For this week’s Art Wednesday I wanted to look at some pieces of art the advertising world is putting out. Looking at advertising as art is in one sense similar as viewing any other piece of art – it has a message, it is an outpouring of human creativity, it is often aesthetically pleasing (or the opposite for a purpose), they have a world view implicitly stated in them that can be read – but on the other hand it is different. Ads, like these from Visa, would not exist if they were not trying to sell something, which casts the questions “What is art?” and “What is the purpose of art?” in a new light. Is all art trying to sell something? Does an “agenda” stop it from being art?
Those questions aside, there is value in this week’s subject because they are cultural texts, which can be read like any other text and held up to the light to see what they are really saying. Spend some time with these images ask what the message of the ad is, what it is saying about life, about happiness, about success, what is held up as the ideal in this worldview, what is held up as taboo? I’ve put a couple thoughts below each ad as fodder for thinking.
As you go, remember this: Americans are confronted with 7,000 ads a day. 7,000.
Never in sleep mode. The successful, worthwhile life is the busy life. The ideal life is one where you can surround yourself with electronic connection. It is interesting that this city is an island, which seems to be a true picture (intentionally or unintentionally) of what can be an unintended consequence of the kind of connection technology offers. Where are the human on this island? Where is the human contact? The touch? The laughter? The casual times?
Identity is a paint by number and you are the artist. Physical appearance, especially that of women, is something to be tweaked and colored and perfected. Nature is no longer a problem, it is only a starting place. The only problem now is that there are “so many colors, so little time.”
Be in season always. It is taboo to be the one in the tree who doesn’t fit the ever-changing seasons of fashion. It is worth it to stay ahead of the curve. Pay careful attention to the trends the wind blows in this season, because “this years colors might surprise you.”
This might be the most exposing one. See the message about the satisfaction material goods can bring. One must ask what a family is to do if Santa doesn’t bring gadgets down the chimney? Is there a a reliable way to happiness? Should we expect to attain a lasting happiness if we get better toys and our snowmen wear suits? What if those things don’t deliver? Is the prescription more of the same?