Across the carpark of Union square two inconspicuous posters often go by shoppers undetected. The posters do not immediately catch the eye; it is their ability to blend in seemingly harmlessly with the ‘SALE’ signs and products of desire plastered across the glass fronts of the Union Square stores that makes the Dr Dre artwork effective on realisation. From afar the can and text resemble everyday advertising as it blends into its busy city center location. Like the work of postmodern artist Jasper Johns, the print’s initial reception is destabilised by closer examination. On the first glance the red can is undeniably the world’s favourite fizzy beverage. Though the can is still inscribed with the ‘Loki Cola’ font, the suggestive ‘co’ and ‘ine’ visible to the viewer suggests the word ‘cocaine’ suggesting the addictive nature of the Coca-Cola drinks, and our own addiction consuming all the products within the shopping centre. The weight of my shiny plastic bag grows heavier as it swings from my side and I recognise the posters’ warning. I have already dipped into my earnings in purchase of new clothes. The high is small but addictive.
Like Johns, the effect happens for the viewer when they realise it is not the object, but a representation of an object. The viewer understands the beverage to be an intimation of a common everyday object as they read the text ‘Buy the world a God’ written underneath. The controversial use of ‘buy’ and ‘god’ within a poster is the hint that this is not an advertisement, but an art protest. It is not just a direct criticism of Union Square, but the entire society of which it is one of the thousands of ‘squares’ and shopping centres promising fulfilment from material objects. The desperation of the viewers is made apparent by Dr. D by contrasting the momentary happiness of consuming with the relief once sought by the majority through church and the promise of a higher power.
Placed alongside the red can print there is a poster filled with the text ‘WE HAVE A DREAM AND YOU’RE NOT IN IT’. The text blends into the surroundings of the grey buildings but is highlighted by the orange background resembling clouds; the physical representation of dreams. The two posters seem unconnected, but their placement side by side suggests that the people who profit on a world addicted to consumerism are the group with ‘a dream’. Therefore, the joke is on the public who continues a cycle of buying – much like a cycle of substance addiction where small highs are ultimately clouded by lows.
Each customer within Union Square is numb to the bold colours and texts on first glance, highlighting the territorial dominance of outdoor advertising of public space. Once interrogated by the words, any retail worker like me could feel implicated as a double agent for the consumerist world, but we all need the wages. However, the posters notably are not just part of the car park, but near the exit. Its placement then, suggesting agency and empowerment for the viewer to break the cycle and leave the shopping centre.