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Colin Marshall

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11. Adbusters' The Production of Meaning (2006)
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I guess I knew I'd encounter this sort of strident advocacy stuff when I started the Ubuweb project. Nonetheless, I have always wondered what gears turn beneath the mindset of an organization like Adbusters. Stunty graphic design has drawn me to its eponymous magazine for numerois flippings-through, but I can't claim to have gained any insight into the greater enterprise of "culture jamming."

The Production of Meaning doesn't clarify anything either. Set to ominous music and peppered with faux film-damage effects, it comprises a series of clips on Adbuster-y subjects: the presence of corporate logos, the percentage of calories from fat in a Big Mac, the shortsighedness of CEOs, "consumerism." The usual suspects.

It's not so much that I disagree with the grievances of material like this -- though I can't point to any advertisement-inflicted pain of my own -- but that this means of expression is so juvenile and inarticulate. If the villains in your cosmology are as abstract as the crassness of business and the commercial inclinations of the American public, you can simply bat them around in perpetuity, never knowing if you've accomplished or even made progress on your goal -- if you can even articulate your goal in the first place.

What's more, most of these stances appear premised on the fact that those taking them have somehow avoided the brainwashing -- industrial, cultural, governmental, military, corporate, what have you -- that has thoroughly hoodwinked all the sheep with whom they're surrounded. The sheep, of course, can only morally salvaged by having their culture jammed by a bunch of middle-class youngsters in blackspot sneakers.

I could forgive a lot of this if the videos had aesthetic value, but nah, they don't.

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