08 November 2005

Comercialism and Art

A lot of people really hate the commercial aspect of art, and I can't say I blame them. We look at the foibles of taste, the fashion victims, the travesties of novelty, and we shudder. And then we read about the emperor's new clothes, the power of wealth, the influence of the elite, and we cringe. And those who love art can't help but hope against hope that art will somehow remain noble amid the squalor.

There are of course, moments when art has been able to produce something mighty fine amid these treacherous conditions. And they are treacherous. Capitalism was able to convince women that they looked better with shoulder-padding worthy of highschool football, and if that is possible, woe unto art.

But back to the point--art has done some impressive things with the commercial atmosphere that simultaneously enables its survival and threatens to choke it out of existence. On my list of favorites from the contemporary world is an exhibit from 2003 by David Shapiro. I heard about it on NPR, and you can too, here.

Consumed is the kind of art that is a mirror held up to ourselves. Commerce is what enables our entire existence. "Our" is appropriate here--because mankind doesn't need it--but probably everyone who ever reads these words is part of a commerce driven reality. Even if you aren't a compulsive shopper your food comes in packages, your clothes came off a rack ready to wear, and your shelter is designed to need as little work from you as possible to stay warm and dry.

So, we consume, and we do it a lot every day. David Shapiro spent two years saving all the packaging of things he consumed (food, drinks), cleaned it up, and put it on grocery-type shelves in a gallery.

I think this is art because it tells us about ourselves, and tells us things we might not have realized otherwise. It contextualizes consumerism within an art context, and I like seeing those tables turned.


Jonas said...


Jonas said...

He is quite the poet as well.

"I can see
I cannot see
An adult
Is just an instrument
A landscape pornography
That hill is a hole
I walk on desire lines
You walk on desire
I can see
I cannot see"