Merchandising Madness

Caveat Emptor: There's no such thing as a Sanity Clause

VCA Grad Show (Honours) November 2006

On Boxing Day 2005 I walked into my local supermarket to find the shelves already lined with hot cross buns and neat little packets of bite sized Easter eggs hanging from the shelf supports at the end of each aisle. I felt like screaming, "Give me a break! I haven't got over Christmas yet! We just celebrate Jesus's birthday yesterday and now you want me to commemorate his death and then his rebirth!" My master card was still haemorrhaging from all the suitable/unsuitable Christmas presents I had just bought and yet here I was being egged on so speak to buy even more goods to celebrate the next big festive event and keep the economy growing.

Dutifully as Easter approached I bought chocolate Easter confections to give to my family such as chocolate Bilbies, chocolate koalas, chocolate wombats, a chocolate bunny holding a soccer ball and a rather luscious looking, pert breasted, reclining chocolate bunny with a " Come hither" look moulded into her chocolate face named Seduction Bunny. 

Unfortunately by the time I returned home, the hot autumn day had taken its toll on all my chocolate gifts and melted them. The irony of seeing my corrupted chocolate confections that supposedly symbolised the resurrection, rebirth, new life and spring all fused together did not escape me. The symbols of Easter had drowned in a pool of melted chocolate. As I stood at the boot of my car the hot north wind thrust leaves against my legs and under the car. I was reminded of how nature was slowing down, shutting down, preparing for the impending winter that was about to grip these regions of the Southern Hemisphere. It was not revving up and bursting forth with new life of spring that was currently being rejoiced in the northern hemisphere Our cultural heritage seems out of sync with our geographical reality. We people of the Southern Hemisphere have imported traditions from the Northern Hemisphere that just do not fit.

As I peered into the bag of melted confectionary the odd chocolate rabbit ear protruded out. It struck me as curious how we Australians had replaced the traditional emblems of Easter that symbolised fertility, such as eggs, chickens and rabbits with the billy, an animal on the endangered species register, or Koalas, a species also suffering reproductive problems through the epidemic of sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia. 

As I stood there the keywords EASTER and OVER-CONSUMPTION collided in my thoughts. The story of the demise of Easter Island through unsustainable levels of consumption seemed to be an especially poignant metaphor for the precariousness of our own delicate global ecology. We are not unlike the defunct chiefs of Easter Island in our habits of blind consumption. 

This body of work considers how decisions made in one part of the world can form a trajectory that pierces through time and history, empire and territory, culture and ideology. Whether through the power of automobile manufacturers to infiltrate global economies by selling a product that causes environmental havoc, or the curious way we subjects of the British Commonwealth celebrate our antipodean Easter with chocolate bilbies.