SHOW OFF
curated by Jacob Fabricius
15 September - 15 December 2012

Billboards cut through urban, rural and scenic seaside landscapes advertising products and services, and bringing desires and messages to pedestrians and drivers worldwide. The huge signs display political campaigns on Cuban highways and present consumer products in São Paulo, Lagos, Bratislava, Malmö, Nicosia…. Billboards are everywhere and are increasingly owned and rented out by fewer and fewer international companies (in Europe by only a handful of companies). Whilst size may not matter in many walks of life, when it comes to billboards size is essential and was invented to grab our attention. ‘Think big’ is the concept behind these advertising boards. Billboards are basically there – cutting through our line of sight – to present a BIG idea. Bigger is better (or more noisy, as some might believe).

Advertising developed dramatically as a concept during the 20th century, especially in the United States in the 1940s and ’50s. The advertising industry grew as a result of economic growth in the birthplace of branding and advertising: in the 1950s the average American citizen had five times as many discretionary dollars to spend on products and luxuries as in the previous decade. Advertising developed in response to people’s desires and added to the orgy of consumption. Of course, there were many reasons for this advertising boom, but a few key figures can be mentioned when it comes to the development of advertising and commercial campaigns. Two of the people who successfully reached our desires (and our wallets) and exploited them were Sigmund Freud’s Vienna-born American nephew Edward Bernays, who founded the first public relations firm in the United States in 1919, and later Ernest Dicther, who in the 1950s and ’60s took psychoanalysis a step further in the context of advertising strategies and proclaimed that the libido should be brought back into advertising (which he then did).[1]

The title of the exhibition accompanying this catalogue is SHOW OFF. It refers to the idea of ‘showing off’, ‘going big’, but more importantly it refers to being off or outside – being outside the institution, outside the regular frame. SHOW OFF will present the six artists Nevin Aladağ, Haris Epaminonda, Runo Lagomarsino, Olivia Plender, Meriç Algün Ringborg and Superflex, each doing one or several works for existing billboards. Unlike other billboards these are not intended to persuade an audience to purchase a product or consume services. The billboards do not include the artists’ names or a title; they are merely texts or images which comment on or question social, political, financial or everyday situations. Artists have used billboards for decades, so this project is simply tapping into an already existing structure and into the history of artists’ works being presented on these large format, commercial bulletin boards in a public space.

The billboards will be placed in five different residential areas of Malmö, Sweden, and around the city of Nicosia and the southern part of Cyprus. Billboards are everywhere, and the works pose questions and poke at issues that are equally as important to people in Sweden as in Nicosia… and everywhere.

 

[1] ‘The Hidden Persuader,’ Christopher Turner, Cabinet, Issue 44 / Winter 2011-2012.

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