Yesterday, was the opening of Hank Willis Thomas’s solo exhibition: Ads Imitate Life at the Goodman Gallery in Cape Town. Although the works were from previous years,their in depth investigation into the ways in which visual language is used to perpetuate negative, and often toxic, stereotypes through advertising is a relevant conversation topic.
I’ve always had the belief that as much as we would like to think or perceive that advertising imitates life, it in actual fact portrays a falsified utopia. It create disillusion within society by attempting to portray the world we live in as a ‘happy happy joy joy kumbaya’ environment. An example of this is the Pepsi-Kendell Jenner kerfuffle.
Advertising plays’s on society’s hopes and dreams- it is through this medium that we can glimpse a collective subconscious. It is also a global language in the sense that the ideas that circulate in adverts have as much of an effect on the countries in which they were made as in the countries that they were exported to via mass communication.
South Africa and the USA were founded on quintessentially ‘male frontier mentalities’. Yet, today, both countries position themselves as a beacon of hope for many, as pioneering examples for international human rights with respect to individual freedoms and constitutional rights.
In Ads Imitates Life, I expose the backward attitudes that continue to pervade American advertising, undermining the neat narrative of ‘progress’ that countries like the US hold dear. – Hank Willis Thomas
The exhibition is one to see and shall be running until the 1st of July.