Posted by: ARNoack | October 15, 2012

Pilfering for a Profit

Godfrey Reggio critiques modern-day industrial societies using time-lapse photography in his films Koyaanisqatsi, Powasqaatsi and Naqoyqatsi. It’s interesting that instead of considering the implications of Reggio’s message, advertisers attach their own message to his methods: celebrating modern societies instead of criticizing them. Compare the trailer for Koyaanisqatsi to this contemporary T-Mobile ad. The T-Mobile ad initially seems to echo the intended message of Koyaanisqatsi: that urban environments are unnecessarily frenetic and constrictive. However, the ending enforces the idea that personal enjoyment and fulfillment come through the capitalist media apparatus and technology of our modern society – through television!

Sony also decided to take a critics’ medium into the mainstream. Back in 2005, Sony hired graffiti artists in San Francisco and other large cities to spray-paint cartoon images of kids playing their portable PSP gaming system.  The “street-savvy hipsters” Sony was aiming to attract saw the guerilla marketing campaign as phony and promptly defaced the ads, crossing out the icons and adding derogatory text. Sony’s attempt at co-opting an urban art form dripping with anti-establishment sentiment backfired and graffiti artists quickly reclaimed their canvas.

What are ways that artists, activists and filmmakers use unconventional techniques to critique aspects of society? How do advertisers and the media appropriate these techniques for profit (or loss in Sony’s case)?

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