Art/Aesthetics · Education · Events · Human-ities · Theory

Advertising and Consumer Culture: Postgraduate Symposium

“Commercial speech – advertising – makes up most of what we share as a culture…As the language of commercialism has become louder, the language of high culture has become quieter.” – James B. Twitchell, Twenty Ads that Shook the World

Throughout the modern period, advertising and consumer culture have dominated everyday life; moreover, the trappings of commercialism permeate much of supposed ‘high culture’. Commodities clutter the pages of novels from Dickens and Zola to Bret Easton Ellis; works by Joyce and DeLillo are enlivened by advertising jingles and slogans; brands and trademarks pervade the practice of artists from Picasso to Warhol and the visualisation of consumer desire is appropriated and challenged in the work of Richard Hamilton and Martha Rosler.

Whether celebrating or critiquing advertising and consumer culture, art reflects our enduring fascination with them, despite research into the psychological effects of advertising, concerns over the evils of consumerism, and the often sinister nature of market research. The recent television show Mad Men, for instance, has revivified interest and scholarly debate surrounding the power of advertising and the consumer, as well as restaging debates around sexism, truth and the heteronormative ideal. Meanwhile, sociology in the wake of Erving Goffman continues to explore advertising’s uses and abuses of gender, identity and desire. Countervailing against consumerism and advertising’s many critics, theorists such as Michel de Certeau and the critical movement Thing Theory have endeavoured to examine advertising and consumer culture from a standpoint that goes beyond the model of the ‘passive consumer’ or Marx’s account of commodity fetishism.

Topics for discussion may include but are by no means limited to:

– The ways in which advertising and consumer culture intersect with issues of class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity
– Psychological/psychoanalytic perspectives on advertising and consumer behaviour; how identity is created and reflected through participation in consumer culture; the legacy of Freud and Bernays.
– How artists have appropriated the techniques of advertising, or have been co-opted by advertising and commodity culture (Koons, Rosler, Murakami, Kusama and Hirst) -Theorists who have engaged with advertising and consumer culture (Adorno, Barthes, Baudrillard, Certeau, Fukuyama, Goffman, Klein, Marx, McLuhan).
– The use of music in advertisements.
– The formal innovations literature has adopted to create a poetics of advertising/consumer culture.
– Shopping, the rise of the department store, brand names, and their representation in culture.
– Histories of advertising agencies or ‘ad-men’.
– How the importance of advertising in art may challenge the boundaries between high and low culture and/or modernism and postmodernism.
– Anti-consumerist movements (the Situationist International, Adbusters) and strategies (détournement, culture jamming).
– The recent transformations advertising has undergone as a result of social media -The advert as spectacle or ‘event’ (celebrity endorsements, Christmas advertising, product placement, Pawel Althamer’s Real Time Movie).
– Figures who have worked in advertising, either before or during their artistic careers (Fitzgerald, Rushdie, DeLillo, Warhol, Lynch).
– Political advertising and the roles of politics in advertising.

Submissions are now open for the Advertising and Consumer Culture symposium. More info HERE

Animalia · Design · Sculpt/Install

“ORSON, I’m Home”

“ORSON, I’m Home” is a limited series of dining sculptures in different sizes, dimensions and techniques processing a specific selection of livestock breeds.

“In talking of modern society as a consumer culture, people are not referring simply to a particular pattern of needs and objects […] but to a culture of consumption.” ~ Don Slater, Consumer Culture and Modernity

Via Armin Blasbichler Studio, a multidisciplinary design practice based in Brixen, Italy committed to expanding the notion of fabricated environments. Merging conceptions of space and object from both an art and architecture perspective the studio pursues ventures that are built on transgression and the experience of chance, physically and conceptually.

Architectonic · Design · Social/Politics

The Gruen Effect: The birth of the shopping mall and how a displaced architect accidentally changed American cities

Victor Gruen was maybe the most influential architect of the twentieth century: He is regarded as the father of the shopping mall. How fundamentally his concept would change the world was something that not even this immigrant from Vienna, who was noted for thinking big, could have foreseen. In the nineteen fifties, Gruen built large-scale “shopping towns” in the suburban sprawl of the United States. Based on the model of European city centers they were not only to facilitate shopping but also to strengthen social ties in the isolated suburbia with a mix of commercial and social spaces. However, in the context of an increasingly consumption- and speculation-driven economy the polyfunctional shopping center turned into a gigantic sales machine, which had a formative impact on the development of cities all around the globe. Thus, in architecture, the Gruen Effect describes the maelstrom introduced by seductively designed sales spaces that makes us give up purposeful shopping and get lost in the shopping experience. Since the principles of the shopping mall have little by little been transferred to downtown areas, today this phenomenon produces the city as the place of commercialism, the staging of lifestyle, distinction and event; it outlines the creation of a type of downtown, which serves the gods of consumer culture and defines consumption as the prime principle of urban planning. Text via.

A documentary directed by Anette Baldauf and Katharina Weingartner.

Via The Fox is Black

Design · Digital Media · Fashion · Film/Video/New Media · Motion Graphics · Performativity

No Image, Commercial Breaks

The No Image Commercials were originally conceived as a back-story for the girlfriend character (played by Busy Gangnes) in the No Image performance who mysteriously dies. The idea was to imagine this character as having a career as an actress and so she lives on in these commercial sequences. We drew from the narrative this idea that she committed suicide because she was tired of being a stay at home girlfriend. We wanted the commercials to reflect the sensibility of the stay-at-home mom.

We find that commercials targeting this demographic are very depressing. They speak to a solitary female and suggest all of the things that are lacking or need improvement in her life. You aren’t happy enough, your house smells bad, your hair doesn’t have enough bounce. We wanted to use the language and production value of high end commercials to promote these thoughts. To achieve this we worked with a team of directors, animators, photographers, stylists, and hair + makeup artists who were well versed in the language of commercials.

Artist/photographer Shinichi Maruyama and his team captured the high speed camera live action footage. Stylist Alice Bertay created a house wife inspired by typical Hassidic clothing. Co-director Jonathan Turner created all of the camera movement and 3d animation while co-director Alan Bibby assembled the pieces into the final composition and added the final coat of polish. Finally Busy Gangnes created the soundtrack, attempting to use the emotional effect of a new age sound aesthetic to pull at your heart strings and encourage the consumer to take the pill.

The Pharmaceutical Commercial references an amalgamation of commercials targeting everything from ant-depressants to Glade air fresheners. We were most interested in an existing commercial that presented a dilemma between the comfort of being inside and the dangerous, allergy-filled outside. Only a drug could help you bridge the gap. We thought this really connected with the depressed girlfriend character and her dilemma with her relationship. She was seemingly stuck inside and powerless to get out. The product the commercial is selling helps the consumer straddle that line in a state of harmony (or confinement). The room setting, designed by Shawn Maximo, incorporates objects from past, present and future Yemenwed projects. This helps to tie it further into the narrative taking place as viewers can see the similarity between the items on stage and in the commercial.