Sunday, January 22, 2006

the old avant-garde/advertising interface

Friend and saxophonist Nat Catchpole used to say (and maybe still does) that one of the reasons he likes to play totally way-out improv (apart from simply liking the music) is that it's pretty much impossible for it to be absorbed by the commercial mainstream. I'd say he's wrong: advertisers show themselves consistently able to absorb or recycle ideas from the avant-gardes of decades past, be it Mingus advertising a credit card or now this Honda ad (as linked to by Kyle Gann).

More generally, I've always considered advertising a full-fledged art, notwithstanding the obvious fact that the vast majority of it is uninteresting (at best). Artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, reviled by the academy, at the time, saw the potential of advertising posters as vehicles for his art, and people still collect those today. Album covers, invented essentially as a form of self-advertising, have played a similar role. When IVN and I first saw the recent TV ad (I can't remember the product) with thousands of bouncing, multi-coloured balls, both of us just stopped and kind of stopped breathing until it ended. I have a strong gut feeling that some avant-person did something similar 15 or 20 years ago.

As time passes and the products themselves disappear from the shelves, the advertisement continues to stand on its own (if it is of any value), as a little artwork and a time capsule. I really like these little unannounced intrusions of art into daily life.