Art

The Art of Resistance

These days, conflicts are resolved with the use of irony…

Story by Max Power - max.power@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos and video by Alterazioni Video
Photo © Alterazioni Video

Photo © Alterazioni Video

Six hundred trees is a good number, good enough to start a revolution. Sympathizing with this post-human sustainable anarchy, I wanted to focus my attention on the relationship between riot art and advertising, starting from an art piece by the Italian collective Alterazioni Video, titled: “Sometime you’ve gotta break the rules, Onion Rings, Burger King, 2007”.

These days, where images, art, reality and fiction merge together in an unclear mix, it’s difficult to pick your battles and actually do something to interrupt the money-oriented-decisions-flux that drive our lives into places where we would never go if not pushed.

Photo © Alterazioni Video

Photo © Alterazioni Video

Nike tells us to “Just do it” and all the uprisings in the Middle-East of the last three years were probably inspired by that clear message (a very different one from the postwar “Enjoy!” by Coca Cola). There is no longer a difference between riots, the sale of insurance contracts, frontal collision, uprising and sneakers; everything is used, everything becomes a useful tool to produce and open up new markets. Nike’s economic fortune rose through marketing the manners and behavior of the poor inter-city, exalting this aspect in the commercials and continuing to sell them their products.

Photo © Alterazioni Video

Photo © Alterazioni Video

People involved in the development of the Burger King campaign said the decision to exploit the theme of individualism was based, in part, on research conducted by the company Yankelovich Clancy Shulman, indicating that consumers increasingly feel powerless and without choices. The Marketing regime engulfs everything and everybody, through web, press or television, digesting the notion of rebellion or riot and taunting it; appropriating their aesthetic values, yet pursuing its only purpose: to create faithful consumers.

Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, declared that Twitter is a viral Demon and he is probably right. News and images get around the world and nobody makes any money out of it! The mass-culture created in the sixties inaugurated the transformation of the consumer’s role from that of the participating/active user to that of the passive spectator. Today, the consumer is reduced to the ‘Tele-screen-viewer’, for whom riot scenes in city squares, porn websites and game shows follow each other indifferently on the screen, without creating any upset within the reassuring domestic walls of our mediated life.

Photo © Alterazioni Video

Photo © Alterazioni Video

These days, conflicts are resolved with the use of irony, which offers a simple game to be understood, and of which one may easily become an accomplice, feeling fulfillment in being part of the rhetorical trick. You just need to understand the story told, where everything becomes a joke, a gag. A whatever. Reading into advertising communication carefully allows us to discover some of the mechanisms that build consensus; that of neutralizing conflict, that of flattening all positions.

In the artwork, the art collective wants to map out television and corporate reactionary practices, showing that the loop is never closed and that resistance can manifest as a small difference in a repetitive structure. Like in a techno track, difference in repetition.

Photo © Alterazioni Video

Photo © Alterazioni Video

After collecting stolen images from riot-like advertising spots (like the burger king onion rings one, that gives the title to the piece), the artists created a wallpaper map for the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The map records real riots of the last three years, but the images of these riots were taken from fake-rebellion advertising campaigns. The final result is a viewer displacement where it is impossible to define what is real and what is reenacted.

There seems to be no escape from this game. We all are moving images and we don’t know where the director has gone. Artists as advertisers are always hungry for new angles. If I was in the Ikea marketing headquarters, I would suggest a campaign sponsoring the Turkish police: “Chop the Six Hundred old fucks, We Need More Furniture!”

Another work from the same artists that questions power and the aesthetic of it is “Legal Support”. A fund raising art piece that collected money for the “Legal Support” Team that was defending the Black Blocks and other people arrested during the famous Genova riots of 2001. Twelve years later some of the policeman involved got fired, but nothing really changed.

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