For my final project, I chose to critically explore the topic of advertisements, specifically television advertisements. My inspiration for this project started during our class discussion of NFTs. When participating in this discussion, I began to notice how passionate people were about the topic, whether for or against, even though nobody seemed to have complete technical knowledge of what NFTs were. This attitude was also mimicked when I heard conversations about NFTs with my friends and people over social media. I began to wonder why people were so invested, and I came to the conclusion that people were focused almost exclusively on the consumer aspect of NFTs. People want them so they can own something exclusive, people critique them because they are not real or too expensive, but both these sentiments are focused on the consumer aspect. I then began to reflect on my own opinion of consumerism. I realized that when I was younger, I used to want every toy in existence, and that was mainly because I would watch television so much and be bombarded with advertisements constantly at such a young age. This, to me, was something worth critiquing because of my changed opinion on consumerism. I also wanted to mimic some of the sentiment of Banky’s art which often comments on our society’s obsession with consumerism. To decide how to actually present my project, I took inspiration from one of our readings, “What is Critical Making?” by Garnet Hertz. The reading states that critical making is focused on “…critique and expression rather than technical refinement and utility”. I wanted to focus on this because I didn’t want something useful to come out of my project because things that are useful are usually advertised, and that goes against my whole critique. Additionally, I knew I wanted to do something with projection, but I didn’t know how. I was inspired after reading “The Poetry of Tool” by Mindy Seu. The author states in this reading, “Digital displays react to the movements of those in front of them—an animism that is met with excitement but no further questioning of its appeal beyond pure novelty. I’ve often felt this failed to make us question how we might interact with digital technology in a conscious, meaningful way. Afterall, technology is only a tool. Better yet, technology is a form of language.” I wanted to figure out a way to execute this display’s reaction to movement, but have it say something, or in other words, speak my message.
Putting all my inspirations together, I decided to have an installation where an old television would be playing old, black and white ads. In front of the television is a chair where someone can sit down. Behind the person, there is a computer running a Max patch which plays a collection of 4 television advertisements from the 2010s simultaneously. From there, any time the person moves, the collection of 4 ads would start again. In doing this, I wanted to make the viewer feel handcuffed to the chair and forced to watch the black and white ads because if they moved, they would be overwhelmed with many more. I wanted to critique the chokehold that consumerism has on us. To make the 4 videos, I searched on YouTube for ads in the 2010s that had products on sale for the price of $19.99. I then put them into iMovie and cropped and placed them so that they would be in a grid formation for the viewer to see and hear them all at once. If you watch the video through, they all line up when they mention the price of $19.99. I wanted to do this to have one moment of cohesiveness in the video, but have that moment be completely centered on money. This decision came from the idea that all the advertisements want from the viewers is their money, so I wanted to emphasize the money in the videos. The video playing on the old television was a compilation I found on YouTube of ads from the 70’s. Throughout my process of development, my ideas changed quite a bit. During the midterm, I originally thought I would critique the decision college students have to make between choosing their passion or choosing money. I aimed to have 3 projectors on 3 walls and have 3 cameras. I wanted to have videos of different people explaining their choice (passion or money) and why they chose it when the viewer walked up to a camera. In doing this, it would be as if the viewer were walking up to the person and hearing their story. As I mentioned before, this idea changed after our discussion of NFTs, but I also realized that this project was not as critical as I wanted it to be. Although I liked the idea of walking up to hear someone’s story, I didn’t think it evoked any deep feeling in the viewer, as if the work were making them act a certain way. When originally working on this version of my project, I wanted to have the patch do “blob detection” where the patch would compare the current frame taken from the camera to a base frame and play the videos if they were different. After much research, I was not able to find exactly what I was looking for in Max. I did find some documentation on something similar, which was motion detection, and chose to go with that. From there, my message of keeping the viewer in the chair arose. I am much happier with my final product than my midterm because when I was testing it out the day before the presentation, I really felt like I did not want to get off the chair because I did not want the 4 videos overwhelming my senses.
I think my project explores the idea of critical making as discussed in the beginning of my reflection. I think it is something that is not useful, rather something that shows critique and expression. On the other hand, I think that I pulled from some ideas of critical design as well. I think that one can exist with the other. In my experience, my making of my project altered my expression and final product. My process itself was a critique, in not making it a useful thing, but it also pulled on concepts of critical design because it is “a speculative narrative to help us rethink designed objects and consumer culture” as stated by Garnet Hertz.