Arts & Culture

Art or advertisement?

Amongst the many sculptures and short films flooding the night during this year’s Nocturne Art Festival stood a little purple house. Crowds gathered around the house, watching projected silhouettes in the windows living their lives. Soon, the house was engulfed in animated flames.
As the display ended, Johnson Insurance’s logo appeared on the house’s roof, leaving the crowd wondering if it was an art display or an advertisement for insurance company.

Allan Carver, the project’s creative director, says that the creation was both; and that the line between art and advertising isn’t as clear as we might think.
“Is there a line? Maybe. Does there have to be a line? No. Advertising done well should reach the level of art. Advertising done poorly is just junk,” Carver says.
Carver came up with the idea to use 3D projection mapping for the project: a style of projection that integrates the surface the image is being shown on to create a more lifelike, unique presentation. He partnered with Egg Studios, a Halifax-based advertisement studio, to create the piece.
Joann Fitzgerald, head of marketing in the region for Johnson’s, says that this is only the thirdtime such technology has been used in Halifax, and that the chance to create something so novel was not something the company wanted to pass up.
While the humble house that advertising built wasn’t an official part of Nocturne’s table of events and Johnson was not a Nocturne sponsor the company felt that last Saturday night was a perfect time to share their project with the public as Saturday marked the end of fire safety awareness week.
“Johnson is all about trying to help with fire prevention… and with the crowds out for nocturne we thought it would be an entertaining way to raise awareness,” says Fitzgerald.
“There’s a lot of things we consider art today that back in their day was pure advertising… like war posters people collect those now and use them as art. A lot of them are just old ads, blown up and re-presented…It wasn’t any less ‘art’ just because it was for a purpose,” Carver says, making a case for what he calls “Johnson’s PSA” to not be brushed aside because of its commercial aspect.
“Interruption-based advertising [such as commercial breaks in a TV show] is dead… if you take your message and turn it into an experience all of a sudden people will find it interesting… New companies are coming up and filling a gap [by making this sort of advertising].”
The way Carver tells it, this new form of advertising is the way of the future. And, at a time where Starbucks lattes are being sold in illustrated cups and fashion companies are making short films to promote their work, you can see his point.
Will art in the future be sponsored by McDonald’s? Will galleries one day display artful Starbucks cups? Based on the work people like Carver are making, it’s not impossible to imagine.
It seems a new era has arrived, one full of artistic messages delivered to you by sponsors.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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