The confined world is nothing new to Alexandra Guillot. Since 2012, she is only too familiar with these long periods of time when our lives shrink. Long ago, she began scanning the Internet in search of cultural content and set her sights on a handful of digital platforms of inexhaustible wealth. She tirelessly harvests images and appropriates them to make photo albums and films. The two creations presented here draw on collections from the 1950s and 1960s, where images exalting industrial overproduction and consumption are mixed with advertising slogans of the time, propaganda models that were already viral. “Memo to Myself” is the title of this series of work, enlightened by this introspective text by the artist.
First confinement of several weeks.
It was a matter of keeping busy, continuing to feed myself.
The digital generosity of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France with its Gallica site played that role.
I spent those “several weeks” going through the “Photographs” section.
Addict I became, addict I remain.
Then there was the database at the Metropolitan Museum or the New York Public Library.
I greedily explored a number of sites where I could view and download images to satisfy my visual bulimia.
And hoarded them on my computer.
Compulsory rest again.
Here I am, stretched out in front of the TV.
Boredom and the need for analytical distance.
It jumped out at me, advertising is everywhere.
It jumped out at me even though there’s nothing new about it.
It’s just an addiction that keeps us hooked.
Watching that screen, I could avoid the targeted news channels, the mind-numbing programmes, but there’s no way to get around advertising.
And when I went outside, it was everywhere, too.
Far more pernicious than the programmes slotted in between, its codes are less blatant.
Less blatant because they embody the saying, “The bigger the lie, the better it works”.
Advertisers don’t hesitate to stake the claim that says: this product (referring to consumption in general) is hallucinogenic.
As soon as that little piece of mint-flavoured chewing gum goes into your mouth, you’re riding a surfboard through the tunnel of a giant wave.
An intense psychotropic drug, with an effect as short-lived as the duration of an ad.
The smell of this softener transports us to flowery undergrowth filled with the chirping of birds.
This deodorant for men clouds the senses of the young women who now follow you everywhere.
Advertising acts like a drug fix, a flash.
But that’s not enough.
You have to educate the consumer.
And how do we educate them for the benefit of advertisers and their sponsors?
Guide them towards more individualism, encourage them to protect their small advantages, their purchasing power.
Here we see parents blackmailing their children to get the last slice of pizza.
Under the guise of comedy.
Here, a character lies to satisfies his desires (desires that are often superfluous, by the way).
Under the guise of comedy.
Another character shamelessly presses all the buttons on a crowded elevator in a business building so he can finish watching his show, with a smirk on his face.
Pettiness, Under the guise of comedy.
All of this is apparent, displayed as advice, the rules to follow to get by in our consumerist society.
I subscribed to an online streaming platform.
Still in pseudo-confinement at the time of general lockdown, I had accumulated tens of thousands of images.
I started sorting them out.
But I couldn’t stop collecting them.
I carried on collecting scanned old books, old magazines from archive.org.
This data library, which no one could get through in a lifetime, is quite simply for me, a great treasure that has to continue to be nurtured.
So I spend hours, days, letting myself be carried from keyword to keyword, whether to make video, sound, still images or just for the pleasure of a random discovery.
An endless stroll through these media and more.
These new downloads as well as sorting my collection made me see the logic running through a whole range of documents from the 1950s and 1960s.
They revealed the ideological seeds.
The seeds of carnivorous plants.
Today, containment is compulsory for everyone.
Today globalization is being challenged in the face of this pandemic.
But the question of what comes after is a big one.
Will we go back to short distribution channels?
Will we prioritize the food autonomy of countries rather than their production specializations?
Are the drones that fly over our cities here to stay, what will become of the laws that curb freedom or the surveillance methods currently in place?
One need only look at social networks to see that this is a time for retrospection.
And that’s a good thing.
A chance to get a more global view of events.
Hence my interest in gathering these “ideological seeds”, putting them together.
To make a montage of the slogans retrieved against the backdrop of how things really are.
To set up the maquette of an edition combining these propaganda images.
The network is, in every sense, a growing system.
Follow the link to read Alexandra Guillot’s film Memo to myself