Category Archives: Advertising

Coco Cartier and Ezili Lagerfeld, Voodoo Chanel (2011)

Brand power is interesting because brands are power. They can attract money and votes. They can set the conditions for certain types of behaviour. Even weapons have brands.

This show makes a target out of one luxury fashion brand and at first you wonder why. It is after all only a designer label. Chanel is not slashing the NHS or sending people to war.

What Chanel does, however, is create a market for luxury. It belongs to an elite and is one of the ways this elite recognise themselves. And the rest of us can just aspire.

Subvert the brand and you subvert the hierarchy, at least that would appear to be the equation. But the project here seems also something of a celebration of this label, a tribute to its fetish power.

This system of ours doesn’t run on a rational subscription to free market economics. Global capitalism thrives on magic and superstition, because people, being what they are, like such things.

So it comes down to a choice between the high priests of the boardroom and the low priests of the shanty. And if the latter seem a frightening prospect, don’t worry. They’ve got a brand now too.

Voodoo Chanel can be seen at Grey Area, Brighton, until 27 March. See gallery website for more details.

In Support of the Slade Occupation

A tongue-in-cheek look at the way big corps might start campaigning in favour of the Browne Report...

Even when the profit margin is not immediately apparent, there is something to be said for ivory towers. More of that later. Now it’s time to step outside and comment on real world protests taking place at the Slade School of Art and elsewhere.

The student demonstrations and occupations are about more than the right to spend three years putting off the shackles of employment. That right was enjoyed by most of those now in white collar jobs and certainly most of those in parliament, but never mind.

They are also about a duty which is felt to some extent by everyone who opts to take a course in the arts or humanities, a sense that there is more to human life than succeeding in business.

To see why arts education matters, you need only look at the heart of the most commercial sphere of all: advertising. If money talks, the £10.9bn spent on this industry in 2010 is very eloquent on the importance of aesthetics.

As Braque said, art disturbs, and it can stir up any number of useful desires for advertisers. So if you take creative endeavours out of this context, they become more than a piece of indulgence. They becomes a catalyst for other forms of social change.

That is why the humanities are under threat, not because they are a waste of time, but because they are potentially dangerous. Just ask anyone with a dumbed-down multi-million pound brand.

All of this may be why culture is so often sequestered in the sort of towers which are now being attacked by the Browne Report, which incidentally features some stylish graphic design.

Take away that bit of garnish and it would be capitalist ideology in its rawest state, and surely nobody wants to see that.

You can read an insightful blog post on the man behind the proposed reforms to higher education by Catherine Bennett on the Guardian website here. Or take a look at this convincing argument against the competitive model for higher education by Stefan Collini on the London Review of Books website here.

Oh, and follow the Slade Occupation blog, here. The times are as inspiring as they are frightening.