CRUSHED | Found Object from Walk | Reused Painting and Acrylic Gesso Artex on Plywood |20th January 2017
Crushed is a piece of work using reused objects found in my studio and collected from my urban walks around the town of Taunton. When I found these flattened cans of Coca Cola I did not have an idea in how I would use them at the time. All that floated around in my mind was how I might use them in some way to create a piece of work akin to the post-modern artists Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, using popular commercial icons and elevating them into works of art in response to the times they were living.
On the 20th January 2017 whilst watching the inauguration of the new President of the United States on-line that I suddenly thought about these Coke cans I had collected and I began to think about the loaded meanings associated with these objects and how through creating this piece of work on this day, I would in some small way channel a shamanic response to all the loaded meanings flooding my thoughts during the event unfolding on the computer screen.
I realised that as a symbol with many meanings and controversies this piece would speak on many levels and in a small way some up some of the feeling as a result of Donald Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States.
During the making of the work these are some of the thoughts running through my mind at the time of its creation:
1: Coca Cola used to be infused with cocaine and was sold in dime bars as a pick me up. These plays with the idea about the contradictions in American politics concerning the use of cocaine as a medicine, its subsequent illegality and the Iran/ Contra scandal during the 1980s and the shipment of cocaine to pay for arms in America's war against communism.
2: Coca Cola becomes a symbol of the American Dream and Globalisation with 'it's the real thing' advertising and global domination to spread American culture around the world, leading to controversies concerning water use in countries abroad and the problems of using water to produce a drink where profits go back to America and not the country of its production.
3: The iconographic colours (used in the image of Santa Claus who was originally green) to sell coke during the holiday season, the iconographic bottle in the shape of a woman's figure, the loaded imagery used throughout its history to sell a product that is detrimental to our teeth, bones, stomach and health generally.
4: The liquid of coca cola used to clean objects including: toilets, degreasing lorry engines, tarnished metal and more.
5: The image of Coca Cola is an icon itself seen in Western culture and in the deepest deserts of India (as seen on my travels).
These are just some of the thoughts that flowed through my mind.
I realised making these objects that it had become a symbol of neo-imperialist ideals. The idea that one could replace one culture with another, through the commercial avenue, thereby sub-planting the identity of another country with another. Though Terence McKenna pointed out 'culture is not your friend'. This would enable corporations to obtain greater bargaining power with the foreign country, gaining influence via lobbying and favours, giving greater power to those in power through business.
This piece explores ideas about distribution of power, products, money and the destructive entropy associated with the commercial world through its pursuit of profit. Yet, the new is always moving towards entropy - it is the way of the Universe. The cracks will always come through over time due to subsidence as a result of the poor foundations culture is built upon. This 'hyper-realist'(1) ideal, where we live by the map instead of the real, has far removed us from the source by at least four or five steps back. The 'unreality no longer resides in the dream or fantasy'(2), we the people are now the product.
What better way to sum up these thoughts with the elevation of a businessman to become the President of the United States. Now, I am an outsider and can only make my observations as an outsider - and the British are as much to blame through its commercial enterprise at the expense of the people in the name of profit. We only have to look back a few hundred years ago to see this through the riches gained via slavery.
Now I make no comment on Donald Trump and can only look from afar at the situation unfolding. however, the image CRUSHED does play with a further idea concerning the flattening and crushing sensibilities of corporate power and the scandals via tax evasion, dreams, aspirations and the divide between those who have enjoyed the power at the top and holding power through a small elite and those who had been left behind due to the rise of Globalism and the shipping of manufacturing jobs to countries where wages are low and profits are big. Most companies, and Trump industries have also taken advantage, have contracted work to China, India, Philippines and others, leading to all the loaded problems associated with this side of business - and we are all to blame in one way or another through our use of technology, product buying, cheaper clothes that last a year, cheap plastics etc. that mounts costs yet to unfold through climate change and the slow destructiveness of the environment at the cost to wildlife and health.
The signs of the times have become 'hyperbolic'(3), but we are awaking from the slumber and out of the dream to a new reality where we all can play our part in making our sphere of influence better. The virus of unknown appetites has nearly killed the host, but the host is slowly waking to the reality of its dream and possibly the election of Donald Trump and the situation unfolding in the U.K. via Brexit is leading to a different perspective and a change away from the few over the many. The beginning of a change that will bring about a new way of relating to the World.
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." Albert Einstein
1: Baudrillard, Jean. Selected Writings: The Hyper-realism of Simulation. (Standford: 1988) pp. 143-147