Value for Money Mar14 2016, Amsterdam

A common struggle

Perhaps one thing all Europeans have in common is advertising.

We may have grown deaf and blind to billboards and flashing signs, but it’s difficult to ignore the unwanted leaflets and unsolicited ad catalogues piling up on doorsteps, clogging mailboxes, overflowing bins.

It’s not only useful and invasive, but undeniably wasteful. Partij voor de Dieren has recently put forth an initiative that might put an end to the influx of junk mail in Amsterdam. According to their estimates, households receive approximately 34 kilograms worth of leaflets a year.

This reminded me of a video work by conceptual artist Mircea Nicolae (Romanian, b. 1980) entitled ‘how bread is made.’ The video is a commentary on advertising and a documentation of the artistic process.

In the West, after the second World War, advertising became almost as important as the production of goods. Because there were too many things to buy and because nobody knew them all or wanted them all, advertising became necessary. It created a perception and a desire, or a separate dream for each product. However, the direct consumers of advertising often refuse this type of imaginary food.

He begins with this observation: his neighbours are refusing to consume advertising. They discard the flyers and leaflets without a glance or a thought, promptly throwing them in a bin by the entrance. Nicolae decided to make a symbolic gesture, transforming the scrapped leaflets into loaves of bread, ready for consumption. Interesting to note that the phrase ‘ how bread is made’ is intricately linked to ‘how to earn a living.’