September 10 2008 4 10 /09 /September /2008 13:09
A few months ago, Audi launched its new car. The TV ad miraculously succeeded in reminding not only of Andy Warhol but also of Andreas Gursky and Katarina Fritsch.
A man (a senior executive of course...) gazes at the swarming city out the window of his ivory tower. He remembers running with friends (anima sana in corpore sano), then purchasing some Campbell soup cans (Andy, a luxury representative for a lifetime... and beyond). The camera moves and discovers a faithful copy of Gursky’s 99 cent. Finally, he walks in front of plastered models (between Fritsch’s Company at table and dealer works), a kind of Xi’an army, soldiers trapped on white-collar suits as modern armors: double layer images.
Images stand for an ordinary everyday life, allowing us to understand the way out offered by the new Audi A4. This way out is precisely the one Art used to deal with when the mentioned works of art pointed out the same half-heartedness and conformity. The iconic work of art returns to life, useable again.
A dizzy, swirling turnstile with appropriation strategies, mixing a consumer society that equally glorifies and self-destructs, with Art, quoted, disembodied, advertized. The second point of comprehension of the message (relative to Barthes semiotic) would be the conniving allusion between Audi and its customers. Definitively, we share common values, like art and... money. Art becomes therefore an interpretative and almost subliminal sign.
Same story, a few days back. A woman, lying on a couch, faces a set wall. A simple detail draws our attention: the wall, the couch and the actress’ dress are similarly black-and-white-striped, fitting the ensemble in covering lines. Specifically, the shot is a mere copy of Vanessa Beecroft’s Ponti Sister performance.
Suddenly, the woman stands up and goes through the wall (as Bourvil in the Passe-muraille movie) and magically appears on the other side of the stripped wall, dressed in a bright sparkling dress, finally free from her captive suit, like a convict extracted from a Lucky Luke comic book. What product could so subtly use Beecroft’s work? Menstrual pads, but of course! What else could hijack the artist’s ambiguous actions and turn them into a literal, charmless and questionable interpretation? That’s right, Ponti Sister is just an image on glossy paper (or more surely, taken from a Google research) and for an advertising executive, a simple image that becomes useable, modifiable, reduced to a sign.
This latter is the representation of woman status for ever overridden and imprisoned (Don’t even get me started on Agnes Turnauer!). Reducing Beecroft to a lazy woman on a couch, Warhol to a can of soup, Gursky to a supermarket photograph, Fritsch to a miserable costume designer is not simply the interpretation given by advertising, that terrible and corrupt machine we sometimes abusively portray : we bear some responsibility in the process.
If Tf1 (the main French private channel) admittedly sells “expendable brain time” to Coca-Cola, image in general and particularly in Art remains a complex and disturbing question. The increasing number of artwork images in circulation, wished by Malraux and his Imaginary Museum, are spreading and penetrating the thinnest layers of society, including advertising.
Is it a dangerous drift? Is it really disturbing? The problem seems to be, more obviously, the increasing number of plundering and counterfeits, which does put jeopardize Art. Do thousands of underground Chinese workers hide behind advertising executives? I guess nothing does resist to a cliché....
[Photo : Vanessa Beecroft, Ponti Sister, 2001. Courtesy the artist & Vista Mare Cultural Association, Pescara, Italy]