Sunday, November 2, 2008

Toys, Packaging and the Household Product

Farhad Moshiri and Shirin Aliabadi, Jackie Salloum, Liza Lou
Beyond the Brillo Box
Making a product sexy sells, the strategy of desire. Marketing 101. But things are not what they seem. The work of artists Farhad Moshiri, Shirin Aliabadi, Jackie Salloum, and Liza Lou, each alter how products are perceived forcing the viewer to look beyond face value. These artists manipulate products that can be immediately identified by the packaging and the shape of the containers to question our socio-politco-economical relationships with these products. These are brands that have become over time international symbols of consumerism, social status, or in some cases even oppression. These artists have gone beyond the Brillo box and the simple questioning mass production and its affect on the homogenization of the consumer, instead they are looking at the politics of consumption, advertising, and how we relate to what we consume.

Image seduction
Farhad Moshiriand Shirin Aliabadi in their series Operation Supermarket currently at on view at the Singapore Biennale alters the labels of well known, identifiable products available in local grocery stores. Popular brands are given new life as the labels are transformed into poetic and often ironic slogans. The products are then placed in advertisement settings as if they were being marketed to the viewer, a potential buyer. The luxury image of a Toblerone is placed in another context as the image suggests, "Tolerate Intolerance".These images alter the myth of the product itself by re-contextualizing the viewer’s association of the packaging. Thus the series questions how products are sold, who they are marketed to and implicitly challenging ideas of politics and consumption.

Get’em hooked young
Toy size versions of actual products allow for pretending, acting out real life scenarios. By putting miniature versions of cars, planes and trucks in young hands so they become familiarized with the brand. However children are not always aware of the ramifications of what the real versions are capable of doing. Children simulate war, destruction and create their own battles. Caterrorpillar by Jackie Salloum currently at White Box Gallery gives packaging that informs the buyer of the damage a Catepillar bulldozer or an Apache helicopter cause when used against civilians. She blurs the line between reality and simulation, the world of make believe and the reality of warfare.

Reclaiming the craft
Liza Lou reclaims products traditionally associated with the domestic sphere, products used for cleaning by recreating them using glass beads. Through beads, in her piece Windex, Liza Lou readopts a mass produced package and makes it her own. The product becomes hand made, crafted with skill and technique. It is no longer a mass produced plastic bottle, but an object that evokes wonder and awe. A simple household product such as Windex becomes precious through the process of human toil.

Questioning the myth of product
Mass production has made goods manufactured for consumption by families the world over. Trademark brand names such as Kleenex, Windex, Hoover, Bic are all products that have become integrated into the vernacular. Produced in a factory and shipped directly to our grocery stores, malls and bodegas, the larger implications these products have on our daily life are often forgotten. By re-appropriating the household object, these artists are able to question its social, political and economic implication in contemporary society.


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