Brian Ulrich: Copia

Continuing on the topic of consumerism and general American mass consumption, is the work of Brian Ulrich. After George Bush urged Americans to “spend spend spend” after 9/11, he turned citizens into consumers. Their civil duty was now to boost the US economy one man at a time. Shopping was to be the answer to terrorism. But Brian was not buying it, and he sure as hell wasn’t spending it either.

“Shopping”, Brian says, “presents the illusion of choice, but it’s not our choice–it’s what’s presented to us, what Kraft and Conagra want us to own. We go into stores with elation, hoping for something to relate to emotionally, and come out from the ordeal depressed and depleted.” He focuses on details like a sign at a gas station, “Homeland Security Threat Level Today–Please see cashier for details” to establish the connection between the “war on terror” and our consumption addiction. His landscape of Sunday shoppers strolling through Costco’s fluorescent-lit aisles alludes to “Sunday Afternoon on the Island La Grande Jatte,” contrasting Seurat’s era to ours.

I came across this body of work at Julie Saul a few years ago, which included three sections; Retail, Thrift, and Backrooms. To see get more info or see more work, please visit his website. You’ll notice, it’s called “Not If But When”. According to an interview in The Style Press, “Not If But When came from the weeks after 9/11. On one day it seemed this phrase was the headline of every newspaper and for me signified the messaging from the media the psychological climate of this country should shift from one of empathy and grieving to one of fear. I decided to co-opt this phrase to try and turn it against itself. Using ‘Not If But When’ as a moniker for my projects as an artist gives the phrase new meaning.”

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