Art vs. Advertising Debate 

When the Portland Advertising Federation made plans for a town hall-style discussion between artists and advertisers, they drafted the Portland/LA-based artist Andrew Dickson to host it. It was an obvious choice. Dickson's performances, such as AC Dickson: eBay PowerSeller, skewer corporate culture with mock seminars that often employ PowerPoint presentations. Then again, that performance landed him a gig working on a Wieden+Kennedy ad campaign for Nike. When he plays a "Phil Donahue-like moderator" this Thursday, he'll be incorporating components from his new performance, Sell Out.

What got you thinking about Sell Out?

It really came from thinking about how to balance one's personal ambitions and the reality of adulthood. The reality of how many artists this society is willing to pay for is very miniscule. I began to wonder, "Do artists deserve to make a living?" If so, then the future of arts funding has to be through corporations.

Can corporations really aid in art making?

Look at an organization like the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, which receives a tremendous amount of corporate sponsorship. They simply couldn't do what they do if they refused that support or maintained a DIY approach.

I'm thinking of advertising now. Do you think good art should be overtly manipulative?

Some argue that it has to be. Think of Picasso's "Guernica." It's accessible and emotional to the point of being manipulative. Bad art is that which isn't manipulative, that doesn't have a strong point of view.

Where do you see the lines between art and advertising being blurred in compelling ways?

I see artists straddling that line in modern photography and documentary filmmaking. For example, Errol Morris did a Miller campaign. I think what is ultimately important is that these artists maintain a distinct voice and point of view, whether they're doing a shoot for a magazine or showing photographs in a gallery. In both settings, they're still looking for consumers.

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