It’s not a rip off, it’s a homage
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It’s not a rip off, it’s a homage

Magnetic Movie, Semiconductor

Magnetic Movie, Semiconductor, 'homaged' in a recent IBM commercial

Art has always influenced commercial creatives, and artists have often drawn on – appropriated, even – other parts of culture. It’s complicated. On the one hand, freedom of expression, and opposition to the strictures of copyright.

On the other, things can get nasty, with all too frequent tales of artist and independent filmmakers being called up by agencies for a chat, never to hear from them again, only to find that months later, out comes an ad that’s remarkably similar to their own work. It’s certainly interesting to compare and contrast… so here are seven examples of, er… complimentary works…

Do send us any other suggestions. And check out Stoffel Debusyere’s excellent post on the subject here.

1. The Way Things Go, Fischli and Weiss

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Creative Review has admirably not shied away from the issue of rip-off, though in claiming to have ‘broken’ the Honda/Fischli and Weiss story, they were playing catch up with many of us.

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2. Tango, Zbig Rybczynski

A child enters a room to get back his ball. Slowly, the entire space becomes filled with bizarre characters, all of them intent on repeating the same gesture ad infinitum.

Zbig Rybczynski’s Tango is a masterpiece – winning an Oscar in 1983. Pre-digital (though digital is where Rybczynski was determinedly headed).

“I had to draw and paint about 16.000 cell-mattes, and make several hundred thousand exposures on an optical printer. It took a full seven months, sixteen hours per day, to make the piece. The miracle is that the negative got through the process with only minor damage, and I made less than one hundred mathematical mistakes out of several hundred thousand possibilities.”

The Ariston washing-machine ad from the 1980s is such fun and expertly executed, it’s hard to get angry (though maybe Rybczynski wouldn’t agree). It’s playful, homage, and flattering.

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Ariston… and on… and on…

The multiple exposure – impossible simultaneous presence – is, anyway, a technique there to be experimented with and pushed to its limits.

From Tango’s fixed viewpoint, to the dazzling world of Kylie and Michel Gondry’s Come into my World…

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And Michel explains things…

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3. Conversion, Vito Acconci

In Vito Acconci’s Conversion (1971) he gives his nipples a good seeing to.

And Steve McQueen did the same (to his nipples, not Vito’s) in his installation Cold Breath (2000).

4. Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say, Gillian Wearing

As with Tango, here’s are some examples where creative ambition seems to win out over exploitation. In 1998, Gillian Wearing noted that a Volkswagen ’s photo series owed a little too much to her famous Signs that Say… series of photographs (1992-1993).

People pointed out that Wearing’s photographs themselves could be compared with the promo film for Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)…

…itself ‘homaged’ by ads for Maxell tapes.

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But Wearing certainly made an important point: “I think there is a clear distinction between the sort of humorous parodies agencies often do and the cases where they simply pass off other people’s work. Quite often they pick on individuals who they know aren’t going to cause any problems to them.”

And her works 10 – 16 (installation, 1997) and 2 into 1 (BBC, 1997) seem likely to have been inspired by Dennis Potter’s work, but she’s hardly passing off.

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5. Magnetic Movie, Semiconductor

Here are two works – a film and a commercial – that use a similar style on similar themes.

First came Semiconductor’s Magnetic Movie, which has been seen on television and online platforms by well over a million people since it was released in 2007.

And here’s IBM’s recent Data Energy ad…

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6. Escape Vehicle No. 6, Simon Faithfull

In 2004, artist Simon Faithfull sent a chair into space in his work Escape Vehicle No 6…

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And a few years later, so did Toshiba…

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7. The Life Size Zoetrope, Mark Simon Hewis

In 2007, Mark Simon Hewis made his life-sized zoetrope.

And last year, Sony Bravia made theirs…

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And a bonus couple of similarities:

From 2006, George Barber’s Automotive Action Painting…

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…followed by a year later by artist Robin Rhode’s ad for BMW… quite like George’s but with bigger, zoomier cars…

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  1. abigail says:

    Also, the recent Vision Express adverts… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh5R8LesbOQ&feature=related

    …are clearly a homage to the great dancing eyeballs music video that artist Nagi Noda made in 2005… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Nj7hHdg-kc

    …that and The Residents who have been dressing as eyeballs for the last 4 decades… http://www.residents.com/

  2. Tiemen says:

    Chris O’Shea versus space150: http://vimeo.com/12855619

    Btw, I find those two car paintings at the end not too similar. The idea of cars driving through paint isn’t really that special to begin with.


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