I went to Dismaland last September and one of the works on display was a vending machine with a fetus floating inside by artist Dietrich Wegner.
Check out this video of Dismaland if interested:
As people crowded around the display many were enraged or disgusted. Responses varied from stocic disapproval in the form of furrowed brows and a quick retreat to other works, while others audibly vocalized their upset, as if to qualify their morality and publically assure others of their dismay at this indecency. I was mesmerized. The fetus model (it was not a real fetus of course) slowly rotated and had emblazed on its skin many tattoos of well known brands and big companies, such as BMW.
This piece was one of a collection of works by Wegner called”Cumulous Brand” exploring how the brands we use come to constitute and produce our identities.
Photos taken of babies are then photoshopped to have tattoos of brands and services used and bought by the parents of the child. I found this work fascinating because the artist is using the bodies of babies as a canvas to discuss issues of consumer identity.
Many people at Dismaland found this work upsetting and embodied this upset through their words, reactions and actions in response to seeing the piece. Did people find it jarring because the image of a fetus in a vending machine is a implication that this baby is dead? Or are they more issues to tease out here?
Is a baby’s body not an acceptable canvas for tattoos due to “aethics values and context” that deem these bodies as “pure” and “innocent”(Strathern, 1979)? The work then engages not only with consumerism but also with the paradoxes of the baby’s body seen as innocent and uncorrupted with imagery of consumerism , seen as debased and immoral.
Rather than having to comment directly on the potential negative control that big companies have over society, and the role they play in shaping it, the artist places company logos on the bodies of children, making viewers realize the contradiction between the two as a way to engage with consumerism in general.
Fashion and other forms of consumption are structured to be based in a fear of commitment and the continued buying, using, and rebuying (Fisher, 2002). Tattoos on the other hand are permanent; the babies of Wegner’s images are marked for life by the buying choices of their parents. The ideology of capitalism, one wherein the self can be continually remade and rebought, is therefore confronted by images of baby’s bodies indelibly marked by consumption practices (Fisher, 2012).
Some more work from Wegner’s “Cumulous Brand”:
Strathern, M. (1979), The Self in Self-Decoration, Oceania, volume 49, pp. 241-257.
Fisher, J. (2002), Tattooing the Body, Marking Culture, Body Society December, vol. 8 no. 4 pp. 91-107.
To check out Dietrich Wegner website:
To read a view articels about the work:
(2) Image of his work displayed at Dismaland: