One of the main sub-plots of our global future scenario was the influence of corporate greed and propaganda on the general public. In our scenario one of the main characters was a representative at Monsanto, the giant biotechnology corporation. We portrayed this character as a corrupt executive who refused to believe that his company contributed to mass degradation of environmental and human wellbeing.
Unbeknownst to some, corporate propaganda has a pervasive presence in our life, particularly in advertising and media manipulation. Behind marketing are teams of designers and creative thinkers who mislead viewers by spinning the images of products, people, and companies. Fortunately there are also many designers, artists, and activists that use confrontational imagery and graphics to address the issues of corruption, manipulation, consumerism, and sexualization. The artists that I particularly admire who comment on these issues are the various contributors to AdBusters, and well-known conceptual artist Barbara Kruger.
In his book Letters from Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda, Noam Chomsky comments on the interconnectivity of news media and corporations: “Corporations are basically tyrannies – hierarchic, controlled from above. If you don’t like what they are doing, you get out. The major media are just part of that system. (Chomsky 2004, p.4)” For example, 90% of media in the United States is owned by six main corporations (Lutz 2012). They present an illusion of choice by controlling a variety of newspapers and television stations. However one need not look far to realize that these companies are manipulating their information to promote their own values and the ideologies of politicians and companies that they are associated with.
Global network of activists Adbusters aim is to topple existing power structures, namely by exposing corporate propaganda. They do so by using the power of the mass media to sell ideas, rather than products (Adbusters 2014). Their artworks spoof big corporations and brands by twisting logos and branding that most consumers are familiar with. They focus much of their work on companies that have malevolent reputations, who manage to skew consumer’s perspective of them through positive propaganda. Furthermore, they creatively photoshop icons of government to comment on corruption. Although their ideals seem radical to some, their imagery is captivating and thought-provoking to any viewer.
American conceptual artist Barbara Kruger is well known for her political and social commentary through graphic art. Her distinct style consistently utilizes black and white imagery with striking red text overlaid. Kruger exhibits her disdain for corporate advertising by altering the meaning of imagery by changing its message. One of my favourite works of hers is shown above, reading “I shop therefore I am.” This is Kruger’s take on French Philosopher René Descartes famous quote “I think therefore I am.” It seems that Kruger is implying that in today’s society a person is defined and valued by what they buy and consume. No doubt this is a result of the inescapable presence of corporate propaganda and advertising. Although this piece was created in 1987 (Orlow 2012), it seems that since then her message has become increasingly true.
Adbusters 2014, About, accessed 23 October 2014, .
Chomsky, N. 2004, Letters from Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda, Paradigm Publishers, Boulder, Colorado
Lutz, A. 2012, These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America, Business Insider Australia, accessed 22 October, 2014, .
Orlow, E. 2012, I Shop, Therefore I Am, Huffington Post Blogs, New York City, accessed 22 October, 2014, .