Meredith Bardo BFA Illustration Thesis Spring 2017
This installation, entitled FUN ZONE, is a result of my exploration of how possessions, objects and places in relation to my memories of childhood help to form a sense of self-identity, while simultaneously recognizing the context of the Western Consumerist society in which they live in. On one hand, childhood memories are very personal signifiers of self-growth and are often looked back on fondly. But each of these childhood experiences of mine were, in varying ways, influenced by the constant bombardment of ads targeted towards children and Western ideals of materialism. This brought up the idea of the unreliable memory, and how childhood in the United States is influenced overall. Studies have shown that children are highly susceptible to marketing tactics. Children age eight and under are usually unable to realize the intentions of an ad, that it is an elaborate message purposely appealing to their emotions in order to get them to want and purchase the product. Thus, childrens marketing has been defined as unethical and manipulative.
But as I researched the tactics, history and effects of children’s marketing, I also
studied the theory of how possessions can become physical extensions of the self. Once a marketed good is purchased, personal significance is placed on it. This significance varies in its emotional weight, from it being a physical tool that allows an individual to form an idea of self-identity, from a personal signifier of a memory, to just an object that aligns with and inspires an individual’s aesthetic ideals. As this mass-marketed object transforms into something much more, the black and white line of children’s marketing being an inherent evil becomes blurred.
By creating various works, that range from sculptures that represent what my idea of Play is, to more marketing-based works that comment directly on the issues of false memory, manipulation and deception that can arise from constant exposure to ads, to characters that embody a combination of self-formation through objects and the marketing aspects that are inherently tied to them, I represent a multi-layered interpretation of how these topics coexist. This installation uses symbols reminiscent of childhood, such as clowns, teddy bears, pastel colors and patterns, smiley faces, hearts, and a cute dog in a t shirt, among others. By depicting this excess of “happy” symbols, patterns and pastel colors, the viewer is bombarded with imagery. It is only through subtle distinctions and a closer look, does the installation begin to take on different meaning. The armpit stains on a character or the angry eyebrows on the teddy bear become more apparent, and you may start to question if this is even a FUN ZONE at all. Nothing in this installation possesses a definite interpretation, but is rather a set of tools, findings and depictions for the viewer to Play with.