Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Alex Leme-Doubt

Alex Leme's body of work "Doubt" photographs road advertisements and signs around America's bible belt. He uses juxtaposition to show the conflicting messages that local spectators are often viewing. 
The work raises questions surrounding spectatorship and active and passive audiences. The body of work also discusses the differences between these religious billboards and regular commercial product advertising?

In our regular everyday spectatorship we watch our televisions and view billboard advertisements whilst being bombarded with certain techniques that give us a reason to consume.  Usually that reason will make us contemplate the scenario that if we purchase that particular product our lives will be enriched. Individually, if we consume that aftershave or perfume it will undoubtedly help us in our search for sex, love, relationships and happiness.  Or collectively, it is the notion of selling happy families if we purchase that new computer console, eat that certain breakfast cereal or share our family photos on that website. Simplistically, brands will produce imagery and wording that connotes the message, buy this and your life will be better.  A+B=C.

 In comparison the religious signs Leme has discovered and photographed at first glance are uncommon signs that differ hugely to the usual message we receive within this medium of projection using billboard advertising. Firstly the seemingly fundamentalist religious billboards give us a consequence to our lifestyles and tell us if you want  happiness, live this way or you will be unhappy and not just in life, for all eternity. They also judge us and tell us how to live. Secondly they simply have to tell us how, because clearly they do not believe we can do it successfully ourselves with our own free will. They do not trust us as there is a fiery consequence if we do not obey. They offer us solutions to our unhappy lives a way to improve them, a way out, but only if we do what they say and abide by their rules.

Hang on is Alex Leme's work not highlighting that these religious messages are actually carrying the same method of persuasion and control that commercial advertisements do but just in a more blatant fashion? Is it not the same logic and notion for commercial advertisements to suggest buy this or the opposite sex will not find you attractive for religious billboards to say, come to church and worship god or you will burn in hell for all eternity? The messgae is hugely less dramatic but it is trying to control and manipulate by persuasion and consequence. 

Except, when the religious signs stops judging, dictating and using fear as a tool of recruitment and instead sends a simple message of love and uplifting support. These signs ideologically couldn't be more different to the brand advertisements. Unfortunately the signs that carry threats are often all to similar.

 In addition to highlighting this, what Alex Leme's work does also do is shows the confusing and conflicting messages us as spectators  receive on a daily basis through this very same medium. We are told and taught to have high morals and have a clear indication of the differences between right and wrong but when money becomes involved that can often change and the line begins to blur. The message becomes diluted and our moral compass confused when surrounding those messages of support and love are ones of lust and superficiality. Leme's work juxtaposes the extreme difference in messages we receive every day. Messages from teachers, parents and religion contradict messages fed to us from the media, advertisements and fundamentalist religion, no wonder we are all so confused.

All images by Alex Leme and text written by Chris Timothy.

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