Selling of the Selling of the Brand – Old Idea, New Hollywood Treatment

Go see it! Buy the brands! But a nod of appreciation to The Art Guys for the suit idea would be nice.

Director Morgan Spurlock of The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Photo by Brandon Joseph Baker, Sundance Film Festival

Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me and star of his own reality TV show 30 Days (cancelled?) unveiled his newest film, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, in which the star is, of course, Morgan Spurlock, but the brand is the brand is the brand.

Spur-locks onto the idea that corporate brands are everywhere, even finding their way into our favorite movies, so let’s make a movie about product placement in movies, and we’ll finance it with, you’re way ahead of me here, product placements.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m inclined to agree with movie critic Brendan Walsh who observes:

“Eating nothing but McDonalds is bad for you; the U.S. government, with all it’s resources, hasn’t found terrorist boogeyman Osama Bin Laden; the prevalence of advertising in our daily lives has gotten out of hand:  File these in the “No Duh!” section of most of our collective brains.  If you arrived at these conclusions on your own, but could use an affirmation and maybe a little bit of evidence to support your arguments, then rejoice! Morgan Spurlock is back to affirm things you already knew!”

As a concept, I’ve got to agree. The film maker seems a bit late to the topic. Next up, he can tackle the cultural impact of MTV music videos and the Interwebs. Hmmm.

The Art Guys on Time SquareIf you think you’ve already seen Spurlock in his amazing suitcoat of many logos, you may be thinking of this scene, thirteen years ago, in which The Art Guys turned corporate branding into an art performance that included the exact idea, played out on Times Square in New York City.

I’m probably being unfair. The movie could be great. Go see it! Buy the brands! But a nod of appreciation to The Art Guys for the suit idea would be nice, Morgan.

More on this story from Media Bistro.

The Art Guys Respond…

Final statement concerning The Art Guys SUITS project and Mr. Spurlock’s movie

DATE: February 18, 2011

Much has been written and said lately regarding The Art Guys’ SUITS project and the suit Morgan Spurlock has used to publicize his movie “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”. For us it is an unfortunate and undesired situation and one which we find distasteful and distracting. Therefore, we wish to submit the following as our final statement concerning this matter.

There is no doubt in our minds that Mr. Spurlock has plagiarized our project SUITS: The Clothes Make The Man. He wears a dark men’s business suit that has been covered with embroidered corporate logos from companies who have paid for this advertising space in an effort to engage the media and the public about the topic of the pervasiveness ofadvertising, marketing and branding in our culture. In our opinion, the specific form of this object, and the way in which this object is utilized, is almost an exact replica of the SUITS project and of the specific garments which are now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

We began researching and organizing the SUITS project in 1996. For almost two years before the start of the year long event of wearing the SUITS, we consulted and met with many people including artists, designers, curators, publishers, business professionals and ad agency professionals. One person who was particularly helpful and supportive was the late Richard Martin, Curator, The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Richard showed us many designs in their collection that he found pertinent to the SUITS project and shared with us catalogs and books about artist-designed clothing with a specific emphasis on artists who have used text, signs and advertising images on clothing. The intellectual heritage of the SUITS owes itself to artists such as Pat Oleszko, Gene Pool, Harrod Blank, Robert Watts and other Fluxus artists, Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys’ Felt Suit, James Rosenquist’s Paper Suit and many others, not to mention the costumes of Futurist, Surrealist, Dadaist and Bauhaus artists. Many artists have utilized the form and context of clothing as a sculptural medium. While openly and explicitly referencing popular culture comparisons such as Nascar drivers, the SUITS project is ultimately and finally an art work, and should properly be studied and considered within this context.

Despite what has been printed lately, we have never said or implied that we were the first or only to consider the pervasiveness of advertising, marketing and branding in our culture. Nor have we ever said that the SUITS were the first or only outfits covered in logos. We have always demonstrated the similarities between the SUITS and various examples of marketing in our culture and all of this is thoroughly documented in articles, interviews and books. But we also believe that the specific form of the SUITS and the philosophical and conceptual issues that it addresses, stand uniquely apart. It was the first of its kind. We offer the essay “The Art Guys Get Legit” by Dave Hickey in support of this argument.

During the course of wearing the SUITS for a year all over the United States, the SUITS appeared in various print and electronic media including CNN, CBS News Sunday Morning, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, The New Yorker, PRI, Art News and many others. A complete print and electronic bibliography is printed in the book about the project SUITS: The Clothes Make The Man (The Art Guys with Todd Oldham) published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.,Publishers. After the completion of the year-long event of wearing the SUITS, the garments were acquired by TheMuseum of Fine Arts, Houston. The SUITS have subsequently appeared in exhibitions, books, catalogs, articles andblogs. All of this is well documented and readily available online.

The SUITS are not as obscure as Mr. Spurlock suggests and his statements to the contrary are evidence of the common tactic of evading specific accusations while attempting to discredit the accusers. Despite what has already been claimed, we have absolutely no monetary reward to be gained from this controversy or from issuing this statement. Nor do we seek it. The only one who stands to benefit financially from this controversy is Mr. Spurlock himself. He has stated that his contractual agreement with sponsors includes benchmarks for numbers of “impressions” – that is, the number of people who are estimated to have seen the ads on his suit in various media. It is in his favor for this issue to continue to be publicized.

We believe that the companies who have advertised on Mr. Spurlock’s suit have been deceived into believing that this was an original idea conceived by him. It is not.

The issue of advertising firms and businesses plagiarizing the work of artists is not new. It was an issue before andduring the SUITS project and it is an issue now. There are many well-known examples of this including recent disputes between Christo and Jean Claude and AT&T, Christian Marclay and Apple, Fischli and Weiss and Honda, Gillian Wearing and Volkswagen, among many others. We agree with Christian Marclay when he was quoted assaying, “This culture’s so much about suing each other that if we want to have anything that’s more of an open exchange of ideas, one has to stop this mentality.” But we also believe that what must stop is the plagiarizing of artists’ ideas for one’s own benefit and profit.

We believe that Mr. Spurlock has plagiarized our project SUITS: The Clothes Make The Man by wearing a dark men’s business suit that has been covered with embroidered corporate logos from companies who have paid for this advertising space in an effort to engage the media and the public about the topic of the pervasiveness of advertising, marketing and branding in our culture.

There is nothing more to say and we are not interested in spending any more of our time with this issue as we are concerned with other ideas and projects. Simply put, we have better things to do. We are very grateful to those who have offered advice and support. This is our final statement concerning this matter.

Thank you. The Art Guys

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One thought on “Selling of the Selling of the Brand – Old Idea, New Hollywood Treatment”

  1. This is so stupid. You can hear him in the movie saying he wants to create something like a “nascar suit”. I cannot believe you are claiming it as your own idea when its been around for many years in nascar.

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