This morning a serious feature event unsettled the city of Milan. An accident occurred, in via Mercanti, two steps away from the famous Duomo cathedral. It concerned a Smart car and a submarine. As it would be obvious for you to believe, we aren’t talking about a photomontage: videos and pictures, showing how the back of the enormous warship emerged amidst the debris of the wrecked street, reported everything.

I have to admit, traffic in Milan can be hell. Fortunately, the area that hosted such an episode is a zone restricted to most traffic.

Submarine #l1f3 (does the hashtag remind you of something?) really emerged; and you can find proof of this with your own eyes by looking at it sticking out in the middle of the street. Actually it is all about one of the countless advertisement strategies adopted by a creative marketing company to promote some new insurance service for Gruppo Generali. A viral campaign via twitter paved the way for this unexpected and peculiar idea that is part of a project conceived by an insurance company in order to show people the service it provides, let’s say, in a more ‘realistic and practical’ way.

Such a media strategy could be discussed and commented in various ways, but I’ll leave this effort to my reader.

This event led me to a general kind of reflection: what the hell is happening to the relationship between art and the people who enjoy it? And in particular, what does advertising represent in this delicate connection?

I believe it’s an interesting respect, mostly, if you link it to the increasing way advertisement is affecting how people benefit from art; it becomes even more interesting if, reversing terms, you think about how art is being shaped because of its exposure to the advertising world. On the one hand, in spite of the financial crisis, companies, events and products are more and more advertised by marketing enterprises (repeatedly one-hit wonders: where do these companies even get the money to cover the expenses?), on the other hand we are noticing how the social and unveiled side of the product is taking on more and more the appearance of a product itself which is alarming when referring to art.

In Italy, we have had one of the major examples of how an ad can acquire the shape of a commercial product. The eco of this cultural event, coming from a past that seems to us so far away, lately still resounds so strongly and intensely so to constrain unexpected revivals. I am talking about the Carosello. Modern advertisement (I am referring to the TV ads, viral campaigns, stands throughout cities) seems to resemble the Carosello in a more spectacular and amazing version. Metaphorically we are the spectators of what looks like a passing of the baton, realistically, we are observing a very particular metamorphosis: the transformation of the promoted subject into an object of fruition. Paradoxically, this is also happening in matters concerning art.

For this reason, more and more art pieces are created with the sole goal of promoting, sponsoring and contemplating some external aspect. It looks like the artistic entity has gained the role of a mere conveyer, just like a “sistema passante” (look up “I Barbari” by A. Baricco), a large shirt that gains some kind of purpose only when filled up by the flow of promotion (not only in a commercial way but also promotion in terms of “linking”). The artistic object has become a way to communicate a feature that is not the one genuinely held by the piece itself but on the contrary, something external to it, overthrowing the romantic idea enclosing the artistic object and mostly the relationship with the person enjoying it.

Marx wrote about “alienation” when referring to the removal of the finished product from a worker’s hands. When we observe art in its modern appearance (not to be confused with modern art), we may think of a sort of alienation, but in opposite terms: art produces nothing more than that that already exists as a market product or as an object of either active or passive consumption. Hegel talked about “art’s death”: I believe there is no better situation that suits marvelously with his assertion than this reverse relationship in between the artistic subject and object.


Notice that this is not a condemnation to the “use” of art nowadays. Not at all. As a matter of fact, the way terms have been inverted is nothing else but a demonstration of the art spirit sprinkling from the pores of our new society (in an idealistic and romantic point of view), permeated by a new genre of culture that can’t exclude the publicization concept, in its original meaning. This new kind of culture is sort of like an endless cycle. Static and stationary art succumbs. Art that is in motion, that promotes, instead resists.

Someone could grieve romantic art; somebody else, a modern man maybe (if modern men already exist), in a Darwinian sense adjusted to the artistic discipline, could see in this metamorphosis a birth rather than a death. Surprisingly, this new type of art, in some bizarre way, just like a submarine along the streets of the city center, survives.


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