The Propeller Group on the Concept for TVCC

4:50 | Published on July 22, 2013 | 229 Views

The Propeller Group examines the branding of nations and ideologies via globalized mass media, reflecting on the construction of propaganda, the definition of communism, way in which our reading of a publicity campaign is affected by its cultural context. The three artists talk about their five-channel video work Television Commercial for Communism, explaining that it incorporates documentation of a series of brainstorming sessions, and outline their plans to produce a “real commercial.”

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Matt Lucero: We have a production company, so we’re involved in media production, and commercial production for clients. We’re interested in the language of advertising, and how it affects the psychology of mass audiences. Nation-branding is an interesting phenomenon that’s happening more and more. Saatchi and Saatchi just rebranded Australia a couple years ago; we were looking at that as we were developing ideas for this project.

On the production side of things, we were thinking in terms of an agency, and how interesting these ideas of nation are, and what these tropes or ideas that are being branded for people might be. How are they being branded? In what ways are they being branded? Are they commercials? Are they propaganda?

June Yap: There’s also, of course, the juxtaposition of communism as ideology with communist propaganda in advertising as a contemporary mode of propaganda, one that we are almost inured to. We don’t even notice that this is going on in our lives, telling us what to think, what to do, and how to do it. 

Matt Lucero: There’s a five-channel piece that has a lot of the documentation of the actual brainstorming sessions. They had a hard time defining communism. [TBWA: Communism is a sociopolitical movement that aims for a classless and stateless society, structured on common ownership of the means of production.] So they ended up looking at different definitions. And of course, every country has its own context and way of defining that word. It’s very complex. [TBWA: Let’s stay very pure.] So they went to this ideological Wikipedia definition of the Socialists—a very ideal version of communism.

June Yap: Communism becomes very simplified, but in its process of simplification, you also have ideals that are very much part of our experience today, very much upheld today, in situations that we would not call “communist.” It’s almost as if some of these ideals have pervaded even our existing notions of what community, or civilization, or modern life are, and that’s quite interesting. 

Tuan Andrew Nguyen: I think June’s interest in our work was that we were trying to challenge these notions of nationalism, nation, and nationhood.

Matt Lucero: Geography.

Tuan Andrew Nguyen: Yeah, geography.

Matt Lucero: So, it was a global advertising campaign that was speaking to everybody. In a sense, everybody can get their own interpretation of what and who we are. Is it me? Is it you? Is it them? Is it us? You know, there are all these kinds of questions that come up. And it’s interesting. Because each place that we presented was a different context, and it was read a little differently. It could be potentially scary, I mean, in certain contexts. I feel like I would be afraid that people would misread it, or not get what we’re trying to do with the project.

Tuan Andrew Nguyen: Our intention for the project is to make a real commercial, and let it loose into the real world, for real consumers, to experience. Now, imagine you are watching the Superbowl, and you see a commercial for communism, and what that would do to the psychology of mass audiences as they experienced that commercial. But on the other hand, when it goes into the art world, there’s another kind of discourse and dialogue that surrounds the project.

Matt Lucero: The only thing that’s existing right now is the website, and the art piece in the museum. We’re working on a Kickstarter campaign. If it gets shown on the Superbowl, that’s going to have its own impact. What we’re interested in too is this idea of the viral video, and the impact that it has in different places, on different people. When your mom starts emulating a popular dance, or whatever, it’s just like, “What the hell is happening in the world today?” Craziness! I think once it reaches that level, then it’s a different sort of dialogue that we’re having with people and exchanging with people. And, actually, it’s sort of outside of us, where we actually get to participate in that dialogue as well. We’re interested in doing that. We’re interested in being spectators, as much as we are creators. And I think that’s part of what we’re interested in, in the work that we do.