Exhibition: 08.12.2017 – 08.01.2018
“Oligocracy. An absolutely cynical advertising campaign.” – PSJM – solo show
LOCATION: Sorbonne Artgallery, 12 Place du Panthéon, Aile Soufflot – RDC, 75005 Paris/FR
For its project Oligocracy, PSJM uses rhetorical-aesthetic strategies in order to highlight what is hidden in broad daylight: the current capitalist system and its sister, liberal democracy, present themselves as the power of the many (neo-liberals call it “consumer power”), while the real power is actually in the hands of a few, namely a handful of brands that operate as shields for conglomerates.
Oligocracy brings together nine compositions representing current Big Three brands. The Big Three, which originally referred to the major brands of the automobile industry (Ford, Chrysler, General Motors), is a term commonly used in the business world to designate the three leading companies in a given sector. PSJM’s compositions assemble and combine these brands to create a contemporary emblem evoking some sort of new feudalism, an idea expanded by Jean Ziegler in “The Empire of Shame” and “The New Masters of the World”.
The display of the work was specifically adapted to the Pantheon-Sorbonne location, where Sorbonne Artgallery is located. The sumptuous architecture of the space is particularly suitable to establish a link with another theme implicit in the aesthetic composition of the project: the relationship between power and knowledge, which Foucault rendered clear in his genealogies and archeology of knowledge. In Oligocracy, as in all of PSJM’s projects, the artists embrace a multitude of references and unfold several levels of meaning, which guide their aesthetic decisions. The gold lettering refers to gold as a symbol of political power and economic power; the black silk that serves as a backdrop to the new “feudal emblems” of the Big Three embodies a model of capitalist domination, which submits the citizen through the promise of comfort and luxury. Ambitious advertising leads to a fundamental ideological deception, convincing consumers that everyone can have access to luxury (a false democratization of luxury). Capitalist power caresses you while you succumb to it: it is no coincidence that the font chosen for the word “Oligocracy” is Champagne & Limousines.
The promise of democratic luxury and the concealment of a system (oligarchy) by another (democracy) through the rhetoric of power is at the root of this aesthetic project about political economy. The Sorbonne Artgallery frames where the work is displayed seem particularly suitable for advertising images -they are indeed reminiscent of advertising billboards, whose European tycoon JC Decaux is headquartered in Paris-. But not for any advertising image, since the architectural environment of the Sorbonne commands a reflection on the associations between power, knowledge, economy, politics and aesthetics that can not be shown otherwise than as a form of silky, yet obscure domination.
With this project, PSJM returns to its critique of the ideological universe of brands. This is quite significant given the censorship to which the artists were subjected to recently*, bringing once more the power of the business world to the center of their aesthetic and political concerns.
PSJM is a team of creation, theory and management formed by Cynthia Viera (Las Palmas G.C., 1973) and Pablo San José (Mieres, 1969). PSJM present themselves as an art brand, thus appropriating the procedures and strategies of advanced capitalism to subvert their symbolic structures.
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