Trying to not Pass Judgment Without Seeing It

Today, the email edition of the New York Times delivered this:

A 7.500 Square Foot Ad for Chanel, with an Artistic Mission

To quote the kids and Ebeneezer Scrrooge all at once, all I could think was,” OMFG and Bah Humbug”.  I rued yet another, even higher flying, manifestation of art and the uber-complex mythologies of art being used to both represent and make lots of money.

Sometimes it sure is hard to not pass judgment without actually knowing what you’re talking about.

On the one had there was this:

Mobile Art Pavillion, designed by Zaha Hadid

Mobile Art Pavillion, designed by Zaha Hadid

*image excerpted from NYT slide show, photo credit Toshio Kaneko.

It sure looks cool, anyway.  It somehow combines the low-slung curves of the Jetsons with the neon undercarriage of low-rider trucks and still makes me want to walk around it.  I know that might not seem like a very flattering description to some of you, but think “simplified elegance open to the insertion of post-modern pastiche”, then maybe it will sound more dignified.

And then there’s this:

Cristal Custom Commando by Sylvie Fleury

Cristal Custom Commando by Sylvie Fleury

*image excerpted from NYT slide show, photo credit Toshio Kaneko.

The NYT said this about it:

Many of the artists explored the notion of the handbag as a cultural symbol, often with a dash of irreverence. Ms. Fleury created a giant Pop Art-style quilted handbag lined with pink fur; inside is a makeup compact in which you can view a video of women shooting handbags with guns.

So, I haven’t seen the video in the bag.  But, something inside of me couldn’t help but blurt, “!&%@#*, not a giant furry handbag!”  I mean, the image doesn’t make it look all crummy and reinterpreted like an Oldenburg sewing machine or toilet…  So, inside is a TV playing a video with people shooting handbags with guns.  Hmmm…  OH, it must be critical of consumer culture too! It’s just that I doubt anyone will really react in a way that’s critical.  And I want it to be critical damn it!  Even so, I can only imagine this as a sort of rebel chic, with guns; another sublimation of the “anti” by the thing it was against.  Isn’t that how the coolest advertising is done nowadays?  Isn’t “assert status as ‘cultural symbol’, add ‘dash of irreverence’, stir…” essentially the recipe for advertising well-known products?  I don’t want to say Sylvie Fleury meant to make her art work as an advertisement.  But, it’s a Chanel bag in a Chanel pavilion in a world-touring Chanel event and I think the sum total of it, in fact does very little to disguise or counter the purpose of the event.  (Why would it or should it?)

I see a parallel here to all the myriad localized controversies over large corporations (read: “bad guy”) paying grafitti artists (read according to predisposed notions) to do grafitti-style murals and interventions, legal and otherwise, as advertisements for their products.  It’s a sort of hybrid between traditional and viral marketing.  There are two things about it though:  One, it mixes the “pure” with the “impure” and offends our aesthetics concerning cultural paradigms.  Two, not altogether different from the first, it sublimates forms of criticism into stylization – at once blunting the symbols of counter-cultural communities and allowing audiences to financially participate where the advertising “sponsors” want them to while also appearing to be cynically above and beyond such things.  It is the most depressing thing I think of when I hear the phrase “post-irony”.

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One Response

  1. I´d like to know what will be made of this after the show is over. Sustainable? What is it for in the end besides promoting Channel?

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