Sunday, August 29, 2010

AT&T Commercial and Signature Styles.

This is a pretty interesting commercial. I wonder how many college age art students were chilling at home watching TV when this commercial came on and made them recall one of the most talked about artist duos in art history.
Jean Claude and Christo, the artists who are known for wrapping things that are not normally wrapped, and The Gates(google it if you don't remember) in NYC a few years ago, seem to have collaborated with AT&T to create this commercial. But wait! At the end of it, they say that Jean Claude and Christo have no direct or indirect part in this commercial. Isn't it weird that they even have to make that disclaimer? I think that is the thing that is the most curious to me.

Should there be a disclaimer for something like this? I wonder if AT&T thought that they would use the same colors and techniques as Jean Claude and Christo's The Gates from a few years back to somehow connect to the collective pop cultural unconscious, by making us nostalgic for that one year where people who knew nothing about art, just talked about how stupid that whole thing in the park was. This memory of jokes from late night talk shows would some how influence us, making them able to sell a crapload of cellphones or something.

Did they have to put the disclaimer because Jean Claude and Christo's people tried to sue them, or was it a preemptive strike against suing? I like to think that AT&T made this commercial similar to The Gates (for some reason), and Jean Claude and Christo said:

"Hey, we don't sell out to people, and you are ruining our good names! Put a disclaimer on this commercial so art students don't think were corporate sell outs, and maybe we won't sue you!"

In reality, it could have more than likely been the opposite. Maybe AT&T did the commercial for some reason, and Jean Claude and Christo said "Hey, you didn't pay us for that! We're suing!"

I guess it doesn't really matter how it happened, but it is fun to think about. I like copyright laws, but I have mixed emotions. I enjoy the option of appropriation, and use it often in my work. Look at people like Shepard Fairey getting sued over his HOPE image, and people like Jeff Koons who I have heard gets sued all the time. Their work is hugely appropriation driven, but it is in a way which changes the original images, and removes the context, makes them barely noticeable.

Could this be a valid argument for the AT&T commercial? I mean Jean Claude and Christo never wrapped the Hollywood sign, or the St. Louis arch as far as I know. They just used the same artistic process. Yet the disclaimer remains. But do we put disclaimers on every advertisement that uses screenprinting, simply because artists like Lichtenstein, and Warhol used the same process? Or is the process of wrapping things in fabric, such a unique and clearly identifiable process, that it makes it unavoidable to use it without clearly referencing Jean Claude and Christo's copyrighted artistic works?

I was trying to think of other techniques by contemporary artists that used methods singular to that artist, but until we start seeing advertising using the same methods as the "Piss Christ", that dude who made a mold of his head out of frozen blood, the person who made paintings out of elephant dung, and a guy who, if I recall, nailed himself to a Volkswagen as a performance piece, we will just have to let our imaginations run wild with AT&T and Jean Claude and Christo.

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