November 23, 2015

Unity Field Trip: The World Goes Pop

Unity are people who use the world around us to make sense of how we understand the world. Our Field Trips are the opportunity to make sure this understanding is up-to-date and on-point. Over the past two years we have been going to explore art exhibitions, museums, watch plays and so much more.

Recently two members of staff, Priya Sund and Robyn Swan, went along to check out The World Goes Pop exhibition at The Tate Modern – here’s what they thought of it…

Beyond Pop Art

Most people usually look at pop art through the lens of some of its most famous sons, Warhol and Lichtenstein. Both utilise the refrains of popular culture, whether that’s a tin of Campbell’s soup or a comic strip, in order to explore our relationship with it. This work makes audiences question the permeation of advertising into our lives, the dominance of the mass produced product and our obsession with celebrities. These themes are more important now than they were in the 1950’s and 60’s. So The World Goes Pop, The Tate Modern’s autumn offering that explored pop art throughout the world and from different perspectives, was definitely interesting.

This exhibition showcased a huge range of work in different mediums and styles, proving that there is much more to pop art than we could ever imagined. Displayed in ten rooms in The Tate’s Eyal’s Ofer Galleries, #TheWorldGoesPop takes you on a journey beyond Andy Warhol. The exhibition spans the globe from Latin America to Asia, and from Europe to the Middle East. It was something of a disorientating experience, as the themes explored lurched from the evils of capitalism, feminism the evils of communism, and the horrors of war… and then back again. But amongst the chaos there was food for thought, or Lego, as we like to call it:

Reinventing the Wheel

As an art form, pop art is famous for unabashedly stealing ideas, images and iconography, but what made the people involved artists rather than thieves was that they built on it, added to it, joined up previously unconnected ideas – or – subverted it.

In PR the best ideas we see are like this, we take bits from here, there and everywhere, stealing from art, books, films, nature and anything else that makes up our global culture and I think we should be proud of this – proud to be connoisseurs and curators of popular culture. The worst ideas, like in art, however, blatantly rip off the ones that have gone before – floating a giant something down the Thames anyone?

The Ugly Truth

Pop art is also not art for the sake of something pretty – it is graphic, bold, sometimes uncomfortable to view but it most of it makes a point and it reveals a truth.

Most brands are terrified about putting something out into the world that isn’t cool or beautiful. But maybe there’s something in creating something ugly, something brutally hideous – maybe it would get people to sit up, take note and even think. As we saw with the very brutal example of the migrant crisis, where one very difficult to view photo turned the tidal wave of public opinion, something that’s ugly, especially if it reveals a truth to us can be immeasurably powerful in forcing us to revaluate both our thoughts and habits.

Imperfection

From far away, pop art is ‘perfect’ – everything is neatly contained inside the dotted lines. But up close, in real life, you can see the imperfections – where the artist has covered up a mistake or strayed outside the line. With the sculptures in particular, you can also see the effect of time as the pieces have faded and become grubby over the years. To me it made the work relatable and once I started noticing this, I couldn’t stop – and it struck us as a reflection of the society that we live in. In our lives (and on social media in particular) we curate our perfect selves – we tell the story of shiny, happy people – but underneath all of that we are human. We get things wrong. We make bad decisions. But that makes us interesting, it makes us real and, actually, it makes us likeable. Somewhere, in there, there is a lesson for brands.

To find out more about the exhibition, head to the website;

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/ey-exhibition-world-goes-pop

Unity’s Field Trip programme sees all staff (from interns to our co-founders) embarking on a challenging journey into the heart of London’s arts & culture scene. If you’re interested in knowing more, then please email our Culture Editor on paul@hellounity.com