relevant within the consuming online world. I think the definition of Leisure resonates most with me because of the constant on the grid environment of todays society. 

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