When Reality Emulates Art (or, I Don’t Like Being #CapitolCouture)

3 years ago

I’ve written before about my obsession with the Capitol Couture campaign. It’s stunning to look at and elegantly executed. It serves as worldbuilding that enhances the Hunger Games movies and rewards readers of the books for their fandom and insider knowledge. A unique and creative concept, excellently executed. And hey, it’s a lot of fun.

But does anyone else feel a little uncomfortable about the Capitol Couture products now being sold to the public?

Cover Girl is advertising its Capitol Beauty Studio and makeup line, featuring a signature look for each of the twelve Districts. The clothing line NET-A-PORTER also flaunts a Capitol Couture line.

And while I enjoy looking at the products and get tingly at the concept of art oozing its way into real life, the Capitol Couture products make me uneasy. Because if these products were made for citizens of the Capitol, and they being sold to us … are we the Capitol?

Anyone who’s read the books knows the answer to this question. Yes. Yes we are.

Which I have to admire about the campaign: It very artfully draws a comparison between American culture and the Capitol that is consistent with the books.

The online magazine is sophisticatedly ironic, exposing an accurate view of the Capitol’s vanity, ignorance and obscene decadence, a portrayal that is true to the books and movies.

But the products stemming out from the Capitol Couture campaign do something completely different.  They make us the Capitol’s citizens and consumers (one and the same, really). Cringe.

On one level this is very sly and sophisticated and meta: The Capitol does have some stinging similarities to modern America, and intentionally so.

So sure, you can argue that selling the products brings art into life.

But I have to take issue with this, and I’m forced to drag us into murky “what-is-art” waters for this point. Doesn’t art have to be aware of its message?

I mean, doesn’t it? I could put a pencil on a table and it could have a different meaning for anyone sitting at that table. But that’s not art. Art is me deliberately placing the pencil in a specific way that is designed to leverage a specific set of themes and motifs, to send a specific message or reaction.  (I guess where people take those elements is a secondary part of the art.)

But art must be deliberate. Otherwise it’s just a thing that happens.

So to tie that back to the issue at hand: The treatment of the real-life Capitol Couture products abandon the irony and social critique that is so central to a true depiction of the Capitol. They simply use the creative backdrop of the Capitol to sell.

What do you think? What qualifies something as art? How do you feel about the Capitol Couture products?

Like it? Tweet it!

Blurred Lines: When Reality Emulates Art (or, I Don’t Like Being the Capitol)—Click to tweet

Is the #CapitolCouture extension of real-world products art?—Click to tweet

Art must be deliberate: #CapitolCouture and product sales—Click to tweet

Emily Wenstrom | Read more at Creative Juicer | Follow me on Twitter

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