Wednesday 2 April 2008

the message is not to have one

There was a slight sense at the Poison + Antidote conference (see asking around and artists and activists) that here we all were, an enlightened group, who knew something important that we had to get across to a wider public. One way to do this - hence the venue - was through 'art'.

Some of that day's discussion seemed to blur the line between artists and advertisers. If the objective is a straightforward one ('cut carbon now'), then yes, bring on the ads.

That's what the We Can Solve It ad is doing. It flatters its audience by saying: look what we Americans have done before - the D-Day landings, a man on the moon, the civil rights movement. Then it challenges its audience by saying: look what we have to deal with today - the climate crisis. Now please go visit our website.

But talking this way isn't a job for artists (except voice-over artists). Advertising tries to move the conversation along to get a result. Art tries to slow the conversation down and open it out. For artists, the message is not to have one.

That might sound, as one activist put it (with a roll of her eyes) as 'fiddling while Rome burns'. But the deeper people reflect on issues, the greater their actions may be.

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