Here is a great shot of Laura Rollins from The Biennial Project participating in a sublime guerilla performance art piece on the famed Academia Bridge in Venice during the recent opening week of the Venice Biennale 2011.
The other artist in the piece made replicas of Louis Vuitton purses as a statement on the vapid materialism and low self esteem of The International Tourist – those who spend way too much money on a simple bag decorated with this universally recognized status symbol of great disposable wealth.
You see if you look rich by flaunting your materialism, then you look better then the poor and therefore are treated with better respect. The symbol is meant to say to everyone who is not carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag that it’s owner is better then you, the non-owner, because the owner has more accumulated wealth then the non-owner, you.
The irony of this slyly subversive performance piece is that this bag IS a replica – a ‘knock-off’ - with the joke being that Laura (playing the role of The International Tourist to perfection) bought it for 15 Euros.
Laura is able to continue this artistic collaboration by gauging the reaction of the unknowing public. The pedestrians of the globe will look at this ‘art piece’ and make judgments on Laura, which are incorrect since they do not know that this is not an actual expensive Luis Vuitton bag.
The artistic statement is carried even further by the fact that the Western population knows that it is easy to get a knockoff Louis Vuitton Bag, sullying the shine of the actual real purse owning rich people – those who want to set themselves apart from the have-nots by this materialistic status symbol.
People will assume these people with ‘real’ extravagant means are simply putting on a show and will be questioned as being middle or lower class. The real middle and lower class people carrying the knock offs will go about their day thinking that others think they are more special, hence wealthy. In fact they are revealing their true position in the class structure, because we all know that people can and do buy fake Louis Vuitton pocketbooks.
You see the point that Laura and this ingenious Authentic Venetian Artist are trying to get across is that a knockoff Louis Vuitton purse is really the great equalizer in our modern capitalist society. The middle and lower class, by striving to appear ‘better then’, have brought the people who ‘are better then’ because of greater wealth, down to an equal surface level.
In doing this we can no longer judge people hiding behind their self created exterior status oriented presentation - and we are now able to look deep into their souls full of insecurities and self doubt (which we all share, no matter what side of the tracks we were brought up on or ascended to).
This is not unlike Mao’s China where the citizens all wore identical uniforms. It made them all appear equal and they were better able to concentrate on more important aspects of life instead of the superficial. The other parallel between the capitalist symbol of a Louis Vuitton handbag and the Communist China Uniform is that both are compromised designs.
In reality there is no individuality or creativity in either the uniform or the handbag. They are both simple and boring designs that are made to be demographically pleasing to a wide audience. All discerning aspects of design have been marginalized as to not offend or set anything or anyone apart. They both are made so the owner can fit into society by not standing out by their creative souls - but stand only thru the society in which they belong.
Another irony that Laura and this great, yet-to-be famous Authentic Venetian Artist are demonstrating by presenting this particular collaboration is that they are doing at The Venice Biennale during it’s opening week. This is a week where the most creative members of societies around the world are chosen to represent and converge together to for a week of individual expression.
The idea of a Louis Vuitton bag is the most uncreative artistic expression of self one can make. Here Laura and the splendid Authentic Venetian Artist have taken this uncreative symbol of mass dulling of artistic or individual expression and made it a symbol that can take on new life as a tool to fool the population who don’t “get the joke”- i.e. The International Tourist and other boring people.
All of which proves once again that art provides a rich arena in which to examine the underlying dynamics of our society by re-contextualizing everyday events so as to reveal the truth lurking below, and that the members of The Biennial Project are the right people for the job.