a(i)ds

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A(I)DS

by Patrick Nagle

Source materials: ONE advertisement; (Product) RED ads from Dell, Hallmark, & Motorola and images from the group's website; Philadelphia theatrical trailer; Associated Press coverage of the (Product) RED campaign; When You Grown Up, a 70s educational film for children about career options; Wheels Across Africa: Part I, part of a series of ethnographic shorts produced ca. 1936 for popular audiences; M.I.A.'s song "Paper Planes".

Aid organizations such as ONE and the RED campaign use sleek & often celebrity-driven advertising to urge first world consumers to take action (by contacting a representative, signing a petition, or buying a wristband, computer, cellular phone, etc.) to help poor people and people with AIDS in the developing world. The representational strategies employed in these ads vary widely: the ONE campaign used somber black and white ads about childhood mortality rates, while Dell's (Product) RED superbowl advertisement depicts a spontaneous celebration of one man's generosity for having purchased a RED computer. Because they appeal to wealthy consumers' obligation to give and their self-satisfaction at having given, these advertisements lend themselves to ironic, critical readings when juxtaposed.
Furthermore, these organizations' ads do not  address the structural factors leading to AIDS and poverty, instead presenting an enormous problem (structural inequality) with a simple solution (philanthropic consumption). I decided to add documentary footage to my video in order to draw attention to the strong undercurrent of consumerism in American culture and the West's role in colonizing the same countries we are now exhorted to help. The anthropological footage also underscores the problem of speaking for the cultural other and the power relations between the representer and the represented.

Although there are issues that I hoped to address with this video, I wanted to resist commercials' coherent style, message, and naturalized representations. At about 1 minute and 30 seconds, the video takes as much time to watch as a long television advertisement, but the amount of footage used, the disparity of sources, and  disruptive editing techniques undermine any simple, totalizing reading of the video. Instead, I hope that the video will serve as a springboard for multiple, even contradictory, readings; as viewers attempt to read the relations among clips, issues emerge that are rendered illegible by the stylistic unity and continuity of the commercials.

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