Since the 80s, I have been creating multi-media artworks and videos that use text and image in combinations that invoke the parallel worlds of advertising design and American popular culture. I often reference and incorporate images of consumerism, celebrity status, identity politics, and gender identification.
In this following series IOL@ IAO (Imitations of Life at the Institute for Art and Olfaction), I created an advertising campaign of digitally altered but recognizable mass-marketed ‘affordable’ fragrance alternatives, often referred to as knockoffs in the perfume industry. Also included in this show were depictions of miniatures of mainstream fragrances. This “Size of a Nut” series incorporated a walnut image as an indicator of this new ‘mini’ size. The original names and designs of the bottles remained the same, but with the addition of the nut.
Familiar in the art of marketing, I used to work on ‘re-packaging’ films into commodities, designing DVD packages for the home entertainment market. It was the process of marketing and branding itself that was addressed. IOL@IAO served as a kind of identity source of these various bottled creations, as well as a nod to the 1921 ready-made Belle Haleine Eau de Violette by Dadaist Marcel Duchamp. With a popular French perfume of the time, Duchamp incorporated the original bottle, while creating a new label with a self-portrait in drag as Rrose Sélavy. Belle Haleine translates as “Beautiful Breath,” as the bottle contains nothing but air. It is conjectured that Duchamp was parodying the new American practice of celebrity endorsement, as well as the American affectation of using the French language as a reference to high culture and sexiness in ad campaigns, often unintentionally comical, if not absurd, when applied to perfumes.
I saw the business of perfumery as an indicator of class structure and values, assessing the contradictions that arise out of the idea ofknock-off luxury: a sometimes desperate attempt to reap the rewards of self-gratification, adornment, and seduction. The lucrative business of copyrighting a scent is evidenced in designer brand perfumes selling for hundreds of dollars. This underscores the leitmotifs of luxury, urbanity, sex, and refined taste that are featured in perfume ad campaigns. Even financial-sacrifice-as-investment plays into the value of the luxury item (“luxurious living is life’s best revenge”).
I basically appropriated original perfume packaging and altered the bottle designs to represent something more affordable, re-culturizing them by providing a product campaign that promotes the consumption of cultural market artifacts.
benchas2 at gmail dot com
ADDITIONAL ARTWORK from a photo series entitled "ShowGuy" can be seen at HAUS Gallery's website location
Note: Other examples of prior work are in the process of being uploaded to this site.