Commercializing Art

Last Monday evening, with the Oscars already fading from memory, one of the best films of the year was released. Spike Jonze’s four-minute movie is beautifully smooth and full of captivating color. Featuring FKA Twigs dancing to the new single “Till It’s Over” by Anderson .Paak, the video’s kinetic energy is endless. It is impossible to ignore, impossible to watch only once. Every image speaks to a careful attention to detail, down to the impression of an umbrella handle that stretches into eternity. Too bad it’s an ad. Too bad it’s just another commercial urging us to buy and buy. All this artistry, wasted, by devoting it to selling the newest Apple HomePod. At least that is what some believe. But I’m not sure that this is entirely true.

Art has always had a commercial aspect and it is impossible to separate art from the practical necessities that motivates artists to make it. Mozart and Beethoven were commissioned to compose, paid to produce beauty. Yet, their concertos and sonatas are still regarded as classics. Money doesn’t invalidate the works being created. Instead, by making the creating of art valuable, money contributes to the continuous creation of new and imaginative work. Without the massive coffers of Apple, Jonze might not have been able to invest in a massive practical set or attract the talents of two brilliant artists.  Does it matter, then, that its entire premise is convincing you to buy one plastic, cylindrical speaker over another? Perhaps the video’s aesthetic beauty is enough to cover for the shallowness of its purpose. It is enough that Jonze creates imaginative visuals of an apartment stretching and lighting up in perfect tandem with the flowing music. It is enough that I have discovered the charming abilities of FKA Twigs and Anderson .Paak. It is enough that one of my favorite filmmakers, the director of Her and Being John Malkovich, has created another masterpiece that I will watch again and again until his next movie appears in theaters. Perhaps this capitalist society of ours, it is necessary to accept art however it comes.

In the end, the commercial has done its job. I have shown it to all my friends. I have found my eyes drawn to it whenever it appears: before my YouTube videos, after my favorite television shows, at the Buffalo Wild Wings.  Now, I have devoted a blog post to it, joining the numerous others singing its praises. In fact, I am complicit in spreading its touch, like a careless, flu-addled cougher. I can’t help myself. Perhaps I will never buy a HomePod. But I certainly have the product’s name ringing in my ears. Even worse I will forever associate “Till it’s Over”, Anderson .Paak, and FKA Twigs with the product. These are problems that simply arise when art is so closely associated with a clear monetary purpose. Although, I have enjoyed the video, I will always be reminded by Apple’s classic sleek white lettering that this masterpiece is for the HomePod. Mozart and Beethoven, nowadays, would have been commissioned to write the new jingle for Amazon’s Alexa. It is a dilemma that does not invalidate art, but certainly complicates our understanding of it.

Corrina Lee

Corrina is a junior majoring in Economics. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies and television and telling herself that she has time to spare. Someday, she hopes to own a cat.

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