This is the dead time of summer, and there are not too many concert invitations coming to my mail box, but I found one interesting postcard. It is a sepia tone in shades of light brown, a collage of seven â€˜slicesâ€™ of photographs in which a real life character and a billboard ad coexist. In the first slice, a graphical representation of evolution from primate to man is juxtaposed with a studious-looking young man walking. The second slice features a famous model showing leg, larger than life, presiding over a car passing by. The third slice shows a giantâ€“sized, attractive and extremely young model spreading her legs over a guy walking in the other direction, his back to the picture. The fourth slice shows an giant model showing both breasts and legs, towering over the street which I assume is Times Square, because the â€˜42nd Street cowboy’ is featured â€“ a street performer clad only in his cowboy boots, hat and underwear. The fifth slice shows a huge, fully-dressed male model, while a pregnant woman walks carrying a package. The sixth ad shows a man in a suit and hat walking, with an ad showing a sports figure in the background. The seventh ad shows a close-up of a modelâ€™s face and hand, about twenty times the size of a walking figure carrying an umbrella.
This is the work of artist Wouter Deruytter, showing at the Chelsea Art Museum from July 28 through September 24 (556 West 22nd St, Tues-Sat, 12-6PM), www.wouterderuytter.com.
This is the first time I encountered the work of this artist, and I find it inspiring for many reasons.
A relationship is presented between the virtual reality of advertising, a fantasy world of oversized sex and power, and the everyday reality of the common citizen, in all cases, shown totally unconcerned by the advertising messages. This approach does not exactly mirror our reality, but refracts it from a creative and critical viewpoint. The complex relation to how advertising may or may not affect the population may be over-simplified, with a rather optimistic attitude saying, â€œI donâ€™t care how large and appealing you may be, I am not even looking at you because you are just a pretty picture and I have more important things to do.â€
Questioning advertising from a political viewpoint seems obvious and has been done many times before, but I find it refreshing that someone is still showing interest for this subject. How does this apply to the music world? What would be the musical equivalent of this piece of work? Juxtaposing fragments of jingles along with street noise and possibly a thematic rendition of the character? A sound environment, with dancers unconcerned with the sound, working against it? An orchestral piece using a series of overblown clichÃ©s interspersed with humdrum leitmotivs?
How do you feel about writing jingles? Is there something profoundly immoral in contributing to the greed-driven marketing of consumer products? Or does it really matter at all, as Deruytter is showing, since people arenâ€™t really influenced by advertising any longer. It also depends on what is being advertised. I recognized Philip Glassâ€™ style in the commercial for the Tribeca Film Festival. This seems worthy enough. Although, it could have been a clever imitation, as he is probably one of the most plagiarized composers. If placed in a situation of sponsorship, what would you advertise? Yamaha? Steinway? Nike? Is this kind of collusion and inescapable element of commercial success?