If you logged onto the Wooster site this morning then you may have noticed that we put the “Nike The Ripper” culture jam photograph shown above on the site, and then not too long after we temporarily took it off to respect an email that we received moments after posting it.
Why did we take it down?
Well it was one of those cases where the artist who created the work left it up to everyone else for interpretation. This is the type of work that we like the most, so for us we don’t need to always understand what something means.
But this was one of those cases where an email we received prompted us to slow down a bit and ask the artist for some insight into the work. We think that the exchange is an interesting one to share because it shows how leaving things open to interpretation can polarize people.
Here’s the email we received this morning:
“Do you know violence against women is wrong?? Why are you supporting this? It’s insulting. Patricia”
To which we responded:
“Wow. I didn’t see it as that. I had no idea it would have that interpretation. I guess I wasn’t thinking about it that way, Let me pose this (a) to the artist and (b) probably to other readers. I will take it down until I get some clarity on it. thanks so much for the email!”
And finally, here was the artists response…
“I (as an artist / socially involved designer / brands- and ads-hater / ad-buster / “de-brander” acting against brands’ brutal occupation of everyone’s public and mental space) see an invasive and aggressive advertisement put in the streets by an extremely negative multinational corporation showing a woman in a bizarre dancer-move, other people like Patricia just see a “cool” and attention-grabbing picture of a “beautiful” woman, which maybe represents exactly what these people desire to be like: as soon as they see the picture, the picture is more important than the brand which it stands for, just as the branders want it to happen. So Patricia sees a literally hacked woman and not Nike being hacked.
Moreover, this shows us how widely and un-problematically advertising and branding in general are accepted by the western consume-society: Nike doesn’t just sell sweatshirts and sneakers (we don’t even know if the dancer is wearing Nike). As the detourned ad is showing us, Nike sells images, worlds, values like dynamism, “beauty”, strength, a healthy life, etc., just as Mc Donald’s sells the American-way-of-life-spirit through its fast-foods and big-macs all over the world! “Let me wear my Air Jordan, let me be Michael Jordan! Who cares if the reality of the corporation isn’t that wonderful!” But I think that most of the time it’s all about the lack of information about the politics of these giants among the people who buy their stuff.
To say it clear: for me it isn’t relevant if on the Nike ad there is a “beautiful” woman, a “beautiful” man or a “beautiful” alien hermaphrodite, hehehe! It is and remains a tactical and violent invasion of my cultural space done by a big multinational company that doesn’t care for anything if not for profit. Do you think that Nike cares about the exploitation of the planet? Or about the exploitation of child-labour in Vietnamese sweat-shops? And finally do you think that Nike, or better, it’s non-official workshops, care about the conditions of women working for them? Nike could give people at least “human” working conditions, they could contribute to make life easier in those poor countries, they could try to avoid using PVC and use recycled materials in their sneakers. But they don’t and never will! And the reason why is that they don’t give a shit about mankind (women included) or the planet! Ok, maybe in a few years Nike will launch it’s first fair-trade sneaker line; but this only to buy the sympathy of the growing community of socially responsible people. 98% of Nike’s income will still be coming from the selling of unsustainable sneakers.
So, Wooster, Patricia and everyone who didn’t get the point of this hack, I hope that now you will understand what this is all about and I hope that my work will be published again on Wooster Collective (you can’t imagine how happy I was when I got your first mail!).
P.S.: hereby I send you some links to the topic:
To which Patricia responds:
You state in your note that you are attacking Nike not beautiful woman, but that’s not the message you are sending. It’s a picture of a woman getting her head cut off.
You state, “for me it isn’t relevant if on the Nike ad there is a “beautiful” woman, a “beautiful” man or a “beautiful” alien hermaphrodite, hehehe! ” So why not give the oppressed gender,( who gets paid .75 cents to every dollar a man gets, does 90% of household chores, not to mention all the child-raising ) a helping hand and put in it’s place a MAN. Isn’t that who owns Nike? You ask if Nike cares about exploiting the planet, etc., I guess I’m asking you if you care about the exploitation of woman?
Hope you understand I’m not attacking you personally, just standing up for what I feel is right. As you know, there is a lot wrong in this society and it’s up to all of us to participate in an honest debate of exchange.
To which Sputnikk responds:
Patricia, I think you still didn’t get what my action consists in.
I’ll explain to you what exactly happened, step by step:
One day a friend of mine comes to me and shows me a picture of a Nike billboard he saw in Munich on the façade of the NikeWomen shop. My friend tells me: “This is perfect for you”: on the billboard there is a woman in a weird dancer-move. She is kinda leaning backwards, her head and hair are hanging and her throat is bare.
So I think: “Wow, if I placed a properly printed and cut-out “swoosh” on the poster over her throat, it would create a very strong effect and the sense of the whole ad would change dramatically! She wouldn’t be “cool” anymore, she would look desperate: it would just look like the swoosh is pulling her deeeeeeeeep down.” The giant picture was yelling “Hack me, HACK ME, PLEEEASE”. So I personally went to the billboard to check it out, I took some measures and went back home to draw the perfect killer-swoosh. 2 nights later me and my friend pasted up the swoosh over the already existing photo.
After the action, watching the Nike billboard, you can’t see a “cool” dancer nor the values Nike tries to sell you anymore; instead you can see the personification of Nike (the female dancer) having it’s head cut off by its own logo, which now is just as aggressive and dangerous as the politics of the corporation in reality are.
The billboard could have also been showing a male dancer, he would have gotten his head cut off just like the woman had. And that’s why I say “for me it isn’t relevant if on the Nike ad there is a “beautiful” woman, a “beautiful” man or a “beautiful” alien hermaphrodite”.
Did you think it was me who printed the whole billboard, wonderful picture included? Well, if I had the amount of money and the tools you need to create and stick up a billboard like this (“perfect” model, big-format-camera, etc.), then maybe I would create a billboard with the picture of a man having his head cut off by the swoosh, but I would probably create something much different. Anyway … some say that ad-busting simply doesn’t work. But pasting something very small, very cheap and very creative that messes up the whole big work done by Nike branders gives me indescribable joy. Computer-hackers use the perfect word “wild pleasure”.
I hope that you finally understood what I did. And I love and respect women!
Some readers weigh in:
From Mitch: “both patricia and sputnikk have missed a really important point regarding any anti-ad activity, and that is of course its effect on the public. Not that i would attempt to declare exactly what the public would see in this jammed ad, but i think that the point which hasn’t been made is that a subtle (or maybe subtl-er) jam of this nature retains alot of the ad’s original qualities. This in turn raises the notion of a jam’s authenticity in the eyes of the public - is it an attack, or is it just a new marketing angle? And in this sense i read the outcome of the jam as a clever way of showing how poorly the industry of fashion and advertising actually treats the female body. The distressing issues of violence against women raised by patricia are an effect of how the work achieves this - discomfort about these should really be turned towards the company who produced the ad, and not the artist who exposed a hidden, and darker schematic behind it.”