Project at ZK/U - Chris Cawkwell

Chris Cawkwell ( United Kingdom )

Consumerism is usually explained and justified as a economic order (an ideology) that ultimately benefits the consumer and manufacturers – and thus the national, and even global, economy. It is closely related to ideas about freedom: freedom of choice for the purchaser; freedom of enterprise for the manufacturer. The bombardment of neon signs, billboards and LED screens of the cities of capitalism are the immediate visible signs of 'The Free World'1. Publicity, marketing and branding, it is thought, offers a free choice to the discerning consumer.

We are (presumed to be) offered, and able to capitalise upon, this freedom when purchasing products. The choice of this brand or that brand; this phone and that phone, that car and this car. But, publicity only makes one proposal.

It proposes to each of us that we can transform ourselves, our lives, by the acquisition of material goods2.

We love to shop. And our Mecca, the modern shopping centre, is the place we go to do it. There you can stroll the aisles, hypnotized by the sheen and luster into forgetting all your troubles and worries, cheerfully freeing yourself from the burden of your hard-earned money; our lives enriched, even though we are poorer by having spent it.

During his time at ZKU Cawkwell proposes to continue his research and produce work (Air Bank (Berlin) - http://www.chriscawkwell.com/air_bank.html) in preparation for his forthcoming solo show at the Bohunk Institute, Nottingham, In which he will represent the constructed passageways of the shopping centre; not only reflecting upon the sites previous incarnation as the Powerhouse (in which people were sold, and bought into, the idea of the body beautiful), but questioning how little freedom we actually have as consumers; as brands employ systems such as scent marketing (The Smell of Money - http://www.chriscawkwell.com/smell_of_money.html) to appeal to our senses and social sensibilities. 

1 John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin Modern Classics, 2008, pp. 131

2 John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin Modern Classics, 2008, pp. 131