The symbiosis between art and corporations has a long, multifaceted history, from Warhol’s Coca Cola cans to mass-produced Hirst multiples, this cross-fertilization has always been controversial but not necessarily subversive. Noteworthy are Richard Prince’s re-photographs of the Marlboro’s campaign in the ’80s and ‘90s - his images cut out the cigarettes logos turning the melancholic cowboys into ironic caricatures of the American dream.
Debora Delmar Corp. is a young artist from Mexico City presenting her first exhibition in the UK. She has widely exhibited in Europe and America and belongs to a generation who confidently navigate social media. Since 2009 she calls herself ‘Corp.’ for corporation, extending her persona into a series of merchandising and artworks appropriating corporate imagery. Presented at Modern Art Oxford is another chapter of her ongoing investigation into marketing aspirational aesthetics, the conclusion of her month-long residency in Oxford.
In the expansive installation, three no-logo banners impose themselves. In one of them the headless body of a celebrity emerges from a luxury car with a glass of undefined green liquid, in another, radiating freshness, an enlarged glass of fruit juice on a blue background attempts to persuade us of the amazing proprieties of some sort of brilliant elixir. The third is (or could be) a detail from an IKEA living brochure. All around, fences embellished by creeping buxus (a classic of al fresco receptions), divide various mini stages for the visitor to empathise with. They symbolise social separations and their trimmings are the scenario for social separations to be performed.
In them, consumer products, rubbish and pseudo-luxury objects are arranged and associated like in a shop display. On view are various found objects (global icons like the Oxford mini dictionaries and the Uggs made in china) and some artist originals: an ikea fake fur rug printed on a white carpet, kitchen worktops with orange splashes of colour (the juice drink is incorporated in the product!). All is beautifully orchestrated, somehow desirable. The game of aspirational aesthetics is well enacted, and I wonder if the artist has undertaken, like a proper corporate body, some sort of market research on her customers or whether it is intuitive.
Cheap and expensive products are mixed up, almost paraphrasing the exhibition title, ‘Upward Mobility’, an economical term that signifies the possibility for individuals to socially “upgrade” their position. “I shop therefore I am”, blared Barbara Kruger in her well-known 1987 manifesto. Her echo is still present in this work, but her subversive message is long gone.
Debora Delmar Corp. adopted the corporation status “not to critique corporate reality but to reflect on the state of 21st century living”. It is indeed a reflection at play in her work, rather than a revelation, a mirroring reiteration of semantic codes and experiments on the desirable.
The Debora Delmar Corp. style of appropriation owes a lot to the lessons of those who like Prince enacted a “desemantisation” of the language of advertising. Twenty years have passed, digital technology has made appropriation wide spread, advertising is less naïve and more auto-ironic, and then, of course, the Internet. The difference is that the roles of the game have been uncovered: people do not just swallow persuasion, we are all, somehow aware of being manipulated but still, there is not so much we can do about it. We buy. Any attempt of resistance is quickly incorporated into the marketing itself, layers and layers of meanings, narratives and techniques overlap in complex chaotic systems, where critique and consent are almost indistinguishable. Debora Delmar Corp.‘s work precisely reflects this state of things.
The whole installation could be read as a maze of lost meanings, an agglomerate of distractions where it is hard to find any depth, but that, I guess, is actually the point. When the mask of persuasion is taken off, we find another mask, which adopts the same technique and leads to similar results.
 From the artist statement.