Being back in Australia earlier this year was great, but there were times when things were a bit disturbing.
Like when I visited a toy store on the hunt for some gifts.
It wasn't so much the visit to the toy store that was disturbing. But I did often find myself shaking my head thinking who on earth buys this stuff and who on earth thought this shit up in between those moments when I was otherwise thinking Damn, I wish we'd had these when we were kids.
One thing that I stumbled upon there fell into two of those thought bubble categories. It was The Logo Board Game. Long story short it seems like it's an adult game based on you having to correctly answer questions about logos, advertising and other corporate branding stuff in order to make your way into the winning zone or something or other.
Listen, I'm a product of the eighties as much as anyone. I've been known to blurt out Arrrgh, Chum is so chunky you can carve it or Austraya, your chicken is ready often enough that it seems like I have a corporate form of Tourettes syndrome, but I'm not sure that I would want to spend my free time playing this kind of game. Evidently I'm in a minority here- a quick google search indicates that it's been one of the most successful and praised board games of recent years.
It's a sign and product of our times (boom! boom! I made a dad joke).
Consumerism and consumption, and how international brands are becoming more and more recognisable in Indonesia are some of the main themes behind the work of Fahran Siki. When he first exhibited in Milan back in 2011, Italian Vogue dubbed him the 'Indonesian Banksy'.
In around 2000, Siki started working on "public art projects". That, for those of you not in on the lingo, is a metaphor for 'street art, murals and graffiti.'
His work on the streets started making its entry into galleries in the 2008/2009 period, when, it might be argued, street art was beginning to peak in some parts of the world and flooding into galleries (just as international brands also flooded into newly expanded markets like those in South East Asia).
Stencil based and with a strong leaning towards text, Fahran Siki's work is kind of like the anti venom of the Logo Board Game. It is successful in that it brings out the same recognition in viewers that the board game makers challenge players to - to recognise brands, marketing and their presence in your life - but Siki does it on the flip side. What elevates it from being a simple criticism of the impact of conspicuous consumption is how corporate branding in Siki's art is just another element of the popular, mass culture that his work addresses. Yes, Warhol opened up those floodgates all those years ago, but in Siki's work, Warhol's work is cast as another player on the cultural map that has been reduced to branding.
Siki is no stranger to Italy. Back in 2009 he did a residency with the Street Art South Italy group here in Lecce. Since then he's been back a few times.
In his latest show in Milan - Trace - (running through to September 30), Siki's takes aim not only at Warhol and the American contribution to modern, mass culture, but also at the European icons. Michelangelo's work is dirtied. Takashi Murakami's collaborations with Luis Vuiton take on a sinister aspect, and are re-positioned as Mur(war)kami propaganda.
And where is the exhibition taking place? At one of Milan's hot, prestigious commercial galleries? No. It's taking place at the offices of the Banca Generali, one of Italy's biggest banking and insurance groups. Fancy that.
More (in Italian) here.
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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