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27 JANUARY 2009

Is the Selfridges joke on us?

"The ads are the result of a collaboration between [Barbara Kruger], [Selfridges] and advertising agency Mother which has been going on for several years now.

Although Kruger has always remained tight–lipped about the deal, it's obvious what she gets out of this: what better setting for her slogans than a high temple to consumerism (with an eager congregation queuing outside from 5am)? As for Mother – well, this is what they do: archly ironic social commentary that amounts to 'anti–advertising'. The assumption is that the Selfridges customer is so post–modern and media–savvy that they're all in on the joke.

But what is the joke exactly? That shopping is an alienating process. To say, 'I shop, therefore I am' is to point out the emptiness at the core of the capitalist lifestyle. Take another Kruger slogan used by Selfridges: 'You want it, you buy it, you forget it.' Get it? It's like Gerald Ratner gone highbrow. The joke is on us. Selfridges is laughing at its customers. Only we can't help but laugh along, for fear of appearing unsophisticated; unmetropolitan. How very clever of them. But let's not worry about it too much. Just keep on shopping."
(Mark Hooper Thursday 27 December 2007)

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Simon Perkins
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