|I am Didzsa. I am 16. I like graphic design and digital art.|
(The following is a full artist statement written to explain my installation Consumed)
Since it’s rise to power in the 1950s, consumer culture has created its own ever-changing visual language: defining what is “fashionable”, “glamorous”, “in” and “acceptable”. This language is constantly being updated, projected through the media and readily learnt by consumers. Behind all the glitz and promotion of these cultural symbols, less glamorous terms are being culturally defined: the “unfashionable”, the “out-dated” and the “unacceptable”. This body of work was designed to create “windows” into these two co-dependent worlds of meaning.
This piece’s initial concept grew from a consideration of how odd it is that symbols of “glamour” and symbols of “cheapness” can both be considered iconic of western consumer culture. The consideration of this phenomenon lead to two realisations: the line between the two worlds of consumerism are blurred, fluid and dictated by the media and the definitions of glamour projected through this media body are unachievable and façade to the suffering of those striving to achieve them. By visually harnessing 1950s visual definitions of fashionable and unfashionable, along with the media voice of the era, my body of work was able to tangibly express these comments on the culture of consumerism we exist in. It makes known, to the audience, both sides of the consumerism coin.
Upon encountering the “front” of this piece, audiences are met with a window display of three magazines featuring bold, block colours, appealing headlines and sleek icons of self and home presentation, in accordance with 1950s consumer ideals. These magazines are supported by eye-catching red signs, advertising the products to the masses.
The “back” of the piece presents itself as a muted and dreary contrast to the colourful front. Three corresponding 3D models can be found, hidden by the magazines. On the far left, a grimy glass with a cigarette and fly cast into “wine dregs” resin is a far cry from the social drink captured by the magazine in front of it. Next is a housewife figure with her posture bent into an uncomfortable shape, singing of her labours. This desperate dame, with her hair in rollers and running makeup, contrasts the appearance of the classy models illustrated on the Home Journal that hides her. To her right is the model of a lounge chair, familiar in form to the image from its corresponding magazine but notably non-conforming to the 1950s definition of cool. The dress and lounge chair are sewn in dull floral fabric. This is symbolic of the “unfashionable” due to its departure from the popular abstracted botanical patterns and block colours revered in the mid-century. The textiles also appear to be of a tattered texture, thanks to weathering techniques such as sanding and teabag staining, speaking of overuse. This fabric choice and finish creates a notable contrast to the bold, solid products displayed in the magazines.
The 3D symbols behind the magazines are also supported by their own red advertisements. These advertisements parody the language of the “front” set of signs, using wordplay to twist the message of the ads.
An audio track accompanies both sides of the piece. The soundscape vaguely resembles a vintage radio advertisement but the words of the promotion are layered and lost.
On one side of the work, the audience sees a newsagent’s shiny window display and is thus given a window into the world of glamour that the media creates. On the other side, they glimpse into the private realities of consumers, through the windows of their homes, and thus discover the world of the daggy, desperate and depressed behind the advertisements. Behind the swish new Wegner chair is a well-loved armchair, now defined as daggy and in need of replacement. Behind the high-class cover girls is the busy housewife, working desperately to appear effortless. Behind the showy parties is the drinking to forget the taught desire to prove to the world that you’re good enough.
In order to convey truths about consumer culture, this piece borrows the language of consumerism. The “front” of the piece, with it’s colour and cool, mimics the media in its spouting of symbols deemed “fashionable”. The “back” of the piece features symbols defined as “unfashionable” as well as imagery that conveys the suffering of consumers under consumer culture. The positioning of the models behind the magazines is also heavily loaded with symbolism. It is through this arrangement that façade of the media’s consumer voice is revealed. Examples of products relating to the self and home were chosen as they capture the aspect of performance and self-proving that consumer culture instils into society. The overwhelming and indistinguishable audio track accurately reflects the noise of consumerism, through advertising, and embodies the blurred line between what is fashionable and unfashionable.
References to Prominent Artists:
From conception, the work of Anna Carey greatly influenced my decision to portray 1950s imagery past the point of perfection and inspired the mid-century modern aesthetic styling of my piece. Carey’s famed exploration of architectural form and icons encouraged me to incorporate elements of production design into my art and ultimately lead to my concept of creating and manipulating “props” to capture consumer culture and lifestyle. The witty Neil Wax uses “found” old cleaning product containers and, by way of parody, harnesses the confident voice of branding & advertising to reveal the negative feelings that lie behind the façade of suburban lifestyle. When mimicking the voice of consumerism to convey hidden truths, I also drew heavily on this work. The rich juxtaposition exploited in the work of Fiona Hall was another source of inspiration for this piece. Hall’s ‘Medicine Bundle for the Non-Born Child’ thematically informed my work with its use of juxtaposition to convey the nature of consumer culture in the western world. My own employment of juxtaposition to address consumerism is evidence of inspiration from this piece.
Overall, this multi-layered piece aims to unpack consumer culture. By juxtaposing iconic symbols of 1950s cool and familiar symbols of the desperate and daggy, the work semiologically discusses the phenomenon of western consumer culture, in its contrasting facets.