Don't miss amazing on-line show by Žižić/Kožul at NY cutting-edge post-internet DIS Magazine, curated by G-MK team. Click here to see it.
Advertising has become a usual companion of our everyday life. Our environment is saturated with images that tell us which food to buy, which water is really naturally pure, and what the only right choice for us is, what we should and really should not wear this season, which movie is a "must-see" this summer, or where to travel to relax and discover "pristine landscapes" and "old world charm" or, alternatively, what is the "place to be" if you wish to "chill by day and party by night". Advertising not only bombards us with images of objects and places which we eventually come to want, but also insinuates the emotional attitude we should have towards them. This "advertised life", as Tom Vanderbilt called it, not only eliminates differences across territories in a globalized world, but also penetrates the cognitive process of individuals – we agree to play the game, we buy and we want, and we learn how to insert ourselves in the expected image, or – to paraphrase Vanderbilt again – we learn to lead life as an ad.
In their practice, the artistic duo Žižić/Kožul continuously examines the discord between the socio-economic reality and its representation by the marketing industry, by way of appropriating the visually sophisticated style and imagery characteristic of high fashion and the luxury goods sector. However, the friction between reality and representation is made evident by a virus implemented in the work. Although the reality-representation opposition could be applied to almost any context in the Western world, the work of Žižić/Kožul arises from a specific set of circumstances, i.e. they comment on the situation in a country that was still a socialist state less than three decades ago and in which the proliferation of commodities is still, from time to time, looked upon in dismay. This specific local situation, in which state authorities attempt to use tourism as a tool for state-building by promoting aesthetic aspects of cultural display, has provoked a reaction which is articulated in the work of the duo. In his book Tristes Tropiques, Claude Lévi-Strauss writes that "genuine travel has been replaced by movement through a ‘monoculture’ in a fruitless search for a ‘vanished reality’ ". It is exactly the persistence of a monoculture that intrigues the artistic duo to explore the artificially constructed authenticity embedded in the images and products served to potential customers.
The Happy couple images demonstrate the pervasiveness of commodification processes – a couple is hired and arranged to represent the perfect image. But they are not just consumers; they unwillingly assume the role of a product of society. Instead of struggling with the binary opposition of authentic vs. inauthentic, Žižić/Kožul employ various appropriation strategies, manipulating that which has already been manipulated with by the advertising industry. The recirculation of familiar images and objects is flexible and unlocalisable so it can function as a powerful means of denaturalization. The Happy couple series is a reenactment of the process of image creation that is highly symbolic and suggestive in its nature and yet void of any context. On the other hand, the Cassic cornuta shell masquerades as a symbol for a traditional souvenir – even though it is a common memorabilia from the Adriatic coast, it actually has a Pacific and Indian Ocean origin. As an object it has been integrated into the global tourism iconography. In order to further enforce the generic experience, Cassic cornuta shell does not produce the hum of the Adriatic Sea. Instead, it plays a continuous stream of techno beat loops common to any summertime beach disco party in the world, including Croatia. While tourism demands cheap copies of the authentic, this Cassic cornuta shell represents a break with the desire for authenticity. The series of images entitled Aquamarine are a play on touristic imagery that we often tend to mix up with the real experience. It seems that authenticity of experience is just as ungraspable as the synthetic sparkling sea printed on the advertising tarp.
The relative normality of the "advertised world" is shook up in the artistic practice of the duo Žižić⁄Kožul. Choice and freedom of choice end up not being a choice at all, and the luxurious packaging reveals a deteriorating inside. As the artists say themselves – when it was first implemented, the term capitalist realism was linked to the middle class and its idealization of consumerism. Today, the middle class is disappearing, and choice has become a virtual category, which offers a myriad of almost identical outcomes.
G-MK: Ana Kovačić, Sanja Sekelj, Lea Vene
© Studio Žižić/Kožul