I just got an email from Holland — some questions from a person who saw a museum exhibit called BodyLogo that I had almost completely forgotten about. It was a collaboration between me, one artist and one advertising art director. I couldn’t say an awful lot about it, because I didn’t get to participate as fully as I may have liked. My obstacles were two-fold: I’ve been finishing my book and haven’t had time for anything else, and I have some problems with the central premise of BodyLogo, which is to blur the line between art and commerce – the images of advertising and the images of art, specifically as related to brand icons, logos, tattoos, and skin.
The two artists came to visit me in NYC, and explained their initial vision: rooms with walls like skin, on which brand icons and art imagery would be combined and contrasted. Would I participate in such an event? (It turned out my name was already on the proposal they used to get their grant. Ooops. Ever feel a bit roped in?)
My own – only half-kidding – suggestion was to create a little room where people could get branded or tattooed. Preferably branded, because of the smell. I thought we should pay people a hundred bucks a piece to get branded with a corporate logo. Or they could pay a thousand bucks a piece to get branded with a logo that is created by an artist and then destroyed. Chances are, a bunch of junkies and other poor people would line up for the money. It would be sick – quite sick – but it would make a horrific point of some sort, and get covered by the news and upset the museum crowd and the advertisers, alike – not to mention the corporations (Nike, etc.) whose brand icons were used as branding irons!
They rejected my proposal (and similar ones) for a number of reasons (I’d call it timidity) so my interest waned. I couldn’t give them text in good conscience that supported the main idea of the show, since I don’t agree with the blurring or equivalency between art and advertising. So I wrote them a bunch of questions – questions in little pairs, that I hope highlight the confusion rather than the basic equivalence of aesthetics and marketing. And I wrote a little introduction that they put on the entrance – which is the main thing the emailer from Holland wanted me to find for him. Having just retrieved it after an exhausting search of my hard drive, I thought I’d post it here. If you are in Holland and have the time, take a look and let me know what you think; I won’t be able to get out there, myself:
We have all, at one time or another, reflected on how the world of marketing borrows from the world of art. Whether it’s our favorite pop song serving as the soundtrack for a car commercial, or the graphics of rave flyer inspiring the logo for new a soft drink, it feels as if every treasured aesthetic is co-opted by the market as soon as it is created.
Meanwhile, since at least the ironic recontextualizations of Andy Warhol, we have also seen many artists use the icons and logos of our branded universe as the raw material for their works. Although the function of art may be to wake people up from the spell of their cultural programming, how does art serve to detach us from imagery which is already presented to us in cleverly self-conscious abstraction?
As human beings, we can’t help but identify ourselves through the cultural artifacts with which we interact. Whether we go so far as to brand ourselves with these icons or merely hold onto them as mental filters through which we view the world, our forms of self-expression and our perspectives on reality are shaped by the logos with which we choose to identify. They serve as the building blocks for self, and rise to the level of personal archetypes for as long as we go on resonating with them. Our logos become our mythos.
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