The Communications Department (14 July - 12 August 2001, Anthony Wilkinson Gallery)

By Lina Dzuverovic-Russell, 10 September 2001

The Communications Department embarks on an ambitious curatorial adventure, aiming to examine art practice that engages with corporate marketing, branding and advertising. However, the questions raised by the show are so general that its press release, asking whether it is possible to act outside brand influences and whether brand messages can be re-appropriated and detourned, borders on the naive.

With over 15 artists, the show stretches back to the late 80s to include obvious choices of well known works ranging from Jeff Koons’ Art Magazine ads to more recent RTMark video Bringing IT to You and Jeremy Deller/Imprint 93’s Rank – a VIP list for the ‘Die Young Stay Pretty’ ICA show opening.

Newer work includes Carey Young’s Visioning Workshop (supported by Xerox) – which documents a session in which a venture capitalist from Xerox, Anthony Wilkinson and colleague discuss strategies for turning the gallery into a more profitable venture. Meanwhile, Alex Verness’ Luxury Goods makes for one of the more arresting pieces, tracing a line between the subject matter of his paintings – a workforce in Antigua and one in China – who he hires to reproduce these paintings from photographs.

The Communications Department deals with the symptoms of corporate takeover, but fails to look beyond the immediate questions and engage with the more telling issues of the flow of capital and information between the corporate sector and the arts. Ambitious in its remit, but taking few risks, the show taps into an area that calls for much more attention than it’s able – given its diminutive size - to deliver.

Lina Dzuverovic-Russell <lina AT> is an artist, curator and member of the NoAlternativeGirls collective. She is also web-editor and advertising manager for Mute.