Friday, March 17, 2006

the creatives

it's normal to talk about this thing or that thing as being a 'work of art' when, in fact, it's just a pleasing construction: I've used it myself most recently with reference to someone's notebook, a salad, and a haircut.

so why do my hackles rise every time I hear someone talk about a TV commercial as a work of art?

for the simple reason that my own moral universe is predicated on the search for truth, which is a non-negotiable phenomenon, and the advertising industry is entirely about lying - which is not; and, more and more, I get the feeling that there are people out there - especially in the advertising industry - who really believe that some adverts are 'works of art' because they have failed to absorb the catastrophic social consequences of getting confused about this.

so they cruise around, these pampered agency hacks, on some convenient Panamanian-flagged yacht that's completely adrift from any recognisably responsible moral anchoring point, beholden to no form of compliance other than the needs of the client, and, having devoted the entirety of their creative energies to persuading us to purchase something that is utterly superfluous to our needs, compound that impertinence by trying to convince us that the manner in which they are doing it is somehow analogous to the work that an artist does.

bollocks, I say.

and yet again, bollocks.

there isn't an ad in existence that isn't a lie - no brand is the best, all products are subject to a process of market discrimination, our identities are not definitively endorsed by what we consume, Orlay will not stop time and recover lost youth. this doesn't really need saying, does it? if we truly believe that we need this thing rather than that thing merely because it bears a Sony rather than a Samsung logo, we are rightly condemned to spending the rest of our days in the peer-pressure infantilised, arrested-development state of a twelve-year-old.

these so-called 'creatives' of the industry are the evil spawn of a treacherous education system that teases creativity out of our children from the kindergarten onwards only to hijack it finally by trawling the major art colleges for potential artists who are willing to trade their souls for the astonishingly disproportionate rewards of being a 'creative.' so successful has this process become that they don't even have to do any pimping - by the time the struggling young student has arrived at the hallowed doors of Central St Martins or wherever, they've already been absorbed into the bowels of a system that, having industrialised art a long time ago, regards it as just another commodity, and the artist simply as a supplier of creative ideas.

I've yet to see a supposedly original advertising idea that hasn't been purloined from another artist, beit a classical or a contemporary one. the world of low-budget independent film - as vital a forum of genuine artistry as you can hope to find anywhere - is a favourite quarry, shamelessly strip-mined and repackaged as imagery devoid of context, but the entirety of the art world is fair game to these shameless shysters. Vivaldi's Four Seasons used to be a wonderful piece of music. now it's impossible to hear it - especially Spring - devoid of its association with a dozen kitsch, Tuscan-themed commercials for anything from holiday villas to toilet paper.

an image-junkie myself, I'm as susceptible as the next man to the lure of creative brilliance, and subscribe to the suspicion that there's growing to be more creative substance in the commercials than in the programmes they bracket, but as long as that substance is disengaged from any function more necessary than urging distinction between two or more identical brands of beer or jeans or mobile phones, I'll pass, thank you, on greeting them as works of art. I'll also continue a personal scoffing campaign at the toadying meejah-led hagiography of the ludicrously overpaid directors and lackeys of these agencies. as if having supervised a globally successful campaign to persuade people to buy one brand of deodorant rather than another were somehow a laudable thing, rather than a mildly contemptible and totally inexplicable waste of time and resources.

there is, of course, the possibility that I'm completely wrong, and that, in our effectively secular society, whose success is largely dependent on the fabulous profits to be made from waste and excess, 'truth' should be redefined as 'that which confirms our sense of purpose', which, almost by stealth, has acquired the tacit rider 'as consumers'. in such a society, the true purpose of art is to illuminate this truth, or at least to explore the boundaries of choice that contain it, and the ads, since by definition they fulfill this function, are therefore art.

in such a culture, the advertising industry has come to usurp the place formerly occupied by the reactionary establishments of the academy, and in such a case, when art's subversive potential has itself been subverted to such a reactionary cause, the only choice the true (!) artist has left is to withdraw from the field entirely, to refuse either to participate or to negotiate, and to engage only in such activities as could not under any circumstances be defined as art.

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