Immaculate Digital Luxury - Product Placement at the End of the World
When reality becomes too depressing we seek to escape, be distracted from our drudgery or distress and pretend that all is well in the world - and what better to divert our attention than the beautiful and shiny promise of a luxury product? Digital renderings give artists, graphic designers and PR-companies alike the opportunity to make any object look as pristine as possible, presented in sterile perfect worlds far away from the real one. As reality becomes increasingly oppressive, we reach for the fantasies we can still have.
In a series of articles, Electric Artefacts sheds light on the various facets of Vacation at the End of the World. In this instalment we discuss the appearance and placement of luxury in the apocalyptic landscape of our exhibition.
This digital escapism is too relevant at the time of writing, during the holiday season of 2020. As we are told to unpack our bags and spend our holidays in the confines of our homes away from our loved ones with borders closed around the world. Christmas shopping is all that's left and one of the last resorts. We can turn off the news and indulge in a Christmas dinner like never before, unwrap glittering presents that may transport us to the worlds they have emerged from.
The theme is perhaps best illustrated by Xia Han's work Don't Have to Save The World Today, in which a figure amidst post-apocalytpic desolation clasps a remnant from a bygone era; a bottle of coca-cola. More obviously, luxuriant is his Han's work, Vacation Paradise. Taken from a frame of his video game artwork The Last Watcher, the viewer seemingly finds themselves on a tropical desert island, reaching for a smorgasbord of treats. At the same time, a Tequila Sunset coloured squid pelts the camera with an onslaught of designer Louis Vuitton suitcases.
The relationship between crisis and decadence is also exemplified throughout history by the hedonistic excesses that ruined empires and dynasties. The bacchanals of the last days of Rome are still evoked in expression, and queen Marie Antoinette's words 'let them eat cake!' echo through today's society. Her debauched spending and the royal family's national flaunting of wealth inspired artist Léa Porré to reimagine the French monarchy as a family of influencers.
In Porré's work, King Louis XVI was never decapitated but fled to the Bahamas to start a luxury goods brand. His floating head futures in Headless Shampoo, something to pamper yourself with on the shores of a Royal Retreat on the king's Caribbean island.
The hyper-perfection of the luxury that can exist in a digitally manufactured world speaks to human desires of lavish ecstasy; to numb oneself with comfort. Or if not comfort, something that is different than any present reality. Marie Antoinette's fabricated farm at Versailles, where she could frolic like a carefree farmer's girl, perhaps in some ways was no different from the world created by digital artists. But for those of us who do not have space for a farm in our garden, or indeed have no garden at all: this winter perhaps consider immersing yourself in digital art instead.