The browsing, selection and purchase of goods and commodities have become one of the defining activities of modern urban life. In this consumer culture, shopping has become a crucial ritual for shaping and transforming our identities. Artists have always been fascinated and intrigued by the consumer culture and the way it shapes our society.
At first perceived as the American phenomenon, the consumerist lifestyle has soon spilled over to the rest of the world through globalization and the rise of the free market economy. Unlike Pop Art’s playful and often ambivalent attitude towards the consumer culture, the generation of artists that came after took a more decisive and hostile stand towards it. Since advertising has always played a crucial role in perpetuating mechanisms and values of consumer culture, many of these artists have made it the center of their practice. For example, Ron English has introduced the concept of billboard hijacking where he appropriated the mass media messages and imagery to create subversive and political statements. Today, many contemporary artists explore and criticize the idea of consumerism in a variety of ways. Employing various visual and conceptual strategies to question consumerism, artists such as Gabriel Kuri, Josephine Meckseper, Irina Korina or Martin Basher explore various aspects of commerce and exchange such as models of trading with it as in selling and buying, the labor that generates these goods, global distribution networks, social and economic structures that support it, the notion of value or the role of goods consumption in construction of our identities. Rather than criticizing the consumption on a superficial level, they tend to deconstruct this phenomenon from the inside out.